9/11 is probably the most tragic day in the history of our country. It certainly has impacted everybody in one way or the other as we are all interconnected in a smaller world. For me personally is a day in conflict as it's a sad event, yet one for special significance. You see, I almost flew 9/11/01 on AA 011 hence 9/11 in a way it's my second birthday.
That shouldn't be that estrange at all. I'm sure plenty people probably browse through flights, changing them back and forth, etc until finally get a flight and day combination/schedule they like and then get the tickets and maybe then change it again, so nothing estrange about that. At least that's how I do it all the time. I was supposed to go to a conference in Tucson to present a science paper on work I was doing at my company. The conference was supposed to start I think Monday 9/10 and ran through 9/12 or similar. So my original plan was to fly from Boston to LA and then LA to Tucson.
Like I've done all my life, always pick up early morning flights to get maximum day time at the destination. What changed it this time was that I was returning from a week off vacation I took in PR and returned to Boston on Sunday, 9/9/11. I thought, I've been out on vacation for a week, maybe should not go immediately on another trip Monday and catch up with work, and let me go on Tuesday. At the time I almost only traveled through AA, I picked up 011 as it was a no brainer, early morning flight to LA.
Can't explain why, for whatever reason, there was something I didn't like about that number, 011. Don't know why, call it premonition, call it an act of God or simply sheer pure dumb luck. Maybe the excuse of attending an early project review meeting on 9/11 that I really didn't have to attend as I was supposed to be on travel. Bottom line is that for whatever reason I decided to change the morning flight to LA to the afternoon flight to LA, hence I'm here.
That 9/11 morning, as I came out of the project review, could hear all the commotion. Everybody running wild. Notice a call from the limo that was going to pick me up at my office to Logan (BOS), so I'm thinking the limo is already outside. Let me grab my stuff and say bye to everybody. As I'm walking down the hall with my bags a manager asks me, "Where are you going". Not knowing, I reply "to Logan to catch a flight" and he goes, "buddy, put them back in your car, you're not flying anywhere, we're at War!”
Needless to say, I was kind of shaken by that, especially considering I work for a defense contractor. As I'm going down the hall to my secretary's office, I could hear the level of commotion increasing, and then suddenly someone grabs me and hugs me really hard. It was my secretary crying her heart out because she thought I was gone in AA 011. As others came and hug me too, we started counting as we knew others were supposed to fly that day. At that point I realized my phone has been vibrating like crazy and I was just ignoring it. It hit me then that my mom, girlfriend, friends, etc that knew I was flying were desperately calling trying to reach me.
As I was going through the voice mails, you could hear their desperation growing. Finally was able to catch up with them to let them know that I was flying the afternoon flight, not the morning one; that all was OK and was heading home because the facilities were shut down. As I was leaving, check to see if we knew more about our people. By then we realized that indeed, we have lost some.
That day 4 other employees died in those flights (Peter Gay, Kenneth Waldie, Stanley Hall, David Kovalcin). My understanding is that one of them, David, was attending the same conference I was attending as he was a Mechanical Engineer and presenter too. Our company, which always has had a reputation of taking care of its own, made sure to totally take care of their families, etc. In this day and age, it’s rare to see private entities do such and our company is simply second to none about that. There are monuments at each of our facilities remembering them. Certainly it changed my life.
I remember my friends Eydie and Eric came to check on me and my luggage still there ready to leave. It took me awhile to go back to that bag. At that point, a couple of months later, I was taking my first post 9/11 flight. As you can imagine, people are tense, looking at each other, suspicions high and something weird, yet funny happened on the plane. A big, funny looking Puertorican guy gets up from his seat and with a strong accent shouted “There better not be any asshole Islamic terrorists in this plane, I'm going to visit my mom that I haven't seen in 15 years and if you try anything funny, I will personally kick your ass". The whole plane burst laughing and in a weird way, I instantly felt safe and that we as a nation and as a people somehow were going to be OK.
There are events that affect your life, and then there are EVENTS that really mark your life and this was certainly one. So decided to take the plunge and even though she thought we were just going to get engage, I actually went all the way and told my girlfriend, let’s get married and now! Ended up that we couldn't do it that quickly, but couple of months later did it nicely as we went to Hawaii in April of 02 and got married there in an insanely beautiful beach then took a cruise through the islands for the honeymoon; a pretty awesome vacation. Early next year it turns out we were expecting our first baby. At the time it seems that life has taken a turn for the good and always though how the whole 9/11 thing touched us in so many different ways.
September of that year, my wife started having issues with her blood pressure and her Doctor was very concern and decided to induce her as soon as the baby turn 35 weeks. The baby wasn't due for another 5 weeks so as you can image we were super worried and kind of shaken, not ready at all. After a whole day of intense labor work, the baby finally came out. We couldn't stop crying in happiness to see this little yet absolutely perfect little guy. Special is some many ways, he choose to come out September 11, 2003 around 10:28AM!
I don't know what’s more amazing. If the fact that I missed AA 011 by for the first time in my life not traveling in an early morning flight or the fact that my first son was born in the anniversary of that event at the time the first tower, the one that I would've died in if I have taken that flight, felt to the ground. Either way, I got the message and feel extremely fortunate that I was given a second chance in life. Now every 9/11 not only we remember those we lost, but celebrate my son's birthday as well as my second chance...
In a weird way it has taken me 10 years to write this. There’s always a sense of guilt, kind of a could I had made a difference had I been there? Memories are becoming kind of a blur, still gives me a sense of purpose, to always do my best for my country. Though that this been so close to the 10th anniversary of this event was the proper time to share it. If that wasn't enough, a person with my same name, died that day in the towers as he worked there. In so many ways this event has changed or influenced our lives and if there’s a lesson to take is to value every moment and try to make the max out of it, and most important, never forget…