I was sitting in the second floor office of an old waterworks building. The building was serving as the temporary headquarters for a group of us working on a specialized graphics presentation that would operate inside a visitor center near a VW planet in Germany. Did I mention the waterworks building was in Berlin?
It was in the afternoon. Most of the crew had gone out for a late lunch, but I’d stayed behind to do a little work. Suddenly one of the guys ran back into the office, his face white. “A plane just hit the World Trade Center,” he said.
His sister worked in a building right next to the towers, so he was more than just normally upset. He and the other two had been having lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant. The owner, who didn’t speak English but was very friendly and was used to seeing us around, had turned on a TV and shown the others what was happening.
I was confused. I couldn’t quiet get my head around what was happening. There was no TV at the plant, and I had not been with them at the restaurant.
Needless to say we decided to quit for the day. We rushed back to our hotel, and gathered in one of the rooms to watch. Sometime during our trip the second plane hit. But we were there in time to see the towers come down.
The immediate impact was that even if we wanted to fly home to the states, we couldn’t. I seem to remember there was at least a week with no international flights into the U.S. That was an eerie feeling. We were totally disconnected from our home, and no one knew when that connection would be fixed. It’s one of those things you don’t think about until it’s gone.
Over the next several days, anyone who found out we were American treated us with extreme sympathy. I remember one taxi driver, also someone who could not speak English, making it known to us how badly he felt. I could have sworn I saw tears forming in his eyes.
At the U.S. Embassy, rather at the fence that was place several blocks from the embassy, makeshift memorials sprung up. Flowers overflowed the sidewalks and edged into the streets.
There was so much compassion. So much “we are with you.” So much good will.
I wish it was still there now.