I remember the World Trade Center

My mother once nearly fell off the top floor of the World Trade Center.

Back around 1973 or so, my parents were invited to visit the brand new yet-to-be-opened World Trade Center in NYC.  My father is a retired civil engineer and was part of a small group invited to tour the modern marvel.  I stayed with close friends during their trip.

My parents, with their tour group, elevatored to the top interior floor of the WTC, which was – what – 90-something?  As the guide reminded the team to be careful because the top floor was still under construction and the exterior walls were not yet installed, my photographer mother made a beeline for the edge and – I swear I’m not making this up – walked right up to the edge of the top floor, leaning out and snapping photos, before an engineer with a hard hat and a harness grabbed her and pulled her back inside, suggesting she step back before a random wind gust might blow her out of the building.  She did.  Thankfully both of my parents are still with me.  And my mother’s photos are amazing.

So at this moment in 2001, when I was on a work related phone call, my interest was captured by a television in the background showing the first World Trade Center already cascading smoke.  That’s when I saw the second plane hit the second tower on live television.

The events of that day are another story.  I may write about them later.  But that evening about 7 p.m. or so, I left my office at Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, to return to my apartment two blocks away. I found myself on Route 7, a road that typically is one of the busiest in the nation, located near the DC beltway. On a typical weekday afternoon that area is jammed with multiple cars in multiple lanes heading in multiple directions. But not that evening.  I was literally the only car on the road.  It was so striking, I literally stopped my car, turned off the engine, and got out.  I walked out onto Route 7, and stood in front of my car, on Route 7. There was not a car in sight.  I was deliberately still, and held my breath to listen.  There was not a sound anywhere.  Not a sound of a car from the nearby DC beltway or from anywhere around.  Not a sound of a plane in the sky – and keep in mind, that location is near the flight paths of both Reagan and Dulles airports. But there was not a sound anywhere.  Not a child in the distance.  Absolutely nothing.  It was the eeriest experience.

That silence continued.

Three days later I kept a dinner appointment at the Chart House in Old Town Alexandria.  It was the first night I think anyone was emerging from their homes since 9/11, yet still there weren’t many of us out and about yet.  Flights were still grounded and remained that way for days.  Television was still in a weird all-news commercial-free mode that continued for about two weeks.  And at one point that evening, at the Chart House, the only sound I could hear outside was a single jet fighter that was slowly circling DC in a deliberate pattern, ordered temporarily to guard DC, as it slowly circled the DC region, over and over, 24 hours per day.  It was the only sound I could hear outside on a Friday night in September, a time when the DC area is generally bustling with activity, but not then.  Eerily quiet and somber.