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Sunday, December 4th, 2016

MY 9/11 STORY

1

The Bears had just kicked off the 2001 season. The Jerry Angelo era was now in effect, and it began with a 17-6 loss to the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. By Tuesday morning I had had enough of the dissection of the game. I woke up and had to hurry to get to downtown Chicago. I did not turn on the TV.

I was serving as a juror on a federal case in which the accused was being tried for bank robbery. I got to the train station, boarded, put on some music and closed my eyes. It’s easy to fall asleep on the downtown train because Union Station is the last stop. There is no fear of missing your stop. I love to sleep on the train. The ride was very peaceful.

As I exited Union Station on to Jackson, I noticed that there were many TV crews and reporters scurrying about. I was on my way to the Dirksen Federal Building, next to the famous Sears Tower. Fearing boredom during the downtime of the trial I decided to buy a newspaper, even though I already had one.

As I approached the vendor with change in my hand he said, “Saddam Hussein blow up New York and he is coming here next.”

We made the switch of change for paper and I gave him an assuring nod, kind of like a ‘Right On’. But what I was really thinking was that it was quite early to be that drunk.

But as the sleep was wearing off I started to put things together. People talking with animated gestures, the paper vendor, all the TV crews–maybe that guy wasn’t nuts.

I entered the courthouse and heard the security guards talking about the WTC. As I approached and got my bag ready for search, I slightly interrupted with “So it’s true then?”

They said that it was and filled me in on what they knew. I made my way up to the juror’s room. On the way I began to think about where I was. I was in a United States federal building next to one of the world’s most renown landmarks. And immediately I did not want to be there anymore.

As I got to the room, I told the jury assistant exactly that. With the USA under attack, I did not want to be in a federal courthouse next to the Sears Tower. She told me that the trial was being postponed.

Now all I wanted to do was get home. On my way out I checked my train schedule. If I hurried I could make the next train. If I didn’t I would have to wait another hour and I did not want to be downtown. I ran.

I made it. I got on the train and it was packed. It seemed everyone was thinking like me–just get out of there and go home. People kept boarding the train. It was so crowded that it stirred more anxiety in me. But I had a seat and we were departing soon so I was OK.

Except that we didn’t depart on time. They made a brief statement over the PA system. It did not assuage any of my fears or my fierce desire to just leave. I just wanted movement. I thought of getting off, but why? Where would I go? 10 minutes passed and it seemed like forever on a hot, overcrowded train.

Finally a slight jolt and we were exiting the station. A man was playing audio from his phone of CNN. I remember wondering how he was able to do that. Did he have someone playing the TV for him and setting the phone next to it? In that upper section of the train we all listened to it.

But then, just seconds out of the station the train stopped. That freaked me out. And I wasn’t alone. Again the PA blah-blahed something. I still just wanted movement. It was hot and I wanted to have space, to be alone and to be at my home.

Thankfully it started back up and we crept away. We were moving very slowly, but it was fast enough for me. With all the people it took longer than usual. But I got to my stop, in my car and quickly back home.

I had still not seen anything on TV yet. I had talked briefly with my wife and sister on the phone and then changed clothes. When I finally turned on TV and saw the collisions for the first time, like most, my mouth just dropped. I just sat there and watched something I never thought possible take place before my eyes. Unreal.

After receiving and making more phone calls and watching some more TV coverage, I was overwhelmed. I laid on the couch and went to sleep. Wishing none of it had ever happened.

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