I was sitting in an OB lecture on a gorgeous crisp fall day. I was in my last year of nursing school, and was driving a 4 hour round trip from home to school to work and back home five days a week. I was living in a rented house in Grafton, NH and working full-time at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. School was in Concord, NH. At 9:00, we had just begun a ten minute break in the lecture when the instructor came hurrying back into the room, looking pale and a bit panic-stricken. "Can I have everyone's attention, please!", she called out in a tense voice. The room quieted, and she continued. "Something has happened, and I don't know what it means, but a plane has crashed into the world trade center in New York." The door opened, an another instructor wheeled in a TV. We weren't able to get a picture, but we could get sound, so we listened as the voice of a newscaster announced that a second plane had hit the other tower and both buildings were on fire. The voice described the sights and sounds that have by now been burned into the consciousness of every American. It all seemed a little unreal, and at the time, I had no idea what I was hearing.
Class was dismissed for the day, and I left school and drove home thinking that there had been a plane crash. I didn't know then that one of my classmate's mother was the lead flight attendant on United 175. It hadn't yet occurred to me that it was anything more than an accident. By the time I got home, after an hour of listening to NPR, it began to sink in that this was not an accident. It was the beginning of a war.
I wandered around my empty house, pacing restlessly and listening to NPR. I felt helpless and scared and sad. I didn't know what to do with myself. I didn't have to work that night, and I couldn't stay still long enough to study or do anything productive, so I took my dog out for a long walk. By the time I got back, New York was on lockdown, the Pentagon was still on fire, and there were reports of a fourth hijacked plane having crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I turned off the radio, made some dinner, and sat down with a book. I went to bed and tossed and turned all night.
The hospital was eerily quiet and somber when I arrived for work on Wednesday afternoon. The staff had been notified Wednesday morning that one of our former residents had been aboard American flight 77. I saw the pictures on TV for the first time, and I had to sit down. The patient whose room I was in at the time shook his head sadly "This will be one of your generation's defining moments. You'll always remember how you feel right now, and where you were yesterday. These images will be burned into your consciousness. Your world will never be the same again."