~ My own nine eleven story ~

Where was i on 9.11 ?  Simple, i was the floor warden ( security ) for the 13 th floor of the second largest U S Federal Building ( behind the Pentagon ) in the U S A - the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center - located two blocks from the White House i have told this story before but it bears repeating , much as my ' How i didn't get shot in Guatemala ' story doesn't

I worked as a Presidentially Commissioned Foreign Service Officer ( FSO ) for http://www.usaid.gov from 1 9 8 6 until 2 0 0 2 .  Foreign Aid . From Annapolis MD i would drive to a bus that would take me to work at the International Trade Center , D C  http://www.itcdc.com  .  This is also known as the known as the Ronnie Reagan building . My commute was about an hour and 1 / 2 or so each way , on average .  On that day , Rob wanted to use the car so he drove me to the bus at about 7:30 am in the mini van and let me off .  On the way there there was no indication that this was to be anything but a gorgeous fall work day and it rally was , cool crisp and clear .  i arrived at my usual 9 am to the Old Post Office Building plaza where i would sit and work on my laptop for a little while out doors before heading in to my cubicle .  The plaza is nice.  we had concerts there like Lionel Ritchie ( and others ) .  It seemed that day like there were an awful lot of people running around for 9 am meetings , talking on cell phones and the like .  Little did i know

After passing through security ( and via elevator ) i got up to the 13 th floor and my secretary , Betty Mangum , had the radio on and every one was crowded around her cubicle listening to it

" They're bombing the Pentagon , " someone stated

Nonplussed , i responded , " Well , why then are we simply  listening to the radio ?  We have the web .  Let's pull up the Pentagon web-cams ."    Being on 14 th and 13 th streets i knew our evacuation point was the Ellipse , in front of the White House , two blocks away .  We were a block from the National Mall and the Washington Monument , too .  We had practiced evacuations and , in fact , the U S Foreign Service ( F S O ) had already been bombed in Dar es Salem ( Place of Peace ) Sudan and Nairobi , Tanzania , not to mention the unsuccessful 1 9 9 5 N Y C World Trade Center bombing ) .  We knew what to expect if we were being bombed . More F S O's were killed in the line of duty during the 1 9 9 0 's than U S Military officers and that's a fact .  Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown was shot down over Bosnia , too

Sure enough , looking out the window we could see some black smoke across the river starting to billow up and spew about .  It was a chilling site .  The outdoors \ guard shack Pentagon webcam didn't show much but the wind was blowing away in a southerly or westerly direction anyway .  Pretty soon it did show flames .  The reports about the N Y C Twin Towers started to trickle in so we all put CNN up on our computer screens . Bang .  The second plane hit .  Can anyone forget that image ?

Us F S O 's ( Foreign Service Officers ) knew immediately it was all a coordinated terrorist attack , no question about it .  These guys aren't dumb and they have the money and skills to do it .  We had even lost two USAID guys way back in 1 9 7 8 when that TWA flight was hijacked with the guy hanging out the window with the pistol .   The USAID personnell had business cards in their wallets that said C I A on them : Certified International Accountants   .  Yet we had all  trained for this eventuality and are not dumb or easily paniced .   There was no way i was going to have people evacuate to the White House , either , [ ground zero ] and we didn't .  Just stay calm .  Watch it on TV .  We are all safe here in fortress Reagan

Along about 10 am we got an all clear signal and we proceeded to let people leave by the most expedient route , if they chose to do so .  Outside we could see it was total gridlock on 13th st. and Constitution Ave .   Cars were all blocked up and going nowhere . 

I proceeded to secure the 13th floor and met with my colleagues in the security team before heading to the Metro Subway .  This process took at least an hour or two  .  i also called Rob and told him to pick me up at the New Carrolton metro station on the red line , seeing how my bus was not running now  .  Proceeding outside to a beautiful September day ( with the colors and everything ) what i noticed most of all was the eerie silence .  It was dead in D C at 11:30 am

D C is on the final approach to Reagan ( Washington National ) airport and there is usually a covey of planes flying around and up and down the Potomac River  .  There was only one plane in the air at that time .  It was a MD Air National Guard F-16 circling the White House .  You could see the pilot and he , you .  Whoa .  Wow .  The Metro subway line was mostly empty , too .  i arrived at New Carrollton station about noon just as Rob rolled up .  It takes about 1 / 2 hour from DC and 1 / 2 hour from Annapolis  with no traffic .  All was silent .  We conversed about what had happened , i was angry , and then we enjoyed a normal ride back to Annapolis on Rt 50 .  Rob drove .  During that ride i happened to glance up and noticed AIr Force One flying up the Severn River fin  westerly direction flanked by two F - 16 's .  They were the only things in the sky .  There were no Baltimore - Washington International airport or Dulles airport flights  .  Europe flights had been diverted to Canada and Bangor ME     .  Once again , the silence and emptiness in the air was deafening and memorable .  The U S Air Force had forced everything down including airplanes at the local municipal airport on Rt. 50  where they keep a blimp at times .  Nothing was flying .  A similar feeling happened to me once the first time Andrew and i went to the mainland to Oakland Airport .  He kept looking up .  Why ?  Look at all the noisy planes .  The horror of the situation that day reminded me of the time we ( Betsy , Rob , Becky , and i ) saw the Challenger blow up , live , on T V in 1 9 8 5 - 1 9 8 6 .  i went and told my professor at graduate school ( Mr. Space Shuttle himself , John Logsdon ) that sad news

I believe they gave us two days off of work after that .  I know i took two days off .  i had so much sick and annual leave i could easily afford to , to watch T V and digest the news with my wife and kids .  The kids had some time off , too .  After all , this was the first time U S soil had been directly attacked since 1 9 4 5 & Pearl Harbor .  No one knew what was to follow

My feelings about Muslims hasn't changed all that much since then  

i had Muslim staff in Africa and we would discuss the tension surrounding them .  "  We West Africans are different form them , " they would say when we would discuss the wasami , sunni , and shi'ites .  In fact , we all worship the same God , call him or her Yahweh , Allah or just plain old God .  For me ,  The Western ( as opposed to Eastern ) religious traditions are based on books such as the Old and New Testaments , Quran , and Torah .  It's just that the Old Testament and the Quran and Torah don't have as much forgiveness , redemption , and reconciliation in them as the New Testament . The Muslims are like Protestants .  Any one (  any guy  ) can start a church in both faiths

Most people walking the face of the earth are not Jewish , Muslim , or Christian .  Most are Buddhists , Hindu , Confucius ( of a sort - communist China ) , Shinto and other Eastern sects , nativist , agnostics , and atheists and many worship multiple Gods

Eastern religions find God within oneself while Western religions find God outside oneself , usually in others .  Who really knows ? i do not pretend to .  God is good

We get danger pay in the Foreign Service because we serve up foreign aid in all the s*itholes .  Little did i know that danger pay would apply to the Washington post , yet it doesn't

That's my 9.11 story