We were living in San Rafael. I was working for a company in San Francisco that my friends, and in-laws, had started. We always left pretty early to beat the traffic over the Golden Gate and to get a parking space at the office. In the morning I would usually flip on the local news to get a quick peek at traffic. The worst traffic was always on the Sunol Grade. The second worst was everything coming into the Bay Bridge. We didn't have to deal with either of those, but I liked to check the traffic report anyway.
"The lane is cleared, but the damage is done." That was always the refrain from the reporter in the traffic helicopter. I'm pretty sure I heard that exact phrase, "...but the damage is done", every morning that I checked on the traffic.
But that morning there was a bigger story. Something terrible had happened and at that time nobody was sure exactly what or how it happened. I caught a glimpse of the smoke pouring out of the first tower and it didn't even occur to me what the reality of the situation was. Before we left the house the second tower was hit. Even to the people that were clinging to the idea that the first tower was just a terrible accident, the second tower made it very clear that this was no accident.
I can't really explain why we left the house to go to work. In retrospect it seems beyond foolish. Perhaps we were in shock, unable to comprehend the situation fully. Maybe I just wanted to be at work, where I knew my friends would be and we could sort it out there.
The commute in was quick, of course. Seeing a scrambled jet flying over the Golden Gate as we crossed still didn't register the gravity of the situation. Again, I can only assume we were in a state of shock. I dropped Kat off at 5th and Bryant, the "WIRED building", and headed back up to 6th and Folsom to open the office. We had lots of internet, but no cable TV. We had a television for the game consoles, so we rigged an antennae as best we could to get the local station over the air. It wasn't great, but it was something. Most of the news sites online were getting crushed and would barely load, if they responded at all.
More and more people staggered in, and they all had to same look on their faces. It was disbelief, combined with terrible sadness. The rage had not set in, yet. We had two New Yorkers working in the office and they were frantically trying to reach people back in Manhattan with little luck. Everybody knew someone or knew someone that knew someone that was in Manhattan.
The news that all air traffic in the US was grounded and that fighter jets were patrolling hit the office. They started telling people to go home and then we realized that we might be stuck in the city if they closed the Golden Gate. It was an potential target. We were surrounded by potential targets. I called Kat and got down to her office as quick as I could and we got across before the bridge was closed.
I honestly can't remember much of the rest of the day. I'm sure it consisted of being glued to the television and waiting for the CNN site to recover from the traffic surge. I do remember being scared of the wave of rage that I knew was about to hit us.