Ten years ago today, I was living in a house in the Denver suburbs we rented from my parents who still lived in California. The girlfriend and her son were living with me and we were planning on moving into our townhouse after the beginning of the year. We both worked at night, so at 9am, we were still struggling to wake up. We had a house phone. And the answering machine, for some reason was in our master bedroom. That’s the first thing I remember. A phone call.
I would have ignored it. But, I was listening to a message left for one of our roommates from his brother in Salt Lake City. Something about all the planes across the country being grounded. He would have to drive back to Denver by trying to find a rental car. I remember thinking “Why are the planes grounded? ALL of the planes? What?” That’s what got me up. I didn’t turn on the tv in bedroom. I first went to my roommate’s bedroom and knocked on the door. He was already watching tv. After giving him the message, I went to the family room and turned on the tv there. They were replaying video of a commercial aircraft hitting the World Trade Center. I can’t remember if I was up before the second plane hit. But, I do remember the towers falling. I remember hearing about the plane going down in a field in Pennsylvania. I remember hearing about the Pentagon being hit. I remember making sure the girl friend’s son was watching cartoons and not the news in the other room. I remember trying to reassure my other roommate that her aunt was ok. She worked at the Pentagon. I remember calling my parents in California. But, trying not to stay on the phone too long to make sure I didn’t contribute to the phone networks getting overwhelmed. And calling my grandparents who lived down the street.
I remember the eery silence in the air. The usual sound of commercial aircraft circling Denver International Airport was missing. The only thing we did hear was the occasional military jet. I found myself thinking about my former shipmates. The one’s who decided to stay in the Navy to make it a career. I remember wondering if I made the right call to get out. It was years later that I found out my former XO, CAPT Gerald DeConto, was killed in the Pentagon on this day. I didn’t know him well. But, I remember a conversation or two with him from time to time. Seemed like a nice guy. You know. For an XO.