In Your Words: Remembering 9/11

Today marks the anniversary of the tragic attack on the World Trade Center Towers. Like most people, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing that day. I was just three weeks into my first post-college job as an associate editor for Plumbing & Mechanical magazine, in an office building that sat a mile or so from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. I’d only been to work for minutes when a close friend instant messaged me.

“Did you see that a plane accidentally flew into one of the World Trade Towers?”

I hadn’t. I rode the El-train to work and had been nose deep in The Crossword Murder by Nero Blanc.

“You have to find a TV. It’s unbelievable.”

But our small, 15-person office didn’t have a TV. We didn’t even have a radio. With our minuscule budget, we were lucky to have a coffee maker.

“That’s insane! I wonder what happened?”

And then it came: The most memorable instant message I’ve ever received in my life.

“Holy shit! Another plane just flew into the other tower!”

Chills ran down my spine. To this point in my life, national tragedy had been defined by the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion (which I watched from my first-grade classroom). That was an accident. This was not.

I scoured the Internet for information, but every single news source was jammed. Everyone was trying to get the information at the same time and, much like the rest of us, the Internet couldn’t process it either. By then I received word that another plane had hit the Pentagon and one crashed “somewhere” in Pennsylvania. It was scary and heartbreaking and completely unbelievable.

Not long after that we received an e-mail from our corporate office in Michigan advising us to head home and stay inside (which I did). I took the El-train back into the city trying to make sense of what was happening, hoping and praying that no planes were headed toward the Sears Tower—one building removed from where my then girlfriend (now wife) was working. Thankfully she had been evacuated much earlier and was already waiting at her apartment in Wicker Park, along with her roommate and several friends, when I arrived.

We watched endless hours of coverage. We watched the first tower fall. Then the second. We watched as news anchors fumbled over their words, just as lost for explanation as we were. I remember feeling helpless, wishing there was something I could do. But all I could do was watch. And cry.

More than a decade may have passed, but the pain and the memories are as fresh today as my morning bagel. I still can’t believe what happened. I probably never will.

That’s my 9/11 story. What’s yours? Where were you? What were you thinking at the time? If you can, craft and post a personal essay about the event in the comments section. I’d love to get greater perspective from other writers and what they (you) remember about that day.

 

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22 thoughts on “In Your Words: Remembering 9/11

  1. jschicke

    So many touching stories. I appreciate reading them as it helps me remember this not just as a news event, but rather as the human drama that it was (and still is for so many).

    I was pulling into the parking lot at my AT&T job. Curtis and Kuby were on WABC (770 AM) radio. When I heard the report that one of the towers had been hit, I thought, “How tragic.” I figured, like most of us, that it was an accident. A caller to the show was speaking with the hosts when suddenly the caller reported that a 2nd plane had hit the other tower. I knew then it was a deliberate attack. I walked to the office, knowing that work would be taking a back seat. Sure enough, as I walked toward my office, a TV in the lobby area was surrounded by a crowd of people watching the events unfold. Out of habit, I walked back to my desk to see what work needed to be done, but of course my heart just wasn’t in it. Before long, we were released to go home.

    While in my home, I was still stunned, saddened, and angered by what was going on. I listened obsessively to the news for any developments. Any time a plane flew overhead, I wondered if it was going to dive toward the condominium complex I lived in. Over time, my fears of imminent attack gradually waned, but even these eleven years later I am still deeply touched when I see families of victims mourning the loss of their loved ones at the annual memorials.

  2. darkwinter09

    The child was thrown out of a plane and landed in a green and gargantuan jungle. This wild, steaming hot, and very active jungle is called middle school. The summer following a childhood in elementary school ends as the boy ascends to a twelve-year-old’s coming-of-age semi-adult world designed like a congested and highly populated city. Strange faces, a different staff, changing classes, lockers, multiple teachers, rush hour-like hallway traffic, and three floors to travel stretching high and far. Lunch? Forget lunch time at the moment. He must find the next classroom first. Friends? Forget meeting friends at the moment. He must solve his own locker combination which is as decipherable as a codex in ancient ruins.
    The fifth day of this roller coaster routine makes boot camp look like his family trip to Disney World this past summer. Touring the Magic Kingdom and asking Mickey for his autograph is more preferable than the boy’s third period math class, his weakest subject. He is a writer, a creator, and a dreamer with an imagination as massive as a football field. He does not “calculate.” His weakest subject requires an extra class called “Math Integrated” to assist those encountering trouble.
    The boy sits in the first row in the first aisle on the left side of the room closest to the door in the unusually small classroom of six students. The class is disrupted by the loud speaker directly above the boy’s head and positioned above the door. The principal addresses the school. What fascinating announcement this will be, right? Wow, does he drone?
    “May I have the attention of all students, teachers, and faculty members?”
    Okay, an unusual way for him to start an announcement.
    “Oh, this is about the city,” said the math teacher.
    Confusion, curiosity, and alarm are spelled in the boy’s facial expression.
    “A terrible tragedy has just occurred,” said the principal. “Within the past half-hour, two airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City.”
    Two planes? Crash into both buildings? What a freak accident! Impossible to plan. Does that defy the laws of physics? The events unfold in the boy’s mind who supposes that mid-air collisions are strange and improbable, but very possible. This is what happened. Two planes were flying over the buildings through fog, crash into one another, and devastate the two buildings. That bizarre and surreal event makes sense, only one factor remains inconsistent. The windows of the classroom welcome a cloudless, sunny, and perfectly blue day.
    Planes. Crash. The World Trade Center.
    The words echo through the hallways of the school like “buy” and “sell” at the NYSE. Adjusting to middle school is diverted to a greed for updated information. The boy’s rather young history teacher, a recent college graduate, just began her first year whose adjustment must be equally trying for an adult. But the story diverts her attention as well while she further explains the story to the class. One building has collapsed and the other is in critical condition.
    How on earth did that happen? A crazy accident simply does not cause mass devastation.
    He cannot imagine.
    “Will they rebuild them?” asked a student.
    “Definitely,” said the teacher with an expression of certainty and conviction.
    “Does anybody have any questions?”
    She asked that question more than any other question or point relevant to the lesson which was halted for the day. The boy has no questions for he is still attempting to imagine the scenario in his head.
    After stepping off of the bus at my street corner, the boy notices his dad in front of the house watering the plants. Why is he home? He looks obviously troubled. He make eye contact with the boy then glances back to his obvious method of escape.
    “Hi,” was his pithy but polite greeting.
    “What is going on today?” asked the child.
    His long awaited update finally arrives when he enters the house and turns on the TV.
    The boy remembers.
    He remembers how the innocence and ignorance of a child was robbed that day as black clouds of the furnace of hell rise from the earth to the heavens of the sunny, cloudless, and perfectly blue day. He remembers how a young boy’s Disney World-like life was transformed into a green and gargantuan jungle. Before a new math equation, before a law of science, before a new vocabulary word in English, before a historic event, and before a new word in Spanish, his first lesson in middle school he shall always remember.
    Lesson Number One: People are so driven to end your life that they will end their own.
    He remembers going to sleep. Three thousand people died today. Good night.
    Years passed. He forgets conversations with others. He forgets events in life. He forgets to bring out the garbage cans. He forgets to retrieve the mail. He forgets the names of others. Hell, he sometimes forgets his own.
    The boy remembers that day.
    Like a video recording, he remembers the yellow walled classroom, the tone in the principal’s sudden announcement, the exact words, the exact facial expressions, arriving home, the TV screen, celebrations in streets, flags burning, a soldier stomping on those colors as the boy descends into a silent and agonizing anger.
    The boy remembers that sunny, cloudless, and perfectly blue day.
    I am that boy.
    This is my story. What is yours?

  3. oddznns

    Here’s how I remember it, and then re-imagined it:

    FROM SINGAPORE:

    On September 11, I was twelve time zones away from New York, watching the NYSE on my Bloomberg screen in the study. Suddenly the minute to minute chart of the S&P futures began to fall. Then it flatlined.

    I dialled my trader in downtown Shenton Way.

    “There’s a rumor that the World Trade Center’s been attacked by terrorists,” he said.

    “Keep me posted.”

    I thanked him and hung up. The flat line on the screen continued moving, horizontally. I drummed my fingers against the key board. I had a couple of hundred thousand dollars riding on the S&P futures. Tomorrow, I thought, I’d be marking down positions big-time.

    That’s all I thought it was about then, just a few hundred thousand dollars.

    I didn’t know about the people jumping off the building then, the soldiers sent to war after, the hours and hours and hours I’ved had to stand in security lines the last eleven years. Just right then, all I wanted was for the line on my Bloomberg screen to start turning upwards, and to have my position turn from red to green.

    _____________________

    A VIETNAM VET IN ORANGE COUNTY, THE DAY AFTER HIS 60TH BIRTHDAY

    By the Tuesday morning after his birthday, Sixth had forgotten his misgivings. Nothing had changed in his life, not for better or for worse. As usual, he and Huong had gone to early morning mass a walk around the corner from the apartment and let themselves back in to their empty apartment. It was just the two of them and the television, as it had been for years now the children had grown up.

    They’d up and left as soon as they could, the way American children did. But despite that they were good children, Sixth thought, all at good jobs, making good money and generous with their allowances for him and Huong. He thanked Huong’s god – content this third uneventful day of his new cycle, grateful for the morning’s crisp fall weather, for having a roof over his head, someone else beside him if only his wife.

    Huong handed Sixth his coffee and started up a pot of crab noodles, leftovers from the enormous cauldron made for the visitors who’d come over to the house on the weekend.

    “Leftovers,” she excused herself.

    “Anything’s better than those tablets of instant noodles you usually plop into hot water,” he grunted. She made great crab noodles, but he wasn’t going to tell her that.

    He hummed with anticipation as he carried his coffee into the living room and settled in front of the television.

    On the screen, he saw a plane was plunging into a building. Then the perspective shifted to another building, burning beside the first, great clouds of smoke spewing out of a hole in its side.

    Sixth set his coffee cup and the filter down on the coffee table with a clatter.

    “What is it?” Huong looked up from the stove in the kitchen.

    “I don’t know,” he said, turning up the volume. “It looks like a plane’s hit a building in New York.” He channel surfed. Every station showed the same images of the two burning buildings. A terrorist attack, he made out. “It’s the Arabs,” he translated for Huong, who’d come out from the kitchen to stand next to his chair.

    She grabbed the remote control from him and switched channels until she found a Vietnamese station.

    “Trời đát ơi… Heaven and earth!” she cried. “It’s the buildings where Daughter and Son-in-Law work.”

    Their only living daughter. Sixth rushed to the telephone in the kitchen and began to pound out his daughter’s mobile number on the keypad. The line was busy. He tried her land line at the office, their apartment number, his Son-in-Law’s mobile. “No one’s answering,” he said to Huong. But Huong wasn’t listening to him. She was desperately banging numbers into her own mobile.

    “Mine’s got through,” she shouted to Sixth when the ringing at the other end of her line stopped. But it was only a robotic ATT voice saying, ‘All lines are busy, please try again’. She begged it anyway, “Please… Please connect me. It’s a matter of life and death… Please.” She fell on her knees, praying.

    Sixth pulled her up. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and took the mobile from her. “No one’s going to understand you, you’re speaking in Vietnamese,” he said, brushing away the tears on her face. He put her mobile to his ear. “Whatever’s happening, it’s jammed up all the signals,” he explained. “We’ll have to text and then wait.”

    Huong nodded. She watched him tap out his messages – first to his duaghtern, then to his brother also in New York, finally to his son-in-law. Then still standing, they turned back to the television. The burning building Sixth had first seen was collapsing on the TV screen. Like a tinker toy experiment gone wrong it was folding gently into itself in a cloud of rising dust, de-materializing in less than five minutes, taking with it the Morgan Stanley offices full of traders at ten o’clock Eastern time on weekday mornings.

    “Son-in-Law!” Huong, who’d been mesmerized by the flickering images, fainted onto the sofa, bringing down Sixth who’d been holding her. As he toppled over, his legs hit the coffee table and kicked it into the TV screen.

    The screen turned black. The newscaster’s disembodied voice continued to drone from the blackened surface – explaining why the stairwell between the ninety-third and ninety-ninth stories of the North Tower where their daughter and her father-in-law worked was impassable and how the helicopters could not pick up the survivors from the rooftop because of the billowing clouds of smoke and dust, revealing dispassionately that no one working above the ninety-third floor was expected to survive, that in desperation they’d started jumping out of the building.

    Sixth sat, taking it all in… the horror. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he cursed at karma.

    The heavy sweet odour of Huong’s plastic soup stirrer melting on the hot stove top brought Sixth to his senses. He let go of Huong, who’d regained consciousness and was crying silently into the sofa cushions, and went into the kitchen. Huong’s crab soup, a fiery orange, was surging over the pot’s edge to hiss spits of steam onto the stove top. See… ssseeee… what’s happened now… ssseee, the soup seemed to taunt Sixth.

    Without thinking he lifted the pot high above his head and threw it down onto the floor to silence it. He didn’t feel the boiling mix of tomatoes, crab meat and fermented shrimp splashing onto his arms and bare feet, spattering them with little blisters. The pot seemed to smash onto the floor tiles and crack them of its own accord, to spin on its side, clanging like the gongs at a Vietnamese funeral possessed by some grief other than his own.

    The clanging surrounded him. The smell of the burning plastic stirrer filled his nose, his mouth, his throat. He couldn’t breathe. He didn’t want to. He dropped to the floor covering the pot with his body, letting its heat sear his chest and his stomach. He would let herself be burnt like his daughter was burning, like his other daughter had burnt during the ward, like that boy in Nha Trang he’d accidentally killed. If heaven wouldn’t absolve him, if death in the flames was what karma wanted, then he’d make the offering now. “Not another one,” he bargained, “not one of my sons next.” He held his breath and willed the end to come.

    But enough was enough, some higher power somewhere in the universe must have decided.

    Huong was by Sixth’s side lifting him up, wiping crab soup off his face and neck and shoulders with a rough washcloth. She handed her mobile to Sixth. ‘Didn’t go in today. Still on vacation after your birthday. Safe with Jake and Uncle’ his daughter’s message shone out from the screen. Sixth sat up and began to scroll down the display. There were messages from his brother, his daughter’s message forwarded again from his sons, then a message from Son-in-Law. It said, ‘Dad went to work’’ and nothing else.

    Sixth turned to the television. The newscaster’s voice was saying the North Tower had collapsed and with it most of the bond trading operations of the firm his daughter and her father-in-law worked for.

    ________________________

    AN UPWARDLY MOBILE VIETNAMESE MIGRANT VET IN MURRAY HILL

    Everyone subsequently interviewed said it was a beautiful morning in New York on Tuesday September 11th. I don’t remember that. My wife, daughter and I woke up late. We’d arrived back from California at almost midnight on Monday after attending my brother’s birthday. The day started for me with the phone call from my neice and her husband inviting the three of us to pastrami sandwiches at Blooms around the corner from our house. We still hadn’t gotten out into the day when I felt a slight tremble through the floor in our yellow lobby and then heard the boom of the unseen plane crashing against the building.

    “Inside!”

    I hustled my wife and daughter back into the house and down into the safety of the guest suite in the basement.

    As we scrabbled to turn on the lights we heard the sound of the second airliner flying low towards the second tower and got the television turned on just in time to see the delayed image of the first one crashing into the North Tower.

    We sat down, unbelieving, to the image of the second plane going into the South Tower and then the third falling into the Pentagon.

    As in 1963 during the coup against Diem, there was a frantic knocking at the door. This time though, it was my neice and her husband, not my brother, at the door. Unlike 1963, smoke seeped through our windows from the burning buildings, toxic with chemicals. And then, like nothing that I’d experienced in Vietnam, the ground shuddered again as if the earth itself was opening up. Like the beginning of the end of the world, we were enveloped for a moment in absolute darkness.

    I turned to my wife, who was sitting by my side, to catch her hand and to ask her where unbelievers went in her version of the last day. But my fingers were shaking too hard for me to reach over and hold on and my teeth were clenched so closed I couldn’t open my mouth to speak. I bent over and held my daughter, sitting on my other side, tight to me instead.

    Across the room, my neice and her husband were sitting apart. She was crying into her hands. He was facing the television, his eyes were closed.

    “Poor things… It’s their colleagues, his father, in those buildings,” my wife whispered in my ear. She uncurled herself and went to them, put her arms around them both and held them to her, one on her right, the other on her left.

    My neice’s mobile was beeping in her handbag. I went to pick it up. It was from her father, my brother. I tried to call him him back to let him know we were all fine, that Kim and Jake hadn’t gone to work. But I couldn’t get through. I sent him a text., then went back to sit by my daughter. We watched the screen in stony silence, the both of us. Neither she nor I would cry I knew. We’d learnt never to break down. Ever.

    I felt the house shudder once more.

    “Is it safe for us to be down here?” my daughter asked. I could see the hairs on her forearms standing. Her eyes were uncertain, seeking guidance.

    “I don’t know,” I replied. It was the first time in my life I hadn’t been able to answer an engineering question.

    We heard a second long explosion lasting perhaps a minute, maybe more. The windows rattled. On the television a few seconds later we saw North Tower collapse.

    “Dad,” my neice’s husband whispered.

    I couldn’t take any more. I pointed the remote at the television and turned it off, wiping away the sickening replay of the burning buildings, the falling bodies, the horror. Sprinting up the stairs I opened the front door and stepped outside into the dust and the smoke, into reality.

    Cars were gridlocked on our street. People drifted here and there, unsure where to go, what to do. My eyes burnt from the smoke and the chemicals. Up in the sky I saw a pall of grey, how I would have imagined a mushroom cloud. How could my father’s stories about Saigon after the 1968 Tết offensive compare?

    I shuddered. The enemy had attacked America, the beautiful country Mỹ. And on what we’d always assumed was hallowed ground.

    If this touched you, read more about my life as a Singapore wife of the Vietnamese Diaspora in America at http://www.oddznns.wordpress.com

  4. Rebecca05

    I was 15 years old, sitting in my freshman biology class, when our science teacher relayed to us the news that a plane had flown into a building in New York. As teenagers living in northwest Oklahoma, we were seemingly unconcerned. After all, what did it matter to us? We were hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the bustle and hustle of that large east coast city. Six years before, Oklahoma had endured a similar tragedy in our state capital. We had survived that and moved forward, stronger than we were before. But as we moved from one class hour to the next, we discovered that history was unfolding around us. One fellow classmate went so far as to ask me if the world ending. Of course not, I said. Though to those trapped in the chaos and debris in downtown New York, it probably was. That warm September school day ended and, on the bumpy bus ride home, my fellow passengers and I were eager to return home and sit in front of our televisions. I prayed for those lost, prayed for those trapped, and prayed for their families. I still remember that day, 11 years later, and I continue to pray because that is something we can never do enough.

  5. brockbooher

    I have a unique connection to 9/11. I am an airline pilot by trade, and I trained Hani Honjour, one of the nineteen hijackers. Today I was invited to speak at a local high school. It was all I could do to keep from breaking down in front of a gymnasium full of students.

    I was home that day, but I remember the day the airplanes stopped flying.

    Here’s a blog I wrote about the experience and how I feel it related to the death of Bin Laden.

    http://www.brockbooherblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/usama-bin-laden-is-dead-yippee-i-guess.html

  6. Ardent Muse

    I also must add, that later, I learned LAX escaped a bomb attempts on the airport on New Years Eve 1999. If it wasn’t for an employee who questioned a suspicious driver at a customs check – a man driving a car acting oddly – they would never have pulled him over and discovered the explosives he hid in the trunk of the car. Many lives were most likely saved that day, yet she, the Customs Check woman, still doesn’t consider herself a hero – she says only, that she was just “doin her job”. ~ Amazing ~

  7. Ardent Muse

    I had just turned my TV on while getting ready for work. Fires are common in S.California in the summertime, so when the image of the burning building came on, I first thought, “oh here we go again.. another fire in downtown L.A.”., but it wasn’t long before the announcer spoke that I learned it was in N.Y., not L.A., and that a plane had crashed into the building, not caught fire by arson or heat. As I continued watching & listening, I then witnessed the SECOND Plane going into the Other building and knew INSTANTLY we were under attack! I Gasped in shock – feeling my mouth & eyes pop wide open, heart pounding hard in my chest – then out came the words, “Oh My God,… We’re gonna be next!” (scary thought, given I lived only 25 minutes away from LAX!) As I learned more, I then called my close musician friend of mine in New Jersey to see if he had been watching it too. Unbelievably, he hadn’t even heard yet, so I implored him to turn on his TV. He told me he could see the smoke from his apartment window! Still in shock and ANGRY at this point, I said to him, “Where the HELL was the CIA on all this?!?! How in the WORLD could this have slipped past them?!” We continued discussing things as they unfolded in as much as we could since I still had to go to work. Even though I was comforted by the fact that they had eventually closed all U.S., Canadian and UK airports down, I was still scared to leave my apartment & wanted to stay home to keep informed by the minute. I went in anyway cuz I was recently hired and didn’t want to jeopardize my standing. But I was completely consumed by it – could barely concentrate on my work, and would go into the break room to watch the TV any chance I could get.

    I found out in subsequent weeks that the pilots in those 9/11 planes had actually TRAINED in a small airport located in Torrance, CA – only a 5 minute walk from where I lived, and that there were also several “Sleeper Cells” living in Torrance as well. The skies were EXTREMELY Quiet in the weeks and months after 9/11 – to hear a sole airplane flying overhead one day made my skin crawl & riddled me with fear – I couldn’t help but wonder if it was going to drop a bomb, explode, or the obvious – crash into something. I had talk radio on in my car continually, found myself in an unrecoverable depression for about 3 months, and was eventually laid off from that new job because of a serious decline in business resulting from 9/11. My musician friend in N.J. also had a nervous breakdown a month or two after the event – (9/11 being the straw that broke the camel’s back). It occurred to me, that even though the incident had happened 3000 miles away, it still hit the entire country in waves thereafter – moderate to severe, we were ALL hit by it! I felt such utter compassion, sadness and sympathy for all the victims – the HORRID fear & death they experienced – the acute depression & serious injuries of the survivors, and daily exhaustion – both physically & psychologically each and every Rescue/Recovery Worker, EMT, Firefighter, Police, Citizen of New York faced & dealt with daily – even years after. Subsequent documentaries on the locals and people who fell in the midst of the attack first hand shed light on the depth by which they had been impacted. [One man could see nothing but the numbers – any combination of which – in license plates, street signs, etc. that amounted to the exact number of people that died in his Laddar, another, an EMT, SO devastated by the fact that there were NO people to be saved – only dead to be found continually – that she had to leave the profession altogether. Others, burn survivors who’d had several surgeries still in daily pain, continued on fighting for life… one man stood by his spouse through it all showing an admirable depth of love & commitment, even though she was severely disfigured,.. ]

    If ever there was a time a CLEAR distinction was made between Good & Evil – that Heaven & Hell DO exist, it was displayed that very day,… and we MUST defend Good whenever the opportunity presents itself. Step UP, if you see anything suspicious…fight evil wherever it rears its ugly head … PRAY for those in need and for Good to overcome evil.

  8. laurieanne

    My boyfriend and I were still asleep when it all began to happen. The phone woke me up; it was our friend, Doug, and he started screaming, “The world is coming to an end!” over and over. Finally he said, “Turn on your fucking TV!” and hung up. I hit the remote and the first thing I saw was that horrible, slow motion shot of the first plane hitting the tower. I shook my boyfriend awake and for the next I don’t know how many hours we were glued to the screen, dazed, crying, reeling in disbelief. Two of my customers at the store where I worked vanished in the wreckage that day, and the husband of the mayor of the small town I grew up was lost, too. They were all commuters who worked in the City. I remember thinking that there are people who live with that sort of carnage EVERY DAY, bombs dropping and buildings collapsing……I felt so vulnerable and exposed.

  9. Brianne

    On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was still enjoying my last years of high school and having the excuse of a teenager’s sleep cycle when it came to waking up every morning. Typically, my mother would act as my snooze alarm for a good hour- getting progressively more annoyed with every trip she had to make in to my room. But this morning was different. Something in her first “get-up” message was off. It was too urgent; it was too scared.

    As I stumbled down the stairs to our living room, she told me that I needed to sit down and watch this because “the weirdest thing was happening…”. I could see black smoke and a tall building, but still hadn’t put the pieces together. And as I sat down next to her, I watched a plane explode in to the second tower and got the message loud and clear. I still remember clear as day what my mother said next; she didn’t say it to me or anyone in particular. She just whispered, “Oh my God- this wasn’t an accident.”
    This is one of the few days of high school that I remember very clearly. It was a day that we broke from routine. Instead of attending our classes, our teachers let us sit in the library, the cafeteria, the gym or anywhere that a TV had been set up for the day and watch CNN. We sat with our friends in stunned silence. We sat with our teachers and administrators as equals, because for once, no one had the answers.

    September 11 was one of the first days that I remember feeling helpless. Always empowered and always advocating a cause, I sat and just watched with everyone else as nearly 3000 people lost their lives. All I could do was hug a friend and offer what little comfort there was on a day like that. But, thinking back, it was enough. This was one of those days in history that brought us together. Friends or enemies, neighbors or complete strangers, we were all just trying to make it through that day. The hugs, the arm placed around someone’s shoulder, the holding of a worried friend’s hand- they were all small acts of kindness that brought us together and helped us feel that there was good in the World even as we faced such horrors.

    Ten years ago, our community came together to face a reality that was tragic and bigger than us all. Though my life has taken a very different path than everyone that I encountered that morning in the library, they are all a part of a memory that is still as clear as it was a decade ago. Their small acts of kindness will forever come to mind every time I remember 9/11.

  10. MicheleMG

    That day made me realize tomorrow should not be taken for granted. So I decided to stop putting aside my passion, and began to write and publish my work.

    And while I’ve traveled the world, 9/11 made me realize I was naive about my own country. I didn’t truly appreciate what we have here. But that September day I watched and heard the most amazing acts of bravery, generosity and honor. My essay below, what I don’t want to forget about 9/11:

    http://michelemilesgardiner.typepad.com/dailynews911piece.pdf )

    1. proseflows

      Hello Michele,

      Your 9/11 remembrance article is so beautifully written, and to me totally evokes the emotions of not only that day but the aftermath. Your words reflect thoughtfulness and sensitivity to the nuanced but powerful changes in our world and in us all. Thank you! (I began to write in earnest following my 50th birthday 8 years ago after wondering for years whether I was “good enough” and holding back. Wake up calls, when answered, are wonderful. )

  11. kospina

    This is a link to my blog, where I posted on this topic earlier today: http://stuckintheslowlaneoflife.blogspot.com.

    Living only 40 miles from the city as we do, nearly everyone here has a story of loss or a near-miss. My family is fortunate, we didn’t lose anyone and although my brother did witness the attacks from across the river in Jersey City, none of us was directly impacted. Yet the repercussions of that day continue to live on in many of us here. Even now, I still cannot bring myself to watch the images of the towers coming down.

  12. rosewritesdaily

    As many others will never forget, I too have the first images of that horrific event forever chiseled in my memory.

    I was getting an oil change that morning. As I waited for my turn, I sat in the car. I happen to be a people watcher and looked over into the waiting area. I saw people begin to gather around the television screen, which was hoisted up high on a shelf. I couldn’t hear anything, but the looks on people’s faces told me that something horrifying was happening. I saw looks of shock, looks of bewilderment, some women even began to cry. I decided to get out of my car and go inside to look at what had a bunch of strangers, who normally have little interaction with each other in public places, all displaying fear, terror and confusion in their faces, and commenting and consoling each other simultaneously.

    When the reports came in that a plane had crashed in DC, I thought of my oldest sister who worked not too far from the capitol. I immediately tried to get her on the line as well as my other 6 siblings, my brothers and sisters-somewhat like a phone tree. The youngest worked in Philadelphia in Liberty Center, the tallest buildings in the city. Unfortunately, the phones were jammed everywhere, but eventually I reached my brother, who had gotten through to another family member with news that my sister in DC was safe. My sister in Philadelphia soon called to tell me the buildings had been evacuated as soon as they news hit the airwaves of the tower strikes.

    I think we all stood in front of the television in the waiting room for what seemed like hours. Even the oil service people and management lined up to witness the towers crumble. People had their mouths open, some raised their hands to their foreheads, others just shook their heads in disbelief, asking “what is going on?”

    I cried watching the people jump from the burning buildings and thought of all the families also watching in absolute anquish, knowing their wives, husbands, and friends were all experiencing the worse, deepest, feelings of helplessness, loss and for those in the towers – certain death.

    “Man’s inhumanity to man”, as stated by the poet Robert Burns, was sadly witnessed by everyone across the globe that day. Recounting it in this post returns me to those deadly seconds which will last a lifetime in my mind, never to be erased.

  13. arando

    In 2001 I experienced the twin towers disaster with my own eyes. Standing less than eight blocks away I watched in horror and confusion of the situation at hand. Unaware that the twin towers could collapse my co-workers and I watched the top halves of the towers burn in flames and smoke. We watched in shock as people from the top floors of the towers were trapped from the heat of the burning towers. One by one they began to jump from the top floor windows of the towers into the clouds of heaven. At this time I felt in my heart I should take the Staten Ferry back to Staten Island where I live. I told my coworker that I was leaving to head back home. A coworker grabbed my hand and said “don’t go towards the towers to go home.” Moments after this we felt the rumble below our feet as the street began to lift up from us. The South tower began to collapse.

    Running as fast as we could towards Canal Street in a cloud of smoke my eyes focused toward the ground while trying to maintain my balance. I turned around as I was running and noticed what to be hundreds of shoes scattered throughout the streets. In my mind these shoes represented a person who lost their life.

    Continuing to run with my coworkers we began to experience a tremor which shook our core. It was the second tower collapsing in the background. At this point I separated from my coworkers and decided to find my mom who worked at that time in Rockefeller Center in Midtown. Disoriented and unable to hear correctly from the deafening sound of the towers that collapsed I continued to run towards midtown. Soon after I was able to hail a bus filled with military soldiers. The bus driver and military people on board provided me with water and eye solution. I was dropped ten blocks away from Rockefeller Center were I met my mother. Unable to get home that night because of all closures in the city my mother and I stood in the city.

    http://anthonyfrando.net/2011/09/09/remembering-the-past-91101/

  14. mparsonsnyc

    I was in Europe on September 11, preparing to embark on a post-corporate conference cruise with my spouse. Our older son was in freshman year of high school four blocks from the Twin Towers. We were locked down at the harbor, everyone huddled around the tv, trying to find cell phones that would call the US. I spent hours convincing myself the school was not crushed under the rubble, and worse, that my son was not in a complete utter state of panic and trauma.
    When I finally got a call through, to my amazement my son was not only fine (they had walked the students north out of the area as soon as possible) but he could also give me a calm account. We were both glad, oddly, that we had been separated by the ocean–our stress would have been worse.
    Since that day, along with my gratitude at my son’s safety, all I continue to think on is how much time and energy we all spend on bewailing the horrors of what we do to each other, and how much less we spend on actually desiring to, and working toward, coming together to fix everything properly. Of course much of the peoples of the world are in dire need and in great pain–some of it was caused by other peoples. Perhaps let’s just acknowledge that we are really foolish, ill-mannered, overly prone to bad behavior (putting it all mildly) and move on toward actually constructing a global society that in 1000 years might be worth something wonderful, marvelous and blessed. If we have enough energy, time, and emotion to be bad and destructive, surely we can manage to find at least as much to be wise and constructive.

  15. ramblesphere

    I wrote about this on my blog today. It is more about the days and years following 9/11, and how I still feel each year when this date comes around. You can read it here: http://ramblesphere.blogspot.com/2011/09/he-took-her-hand-she-took-his-together.html.
    I didn’t mention it in the blog post, but I remember on the actual day worrying about my cousin who was flying out of Newark that day. It took many hours before I could get word that his flight was stopped on the tarmac when they closed airspace.
    I recall also in the days following, when airspace was closed, hearing military planes flying loud and low over my house in Vermont, awakening me in the middle of the night with my heart pounding. Even in that semi-conscious state I knew there weren’t supposed to be planes in the air and thought, “my God, it’s even reached here.” We were everywhere on edge, I suppose.
    Your mention of news anchors makes me remember Aaron Brown’s tears on CNN, so human as he had to bring the news to us like a “professional”. I’ll take human over professional any day of the week.

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