My 911 Experience                               

Mike Yang                   Photos

I stared at my itinerary. I stared at the date. It says 11-Sep-2001.

I was on the plane heading for San Juan, Puerto Rico on September 11, 2001. Like most of my trips, the schedule had been arranged about one month ago. I was going to a town located in the west coast of Puerto Rico. I would have arrived late in the night had I left California in the morning of September 11, 2001. Since it is a part of Puerto Rico where I had never visited, I decided to take a red-eye flight from LAX on September 10, 2001 and to arrive my destination while there was still daylight. I had to stop in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to change to another plane to continue my journey to San Juan.

When we landed in San Juan, a ground crew came in and announced something that no one understood. She announced that the airport was closed due to the "national emergency in New York city." The pilot jumped in and announced that the crew had heard something happened in New York city. However, they had very little information. They also need to go to a TV set inside the terminal to find what had happened. Everyone was simply stunned by the images on the TV set.

With the airport closed, my connecting flight was gone. I went to the rental car counter and got a car with which I drove three hours to my destination. Checking into the hotel, I had more time to get details from TV. I learned that most flights had been diverted and grounded. My flight left Ft. Lauderdale at about 8AM on September 11, 2001. Since my flight was flying away from US, the plane was apparently allowed to proceed to the destination. It was about noon when the plane landed in San Juan.

These was a message waiting when I checked into the hotel. It was from my client. I was told that I could not visit the client's site which was closed since the facility is located inside an airport. Inside an airport? All of sudden, I realized that why the facility has a address of Parallel Road. The facility is built between the two runways. Since the airport was still used in part for the military purpose, the entire airport was closed.

I was scheduled to work with my client on September 12 and 13. I had no idea if I could go home as scheduled on September 14. With much uncertainty. I checked out of the hotel and drove back to San Juan Airport. Luckily, the airport was open; but with limited flight schedule. I was lucky to get on a flight back to California via Dallas. The flight was delayed. About 30 minutes before boarding, I learned that the segment from Dallas to California has been cancelled. I was re-booked to an early morning flight on September 15.

I was extremely tired and hungry when I checked into a hotel nearby the Dallas airport. The hotel's kitchen already closed. I picked up an apple from the counter and joked that the apple would be my dinner. The clerk went into the kitchen and came back with a plate of cold sandwich. It was not much. But it filled me with much warmth.

I woke up at about 2AM on September 15. Very concerned on the entire situation, I got on the web and found out my early flight has been cancelled. I contacted the airline and rebooked to an afternoon flight. If you had stopped at Dallas airport, you would know that it is a very busy airport filled with people at all times. That day the airport was like a ghost town.

About one hour before boarding, a heavy thunderstorm came. The rain poured down; so heavy that the visibility was near zero. The PA system announced immediately that all ground works had been stopped. The rain went as quickly as it came. We boarded. I arrived at the Orange County airport at about 6PM on September 15. That day, I truly appreciated "Home, Sweet Home."

Mike at Ground Zero - March 24, 2002