I had been living in New Jersey for less than two weeks on Sept. 11, 2001. I had just packed up everything I owned and moved from Ohio to be with my future wife, Stacia, and to try my hand at the job market on the East Coast. That morning, I had just gotten out of the shower when I noticed a voicemail from my dad. He wasn’t real keen on the geography of the whole New York-New Jersey area and he wanted to make sure I wasn’t in the city that day. Up until that point, I had no idea what was going on. I turned on the news just before a second plane flew into the World Trade Center.
Stacia, her father and brother all worked in various parts of Manhattan at the time, although thankfully none of them were near that area. But at the time, nobody really knew what was going on. Information, much of it inaccurate, came fast and furious. At one point it was reported that as many as eight planes had been hijacked. Nobody felt particularly safe. We were afraid of anything and everything. Cell phones proved unreliable, as the network became flooded almost immediately. Eventually, I reached Stacia, who was working at Madison Square Garden.
We were both watching the news as we spoke. At work, they were huddled around TV’s. Then, the first tower collapsed. I could hear her coworkers scream in the background as 2 World Trade disintegrated before our eyes. I’ve never forgotten that helpless feeling nor those screams. A lot of people lost friends in that moment. I still have a hard time watching that video.
In the years since, we’ve all been affected in some way. My stepbrother, a veteran of the first Gulf War, reenlisted and recently completed a tour in Iraq, where he cheated death more than once.
Even here in Richmond, we’re still affected. At VCU, I’ve had the opportunity to tell a few of those stories over the last couple of years. With that in mind, I’d like to share a few of those again today.