As editor of The Fisherman, I’m typically working about a week out from each issue date. For example, as of Friday, September 1 I’m piecing together feature columns, product reviews, news briefs and calendar listings for our 28th issue of the year, which our production gurus will carefully assemble during the week of September 4. On Sunday, September 10, our latest fishing reports are added in, with an email sent on Monday to let subscribers know the “book” is ready for review.
As I sit at my desk, a little over a week away from that edition, I see the issue date of September 11, 2023, and it’s impossible not to think long and hard about where I was 22 years ago. I was actually supposed to be on vacation and fishing the beaches of LBI that morning. Instead, I was set up in my remote office in Alexandria, VA just 500 yards from the Pentagon. I was a project manager out of New York City at that time, contracted through the tech company where I worked to spend two days in Crystal City to help smooth a few wrinkles on a government project. I flew down on Sunday and was scheduled to leave for Newark that fateful Tuesday out of Reagan Airport a little after 11 a.m.
Most everyone has a “where were you” recollection of that day; it’s a question you’re bound to answer again on the anniversary of the attack. For me the morning started with hotel coffee and a walk up Jefferson Davis Highway for an 8 a.m. meeting with our team. Broncos WR Ed McCaffery broke his leg in the Monday Night Football game the night before, so my first call of the day went to the commissioner of my fantasy football league for a drop/add.
Following a brief meeting, I rolled my suitcase into my satellite office and started shuffling papers around before my flight. Just after the first plane hit I made my second call of the day to check on a friend working in one of the Twin Towers (I wouldn’t hear back from her until late Wednesday with her harrowing tale). As the second plane hit, I realized I probably wasn’t getting home that morning. And then plane number three hit the Pentagon, visible from my office window, leading to a new conclusion that I simply had to get the heck out DC, come hell or high water.
After pleading my way into a rental car (thank you Enterprise), I sat for what seemed an eternity in Beltway traffic, fighter jets flying overhead, the acrid smell of smoke in the air. I was still in DC area gridlock when I heard the South Tower fall on my radio, my cellphone dead with no way to reach anyone and tears rolling down my cheek. By 8:30 p.m. I was finally perched on a barstool at the Hudson House in Beach Haven with my oldest, dearest friends watching as President Bush told the world, “This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace.” And I counted my blessings. Yes, I made it home, but thousands didn’t.
I never did fish the beach that week; the smoke on the northern sky from Manhattan left me feeling uneasy, despondent. The company where I’d worked closed their doors forever, and life in America would never be the same. And so, I can’t help but flash back to that “where was I” moment, as everyone does today. One year after the attack I dropped out of my former life, finding respite within the pages of this very magazine, where 22 years later I’m still counting blessings.
If you lost family and friends on 9/11, please know my thoughts and prayers are with you this week.