Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thanks for calling Cheap Tickets, this is Laura. How can I help you?

I said that many times over the 5 years I worked for them. My schedule varied from 4-9am 4 days a week or 5-9am 5 days a week. When I started in early 2000, it was a great place to work. People LOVED to fly, it was very affordable, it was easy. People loved to call in and chat it up with the reservation agents. The website was available, but not many people were comfortable booking their own tickets.

And then one day the world changed. And people viewed everything different. And people stopped flying for a while. And for the first few months no one wanted American or United flights. And for the first few years after no one wanted to fly on September 11th.

On September 11th 2001, I was at work. At the time of the first plane hitting the first tower I was booking a flight for a man in NYC.

He had the TV on while talking to me and said, "Oh My God! A plane just hit the World Trade Center."

Me: What, what happened?

Him: A plane, I don't know what is going on. I can't do this now. I have to go.

I mute my headset and stand up in my cube, announce to my call center friends what he said. I quickly hit a button on my phone to stop any incoming calls to my line and a ran to the break room. They had just installed TVs two weeks before.

For the rest of the morning, the phones stopped ringing. If they did ring, the employee would ask if the people were watching TV, if not, they should be. And the calls would then stop.

We spent the morning taking turns watching open mouthed from the break room and manning the un-ringing phones. We knew how many passengers each plane held and were quietly figuring out how many lives could have been lost. Were there unaccompanied minors on board? How many children? Did we book any of the passengers? Did we put them on that path to death? Did we book any of the terrorists? It was unreal.

I saw the second plane hit and the towers collapse from the break room at Cheap Tickets. My shift was soon over and I went home.

Our oldest was then 3 and still refers to that day as "the serious day." Mommy had to watch the TV because a bad man did a very bad thing. Later we found a great book called September 12th we knew we would be all right. If you haven't seen it you should.

In the days following the attacks, we spent hours talking with passengers from cancelled flights.

"No, we don't know when you can fly again."

"No, we don't have any flights for anyone."

"The FAA has cancelled all flights, not us."

"I understand you want to get out of NYC, but all flights are grounded."

"I understand you want to be home, but all flights are grounded."

"I am sorry, but there is nothing we can do."

People rented cars and drove to where they needed to be. Drop off charges were waived. Airline changes were accepted, but no one knew for the first day or so when any flights would be in the air again.

Several delayed passengers took out their frustration on us. As if we were the cause of their problems. We had to remind them that the situation was greater than them getting home by Friday, think of all the lives lost. Everyone is suffering, not just them.

Most people were understanding and accommodating. We were a nation in crisis and they understood.

I think back to what the airline industry was like before that date.

Arriving at the airport 30 minutes before your flight and making it.

I watch movies with sappy goodbye scenes at the gate and think, that movie was made before September 11th.

I think of all the added precautions the government has added and hope it is enough. After all who would have that it could have happened in the first place.

I liked being blissfully unaware that an attack of that magnitude was possible.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those lost on this day, seven short years ago.


Five Country Redheads said...

Great post. It makes you think back to how much we took for granted.

Tenakim said...

I'm finding it fascinating reading other's events from that day- thanks for sharing!

Carol said...

Wow thanks for sharing your insight.

Really great post.

mommypie said...

Wow. What a unique position you were in that day. Having some call-center experience myself, I can totally visualize the setting, and how shocking the news must have been.

I liked being unaware of those thoughts too.


Great post.

Weber said...

My boys just watched a documentary on 9/11 and were blown away to say the least. They are still asking questions and telling anyone who will listen about it like it just happened.
Ethan was almost 8 months old and he took his first steps that day. Walked right over to where I sat crying in front of TV and put his tiny hand on my shoulder.

B Boys Mom said...

Very good post! I think everyone remembers right where they were when that first plane hit. I find it hard to believe that it was 7 years ago it seems like not that much time has passed.

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