We were meeting at the Gilruth Center, a multi-purpose facility for JSC employees. Noshing on pastries and morning caffeine, we were slowly making our way to our meeting room. Suddenly, someone came in saying, "Return to your duty stations. Return to your duty stations, now!" Someone said we were from across the country and had no duty at JSC, so we were sent to the meeting room where we were going anyway. Wondering why, we were told that something had happened in New York City, so we turned on the TV projector and saw smoke billowing from the World Trade Center. We watched a little, then tried to start our session while we monitored the video.
When the second plane hit we knew that there was something very serious in the works. The JSC guy who told us to get to our duty stations returned to say that JSC was closing down - planes were being grounded and fear that some were heading toward Washington. Or boss took the podium and offered a choice; remain in Houston until flights resumed or take our rentals and drive home. A call to the rental agency confirmed we could do this (with the appropriate rate increases), so we decided to drive home. Within an hour we were checked out of the hotel, with four of us heading east on I-10. Listening to the radio, we pieced together what had happened and discussed how the world was changed. One colleague remarked, "Look at the sky. Not a contrail in sight. We've never seen a sky without airplanes."
Stay tuned for the rest of this story.