It Was Just an Office Building…

I cannot remember the exact date, but in late 2000 I was sent by my employer to build out a new office space for our New York sales division. The reason for the trip was to build a sales office in some newly acquired space located at One World Trade Center on the 86th floor. Approximately one year later on September 11th, 2001 the al-Qaeda terrorist attack happened. As I drove into work that morning I was stunned to hear the NPR news team reporting the first attack.

The plane impacted floors 93 through 99. The people located on floors 92 through 110 were trapped. My brain was racing with all of the information that kept pouring in. Another plane struck the second tower, then the Pentagon, and yet another plane had crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania. I went numb emotionally and focused on my work which now was focused on how my company would retrieve any data lost in the attack and what was needed to get the New York team back to work (the human resources department had the job of accounting for all of our New York staff, and luckily our company lost no one that day). I was later commended for how I kept so calm and focused during the crisis and was able to quickly put a plan together for what my department needed to do following the attacks.

Calm and focused? I was keeping busy to prevent my reaction to one thought that kept racing through the back of my mind:

“If they had launched this attack one year earlier and struck six floors lower I would be dead.”

And what would I be dead for? It was just an office building.

I was just another worker earning a paycheck and doing my job. I was not doing anything special or even that difficult. I was just making sure that the staff had their phones and their PCs running. It was just a typical office setup, and one year later it was all gone.

When I got home that day I held my wife and she cried in my arms. She had had the same thoughts as I. She had done the math herself and knew that it was only a matter of a date and some altitude that kept her from being a widow. She did the reasonable thing: She cried.

Me? I did not cry. I probably should have. I had no tears simply because I could not fathom it all. I have always been like that. When there is a real crisis I just shut down emotionally. If I am being emotional it means that there is no real crisis.

That is what I do. I just shut down my emotions and go numb. It works for the moment, but not for the long term. I still wrestle with the thought that I could have been one of those nearly 3,000 people who were just going about their daily routine and then were murdered for no reason at all.

A natural disaster I can deal with. Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, floods, meteorites, lightning, brushfires, and even killer bees just happen. That is nature. Nature is both cruel and wonderful, and it is always a chaotic dance from which an order eventually emerges.

But murder? Murdering strangers? Murdering strangers to make a point?

It is ridiculous that nearly 3,000 people died so that a point could be made. The World Trade Center was not a symbol for capitalism. It was not a monument to American politics or power.

It was just an office building.

I do not think I will ever be able to make sense of what happened that day. I just cannot come to terms with why anyone would want to murder strangers who were simply going to work, or were attending school, or wanted to see a midnight showing of a movie, or were worshipping in the church of their choice.

I cannot make sense of any these things, and I have not lost a loved one to any such event like them. I would probably break down completely if I ever did suffer such a personal loss.

I do not even know how to end this article. It is still too much for me to make sense of. Why were all of those people murdered?

It was just an office building.