In our everyday lives, 10 years is long, long time, and yet it seems like only yesterday that the 9/11 tragedies rocked our nation and the world. The memories are still eerily accessible in the not-so-far corners of our minds, perhaps as a result of the media blitz, the days and months of analysis, the movies, books, and water-cooler remembrances. A decade later, we can easily recount where we were, what we were doing, and how we responded when we first heard the horrific news.
Those of us who work for the Smithsonian are no exception. This week, we have gathered stories from our own hallways, detailing the events of 9/11 as seen, heard, and experienced from the staff at SITES. The following recollections are complete and unedited:
It was a sunny Tuesday morning, with unremarkable traffic, so my husband and I listened to the radio on the drive into town. Between songs came a report around 9 am that a plane had flown into the World Trade Building–with commentary about how odd that was, and that it must have been one of those tourist small planes. Not much to worry about, so I dropped my husband off at the Dept. of Agriculture, parked the car in the staff parking garage at Air & Space, and walked the few blocks back to SITES. On Tuesday mornings, we have staff meetings at 9:30, but colleagues had begun to hear about New York, so we gathered in the conference room early where our only TV in the office was tuned to the news. There we were, 3 floors underground, in the Ripley Center, watching as a group, completely stunned by the unfolding drama and horror.
Eventually, we each connected with loved ones nearby and scattered across the country and beyond, checked with car pools, weighed rumors about whether the Metro was running, whether to leave or stay, where it was safest, whether more was coming. When we emerged "above ground" to a sunny day in the Smithsonian Garden with perfect blue skies, we could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon across the river, and not a sound overhead. The landing approach to Reagan National Airport is right along the Potomac, but all the planes had been grounded. It was eerily quiet, and the crowds of people were quiet, too–stunned into silence. I met up with my husband, and we returned to Air & Space to fetch our car and drive home, listening to non-stop news, got home and watched more non-stop news for hours and hours (and then what seemed like days and days). We hung out our flag, called far-flung family members, wept.
--Andrea Stevens, Director of Strategic Communications