I was working at a major software firm in Cincinnati, helping our internal users with common software and hardware issues as a computer technician. Howard Stern was on my radio, which nestled against the wall an angle to the right of my 17-inch CRT monitor, when one of the show's personalities (can't remember whom), broke news that a plane had crashed into one of the towers. It didn't dawn on any of us what had happened and the information was infant enough that even the size of the plane was unknown. Logic at the time suggested that it had to have been a small commuter plane, a simple accident in a city built like a forest full of skyscrapers. I continued working on the computers that were faulty, with users complaining about the slowness of their systems, largely the result of old hardware processing intensive programs
Fifteen minutes later another report broke that a second plane had crashed into another tower in downtown New York. "What the hell is going on here," I remember wondering to myself, telling those around me what the radio was reporting. Initially disregarded as a stupid stunt from the Howard Stern Show, we shifted towards a massive control room that housed the area's only cable-ready television. What started as only five of us, quickly ballooned to over 20 computer technicians, curious about the commotion, intent on some answers and glued to the surreal images none of had ever expected to witness
Maybe a half-hour later, the news began reporting on another crash at the Pentagon, solidifying that our belief that the United States of America was under attack after watching replays of the second plane crashing into the South Tower. That's not an accident; I remember remembering during the replay; that's targeted. Friends I contacted that worked near federal buildings described their own evacuation, convinced that their own areas were under imminent threat.
When the first tower collapsed, it was like an out of body experience. A massive feat of American ingenuity began shrinking away from the television screen with a rolling cloud of dust limiting visibility. The room fell completely silent with the faint sounds of breathing barely audible over taxing processors on the mainframe and the humming of 15 monitors in the control room. Maybe a half hour later the second collapsed and our employers told us to go home.
Like so many the rest of my day was the necessity of my own need to be informed. Glued to the television with my family, discussing possible antagonists, our night lacked sleep with a craved obsession to learn more information. Reading reports online, background stories on possible terrorists that was, at the time, believed to be radical Islam.
Back at work the next morning didn't change anything. The television was on the news, all of us were scanning internet sites for reports and during improved moments, we discussed our findings.
9/11 is something that's so vivid in my mind, ten years later, that the memories are as fresh and clear as they were the day after America suffered her worst terrorist attack on our soil in our history. It will be something that I'll never forget.