A dozen years later

I’d almost forgotten the date… I suppose that’s a good thing.

The following is an excerpt from the September 11 Digital Archive and was included, electronically in the Smithsonian American History Museum’s “September 11: Bearing Witness to History” project:

How did you witness history on September 11th?

I moved into my new apartment in the Pentagon City district of Arlington, Virginia in late July of 2001, enviably close to Washington and a quarter-mile from the Pentagon. I have lived in and around Washington, D.C since 1997, arriving to attend college, staying to work in a small national security policy think-tank.

The morning started much like any other, it was a clear and moderately-cool late-summer day. I was running a little late, rushing to board a city-bound metro train by 8:30am. I arrived in my office, located three blocks from the White House, at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and K Street, at 8:50, one of two staffers to make it in before 9am.

I had recently been promoted to a salaried position, after three years as an intern and was nervously anticipating my first day of overseeing interns of my own, who were due to start that day. I lazily grabbed a mug of water in the kitchen and logged into my computer.

Suddenly, the phone rang at 8:59. I answered it — it was the Communications Director, my boss and a good friend. He asked if I had heard about “the crash.” I asked what he meant. He told me that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

At first I thought he was joking – he had a penchant for playing upon gullibility – then I heard the TV in the background describing smoke rising from a hole in the tower. “Wait – a plane – you mean… like a Cessna or an airliner?” “I don’t know. I didn’t see it, but there’s a huge hole in the side of the tower. There’s a fire… Turn on the news.” I sat down at my computer, logging into the BBC World video stream – our only source of television news, as the office did not have cable TV.

It was 9:02am EDT.

As the stream began, showing a live camera view from a rooftop north of Tower 1, the second airliner entered from the left of the screen and disappeared behind Tower 2, reemerging as a fireball. I, and my coworker, still on the phone both gasped simultaneously. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, I mumbled, “…an attack. It’s an attack. They hit it again.”

Read the rest of my entry here(Daniel Vincent Smith, Smithsonian Story #5658, The September 11 Digital Archive, 7 September 2003, <http://911digitalarchive.org/smithsonian/details/5658>. Archival Information: 1257 words, 6917 characters).