It was an early Fall. The temperature was in the mid 50's and the skies were crystal clear. I had just finished breakfast and we were driving to the job site in the twilight of dawn. The motel was close to our project site, so the trip was short.
Traffic was light as we placed the advance warning signs and started closing down the inside lane of U.S. 59 in Cleveland, Texas. We had five sections of concrete to pull. We sawed the concrete the day before, drilled lifting holes and now needed to pull the sections of failed pavement and start preparing for the new concrete. The pour was set for 10:00 am.
It didn't take long for the lifting machine to pull the first section of paving. As soon as the broken slab was moved to the shoulder, the crew started drilling holes for the anchors. When the anchors were placed, the crew placed a mat of rebar and moved to the next patch.
The procedure was moving as planned, so all five patches were well on the way to being prepared by 8:00 am. We would be ready for the concrete. I checked the work and started documenting the sizes on a daily report.
Around 30 minutes later, my boss called my cell phone. I assumed he was checking our progress, but he wanted to tell me that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Towers. He didn't have any details. I wondered what failure had led a pilot to fly their small plane into the tower. Bad weather? An error in judgement? I thought about it for a few minutes and then went back to work.
It didn't seem very long after that when my boss called me again, which I thought would be a progress check. It wasn't. He explained that it was a passenger jet that hit the first tower and another had flown into the second tower. He described the preliminary news feeds he was watching on television. I could only stare while my mind raced.
We continued working. My boss kept me informed. It was now clear it was a planned terror attack. He was in contact with the area engineer office for the Texas Department of Transportation. We were working for them and their decisions would decide whether we would pour concrete, which required hours of time to set, or place a temporary material to be removed in the future. The decision was to proceed as we always did, so we prepared for the concrete pour.
Before the concrete arrived, my wife called. She was terrified and wanted me to come home. I told her I couldn't leave until the concrete was poured and we were off the highway. Even then, I couldn't leave if we were to continue with our project. I told her I would come home immediately if the project was shut down, and to go to her mother's if she became too worried.
More information was now available, so I knew there was an immediate call for all air traffic to land. I noticed the absence of air traffic immediately. We were close enough to Bush International in Houston to see the constant flow of air transports, which dwindled and eventually ended.
We poured the concrete and started the process of preparing for the next day. I went to the motel to catch what I could on television. The loops of the impacts, the falling towers and the smoking section of the Pentagon was almost unbelievable. My mind was having a hard time wrapping around the fact we had been attacked and the result was the death of thousands of innocent people.
We finished the day as usual. We were prepared for the next day when we started opening the lane in the early afternoon. I had spent long minutes as we were finishing staring at the empty skies, It was bizarre to not see the heavy air traffic. Contrails from military jets stretched across the skies. I wondered if they were ours, or the jets of an enemy that was in the process of invading.
I had kept in contact with my wife during the day. After I reached the motel, we had a long conversation. She was calmer. I knew she still wanted me to come home, but she understood that it probably wouldn't happen until the week was over. Since I was only about two hours from home, I reassured it wouldn't take long to reach home if anything changed.
Watching television was like watching a fictional disaster movie. I was still having a hard time wrapping my head around the events of the day, but it was becoming clearer that it was a middle eastern terror group. My anger was rising and all I could think of was how cowardly it was to attack innocents. I wanted our military to bomb half the Middle East to Hell. Kill them all and let God sort them out.
I'll never forget that day. Time stopped and it became apparent that the cruelty in the world is always only moments away. Barbarians had tested our defenses and managed to find a weak spot for their advantage. It wasn't a pleasant thought then and still isn't. I feel no compassion for such people and can only offer their death be swift, although many days I'd prefer they would suffer the agony of those trapped on the upper floors of the World Trade Center Towers. Even after ten years, I'm still angry. I'm not ready to forgive, or forget.