Sixteen years ago on the morning of 9/11, I boarded a flight leaving the East Coast headed for Salt Lake City. My flight was scheduled for a stop in Denver and unlike most of the other flights we were not rerouted but allowed to continue to Denver.
We were not told anything about the tragedy until we landed. As we taxied the pilot announced that there had been an accident in New York. He told us a small plane had crashed. I remember thinking, “how odd.” Why would this concern us?
As I stepped off the plane in Denver no one had to tell me something was wrong. I could feel it in the air. Without a word I knew that our lives had been changed but I didn’t yet know why. I made my way to a TV monitor and saw the flames. I quickly called my wife to learn the full extent of the events.
Within minutes the airport turned from dead silence to mayhem. We had not been told that no more flights would leave but my instincts told me to make for the rental car line. I was one of the lucky travelers. I found a van for rent and without asking questions took it.
I wasted no time getting on the road and for the next 10 hours it took to drive home I was mesmerized by the reports on the radio. With the exception of the quick glance at the airport monitor I didn’t have a chance to see any video footage until I stopped in a small town for gas.
Before 9/11 I had scheduled a trip to meet in early October with the New York Police Department to discuss a shooting range and planned to take my children with me. My tickets fell in that strange period when they would not refund the tickets so we made the trip.
We walked the ghost town streets of Manhattan and strolled within a few feet of ground zero. As I look back I wonder why I took almost no pictures but I seem to remember almost a reverence for the area that was not conducive to acting like a tourist.
We all feel a connection to 9/11, and mine is being one of the passengers in the air during the event and my close up visit just a few short weeks after 9/11.