That morning on September the Eleventh, 2001, I was on my way home from work as a security guard on the graveyard shift. (Which I disdained, and still do to this day.) I turned on the radio in my Chrysler as an afterthought about five minutes away from my destination. Up to then I liked the quiet of the drive before, outside of the occasional honk and the engine noises of fellow traffic. It was less than ten minutes before 8, Central Time.
I had the station tuned to KMOX, a St. Louis news station on the AM band. A couple of news commentators were talking, and in spite of their deliberately neutral tones, something serious had happened. All I could get inintially because I tuned in late was a building was on fire. The commentators were focused on how many people were inside the building, and the response time of fire department crews. I didn't get any sense of where it was yet...at first I thought it was something going on locally. But there was a weight to what was going on that suddenly put dread in my heart.
It felt a lot longer than five minutes before I got home, and I still didn't know where this was happening or how. At this time, home was on the second story of the same building where my parents had their bakery on the first floor. My brother worked for them (and so did I part of the time outside of my job). I went into the bakery to my family and asked where the fire was. That may sound funny, but it came out that way.
My family had heard a lot more...they had the radio in the bakery's work room tuned to KMOX too, and at the top of the hour I heard the official word. A plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. That didn't sound real to me. I've been a lifelong geek, and my first thought was that sounded like something out of a bad action movie. But when word came in soon enough over the radio that a second plane had hit the other tower, I ran upstairs to turn on the TV.
I felt numb inside at first. I still couldn't believe it was happening...the fact that two planes flew into the WTC towers and what that implied hadn't hit me yet, either. I turned on the TV and switched between CNN and Fox News as I watched the terrible sight of the twin towers burning. How this could have been still wasn't the first question on any of the talking heads' minds, it seemed. They were focused on the event itself, how many people were in the towers, what police and fire units were doing to save any innocents in trouble.
I could only sit there in front of the TV with numbness as one tower fell. Then, what felt like a lifetime later, the other collapsed. One of the correspondents, I forget who he was or if he worked for Fox or CNN, said very simply then, "There are no words." Still numb but with a growing sorrow and anger within me, I tried to find the words to tell my family what I saw. And I only began to realize that was just the beginning.
Where was I on 9-11?
I was home.