9-11

I was just 30 minutes from New York that Tuesday morning exactly 19 years ago today when the pilot announced that the connecting Northwest Airlines flight I took from Minneapolis was being diverted.

La Guardia Airport had just been closed to traffic and the pilot said he had been directed to proceed to Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport. All the passengers of the Boeing 767 could do was shake their heads. After all, we were already close to our destination.

It’s either our plane had mechanical trouble, which required us to make an emergency landing elsewhere, or something happened at La Guardia, which necessitated the closure of its runway.

I was particularly exasperated. This could not be happening. This was a short side trip I was taking–just three days–and I want each and every moment to count. I just hope this would be a short stop. I did not fly all the way from Honolulu via San Francisco just to get stuck in Michigan for I do not know how long.

Shortly after, the plane touched down at Detroit Metro. While the aircraft was taxiing, the flight attendants gave the go-ahead for passengers to turn their mobile phones on and get in touch with those waiting for them in New York.

Phones were ringing all around me as soon as these were switched on. I heard someone seated in the forward section say something about the World Trade Center. I could not easily make out the rest of what he was saying but I think I heard him say “bomb.”

What could be happening, I asked myself as images of the bombings a few years earlier of the World Trade Center and of the Federal Building in Oklahoma crossed my mind.

Another passenger said something about an explosion. I heard another passenger mention an airplane. Someone said something about a fire raging. What could be happening? I asked myself as images of the bombings a few years earlier of the World Trade Center and of the Federal Building in Oklahoma crossed my mind.

I tried to reassure myself. “It’s just an accident. It’s just a fire. It will soon be put under control.”

Seated next to me was a guy named Nathan. I listened as he talked to someone on the other end:

“An airplane crashed into the World Trade Center? Wait, two airplanes? Not one?”

“They were commercial aircraft? And both towers are on fire? Okay. Thank you.”

Nathan shook his head and then turned to me.

“Did you just say commercial aircraft?” I asked. He nodded.

“You mean those were big jetliners with passengers and not single-engine Cessnas?”

“Yes.”

“My God,” I told myself, “this was not an accident.”

Nathan’s phone rang again. He excused himself to take the call.

“What? Another plane crashed into the Pentagon? And another went down in Pennsylvania? There are other planes that are unaccounted for? “

I asked myself as I listened. “What could be happening? would jetliners suddenly smash into buildings or fall from the sky at almost the same time?”

It took a while before we found ourselves inside the terminal building. Plane after plane started coming in–Northwest, American, United, Delta–creating a monstrous jam at the parking aprons.

There at one of the restaurants inside the terminal, I found the answer. On the television screen were images of what was happening in New York. The World Trade Center is no more. The twin towers were gone. The once towering New York landmark was just one big heap of smoldering ruins. All of us there were in a state of shock. What now?

There at one of the restaurants inside the terminal, I found the answer. On the television screen were images of what was happening in New York. The World Trade Center is no more. The twin towers were gone. The once towering New York landmark was just one big heap of smoldering ruins. All of us there were in a state of shock. What now?

I found out later that all flights across the United States were grounded and I ended up getting stuck in Detroit for three days. Luckily, we have family friends there. My mother was able to call Dr. Rey Franco of Angeles City, his wife, Rosario Malonzo and their daughter, Regina. They were kind enough to have me stay in their apartment at Royal Oaks. It was Reggie who rescued me at the airport.

I only made it to New York on Friday but not after having to go through one cancellation after another. Northwest flights to La Guardia and John F. Kennedy were being cancelled one after the other. I reached New York only because I took a chance with a flight to Newark where my sister Kem picked me up.

From the New Jersey Turnpike, I could see smoke rising from Ground Zero.

It took quite a while for reality to sink in on me. I thought it was just one of those scenes from a Hollywood action movie. But when it did, there was this sense of anger. I just knew that those behind such lunacy will have to pay. And they did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s