And then, the silence
Just like my parents’ generation remembers where they were that November Day in 1963 and my grandparents’ in that Sunday morning in December 71 years ago, we will tell future generations where WE were that Tuesday morning eleven years ago.. When everything we knew ceased.
I was working at the Best Buy Corporate Headquaters in Eden Prairie, MN at the time in one of the branch offices used for the call center and correspondence. I took sporadic specialized incoming calls and sat near the regular customer service representatives.
I got to work at about 7:30am central time and I remember the woman sitting next to me was late for her 8am shift. She came in looking distraught and told me a plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.
“Really?!” I thought, “this woman is getting pretty worked up over a little bi-plane hitting a building!! Did the poor pilot have a heart attack? Was this like a John Denver-type accident? Must be pretty foggy there this morning! It’s really nice here!…”
Then she told me…
As soon as the second plane hit there was silence. If you’ve ever worked in a call center, there IS no silence. Phones are ringing all around you. People are talking nonstop. It’s never silent in a call center. But that morning, it was. No calls came in. None of us spoke. We went to watch the TV in shifts. Our managers didn’t care that we were away from our desks for long stretches of time. I watched for updated images on my computer, where browsing the Internet was typically taboo. Rules went by the wayside.
I called my husband. He woeked at Walmart down the street in electronics, so I knew he was seeing what was going on… On about 30 TVs. He said that they actually had sold out of TVs that day.
I called my mom, who had just moved here to Arkansas 6 months prior. “Ohmygod, there it goes,” she said. “There WHAT goes?” I asked. “One of the buildings just fell in on itself.”
Unfathomable. How does that happen? There were still people in it! How can that be? I hung up from my mom and looked for updates from my desk.
And then, I got a call. We all looked at each other and wondered why someone would want to renew their warranty at this time?! I answered.
A gentleman carried on a quite normal conversation with me, asking about his appliance he bought from Best Buy. He seemed unusually chipper, and I noticed that he lived just 10 miles from my office.
I’ll never forget him saying “Beautiful day isn’t it?” …. Beautiful? Really?!
“Sir? Is your TV on?”
“No, why?” he asked, I’m sure thinking I was crazy to switch from talking about a refrigerator to a TV now.
“Just turn your TV on”
“What channel? Why?”
“Just turn it to Channel 11,” I said.
I heard the TV turn on, and immediately I heard the phone drop. He said no further words to me. “Hello?” I said. Then, I heard him struggle to put the phone back on the receiver and then, click. It was silent again.
I got up and went to the break room in time to watch the second tower fall. I remember dropping to my knees and holding on to a table as we all gasped. Lord, what just happened, I thought.
I knew then, nothing would ever be the same.
Only once since have I heard a call center go totally silent. That was on the morning of January 20, 2009.