Ten years ago today, before the first plane hit the first tower, I was getting ready to put my shooting gear in the Racaza family mini-van to head to practice with JJ and his dad, Tito JoRacz (Tito is Filipino for Uncle and JoRacz is his Filipino nickname). Nationals was in a week or so and we were trying to get our last few practice sessions in beforehand.
We pulled in a gas station to fill up and saw this lady in a car beside us crying hysterically and kept repeating over and over “It’s so sad”. Unbeknownst to us, this was a few minutes after the first plane hit. We looked at each other and Tito Joe turned the car radio on to find what’s happening. I remember having a cell phone back then but texting was still new in the US and smart phones were still a few years away. We were able to piece together that the one of the World Trade Center towers got hit but nobody knew it was a terrorist attack. We were thinking how terrible of an accident it was as we got our gas and drove towards the NJ turnpike to head to the range.
The image from across the river will forever be branded in my mind. I could see the thick, black smoke from the first tower stretching for miles. I felt overwhelmed as we stared at the building in disbelief. We reached the range and practice went on as usual. We were able to get bits of information as the day went on that the second tower got hit and then there was a plane that hit the Pentagon. The drive back home was surreal. Where hours before, we saw the two towers still stood…Now, it was just a massive trail of smoke and the towers were no more.
I sat in horrified disbelief as I saw the images on the news. All the tunnels were closed as were the airports. I was starting to panic because I couldn’t reach my friends in New York City. Cellphones didn’t work. I desperately wanted to know if they were alright. At that moment, I just wanted to be back home in the Philippines holding my family and be grateful that everyone was fine. I was so thankful that the Racazas, who are like family, were alright. JJ’s mom and dad both had the day off that day and we were all just extremely relieved that everyone was home. I was lucky and very, very grateful to be among friends and family. The people who lost loved ones that day aren’t as fortunate.
That day will forever be branded in my memory as well as the overwhelming sadness I felt…and still feel when I go back to that day. I know everyone else feels the same way too.
Where were you ten years ago when it happened?