The morning was surreal on many levels. September 11, 2001. I usually opened the film lab I managed at around 6:00 am because we had the newborn contract for three of the five Grand Rapids hospitals with maternity wards. Our runners would pick up the film, bring it to the lab where we would have it processed, printed, bundled and back at the hospitals by 9:00 am.
This morning was different. One of my tech’s was opening and I got to sleep in. I set my alarm for 8:00 am. NPR was on. Their first round of broadcast is live. After that, the tape just loops, and believe me – NPR doesn’t interrupt their canned news show for anything, which, of course, means I was completely unaware that anything out of the ordinary was going on.
My car radio was set on the local country station. Between songs. they kept talking about something big going on somewhere but no specifics. When I arrived at my lab, located inside a Kinko’s, I didn’t have a clue.
Not until the Kinko’s manager called me over to a television in the back of his side of the store. I arrived just in time to see the second aircraft hit the north tower.
Kinko’s employees, my people, customers from both stores stood in stunned silence as we stared at the impossible! Soon the talking heads were saying it was a terrorist attack. Commercial airliners had been hijacked. One hit the Pentagon. Another went down in a field in western Pennsylvania.
We were all shocked. America had been attacked!
The fire departments and police departments of New York City lost their own who risked their lives going into the twin towers to get people out.
Later that day it became even more surreal when a customer who drove at breakneck speed across Canada to get to his family in Grand Rapids brought me a roll of film to develop – pictures showing both aircraft hitting the Twin Towers and their eventual collapse. That might have been the next day. I’m not so sure.
In January, four months later, Country icon Alan Jackson asked the world: Where were you when the world stopped turning?
I was just arriving at work.
Where were you?