Our offices overlooked the skyline of downtown Charlotte. It was an incredible view. My office on the top floor of the two-story office suite had a full wall of windows. I could spin around in my chair and see all the buildings in the city. It was breathtaking at night.
But this particular morning, it was especially beautiful, and I can remember thinking that very thing as I got out of the car and walked in. There was that first bite of autumn coolness in the air, yet the sky was azure blue. There was a light breeze. I was going to make coffee and sit on the outside patio to review some concepts I was working on.
Aprill and I opened the office. I started the coffee. She went upstairs and starting sorting through the events lined up for her day.
When I got upstairs, I dialed up and connected to something called America Online. (Hard to believe in itself.) The first thing I saw was one of the trade center towers with the caption Plane Crashes into World Trade Center. We had a small, 5″ black and white television. I went into Aprill’s office and said, “something’s happened in New York.” We turned on the television minutes after the second plane slammed into the second tower.
Eight years later, I can remember my feelings of that day. My first thought was, “it will take years for them to repair those buildings. That was quickly replaced by an extreme feeling of loss as we watched tower #2 collapse, then tower #1.
I felt for the people first. As badly as the number of dead and injured was, I expected it to be 5 times as high.
Then, I felt truly empathetic for the families. As I held my wife’s hand, I realized that there were people who would never hold the hand of their spouse again. I hurt for New York, and then our nation as a whole. And then the world. I knew immediately that the world had changed forever that day. I didn’t realize how much.
The world didn’t stand still. Feeling the need to be around friends, we had lunch with Errol and Sheron. Aprill had an afternoon appointment that went on as scheduled. But for the most part, the world just watched – all morning, all afternoon, all night. The skies were blue the rest of the day in Charlotte. And by 11:00 a.m., they were completely quiet. No planes in airspace anywhere in the U.S.
Eight years later, I’m still stunned it happened.
I remember a cold night in December of 1982. A graduating senior at the University of Tennessee, hoping that maybe a career on Madison Avenue in New York might be on the horizon and attending a conference in Danbury, CT, I drove into the city with 5 other college students I’d known fewer than 4 days. We were from all over, all with the same Madison Avenue dreams, and none of us having ever been to the mecca of advertising. As we drove, we caught the first glimpse of the skyline. The first thing I saw was the World Trade Center. Tennessee, meet New York.
And now, they are gone. And so are the people who were in them. And the people who tried to save them.
It’s a fallen world. Luckily, we have a hope that transcends it.
We will overcome.
By the blood of the lamb
and the word of our testimony.
(from “Overcome” by Desperation Band. For the full set of lyrics, see my “Sing” page.)