I had the day off from CNN that day. Since I was free, I dropped Whitney off on Capitol Hill that morning for a job she had to do for UPI. Beautiful morning. I needed a lube job and decided to head out to Jiffy Lube at Landmark Mall out off 395.
As I was driving by the Pentagon, there was heavy backup northbound. Odd since it was already about 9:20am. Then I saw the black SUVs shooting up the shoulder – their dashboard rollers alit. Even for a veteran D.C. person, that was odd. I remember that Sympathy for the Devil was playing on the radio.
Got to the lube place, walked in. People were staring at the TV at some apparent crash at the WTC. They took my car and I went back to the TV. Reality hit. I went out to the parking lot with a few others to try and use the cell phone. Didn’t work, of course. Suddenly, there was a boom and the ground shook under my feet. The guy next to me quietly said, “what the fuck was that.” Then I saw the smoke in the distance and knew it was the Pentagon.
I got in my car and turned on NPR. Started driving. Bob Edwards was reporting that officials might shut down the city. I had to get back, but 395 wouldn’t have worked. So, it was Route 1 to Alexandria and back up onto the beltway. I made it. With flow of traffic, I was doing about 95 mph to try and get up and around to the Connecticut Ave entrance before D.C. became closed.
A long time after I left the lube place, I got back to my apartment. Whitney was there. She recounted her own odyssey coming off Capitol Hill with thousands of others who had feared another plane was coming.
CNN called. I was back at work at the bureau by midday, working the Pentagon and sorting through the worst raw video and stories from D.C. and NYC I’d ever seen and will ever see in my career.
That’s an abbreviated version of my 9/11 story. I certainly won’t forget. Neither should you.