Continued from part 5
Having gone to to sleep early the night before and having seen that the weather looked good for the following day, I was awakened early by my friend to say our goodbyes before they left for work. I didn’t rouse myself right away but instead talked with my friend’s S.O. while she was making the bed in the other room.
We had all woken up about 15 minutes before 8AM Denver time and it was now about ten minutes after eight. I imagined that most of the ‘morning’ television shows – especially since most of them were on east coast time – would already be over or close too so I would probably have to channel surfed considerably to find the weather somewhere. I started channel flipping as soon as the set came on and was talking with Renee in the other room at the time so I wasn’t really paying direct attention to the television as I did so. I could see it wasn’t ‘weather’ so I was just flipping through channels.
I started to realize something was odd as most of the channels seemed to be showing the same or similar things on them. My attention slowly drew toward the television more and my eyes started to take in what was on. I had been kneeling on the floor in front of the TV so that the very bottom of the screen was at eye level due to the stand the television was upon, such that I would have to tip my head back or back up to take in the whole screen.
What I saw at eye level didn’t seem believable at first. I thought that perhaps it was some kind of joke because I had dozed off the night before while my friend was watching a re-run of Saturday Night Live on some cable channel. I thought for a second that perhaps it was left on or in the proximity of the comedy channel or ET. I flipped to another channel but it was reading the same thing and the concept of ‘what’ I was reading finally sunk into my brain causing me to actually tilt my head upward to take in the rest of the screen.
There it was in vivid color – a live video of Manhatten, a burning tower, a large streaming plume of smoke and a lingering haze of dust. The b-roll at the bottom of all the channels was reporting essentially the same thing. ‘South tower of WTC collapsed, north tower on fire’ , “hijacking’, ‘plane crash’, ‘fire at pentagon’.
I called Renee in from the other room because I wasn’t believing what I was seeing. It took her a while to soak it all in as well as we both sat in front of the television astonished. The phone rang, it was Heather calling from work. She was asking if we had heard. We two sat with Heather on the phone for that first 10 minutes watching the replays of the first tower collapse and the second plane impact as news reports trickled in about the third plane crash at the pentagon, the speculation of terrorism, speculation about a fourth plane over Pennsylvania and eventually we witnessed live as the north tower collapsed less than 15 minutes after it I first turned the set on.
Heather wasn’t really ‘working’ anymore but they were staying put for the moment so we let her go with a promise to talk to her before too long and remained in front of the set for the next few hours, along with a lot of the rest of America.
Being in Denver gave an interesting perspective on the event. Once it was announced that air traffic was to be grounded and US air space restricted indefinitely, over 2/3rds of air traffic over domestic US airspace was immediately re-routed to Denver International Airport as one of the few airports over the central United States that could handle that level of air traffic. In a matter of a few hours, over 200,000 people from all over the US and the world were ‘stranded’ in Denver with no plans, no accommodations, and very few immediate alternatives.
Those that could, quickly bought up available hotel and motel space. People were encouraged and many more volunteered to share their spaces. The local Red Cross quickly began coordinating volunteers and organizations to set up accommodations in churches, schools and community centers. Requests for bedding, food and even clothing quickly hit the local news reports between the national coverage.
It got to the point where there were so many people stranded, hotels were setting up cots in lobbies and what rooms remained early on were often booked under the pre-condition of double-occupancy due to the emergency. So many were moved to Red Cross shelters in churches and school gymnasiums, additional information was collected from residents with offerings of support of all types; people willing to share meals by inviting people to share dinner with them, to offering the use of their home telephones and even showers to people at a shelter without ample facilities.
Local public transportation set up special buses to help people get to-and-from such service offerings as well as initially to help get people from the airport to an appropriate shelter if they could not make other arrangements. What bus and train transportation was available out of Denver quickly became over-run. They then began collecting information on those able or willing to provide travel arrangements to those stranded who could not find other means of transport.
I called the 3 main Red Cross centers set up to let them know that I was on a motorcycle, but that if someone was willing to wear my small backpack, I would be leaving for Detroit at some point in the next couple of days – I wasn’t about to leave amidst the uncertainty of that moment. I still had a slight reserve of money so I remained an additional few days to see what was actually happening, to decide how to proceed and to see if there was any way I could help.
The following day I actually drove to the shelters directly to re-affirm this to them and had one actually put me in touch with a woman who I eventually talked to in person. She was on a flight home to Des Moines where her family was to pick her up at the airport. They were trying to make arrangements to come pick her up but she was exploring other alternatives all the same.
Eventually her family was able to make the trip and by that point in time it was likely no one else would be needing a motorcycle ride to Detroit. I had actually decided that I would wait until I heard if she needed the ride and upon learning she didn’t I again began to make plans to start the trip home.
Continued in part 7Wikipedia: Timeline for the day of the September 11 attacks 10:49: Fox News Channel is the first of the United States news networks to implement a news ticker at the bottom of its screen for supplementary information about the attacks. CNN adds one at 11:11, and MSNBC adds one at approximately 2:00 pm. All three cable networks have used a news ticker continuously in the years since (and many local TV stations have followed suit).