Just getting out of an early morning meeting on that September morning 20 years ago, while driving to my office in Amsterdam, I looked up into the sunny sky to see a jet flying an unusual route.
Working at the Schenectady-based The Daily Gazette at the time, I had lived in Montgomery County for four years but never saw an aircraft fly that route before. The westbound jet headed toward me and then took a drastic turn, crossing over the Mohawk River and headed south.
But my thoughts, like everyone else’s on Sept. 11, 2001, quickly turned to what was happening at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon.
I almost forgot about seeing that passenger jet until a few days later. A colleague said that national news organizations reported one of the planes that slammed into the Twin Tower flew over Albany and crossed Montgomery County before flying south.
Wondering if he’d believe me, I told my co-worker what I saw while driving along Route 5, just outside of Amsterdam, a little before 8:30 a.m. on the day that the Twin Towers collapsed. I was driving to my office after attending a planning board meeting that morning.
A New York Times article published a few weeks later revealed that air traffic controllers pinpointed the flight path of American Airlines Flight 11, the Boeing 767 that crashed into the North Tower. At the time, the article convinced me of what I saw on that sunny morning.
As Sept. 11 approaches every year, like all Americans, I think about that horrible day. It’s one of those you-know-where-you-were moments.
And then I think about that jet making a swooping turn among a few fluffy clouds. It was just a small blurb in the sky — I only noticed it because the sun’s reflection bounced off its silver exterior as it was zooming high above the river.
It sounds so far-fetched especially when considering the circumstances that brought me to that spot on the state highway at that very moment to see that jet take such a turn. I know that I saw it, but was it my way to deal with such a sad day?
Over the years, I’ve tracked down numerous maps showing American Flight 11 and I come away with not knowing what I saw. It appears that tragic flight flew over the community I was living in that day.
After getting back to my office that morning, a woman stopped by our bureau office and abruptly told us that a plane hit the World Trade Center. Those first few hours were spent running back and forth from my office to a restaurant in the same building to see what was happening. The feeling of isolation gave way when we huddled with other restaurant customers in disbelief.
I called home to make sure I talked to my then-3-year-old daughter. In those days, I drove three hours to the Finger Lakes every weekend to be with her and her mom. I wished I was with them that morning.
I’ll never know whether I actually saw American Flight 11. Maybe it was my way of dealing with the utter sadness, the uncertainty of what was happening and being away from daughter that day.
All of our lives changed so much since then. I knew shortly afterward, with all the stories I had written about local connections to the terrorist attack, I had changed.
I needed to be closer to home, closer to her, where I could see her every day. Where I knew she was safe.
Within that year, I moved back to be with her.
She’s now 23 and a vet tech on the Eastern Shore in Maryland and lives with her boyfriend and five rescued dogs.