Monday, September 10, 2007

September 11th: Where were you?

I remember waking up that morning, running a little behind. I fired up the '61 Ranchero, coaxed her out onto the highway, and off to work.

I made it to the gate, just on time, having taken advantage of the good nature of the other Washington drivers and a couple of shortcuts I had learned since moving to Bremerton. I flashed my ID to the guard at the shack, a bored looking civilian policeman, who didn't even come all the way out of the guardhouse to look at my badge. He lazily waved me on, then turned back to his lunch.

I made it down to the parking lot, caught the bus to the pier, and made it up to the shop, where I worked with a double handful of other sailors, and 3 or four civilians working on the interior communications systems on submarines. I grabbed my much-loved coffee mug, wandered over to my desk (I rated an actual desk as the Training Petty Officer), and logged on to the computer.

Our shop was the 3rd of three shops in the building, down on the "delta-pier" (cleverly named, due to its triangle shape--okay, if you still don't understand, think "for my part, it was Greek to me.") Imagine our office being a 3-sided rectangle, with the missing wall opening up above a work-floor below. Across the void, and catty-cornered to us, was another shop.

An electrician's Mate, Carlos Soto, yelled across to me, "Hey, Sean, did you hear about the Twin Towers?"

"No, what about them?" I querried.

"Someone just crashed an airliner into one!" Carlos said with incredulity.

"You're shitting me, right?" I replied. (sorry for the salty language, but, hey, I was a sailor--and still am, at heart, when I get angry enough :) )

That led to a frantic internet search, as I was sure that if he was telling the truth that it would be all over the internet. And it was just breaking on all the websites. That was back when television was still capable of scooping a news story over the other media, kiddies. You old people know what I am talking about (remember when it was kids who had paper routes?--I digress).

More guys started filtering into the shop: Pico, Roth, Wilson, and the rest of the guys were filtering in in order of severity of coffee addiction. I broke the news. That led to a flurry of activity. All thoughts of heading off to do real work vanished as we scurried about the shop, rigging an antenna for our dilapidated television. We usually only got one channel, and it wasn't carrying the news yet. I don't think anyone had any idea when the first plane struck, what a real tragedy would play out before America's horror-struck eyes before the day was over.

We succeeded. Its quite an engineering problem that can't be solved by a handful of motivated sailors. We got it working just in time to watch the second plane strike. We watched in silence as the first, then the second tower fell.

It was very quiet in the shop--all the other offices had done the same thing, or came over to see our T.V. I said, "Two planes. That can't be an accident. I think we are going to war. Once we find out who this is, we will have to be at war."

I knew when I said it it would be true. It was probably 10 minutes later that the 1MC (intercom) came on, and they gave the security alert. All the buildings were locked down, and we were warned not to leave our buildings under any circumstances.

Later that morning, we were told to go home. And to be back early the next day.

The next day, we worked until dark, and some of us worked longer, until we got the submarines out to sea. That is, after I made it in to work. This time it entailed weaving through security obstacles, alert marines, a search for bombs involving dogs and mirrors, and parking farther from work.

Where were you?

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