Ten years ago today I woke up, took a shower, and grabbed a bowl of cereal in preparation for my workday. Like every other morning, I had the television tuned in to NBC’s “Today Show” during breakfast. When I finished eating I retreated to the bathroom to brush my teeth and finish getting ready. A few minutes later I returned to the television, to footage of the World Trade Center’s flaming North Tower. I was saddened as I watched the fire and smoke, and wondered what had happened as I listened to the newscasters’ speculations.
Then, as I watched, the South Tower was struck. New York City was under attack.
I left my apartment to report to my job at IKEA at 9:30 AM. I was grieved for the people in New York, for the passengers on the planes, for their families and friends — but, to me, the tragedy seemed remote. It wasn’t personal yet; I didn’t feel any fear for the safety of my friends or family. When I arrived at the store we had our regular morning meeting, where many employees who hadn’t watched the news or listened to the radio that morning learned about the attacks for the first time. But management decided that that Tuesday would proceed as a normal workday; IKEA remained open, as did the entire mall of Potomac Mills.
Then news spread to the sales floor: the Pentagon had been attacked. And another flight had been downed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Suddenly, the threat wasn’t isolated to New York City. It had spread to multiple locations, including our own back yard. America was under attack.
As fears of more attacks — planes, dirty bombs, car bombs — spread, we were allowed to go home. Surprisingly, my then-husband, Chuck, was allowed to go home early as well, even though he was a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Later that night we gathered at my parents’ house and watched the news, staring in a fog of shock and confusion as we watched recordings of the Twin Towers collapsing and the Pentagon smoldering, the wreckage of Flight 93 and the skies that had become eerily empty.