I had just made it up the elevator and was approaching our team's block of offices when I first heard of the events of September 11, 2001. A co-worker was listening to the news in her portable radio; the second plane hit the South Tower right around that time and it was evident this was not a freak accident, but some kind of a terrorist attack. People were terrified about our city being the next target.
Years later, people have questioned why I did not rush out of the office right away to pick up my child and go home, like other people did. I really do not know why. I guess I just did not think it was necessary. I did not feel in any immediate danger. It all felt so far away, almost unreal. Rather than fearing for my life, I obsessed about the doomed passengers of the hijacked planes, or the people who jumped from the towers. I wondered what I would have done had I been in their shoes, powerless in the face of an inevitable demise.
Not much work got done as we spent hours listening to the radio and checking the Internet for news about the attacks. Sometime that afternoon, an Argentinian colleague expressed his annoyance at our American coworkers "making such a big deal" out of what had happened. I was at a loss for words. I have an appreciation for the fact that there are countries ravaged by political instability and terrorist attacks on a regular basis. When the threat of violence is part of everyday life, you definitely develop a tough skin. But it was insensitive of my colleague to not realize that life in this country was forever changed that day. For the first time an outside enemy had successfully executed a large-scale attack on Continental US soil; worse yet, it was done from the inside, turning our own transportation systems against us. If people were scared and freaking out, it was totally understandable.