Featured community question wherein I finally write down my memory

This one comes from member djgonzales:

Jon and I were still living in California that year in a Spanish-style apartment just north of Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. Our favorite hobby was running stairs in Santa Monica three times a week, a workout whose intensity I haven’t been able to recreate anywhere else. We saw many famous faces bounding down that staircase: Tori Spelling, Andie Macdowell, the real Erin Brockovich.

On weekdays we’d set the alarm for 5 AM and be out the door by half past because the drive took thirty minutes. That way we could start and finish our workout before seven and beat the really nasty traffic back to our apartment, traffic so bad that I didn’t get used to the physical beating of the stop and start hiccup until I had lived there for over six months.

Now that we have two kids I want to shake my 26-year-old body by the shoulders and yell why are you not sleeping in?!

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, we were headed for Santa Monica, listening to Bob Edwards on NPR when we heard about a plane hitting one of the twin towers in New York City. Snapshot: sitting at a light on Wilshire Boulevard in the middle of Westwood, both of us wondering something out loud about how weird that was. Obviously a pilot had miscalculated a turn.

After parking the car and heading to the stairs we said a few more things to each other about it: has something like this ever happened before? Could a plane withstand that kind of collision? And then we began our workout having no clue about the drama unfolding in New York City.

Our workout flew by that morning, and 35 minutes later we were back in the car listening to the radio only to learn that another plane had crashed into the other twin tower. Details were still very vague, so we couldn’t figure out what to make of it. Certainly it couldn’t be a coincidence. How could two pilots follow bad instructions within twenty minutes of each other?

Traffic that morning should have been relentless, but cars trickled on and off the freeway at the pace of a leaking faucet. We exited off of the 10 Freeway onto Fairfax avenue just as Bob Edwards reported that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. That’s when every fear I had as a young Mormon who believed in Armageddon started to rise in my throat, and I started shaking. Wars and rumors of wars. Names blotted out from the Book of Life. The sun becomes black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon like blood.

My instinct, or rather, the religious remnants of my personality wanted to pull the car over and take cover.

We made it home and turned on the news only minutes before the South Tower began to collapse. And we both stood there, sweaty and solemn, watching that horror unfold in real time. I didn’t believe it. It couldn’t be real. Neither of us said a word. Jon pulled me fiercely into his chest and stroked my arm.

Unspeakable horror.

That’s were we remained as the rest of the morning unraveled, although a couple of hours later I showered and headed in to work. I was still such a rule keeper that way, because I hadn’t heard anything from my boss and assumed that I’d be punished if I didn’t show up. And then when I got to work only two other people were there, two people who had such long commutes that they had started heading to work before the first plane hit its target. They remained glued to their computers, hungry for updates.

I immediately got in the car and headed back home because I desperately needed to be with Jon. I thought of my family a bit, mostly my mother, but I wanted Jon. If Los Angeles was next on the list, and they thought it would be for the weeks that followed, then I wanted to be with Jon when it happened.

I know I’m not alone when I say that this event only solidified my desire to live with and love one specific person.

We spent the rest of the day on the couch glued to the news, breaking only for an early evening walk to clear our heads a bit. No one was outside, the streets completely empty of cars. Every shop on Melrose Avenue had locked its doors, even the usually bustling Starbucks. So eerie. So awful. And yet, we knew that every other person in the country was at that very moment trying to make sense of it just like we were.

We were alone but felt no loneliness.