Photo from Village Voice blog.
Everybody remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001. My morning started with an eerie feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was lying awake in bed. I wanted to fall back asleep, but the odd feeling inside me prevented me. About an hour or two later, I was ready to start my first day at a new job.

It was a copywriter gig at Ogilvy, an ad agency that was located at Worldwide Plaza at the time. Those mini towers at Worldwide Plaza were a good 60+ blocks away from the World Trade Center Towers. But they felt like they were just down the block that morning.

I remember riding up the elevator to a floor that was dedicated to a newly-assembled team to work on the AT&T Wireless account. Inside the elevator someone told another person that they heard a plane hit the World Trade Center. Thinking back to that moment, what was striking was how quiet and serene that elevator ride was. No one really knew what happened at that point. No one reacted. And none of us had any reason to believe the worst.

When I got out of the elevator, everything changed. TVs were on, radios were tuned in. I was going back and forth between my office and my creative director's office listening to the news coverage. The first tower was already hit by the time I got to work. The second tower fell shortly after. It was unreal.

I was frantically trying to get a hold of my then girlfriend who worked a couple of blocks away from the towers, and I wasn't able to get through. Verizon - and all the carriers - were tied up for the bulk of the day. Naturally though, you think the worst.

A plane later crashed into the Pentagon. At this point, I was expecting several more planes to crash into more buildings. Including the Empire State Building.

We all went home early that day. As I was heading south I could see the smoke creeping above the tops of buildings downtown like foam bubbles spilling over a bathtub's edge. I headed straight home. That day, my eyes were glued to the television set. I didn't get through to my ex-girlfriend's phone until 5 or 6pm. Those hours before were agonizing.

Thankfully I didn't lose anyone that day, but I know people who have. I can't speak for them. But I can say with absolute certainty that 9/11 shaped me in many ways. I didn't want to be a self-absorbed New Yorker anymore. I wasn't looking to be a hero. I just wanted to be a little more empathetic to what my fellow New Yorkers were going through, and to find small, but meaningful ways to respond. 

I'm not saying I'm no longer self-absorbed. I think most of us still have a long ways to go with respect to that. But 9/11 triggered something in a lot of us. Looking back, I see how that day really shaped many of the decisions that I'd make in the days and years to come. Some things mattered more. Other things mattered less. But major pieces of life got a bit of an overhaul. Like work and relationships - both with people and with a magnificent God.

Of course, I didn't know any of this would happen when I woke up with that feeling in the pit of my stomach on that Tuesday morning.


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