I had been in New England for a few weeks on vacation, ending my visit with a few days in Old Saybrook with my daughter and her family. I got up early the morning of September 11, 2001, fired up my little red VW Beetle, and headed south in the dark at about 4 AM.
The drive down 95 toward NYC was uneventful with little traffic, and I crossed over the George Washington Bridge a little before sunrise. By the time I reached the NJ wetlands ahead of the tolls to the NJ Pike, the eastern horizon was beginning to lighten to the point that I could easily take in the NYC skyline.
All looked as normal as it ever did that morning. I took a break at the first rest area for some breakfast and a driving break, and resumed my trip south. Toward the lower end of the NJ Pike, I started hearing alerts over the radio about a plane hitting one of the World Center Towers.
By the time I reached the Delaware tolls, there came the report of another plane hitting the second tower. What is going on? I thought. This can’t be an accident. The talk of an intentional hit by someone unknown, grew and became increasingly scary.
As I passed the Maryland tolls and hit the beltway around DC on the east side, going clockwise to the south, there was more talk about more planes that might have been hijacked to destinations unknown at the time.
As I reached the intersection for the turn south onto 95, word came about a third plane hitting the Pentagon. I looked in my rear-view mirror and sure enough, there was the smoke rising from the explosion — not too many miles right behind me.
Now it was getting really scary. I’m driving right under these damn things. Will one go off somewhere ahead of me? Not long after, word came that a fourth hijacked plane was down outside Shanksville, PA.
By the time I crossed the North Carolina line and began looking for a good stopping point, it was just a after midday. At that point, from the TV in the motel, it was clear that the passengers aboard the fourth plane had taken control and forced the crash, preventing what might have been an attack on the White House or the Capitol.
Only after several more hours of coverage and the apparent end to such events by hijacked planes, was I able to begin to relax enough to think it was over, at least for that day.
Thousands died in the Towers and on those planes and in the Pentagon, and they will forever be on my mind. Of course it would take days to work out the true extent of the horror caused by those behind the incident, and a little more time to figure out who the person was behind it all.
I called both daughters to let them know I was okay, having driven right through the areas where three of the four planes crashed.