Never before had I watched 'live' coverage of 9/11. Last night, I remained glued to the TV. My stomach was knotted with tension and tears fell. It felt as if it were just happening. Fifteen years ago, at the end of a day of sales calls, I was alone in a hotel room in Windsor unable to face the coverage of the tragedy.
One appointment had been at the Duty Free Shop. It was surreal. This time I didn’t pull up to the fenced lot and ring a buzzer to be let in. I was instructed to drive right up front and give the customs officers my name. They knew I was coming. There were no lanes of traffic. The bridge was closed. I met with my contact, conducted business, and went back to my hotel. It had been an unsettling and unprofitable day. No one was in the mood to think of future sales…or future anything.
That morning, I was already on the road and flipping radio stations when I came across crazy Howard Stern. In the middle of his rhetoric, he asked someone to look out the window and see where all the black smoke was coming from. That’s when the other guy witnessed the second plane crashing into the tower. I thought it was a Stern hoax.
My next appointment was in Belle River. The owner had a small TV on the sales counter. We barely said anything. I watched the devastation for a few minutes and moved on to my next stop. I think it was a Timmie’s for coffee. I needed to sit in my car for a minute just thinking…trying to absorb what was going on. There was a Bell service guy leaving with a coffee at the same time. He spoke to me. That in itself was unusual. Strangers making conversation in a big city didn’t happen. He said that crazy as it sounded…and it didn’t…he had to drive past his kid’s school. Just see it. Make sure… No, it didn’t sound crazy at all. I had just got off the phone from calling my son at work. To lighten the moment, I teased that if he found himself at the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter might ask when he had called his mother last. He could be in trouble. We chuckled.
At the end of the day, when I checked in at my hotel, I discovered the restaurant had closed early. There were some fast food joints across the road. At any other time it would have been easier and faster to drive up the road a ways than try to get across. That night was different. I stood at the curb and stared at the vacant expanse of highway. Multiple lanes (5 or 6) were empty. No one. No cars. The eeriest feeling in the world. Windsor had turned into a ghost town. I walked across the lanes to an open Wendy’s, and then walked back without seeing any traffic. When I got to my room, I ate in quiet solitude, unable to turn on the TV, and wishing I were with family. The next day, I cleared my schedule and headed back home. It was no time to be alone.