From my view, there was nothing normal about the events on 9/11/01. Jets don’t normally fly into buildings on purpose. Air traffic doesn’t normally shut down for a week. People don’t normally take grounded passengers into their homes because there aren’t enough hotels to accommodate everyone.
I was at work in the office of a manufacturing company when the Twin Towers fell. Our sales team had flown in for a quarterly meeting. One of our top salesmen was married to a Delta flight attendant who was en route to Paris from their home in Houston. News came over the radio in the QC manager’s office that planes had flown into the World Trade Center and the buildings had fallen. One report had a plane flying into the Pentagon, but that had not yet been confirmed.
Before this information could register, the phone rang. I answered. On the line was the frightened, quavering voice of the Delta flight attendant. She spoke fast. “Please tell us what is happening. We heard there were planes down. We’re on the ground in Newfoundland, but they aren’t telling us anything. I had to borrow a passenger’s phone to call. Please, please, tell us what you know.”
In a split second I had to decide if I should tell her the horrifying truth or pretend to not have heard about it yet. I imagined myself sitting on that plane not knowing why it had been grounded, why it wasn’t deplaning, and why no information was forthcoming. I would want the truth. I could handle anything if I knew what I’m dealing with. She, and everyone on that plane, deserved to know.
After she chanted “please” a couple more times I took a deep breath so I could spit it out. What I didn’t expect was that she would echo, in a shaky but loud voice, every word that I said to the entire cabin. “There are three planes down. Two towers of the World Trade Center have fallen. One plane hit the Pentagon. All air traffic has been grounded.”
When she finished repeating it, she hurriedly gave me a message for her husband, who was out of the building, should she not make it home. By the end of that message she was on the edge of weeping. I tried reassuring her that she was safe, but before I could relay that none of the downed planes had been Delta flights, the connection was cut. Probably the battery died on her phone. She was gone. I sat holding the receiver hoping I’d done the right thing by telling her, even though it frightened her more.
She and several hundred other travelers from all over the world were fed and sheltered by residents of Newfoundland for a week. The tiny country did not have enough hotels or public housing establishments for that many people at one time. The generosity and kindness will live forever in the hearts of the people who shared that experience. In my mind, this was one happy part of the 9/11 story.
I had heard other friends tell their stories. A NYC resident in the street had to run so hard away from the falling building that he ran right out of his shoes. It was a week before loved ones heard that he’d made it to safety.
A former roommate of mine was scheduled to be at one of the fallen towers that day, but her work had prompted her to change flights to arrive that morning. She was headed out the door to the airport when she got the call from the airline that all flights had been cancelled.
There are thousands of stories from people who were supposed to be at that location at the moment, but weren’t for a host of reasons. I like to think unseen forces did everything possible to protect as many as possible. And that is as paranormal as it gets.