I first found about the attack this morning while driving to work down Lawrence Avenue towards O’Hare. I came around a corner and saw a large black cloud of smoke over the general direction of O’Hare, and immediately thought that a plane had crashed. “Oh my God,” I said to myself.
I had been listening to a CD up until then, but immediately turned the radio to NewsRadio 780 AM to find out what the story was. They were frantically talking about a plane wreck and large fire, so for a few seconds I assumed they were talking about O’Hare. I then gasped in horror when I realized they were talking about the World Trade Center towers.
I never did find out what had caused that smoke cloud over O’Hare, so I assume it wasn’t anything major. By the time I got to the office, everybody was already gathered around a small TV set in our director’s office. 30 years from now, I’m sure we’ll all remember where we were when we found out about this attack.
We soon had a briefing at our O’Hare field office, where they told us we were free to head home, or to stick around in case help was needed over at the terminals. We hung around and watched the TV coverage, and then finally headed home around 3:00 when we were told that the situation over at the terminals was under control.
I got home and watched the news some more, and then headed down to my church, Fourth Presbyterian in Streeterville, for an evening prayer service. At this point Fourth Church seemed like the only safe place I could go. The prayer service was very moving, and I said a prayer for New York City and our nation.
Downtown Chicago was eerily quiet in what should have been the height of evening rush hour. There were still people around, but very few compared to normal. The Hancock Center and most of the other high-rises were still shut down, there was a heavy police presence, and cars were being towed away left and right. My ride home on the CTA Red Line was uneventful.
Chicago, along with the rest of the nation, is in total shock over what happened in NYC and Washington. Because we also have a number of tall landmark skyscrapers, and because we’ve traditionally had a very close relationship with New York City, I think we feel particularly shocked and vulnerable. In some ways New York is like a big brother to us, and our brother has been badly hurt.
But make no mistake: New York will rise again. Early Chicago was built in large part by former New Yorkers seeking fortune in the country’s heartland, and when Chicago burned in the Great Fire of 1871, New York helped more than any other city to rebuild the devastated Chicago. I think I can safely speak for all Chicagoans in hoping that we’re able to return the favor in kind.
God bless all of you, and God bless America.
(originally posted on the SubTalk forum on nycsubway.org)