by Michelle Rizley
The shock from eight days ago, September 11th, 2001 is beginning to wear off. I am an information specialist operator for cell phone users. I heard about the first plane crash as I was dropping my son off at school. As I drove to work the radio DJ came on to say *two* 747’s had hit the World Trade Center. My heart stopped. My company has an office in that building.
I called work and told my supervisor. She turned on the TV, then said, “Bye, gotta go!”
I got to work as the third plane hit the Pentagon. Our employees answering phones had no idea what was happening. One girl thought it was a prank when a customer called and was screaming that the tower had been hit.
We quickly ran to inform every operator on the floor. It was mass panic on the other end of the line for us. Two of our major clients are New York City and Washington DC. We were halfway across the country and completely helpless.
Then evacuations of all government offices began nationwide. Two more of our clients are Dallas and Chicago, and the World Trade Centers in those cities were being evacuated. People were scared and panicking — with good reason.
They called us because they needed numbers for schools, spouses’ jobs, etc. Then calls began from the rest of the nation, people trying to see if their families were OK. Phones were down in NYC — yet we couldn’t tell people that the government offices for NYC were in the WTC. We had to send them somewhere else.
I was chosen to watch TV and write appropriate contact numbers down. I said “No!” Instead I called the local TV station and talked to a gal in the newsroom. We developed a relationship immediately and kept each other informed throughout the day.
Fire fighters, police officers, and Emergency Services personnel called from all over, wanting to go to DC or NYC to help. I was able to give them phone numbers for the proper people to talk to.
Then the second wave of calls came in: people seeking blood banks, continuous back-to-back calls. On September 11th, 2001, over 1500 pints of blood were collected in the city of San Antonio alone. Everyone felt inspired to give what they could.
By September 19th, 2001, the calls had not stopped. People still wanted to know what they could do, still wanted to know what was going on. The most requested numbers were for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, churches, flag stores, flower shops, and last but not least, military recruiters.
To each and every one of you who called, to you who answered the phones: Thank You! The co-operation, dedication and desire to serve others I witnessed were incredible — both from those who called, and those who answered the phones.