BY Linda White-Francis
It was a beautiful sunny day on the Suncoast of Florida, nothing new to me, for most days were sunny here, unless it rained and that was a downer. So today I was feeling upbeat and hopeful I would have a good turnout for my seminar. I say my seminar, but it was really my boss Brian’s baby. I just checked people off my list as they came in, and kept a perky attitude and guided them to the banquet room. I must say I always enjoyed finally putting a face with a name because, and it sounds crazy, but you get to know some of these folks, and they’re lovely.
Brian was a broker for Raymond James & Associates, and I, his seminar planner-or glorified telemarketer. I was the gal responsible for calling the lists and lists of locals after checking them out on the “no call” registry. It took weeks of diligent work, but if one had a kind voice and a non-pushy way about them, one could get a good bunch of interested people to come for a free lunch and get a few pointers on investing to boot.
The day before the luncheon I had to check back to see who would be there, and who would not. If they said yes, I had a rough idea how many would be there. Some lied of course, but most of the time I wasn’t disappointed, and more than a few times Brian couldn’t believe his eyes when I packed the room. Times were good and it obviously seemed a good time to invest. I had worked for Brian almost three years. He was the nicest boss anyone could ever ask for; I was happy working part-time for him and this prestigious company. They treated me right!
Today was seminar day, my favorite part of my job. It meant among other things a free lunch at a great Italian restaurant named Guido’s, and if everyone showed up maybe even a raise. I was thinking of nothing more than that as I scurried around that morning cleaning up the kitchen, feeding the dogs, throwing a load of clothes in the washer, and getting ready for what I hoped would be a fruitful gathering. As the hostess, I tried to look my best and took a few extra pains applying my make-up, curling my long hair, and wearing my best bib and tucker which consisted of a pinstriped black suit with a crispy white blouse beneath, sheer hose, and black leather pumps. I wanted to make a good first impression. I was glad I didn’t have to go to the office today. I would meet Brian at the restaurant at 11:30 AM. It was going to be a piece of cake day for me I thought.
The house was quiet, no TV blaring, no radio from the kitchen. I was all alone in the bathroom brushing my hair when the phone rang; I already had my dressy suit on even though it would be sometime before I had to leave for the restaurant. “Hello,” I said.
It was my sister Diana, and she sounded breathy and blurring her words as they tumbled out, “I’ve already called my kids and told them I love them, who knows what’s going to happen next.”
“Wait a minute; what about the tower?” I questioned, almost hysterical. “Slow down, I can’t understand what you’re saying!”
“A plane hit one of the towers in New York City. It’s falling down; it’s on fire, smoke everywhere! Hundreds of people work at the World Trade Center. Oh my God, it’s horrible!” she relayed, her voice fever pitch. I picked up the clicker and turned on the TV, just in time to see another plane plow right into the second tower sending the building down so fast I thought it imploded. My heart sank watching this towering inferno crumple to the ground like a tall stack of Pick-up Sticks. This nightmare couldn’t possibly be true-not in America I thought! Through teary eyes I stayed on the phone with my sister, the two of us trying to sort out what we were witnessing. When our called ended, I called my four grown children who all lived in the area, and told them I loved them. At this point in time, I did not know if I would see them again or not. Then I called my husband who was not to be reached because he was out on a delivery for NAPA. When I reached my mom and dad in Ohio, they were baffled but calm. They assured me they were optimistic.
It wouldn’t be long the world would be hearing over the airwaves another plane was taken down in a field in PA, and the Pentagon had been hit. I was not feeling optimistic when I heard this heartbreaking news. After all MacDill Air Force Base was near Tampa.
For some reason, I decided to go ahead and go to the restaurant to cancel the meeting. Someone should be there in case a few guests may not have seen or heard the news-which seemed incredulous. Brian arrived at the same time I did. We broke the news to the only person who came for lunch: a skinny old guy in a bent-up felt hat who took the tragic occurrence with a grain of salt. His gall left us scratching our heads.
After all was said and done, all the crying, grieving, the death, the mourning, and the searching for answers were felt, lived, and explored; my job and the other women in my department suffered the consequences of this atrocity like so many others did, and the luncheon seminars became a thing of the past because not many people wanted to come anymore. Things were never the same after that, eventually, all the telemarketers lost their jobs, but me, I went on to do clerical work for Brian until I left three years later to devote more time to my writing career.