I live outside of Washington DC and work very close to one of the area's major airports. So close that some days it looks like the planes are going to land on the roof of my office. There are televisions throughout the building that are always on, always tuned to one 24 hour news channel or another, so when the first plane hit the World Trade Center we knew about it immediately. We thought it was a terrible accident. When the second plane hit we knew we were wrong. And then there was the Pentagon.
We all stood in a conference room and watched live as the first tower fell. Then we stood at the windows and watched the planes come in. Later in the day they would be grounded or diverted to Canada or brought in with a military escort, but this was early yet. Nobody knew what was going on or what would happen next and we watched the planes land and hoped they would go where they were supposed to go. Then the rumors started. A plane had hit the Gannett building, the 14th Street Bridge. There were three more planes missing. Five more planes. The phone lines were jammed for hours; you couldn't reach your family or friends. My office was evacuated. My office was evacuated because nobody knew whether or not there were more targets and whether or not we were one of them. It was exactly what it was meant to be. Terrifying.
Some people never escaped the fear of that day and moved out of the area. For the most part, I don't think about it too much.
Yesterday, as I was driving home from work, the Emergency Broadcast System siren sounded on the radio. Maybe it was the sky, which was clear and beautiful and very close in color to the way it was on that September morning, but when I heard that siren my stomach fell to my feet. I was convinced that it - something - I don't know what - had happened again. Convinced that we would have to run. It seemed as if that siren played for 5 minutes - it was probably 5 seconds. I had time to turn my car around to point for home instead of the gym. Time to grab my cell and start dialing my husband so I could tell him to grab the cats and meet me outside. Time to plan what we needed to take and who we needed to call and time to figure out whether I had enough gas in my car to make it to Ohio. Time to relive that morning and to feel that same fear.
It was a weather warning. Thunderstorms.