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i was working for a small online political consulting firm at the time, the carol | trevelyan strategy group. i had left my job on capitol hill (for cong. bernie sanders, i-vt) maybe nine months before, but was consulting for a number of congressional offices, so was still back on the hill quite a bit.
and while i worked in dc, our offices were at the foot of adams morgan (18th and U) so quite a bit away from downtown.
our political director, the only one on staff with a television in her office, was the first to spread the news. we all crowded around her television hoping that it was just a small plan that had made a tragic turn, but most of us knew it was something else.
shortly after the second plane hit, the group broke up and started bracing for the worst.
a lot of people forget that, in the immediate aftermath of the towers, there were reports of a whole host of other attacks in DC — the mall was on fire, there was a bombing at the state department, the metro was considered unsafe, the supreme court was evacuated for national security reasons, and the pentagon was hit by a third plane.
of course, the last was the only one that turned out to be true.
while all this was happening, i was a pretty long way from home — i lived about 45 minutes north in a sleepy little town called Savage, Maryland. with the metro supposedly out of commission, and the knowledge that it doesn’t go all the way out to Savage anyway, there wasn’t a lot i could do other than stay put — what they would later deem to be “harbouring in place.”
we also had vague notions of a dirty bomb, in which case the staying north and west of downtown was a good idea — and that’s exactly where i was. the trains home all went down into the city (south and east, two blocks from the Capitol building) so that was absolutely the wrong direction to be evacuating.
i honestly have no idea what i did for the next five hours. i certainly didn’t watch the news (i knew enough to know that i didn’t want to know any more) so i suppose i must have done something that approximated work.
around 2pm a co-worker of mine who live out in Annapolis offered me a ride home. the city had quieted down, and the streets were completely deserted. i took her up on the offer.
my most vivid recollection of 9/11 is actually that ride home. we drove out Route 50 (probably the main route north from downtown) and the entire road was deserted. we probably saw one other car every few minutes, during a period we normally would have seen a couple hundred.
when i finally heard that a plane went down in shanksville, pa there was little doubt in mind where it had been going, and only nine months removed from working on the Hill, i was profoundly grateful when the stories came out about the passengers and crew.
now that the flight 93 memorial has opened, we’ll be making the drive out there to thank them in person.