9/11

September 11th.

First I thought, well, I’m not really going to talk about it. Maybe a small acknowledgment somewhere. Not that it’s not a significant day. It is. It’s just — well, I’m not looking to bring anybody down on this site. And part of me thinks, “Yes, we get it, it happened. It’s time to move on.”

And that may be true.

Except, move on needs to be move up — we need to ease away from the terrors of that day and become elevated, ascended, try to view the lessons learned that day in the proper light.

The problem is, we haven’t done this. We’ve drifted away, yes, but like a balloon losing its buoyancy we’re sinking further and further. It feels like the world (or at least our country) is somehow less enlightened, less together than it was on that day — the kind of day where I personally would’ve predicted we’d be at each other’s throats, where we’d be on the brink of personal, political and spiritual destruction.

But, it’s been nine years, and we didn’t even get a lousy t-shirt: all we have is divisive politics and pretend wars with pretend motives and cranky bitch-ass anti-Christian “Christian” pastors threatening to burn someone else’s holy book as if all Muslims got together on some secret Mohammedian wavelength that day and concentrated really really hard in order to attack the United States and/or Israel.

It’s as if we’ve somehow forgotten that “Muslim” doesn’t mean “extremist whackaloon.”

It’s as this graphic doesn’t even matter:

Which is very sad.

If we’ve fallen prey to such divisiveness, it starts to feel like that crazy fucked-up minority of fundamentalist terrorists actually did the job they set out to do. They weren’t hoping that we’d die from that one wound on that one day. They were hoping we’d succumb to the septic infection that lingered in our bodies, or the cancer that settled into the bellies of our cells, a cancer made of something terrible.

Hey, fuck that right in the ear.

You know what?

On that morning, the morning when those two planes hit those towers, we were all eerily linked together. Was the first time in a long time the country felt like it was bonded by the glue of community.

So, you know what? Do me a favor. If you feel like it, hop on down into the comments, tell me what you were doing on that morning. Everybody, I find, remembers that morning. This is our generation’s JFK moment, after all — “Where were you when the president was shot?” has become, “Where were you when the plane hit the first tower?” We are all held fast by that event. We were all on the same team that morning.

Me, I was driving to work.

I was listening to Howard Stern on FM. They interrupted the broadcast to start talking about this plane that had hit the first tower, and at first it was thought to be just some weird coincidence, some terrible but accidental disaster. But by the time I got to work and drove into town, they were already asking: “Was this an attack?” And then the second plane hit.

And as I drove into and then walked through town, I could see the whole thing unfold around me — it was a cool morning, but people were opening their windows and looking out. Some were yelling to other open windows. Some cars just pulled over to park and listen. People on the street hurried over to other people, to other strangers, something you never really see except in times of deep crisis. They were like lone cells joining together, molecules finding one another in order to form a more stable and certain substance. You could feel the event wash over the town that way.

Everybody wanted to connected. They wanted to ask each other: “What’s happening? Did you hear?” They wanted to find meaning and commiseration and community. They didn’t just want it. They needed it.

It was strange to watch.

But very, very powerful.

Where were you?

45 comments

  • I was in Chemistry class. I think it was a lab. I can’t be sure. All I know was that it was toward the end of first period and I was already done with all the busy work we’d been given. The German teacher (who, like my mother, grew up in the city) came rushing in to tell our teacher. Most of the students ignored the news. I, with maybe a few handfuls, went to the next room (the German classroom) just in time to see the second tower hit. I’ve only felt a cold dread wash over me twice in my life. This was the first.

    Unfortunately I didn’t get the same sense of togetherness that you got. Overall the reaction at my school was frosty at best – outright callous at worst. One of the dangers of moving to the small town South I suppose. One girl even had the gall to look at me and say something along the lines of “Good. Kill them Yankees.” Yeah, I punched her in her trailer trash mouth. Things didn’t get much better from there in the coming days when the anti-North sentiment became anti-Islam.

    Although what made that day worse was when my mother came to school to get me a few hours later. Like I said, she grew up in the city. She still has family there and lost a cousin (not close but still kin) when the towers came down. Now Ma’s an insanely strong woman, never cries and never ever admits to fear. To see her so shaken and sobbing outside the principal’s office really slammed the gravity of that morning home for me.

  • I was in bed asleep. I had to work at 11am.

    The phone rang, and it was my mom’s work number. I answered it without really waking up, because hey, it wasn’t someone who needed impressing. My mom shrieked at me to turn on my TV because a plane had hit the tower. My exact words (which I will always remember) were, “That makes no sense.” Before I could find the remote the second plane hit.

    I stayed on the phone with my mom because she was in her office and away from the TV. I remember yelling in her ear, “Holy shit the tower’s coming down. It’s coming down,” and we both burst into hysterics.

    I called work to find out what was going on, and they said to come in, everyone was a mess, no one knew if our store at Ground Zero was intact or if anyone had gone into work yet there.

    When I got to work it was like a funeral. The regulars were in the cafe, one of the managers had dragged the TV from the break room to the information desk and was using a fork from the cafe as an antenna to get reception. Customers were clustered around the TV, and most of us said nothing. Then home office contacted us to let us know that all employees from the WTC were safe and accounted for, but we were closing all stores for the day so everyone could be with their families.

    I cried a lot. I spent the entire day on the verge of tears, as did most people, and if anyone even looked at me with kindness I’d lose my shit all over again.

    It took a long time to fall asleep that night.

  • I was driving with my husband and brother in law back to Raleigh from Greensboro to get a suit for my husband to bury his father in. (His father died unexpectedly in his sleep at a very young age on September 9th.)

    We were listening to NPR and heard the news of the first plane crashing into the tower, I remember very clearly where we were on I-40. The funny thing was our family was so shocked by the sudden death that the whole terrorists crashing planes into the twin towers and the pentagon was even more surreal than I imagine it was for most folks. For years after it felt like a story I had watched; I was too consumed with personal grief to feel more than abstract sorrow/horror/revulsion/fear for what had happened.

  • I was in my Philosphy class, just before lunch, when someone came into the room and told us to turn on the TV. We tuned into the news just in time to see the second plane hit. I remember all of us sitting in this stunned silence. Even our teacher, who wasn’t exactly a hard-ass but who wouldn’t pause class for much, just sat and watched.

    Now, I don’t remember if any of us said it aloud then, but I know I was thinking this: our Philosphy/History teacher, Mr. Eaton, had pointed out to us that every generation has its war. Its big, stupid war that really only results in wasted lives. He warned us that ours was coming, and here we were looking at the kickoff.

  • Half the world away and come early afternoon i was stood in a cafe ordering two cups of tea. The guy behind the counter said a plane had hit the tower and we all pictured a micro-lite or some rich dude in a small plane who’d gone tragically off course.

    While i was still in there, talking about all manner on useless crap, the radio announced the second hit. The cafe emptied, because everybody needed to get to a TV.

  • I had just dropped cupcakes off at preschool for my son’s birthday party. Now, whenever I tell someone his birthday is on 9/11, they usually say, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

    I’m not.

  • My wife was home from work, nearing the end of her first pregnancy. She was watching TV and called me to see it. I don’t remember the rest of the day.

    I do remember talking with my brother-in-law, saying, “No, I don’t think there will be additional attacks, not for some time. What’s their motivation for stringing it out? They want the biggest, easiest impact and shooting all their powder at once is the way to get it.” I was right.

    On the 29th, my first son was born.

    -G.

  • I had no class that morning, so I was in our basement family room, doing something on the computer (Everquest?) with the TV tuned to the Fox News morning show (this was 2001, before Fox News became known to me as a worthless organization). I caught the story as it broke and watched the second plane hit. I spent the rest of the day in that basement, watching TV.

  • I had just come back from a job interview, and sitting in my then flat with a view over Canary Wharf I got pissy that my daytime TV was interrupted. I was making lunch, so didn’t really pay attention until I saw the second plane hit and the anguish in the newsreader’s voice cut right through me. I can still hear that voice if I concentrate.

    I watched it unfold on the BBC and CNN, oddly grateful that I had cable. My crappy theatre job was still on, so I headed into Oxford Street for about 5pm and watched the city empty out because the buzz was ‘we’re next’. We sat in the Stalls bar with the mostly American (mostly New York dwelling) cast of our show and talked in murmurs, watching as call after call finally came through to them from friends and family.

    I’ve never seen an audience for anything so numb as the one we had that night. The show had a throwaway line about living in New York and after a stunned, awkward silence the whole auditorium burst into a slow, sad applause. The laughs didn’t land, and the dancers seemed shell-shocked but for that moment alone I’m so glad our melodramatic stage manager had yelled at everyone that “we have to go on or the terrorists win”.

    Anyway, this is a class article with some really valid points. It has felt like a step backwards, and now more than ever we really have to metaphorically smack some sense into all these hatemongers preying on collective fear. We’re better than that.

  • I was substituting for the eighth grade teacher at a parochial school. The teacher I was in for had a free period when it happened, so I was getting ready for the next class, when one of the teachers came in and told me about it. At first I was, like, “Wait…what?” and then we all gathered around the TV in the faculty room and watched the second hit happen. All of us were, like, “Omigod,” and, “How do we tell the kids?”

    During the next class period, the principal came over the PA and made the announcement, then led everyone in a prayer for the people who’d been hurt or killed in the attacks.

    The rest of the day, everyone – including the kids – was very quiet. I remember being very glad to get home, where I could hug my husband.

  • I was at work, in Alexandria VA. I remember that it was a beautiful morning, crisp and clear. I drank lots of coffee, and had a delicious bagel slathered in crame cheese. When the news broke of the first plane, we all gathered around my boss’s two big monitors on his desk to watch the news streaming in. I remember being just struck dumb and numb. After my big breakfast, I had to go to the bathroom something awful, but couldn’t pull away from watching the news.

    When the second plane hit, we were all horrified, a huge gasp and “no!” echoing through the room as we watched it live on the TV. I started to do the gotta go to the bathroom two-step, and finally ran off to the toilet. I remember crying as I sat there. And I remember hearing a distinct, distant whump, and more yelling in the office. I raced out of the bathroom, and everyone was now gathered around the big windows at the north of our building (we were on the top floor). There was a huge cloud of thock black smoke spiraling up in the air in the distance north of us… we instantly knew a plane had struck here as well, without knowing where. I was horrified and stunned before — now I was fucking scared. But it was north and west, not east — we could see the Capitol and the Washington Monument from our office easily. Then someone said “the news just reported a plane hit the Pentagon.”

    We all watched silently as the smoke got thicker and uglier looking. My friend and I went up to the building roof and watched from there — we could just see the Pentagon, or at least the thick smoke pluming up from it. We watched as helicopters flew back and forth from the river to the Pentagon, scooping up water to drop on the flames. The winds shifted, adnd the smoke cloud blew south over Alexandria. It was an awful smell, acrid like tires burning, but greasy smelling as well.

    My then-girlfriend (now wife) called me to tell me her volunteer paramedic unit had been activated, and she was on her way to the Pentagon. For a brief second, I thought of telling her NOT to go, that we should meet at home and just know the other was safe, and maybe pack a bag and drive out of town. But I didn’t. I told her to be careful and keep in as much touch with me as she could.

    My friend and I stayed on the roof pretty much for the next couple of hours until the smoke cleared from the Pentagon. Every year since then, we always call each other or text on the morning of 9/11, just to say “hey, buddy, today was that day.”

    And with that, I need to go make a call.

  • I was teaching high school music in 2001. I had first period planning that fall. My wife accompanied me to the school that morning, as she often did, since I relied on volunteer assistance for many clerical and administrative tasks, and she was an excellent volunteer. We were in my office, while my teacher’s assistant was in the band room straightening chairs when my dad called. He said that a small private plane had hit the World Trade Center. My dad often called with strange news stories and rumors that were ill-researched and unverified, so I didn’t think much of it until he called again to tell me that the news was saying it might have been a passenger jet.

    My wife and I went out to the band room and turned the classroom tv to CNN. As soon as it clicke on, the second plane was hitting the towers. My wife and I, along with my teacher’s assistant, watched in silence for the rest of the period as the towers fell.

    Morning break saw a stream of dumbfounded, shocked students gather in front of the television as the fall of the towers was replayed again and again. Second period jazz was spent recounting the events of the morning. Actually, the entire day was spent in that fashion. Some students had relatives in the city. Several of my relatives were firefighters in NY & NJ. Some of the students were crass and insensitive. Or at least that was their defense mechanism.

    After school rehearsals were cancelled that day, but high school football went on as planned on Friday night.

  • I was teaching a freshman English class when the principal made an announcement to turn on TVs, shortly after the second plane hit. I watched the towers fall with a different group of my students. A debate class. I’m not sure there is anything less natural than a room of adolescents sitting in stunned slience. Then the principal demanded we turn everything off–they had security guards making sure we were “conducting class as usual,” which was as impossible as if they commanded us to “fly laps around the room using only your scrotum as a parasail.” Spent the afternoon at my house in Charlotte unable to turn the TV off.

  • I overslept that morning and missed my Ethics class. I guess it was around 11am when I rolled out of bed, tripped my way downstairs, and turned on the TV. I wasn’t really awake and continued into the kitchen. I was pouring a bowl of Cheerios when the image caught up to my brain, but I thought I had to still be asleep. Smoke was pouring out of the towers; this didn’t happen here. My dad was in DC on a business trip, not close to the Pentagon, fortunately. I lived alone in Charlotte. It took me an hour to get through to anyone on the phone. School and work were canceled. A friend came over and we spent the afternoon and evening glued to CNN, just waiting for any new nugget of information. Emails and phone calls were happening between friends and family all day, just checking in and passing on news.

  • I was at work, just getting started for the day. Someone came down from another department and asked my supervisor if she’d heard anything about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NY. It was pretty much just as we started streaming the local NPR affiliate that the second plane hit.

    I had CNN.com up when the first plane had hit. When we got the news of the second one, I hit refresh. CNN timed out. When does CNN ever time out? From that point on, all the news I had came from that streaming NPR station and friends who were home from work. They watched it on TV and emailed updates to the rest of us.

    My mom called me, begging me to go home. I think it was shortly after they learned that one of the planes had taken off from Logan Airport in Boston, so how we we to know Boston wasn’t a target, too? That, and she couldn’t get in touch with my dad, who was a motorman on the red line at the time. He was in the tunnels, so his cell phone had no reception. We learned later on that when someone had told him what had happened, he thought they’d meant a smaller plane had flown into the World Trade Center in Boston. So it was jarring when, hours later, he learned what had actually happened.

    We had at least one bomb threat where they evacuated the building: the FBI is on the 7th floor. After that, they let us all go home.

    Where I get on the train, the tracks are underground for five or six stops. When you come out aboveground again, you’ve got this spectacular view of the Boston skyline. I remember my whole car getting quiet as we approached the mouth of the tunnel. The news reports were all conflicting at that point. They were saying there were still two planes missing, or three, or ten. I think most of us had expected to come out and see the Prudential building or the Hancock tower aflame.

    If you haven’t seen it, John M. Ford wrote a beautiful poem called “110 Stories.” Very much worth a read.

  • 9/11 was the first day of classes for me at college. My CNN-first-thing-in-the-morning habits meant I was awake, and the “plane flies into WTC” headline had me thinking Cessna… then pictures, and more info, and then my roommate and I ran up to the Commons, and the rest of the students (less than 500 of us on campus) filtering in slowly. I grew up 90 minutes outside of NYC and this was a campus that was full of New Englanders, the artsy kids from NY and around the world – a liberal arts college that already prides itself on being connected and fostering a sense of community became even more tightly-knit.

  • I was in getting ready with my parents for work that day. The television was on in the living room as we wandered about. By the time I came downstairs the first plane had hit and there was all this talking going on about it. Mom said almost absently that a plane had crashed into one of the towers. I had thought it was one of those little bi-planes and thought it was strange it could have happened but stopped to watch the news. I remember clearly the cameras had pulled back to show the smoke coming off the building and I knew it wasn’t a little plane but something bigger, but the reporters were confused.. and were saying different things – no one seemed to know what was happening really.

    Then, as I watched, the second plane crashed into the tower.

  • I was hanging out at the house in my last year of uni, when one of my housemates shouted the weirdest sentence up the stairs: “Look what’s happening in America.”

    I went to work at the pub a few hours later, and everyone was glued to the TV, watching the same repeated statements about casualty fears, with little real info.

    The sentiment that day was the same as it was for weeks and months afterwards. As a sidenote to how cold and hollow everyone felt, there were just as many references to how the US would deal with it. I remember, clear as day, someone saying “The US will invade the shit out of the Middle East over this.”

    On the day itself, I was surrounded by about 300 people. And equal to the attack itself was the fear of America’s response. No one seemed to believe the US would handle it rationally.

  • I was in Duluth Minnesota getting ready to train a new company on a product our company sold them. I was fitting my tie while watching ESPN…Michael Jordan was coming out of retirement. As I left my hotel room and was descending the stairs, I heard someone murmur something about an airplane hitting the WTC. I shrugged it off thinking it was a Cessna or something.

    I got into my rental and turned on the radio. There was no music; just a guy talking about a large plane that had slammed into the WTC This is when I realized it was a much larger tragedy. It was only a 5 minute drive to my destination. As I walked into the building and introduced myself to the receptionist I saw a mass of about 20 people huddled around a tv in the lobby. One woman was sobbing and trying desperately to call someone on her phone while another woman tried to calm her down.

    The second plane had hit while I walked from my car to the building. While I talked to the people there, sketchy news was trickling in. There was word that another plane had hit the Pentagon. A plane had been reported flying towards Washington from the Ohio area. A plane had also hit Independence Mall in Philadelphia (which made me cringe), another had hit the Capitol building. I quickly called my Dad, in Doylestown, and he rebuffed the reports of Philly being hit. The rumors were flying.

    I got a phone call from an unlisted number. When I answered it I heard a stern and steely voice. “Paul DeLaurentis? This is to notify you that you are officially on active standby status.” I was in the Army Reserves by then and it was the voice of our unit clerk. I explained that I was in Minnesota and he told me where the nearest base was in case I was needed. I never got a second call…thankfully. As I hung up the phone I heard a gasp and people saying things like “OH GOD NO!”.

    The first tower fell.

    I went numb watching the replay. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. No one even discussed the possibility that the buildings would collapse. I started thinking about the people in the tower. I had just watched people die on national TV. We watched in horror as the giant cloud of debris floated angrily down the streets of New York. It swallowed people without a care. My next thought was “The second tower! Those people have to get the hell out of there!”. It was only a matter of minutes. We started to hear the rumbling and the cameras quickly panned to the structure.

    The second tower fell.

    This time no one screamed or gasped. It was dead silent in the room as we watched, again, as calamity folded in on itself. A minute or two passed before anyone said anything. The president of the company finally spoke. He suggested that there was nothing anyone could do at this point and that the event was likely over. A plane had slammed into the Pentagon, and one had crashed in Western PA. All other planes were grounded or landing and no other threat was imminent. We all reluctantly retired upstairs to the conference rooms for us to begin training.

    Suddenly I was a focal point for 30-or-so people. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was something like this: “I know we’re all pretty shaken about what happened. If this is a terrorist attack, then the best thing we can do right now is live our lives normally.” It was then that my hysterical wife (then girlfriend) finally got a hold of me. I told her I was fine. She was relieved and I was able to go back to training.

    It was awkward for the first few minutes, but quickly turned into a normal session. I went about my training, people asked questions, and we were even able to laugh at my terrible jokes that related to the topics I was covering.

    At about 5pm I got into my car, drove back to the hotel, collapsed on my bed, and wept uncontrollably for close to 20 minutes. After I composed myself I turned on the tv for the latest news on the event. There wasn’t much more to tell at this point. Some guy named Osama Bin Laden was apparently to blame. I was suppoed to fly out that night back to Philly. That obviously didn’t happen.

    2 days would pass before I made the decision to drive back to PA. Dollar Rentals was offering free cars in exchange for unused airline tickets. I was able to rent a mini-van and loaded up at the local Wal-Mart on water and snacks.

    As I began the trek home, I listened to NPR and heard about the vigils and rally’s being held. I passed Chicago as they were holding a candlelight vigil at the city hall. I had so much emotion trapped inside that driver’s seat and I wanted to explode. I made it as far as a rest stop on Route 80 in eastern Ohio before I needed to nap. I climbed into the back seat of the van and caught a few winks. I woke up around 4am and started driving again.

    As I sped across 80 the Howard Stern show came on at 5. He opened with Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner. I was in a remote part of the highway and the dawn was breaking right in front of me as I continued East. As Jimi’s guitar blared, the coming light washed over me. For the first time in days I felt peaceful. I felt like everything was going to be OK. It was 9 hours before I arrived home. Finally I was back in a familiar place around friends and family.

    It was truly an epic experience.

  • I was sitting at my desk, talking to my boss about some inconsequential story the copy desk had post to the website the night before. The press manager, who’s right next door, swings open the door and announces that a plain had crashed into the WTC. He has a TV in his office, one of only three in the building. Each newsroom had one, and then him. I guess seniority has it’s privilege.

    So we crowd in there and watch the replay, and then the next tower was hit. The newsrooms are on the floor below us, so I can’t say what was going on. I imagine the morning paper was pretty much empty and the evening paper was jumping around like crazy wondering if they could make deadline. I do know both were packed that afternoon to put out the next day’s special 9/11 tragedy edition. You know the garish splash pages ever paper across the world did the next day with giant pictures and 70 pt font.

    I know we were worried about potential traffic to the websites, our websites were dead that day. TV had won the local and national viewing. When not catching replays on the TV next door I did watch clips from the larger news outlets. CNN. CBS. NYT.

    Of course there was a lot of phone calls. Thoughts about family, friends, friends of friends. Everyone glued to their TVs, talking on phones.

    9/12 had been a record news day for the papers as far as web traffic and paper sales. A sad indicator of how antiquated newspapers would become, now struggling to catch up and remain relevant.

    Personally, like everyone else, I was shocked, in awe and a little terrified on 9/11.

  • (Written on a framer’s message board on 9/11/2001): …I saw the whole f ** king thing from the train. We just pulled out
    of my station when the first plane hit. I saw the fireball, I saw the smoke.
    There was paper floating in the smoke…it looked like bits of silver. Then
    we went underground. When we surfaced on the bridge into Manhattan, We saw
    the second tower on fire. It must have been just after the second plane hit.
    When I got out at 14th street, I heard that the first tower had collapsed.
    When I had walked a few blocks on my way to the office, I heard that the
    second tower had gone. This is the worst f** king thing I have ever seen in
    my life.

    (Written 9/13/2001): went into work for the first time since those SOB’s struck. I immediately noticed that the towers weren’t there. I could always see them from the platform and between stops on the train. The big shock came when we resurfaced on the Manhattan Bridge. There was a blank spot where the towers once stood, and a plume of smoke coming from the site. I’m what I consider to be a tough guy, but the tears came, and I was not alone…there was hardly a dry eye on the train.
    I pass the South Armory on my way to and from work. This is where the families of those missing come to see if there is any news of their loved ones and can bring pictures and samples of DNA (!) to help in the identification. All along the street on the side of the armory, there are posters as far as the eye can see of missing people with descriptions, where they worked and phone numbers from frantic relatives and loved ones. My heart goes out to these people who can only wait and pray that their loved ones are OK.
    The wind shifted North while I went out to lunch, and there was a smell in the air that was horrific. It was a blend of burning plastic, wood, metal and meat. The sun was shining through the smoke, but the smell will be burned into my brain along with the memory of seeing the towers on fire with my own eyes, and then seeing everything played out on TV that night. I don’t have cable, and since most of the stations had their transmitter on the Tower, there was only CBS, which keeps a spare transmitter on top of the Empire State Building.
    As we passed over the bridge on the way back to Brooklyn, I again saw in the dark, a space where blacked out buildings still stood. In the middle of this dark spot was light coming from the rescue effort. It reminded me of the Phoenix, that mythological bird that if killed, will rise from the ashes anew. Let us hope that NYC can be like that phoenix!

  • I was at work in my office near Philadelphia.

    Someone came in and announced that a plane had hit the first tower.

    Since bad shit happens every day, I checked CNN and realized that it wouldn’t respond. The whole internet was slowing down. What many people don’t realize is that there were only 3 or 4 major internet switching stations in the US, like airport hubs, and one was located in the basement of the towers. So, when the tower went down, a huge piece of our internet infrastructure was destroyed.

    Since the news sites were flooded, I spent an hour accessing every public and private web cam in Manhattan to see what I could see. My screen was a flood of tiny windows, with video or still-photo streams updating from every angle in the city. It was pretty terrifying to be watching a camera, and then see the picture slowly fade away as the dust in the air settled on the lens.

    As more cameras failed and the internet ground to a halt, a few of us packed up and went to the pub on the corner where all of the big TVs usually reserved for sports were suddenly focused on the news.

  • There was a weird energy in my CS Theory class at University of Michigan. Everybody knew something distressing was happening, but I hadn’t heard. Like a third of the class was absent. The material was interesting, so I was mostly focused on class, but I couldn’t ignore the weird tension in the room.

    Class let out a little bit early, and as we stumbled out into the confused day we started hearing things like “there was another plane!?” “Oh my god”.

    I looked around in confusion and walked to the main engineering building, and there was a sign on the door saying that they were closing the engineering campus (because UM is a major site for military-funded research, and they didn’t know how many targets the attackers had planned). I walked into the atrium in a daze, still clueless, and turned on my headset radio.

    “Terrorists flying planes into the world trade center what, now?” I called my parents to check in with them and commiserate about the bizarreness of the situation. And somewhere in there we heard about the towers collapsing. I think I was standing in front of a television when the north tower fell, but it’s all a blur, and I’ve seen those videos so many times, now, god knows.

    I don’t really remember how the rest of that day went. It was a strange blur. But I remember that walk from class to the atrium, asking my classmate what was going on, and getting an incredulous look and a scattered explanation, then listening to the radio and calling my father. That’s burned-in.

    I don’t remember

  • I was at work that morning – I was just out of college, and working as an inventory guy at a brand new Borders bookstore. Being inventory meant I was usually in the back, working on a computer. That morning before the store opened, one of my managers came running and yelled at me to turn on the TV in the back room. We watched the tower burn while she prayed over and over again. I remember thinking exactly two things: an empathetic “My God, what a horrible accident” and a slightly cynical “This is going to be on the news for MONTHS.” I know, not the most enlightened thing to think at a time like that, but I’m being honest.

    Then the second plane hit.

    She screamed. I think I might have, too. I thought to myself “I just watched people die” and wanted to be sick. By this time several other employees were in the back room as well, watching numbly. Customers started to trickle in, some of them still unaware, some of them “looking for something normal to do.” I remember a co-worker came back from the front desk, shaking her head and wondering if she should tell the oblivious ones, or just let them enjoy it a little while longer. We manned the store in shifts, rotating people out from the back room while others watched.

    Like a lot of people, I did an inventory in my head – did I know anyone who worked in the Towers? Did I know anyone who lived near them? Did I know of anyone who might have a friend or relative there? My friend Greg’s uncle was a fire captain in Manhattan. I tried to call Greg. No luck – phones were crazy. I started emailing everyone I could, checking and re-checking as answers started coming back. We made plans to meet at my house that night, as many people as I could reach. We just wanted to be near each other, to see familiar faces.

    Not to sound dramatic, but living relatively close to the sites of the attacks – Philly falling neatly along the flight path from NYC to D.C., not even counting United 93 – made it a different experience. Like a lot of Americans, we wondered if we were in direct danger, but it was not the irrational fear of someone living in East Butthole, Arkansas. (No offense to the fine residents of EB, but it just wasn’t the same.) A bunch of friends working in Philadelphia left work immediately, fearful that sites like Independence Hall would make good terrorist targets too.

    I left Borders just after lunch. Several employees left that day, despite threats from one of our managers. She actually said “If we close the store, the terrorists win.” I just replied that if their objective was to stop America from selling John Grisham novels, they’d aimed low, and left. I thought it was witty at the time. She threatened to fire everyone who was leaving, but never did. She was like that.

    That night my girlfriend – now wife – and I sat out on the back porch of the house with about a dozen people, a random handful of friends, everyone who’d been close enough and didn’t have family looking for them and able to come. We sat and worried that this was just the first phase, that more would come, and I firmly believe that if there’d been even one follow-up attack, we would’ve snapped. We heard Afghanistan was getting hit and we thought: There’s war.

    We played cards, because it was all we could do.

  • For me, the worst part of it all was the sudden emergence of all of those tiny damned American flags all over the place. The crummiest of these were those flags that fit into your car windows. After a while I’d see them snapped off by the wind lying in the gutters. By the hundreds.

    The other awful thing about the act was that it caused a lot of people to accept the unelected mental retard who was sitting in our White House pretending to be the President of the United States. I never got over that.

  • My family and I were settling into a house in Germany, seriously missing our former residence in the Azores but happy to finally have a place after weeks of waiting. My wife was a career Air Force officer at the time.
    We had no television reception yet. The day had a depressing feeling to it but not enough to keep me from my household routines, just looking forward to the end of day with our evening meal. Our teenagers were home from school and for some reason I was anxious for my wife to get home. She’d been on the road that day as I recall it.
    My neighbor, a British national and his wife were helping me with our phone service and other amenities because his German was pretty good. As I was about to get supper started he comes over and asks me if I have the TV on. When I tell him we’re still having problems he tells me to go over with him to his house. There’s something I need to see.
    Whether it was a recording or the live impact on the second tower is not the issue. Seeing it creeped me down to my core. Something was very wrong with this picture.
    The local and all U.S. military bases were closed to everyone but absolutely essential personnel. For a week we did all our business off the base, which was fine. Germany is a great place.
    About the time things were returning to some sense of normalcy we discovered that security around the base had gone gonzo. It was crazy. I understood the concern but it was weird, like we were suddenly in the worst “iron curtain” kind of conditions. I avoided the base as best I could, picking up the mail once a week. Worst of all was the impression it made on us to be hyper-vigilant of our off base existence. That finally changed one day when a swarthy man in his late thirties or early forties passed by our house, slowly, seemingly casual but still focused, he was watching our house and staring at our American license plates. A few days later I bumped into the man outside of our bakery. Seeing me and recognizing me he hesitated, probably reading my body language, my reluctance. Misreading my fear for who he might be his face broke into serious concern and asked me in broken English how we were holding up?
    The shame I felt at that moment lives with me to this day. His concern was so genuine that I felt like an insensitive idiot. His curiosity was that of many people who knew we lived in this neighborhood, knowing what our nation had been going through. We were the Americans and we were at least, mentally, injured. He was revealed as both a stranger , a neighbor and a friend.
    We’ve been back in the U.S. for three years now. I’m still trying to come to grips with how badly we’ve fallen and wondering why that is? Evidently a lot of people in our nation needed to have a revelation similar to my own, but didn’t.

  • I was doing laundry at the laundromat down the street from my apartment in Stone Mountain, GA. I sat there and watched CNN on their crappy TV until my wash was done, then headed home. I remember someone at the laundromat saying he’d heard about attacks in Chicago, LA, and other cities as well as New York.

    I was still watching when the second plane hit. When the towers went down. I went numb about 20 minutes in, which was probably just as well. I remember being glad I didn’t know anyone in New York, and then feeling really shitty for thinking that.

    Ken Cliffe called that afternoon and offered me a job as the Dark Ages Developer. He apologized for doing it that day; I said it was nice to hear some good news.

    That night, we played Mage: The Ascension, and I even posted about it on my website later (http://www.geocities.com/blackhatmatt/gaming_911.htm).

    And now it’s nine years later, and as country, we’ve learned exactly the wrong goddamned things from that day.

  • I was in bed. I had the day off from work. The call from my mom that actually woke me up came just before 11:00am. She had been calling for two hours. The wife and I were living in New Jersey at the time and with a commuter rail station across the street I spent a lot of my time in the city. With every unanswered phone call from her home in Rhode Island my mom got more and more upset, not only because of the events unfolding but also the fact that she could not get in touch with me. By the time I woke up and answered the phone she was barely able to speak. She kept asking where I was through her sobs, I actually got a bit frustrated and snapped back, “you called me at home where do you think I am!” I’m cranky when I wake up and back then my normal work schedule was 2pm to 3am and waking up before noon was a rarity. I still had no idea what was going on.

    “turn on the TV” she said when she realized I was ok and calmed down. I did. My mom got to hear my reaction as I dropped the phone and screamed out loud. I saw the whole thing unfold in a matter of minutes highlight reel style rather than the drawn out agony of watching the first plane, then the second, then the collapse. I didn’t really believe it when I saw it on TV so I ran instead to my bathroom where I could see the city skyline out the window. Smoke.

    The whole week after that kind of blurs together. That night I cooked. I went into work (a large busy restaurant) for my night off and we cooked into the small hours of the morning as much food as we could spare to send it out to rescue workers. It was all we could do to help at the time and everyone I knew just wanted to do something. We opened up the restaurant to any rescue workers heading out of the city for weeks afterward and I remember sweeping up the dust from their boots and clothes. Realizing what actually made up that dust. Who actually made up that dust. The parking lot for the commuter train across the street remained full for days and some cars still hadn’t moved weeks later. We knew why.

    Thanks for the post Chuck. I love the diagram you’ve used and you have articulated my thoughts on the current state of affairs far better than I could. Thanks also to everyone who has commented. Reading everyone’s stories just goes to illustrate that we were all the same that day. That we all felt pretty much the same. Its a shame that it hasn’t happened since.

  • In AZ we’re behind the times. I was asleep when the first plane hit, because I worked afternoons and could be. Then my neighbor woke me, asking for a ride to the pharmacy. In the car, she told me “Can you believe this shit? We’re at war! They’re attacking New York!”

    Who the hell could or would attack New York? I told her that couldn’t be true. Only Canada could manage a significant attack on New York City without us knowing beforehand. I’d read my Tom Clancy, you see, and done a fair bit of research on my own as a writer. I’d thought of these things.

    She was so emphatic, I turned on the radio. The only station that came in regularly was playing music like any normal day, therefore it must be a normal day.

    By the time I got home, the second plane had hit. I think I turned CNN on as the second tower fell. I’ve never been to NYC and didn’t know anyone there, so though the anchors were talking about lost lives, it didn’t really hit me until the showed a clip of the second plane hitting. They had to put a circle around the goddamn plane so you could see it before they zoomed in. I’d never realized how frakking big those towers were. How many people could be going about their lives in them, never guessing that a few sociopathic bastards had decided they were not humans, they were TARGETS.

    I knew there’d be war. My daughter was three, playing happily behind the couch, while I sat on the couch and cried and watched CNN and prayed for those we’d lost, and for all the rest of us.

  • That was a weird day for me.

    I grew up on an island with an ordinance that says you can’t have buildings taller than 5 stories; I hadn’t traveled very much because I was still in school and my fuzzy memory couldn’t picture anything in DC being much taller than what I was used to, much less how tall the buildings in New York were.

    Someone at school mentioned it but, you know, a lot of us didn’t understand. We didn’t know what that building was, or how big it was. I just pictured a big warehouse and someone had smashed a plane into the side of it and it sort of bounced off or something. I couldn’t really wrap my head around it.

    It wasn’t until after I got home from school that I turned on the news and saw how tall the buildings really were, saw what was really going on. It was extremely surreal and beyond my comprehension, I just remember sitting at home alone waiting for my parents to get off work and kind of just sitting in awe. There were buildings that tall? Planes could do that much damage? That many people worked there?

    I’ll be honest, the thing that struck me most that day wasn’t that some great tragedy had happened…it was trying to comprehend that the world was much bigger than I imagined it. Much bigger than it seemed in my head. That kind of freaked me out, at the time.

  • My wife and I had just relocated to Taos, NM. It was her 2nd week teaching at a community college an hour drive away. I was starting my new job as manager of a coffee shop the next day. Holly was getting ready to leave when the first plane struck. She woke me and when she told me what happened I thought it was just a small private plane, so I went back to sleep. I was pissed when she woke me up the second time. “I know a plane crashed into a building in NY, let me sleep,” I screamed. That’s when she told me ANOTHER plane had crashed into the WTC. I remember thinking immediately that it was the guy who bombed our embassy in East Africa (Lybia?), but I couldn’t remember his name. It was Bin Laden.
    My wife went into work b/c we didn’t understand the magnitude of what had happened. We also failed to realize that Los Alamos was just up the road from Espanola and the employer of the majority of her students. The school, the whole town, was on lockdown. I sat in our apartment and watched the mind-numbing coverage until about 1pm, then I went into work even though I wasn’t supposed to start until the next day. It was a mistake. The employees and the customers (about 25 people total) were all zombies, glued to the television. Talk about your bad first impressions, I just wanted to do something other than think about what happened, and everyone else was just paralyzed. I was fired two weeks later.

    Just in case anyone hasn’t read DFW’s piece “The View From Mrs. Thompsons” I highly reccomend it. It’s DFW contribution to this thread, and it is brilliant.
    It was originally published in Rolling Stone, and again in his collection “Consider the Lobster”. I looked for a link to the text, but couldn’t find any. This is a perfect excuse to check out something from your local library.

  • I was at my apartment in the NJ suburbs of NYC. I had decided to work from home that day instead of taking the train into the city and working from the NY Public Library Reading Room.

    My mother called my cell phone to see if I was in the city — and told me about it. I knew something was up because the internet had slowed to a crawl (a lot of the hubs in the area went down).

    “Never forget.” I hear this now, from pundits, politicians, and from folks online. On bumper stickers, SUV Magnets, fucking T-shirts — worn by people who had never been to the places that were attacked, probably never would have, and more than likely viewed those places with a faint disapproving suspicion before the attacks. T-shirts, like those commemorating your attendance at the latest Toby Keith concert tour, or declaring your admiration for the philosophy of “Git-R-Done.” T-shirts. Tragedy Souvenirs.

    I remember. I remember the burning smell that lingered for more than a week. I remember the coldly comforting sound of the high roaring whine of fighter jets, wheeling in a combat air patrol over my home. I remember the first time I saw a commercial airliner in the sky again, and the fear response — adrenaline, cold sweat and trip-hammer heartbeat — that resulted. I remember the people I knew, guys I’d drunk with, or gamed with, who died.

    I remember, for a moment, that things actually changed. We actually cared about what happened to eachother. The media stopped feeding us an endless diet of JonBenet, Celebrity breakups, shark attacks and missing blonde girls, and actually tried to keep us informed. Our leaders, for a moment, seemed to have the best interests of the country in mind.

    Of course, all of that went away. The media went back to Bread & Circuses. Folks who weren’t directly attacked on 9/11 started using it as a bludgeon, to question the patriotism of others…including, outrageously, people who *were* attacked, and lost loved ones. If you don’t agree with the neo-conservative agenda, you’re “living in a pre-9/11 world.” That little American flag worn on the lapel has gone from a sign of solidarity as a nation to a signal of the wearer being a “real American”…and hence better than you.

    They say that everything changed on 9/11. This is true. Unfortunately, the changes for the better went away after a while. The only change we’ve been left with his how our country has changed over the past nine years, into a country that launches pre-emptive wars, imprisons people without charges, engages in torture, ignores the plight of its own citizens, and questions the loyalty of anyone who disagrees with White Christian Conservatism.

    Those changes may never be undone.

    Never forget.

    Never forget what we once were.

  • I was in 8th grade, and I didn’t know what the WTC was. So when I heard it on the radio that morning that a plane hit the twin towers, I was walking out to the laundry room and casually mentioned to my parents, “Oh yeah, and a plane hit the twin towers.” To which they were, of course, stunned.

    The rest of the day was spent at school, where we all stared at the TV, watching it unfold, with teachers unable to teach and students unable to learn. And I was certain we were going to be in the middle of a war on home turf.

    (But then, my middle school education was terrible, and at that point in my life I had only ever heard of four wars in the history of the world. So.)

    • This is all incredible. I’ve been away from my office for most of the day, but I’m reading through this stuff, and it just wows me.

      It’s really the meat and blood of the human experience. An event that united people — I don’t mean so much as a, “We are all bonded” result so much as, at that single moment in time we were all pinned to the same spot on the corkboard by a single pin, a pin representing that terrible, awful moment in space.

      (Er, that’s a really weird way to put it, but hopefully you’ll grok my lingo.)

      — c.

  • I was in second period Astronomy.

    It was the morning 15 minute break between classes and as usual, my astronomy teacher had the TV his classroom on CNN. “BREAKING NEWS: Airplanes Crashes Into WTC.” My first thoughts, are “Huh. That’s weird.” I think about the B-25 that crashed into Empire State Building during World War II and don’t think much else of anything. Then the second plane crashes into the South Tower live on TV.

    “That’s not a coincidence.” I remember that plane that had crashed off the coast of Egypt after being hi-jacked. Apparently, somebody figured out what went wrong there and improved on the plan. Then a plane crashed into the Pentagon and I got worried. I have a lot of family that works in the DC area. At the time one of my uncles was managing a building in Crystal City and another was often on calls in Alexandria. Not a whole lot got done in that class period.

    Unfortunately, like Kate, I don’t remember a lot of people at our high school giving a tinker’s damn about what had happened. The next day it was like everything was back to normal because that happened “up North” and there’s no love lost for “The North” in Eastern NC for the majority of people.

    I could editorialize about how we’ve all lost in the aftermath, about how our nation has seemingly embraced all that is nasty and cruel about the American character in the years since 9/11/2001. However, it does no good to think in those terms. I take heart in the outpouring of good will amongst those directly impacted in Lower Manhattan that day. I take heart in knowing that the controversy about the Park 51 center is being generated by carpetbaggers with an axe to grind. America can still recover and move up as you so aptly said, Chuck. More people just have to want it.

  • I was at home in bed. I still don’t know what got me up. I /think/ it was my friend Meri who phoned me and told me to turn on the TV.

    Now, I was already awake, one of my children was still nursing age, feeling well, that something was off, but I could not put my finger on it. It was not until my husband got home from work later that evening that I realized why because he mentioned it about his ride to work that morning. The apartment we lived in was directly in one of the major flight paths into Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) and it was utterly silent. No constant roar of take off and landings, no traffic in the sky.

    To this day when I think of 9/11, it’s the silence of the skies that I remember most, and the unsettling feeling that came with it.

  • Oh, and an acquaintance of mine, one that we were starting to be really good friends with. Her boyfriend was on /that/ plane. She was one of the ones that got to say goodbye. She shared with us her story at a party when she was finally ready.

    It was a very profound moment for all of us. To be there in person and listen to her, to share her tears. I wish I knew what happened to her. She moved away shortly after that and we lost touch with her. Sigh.

  • Thanks Chuck, I enjoyed your take on this day in the opening post. And its the first time I have seen that info-graphic, which I would say made me chuckle, but not in a good way.

    I remember 9/11 like everyone else. I was at the corner of 5th Avenue and 13th getting a coffee and a bagel like everyday. I walked out of the convenience store to see most everyone around me looking up. That may not have been enough to make me look (being at the time – all New-York-ified) but seeing an older women holding her chest and repeatedly screaming “oh my goodness,” was enough.

    Had the same initial thought as most everyone. Namely that this was a horrible accident, wasn’t till I got to my class that we heard about the 2nd plane and the plane headed to the pentagon.

    A friend and I started to walk uptown. For no other reason than the emotions of the moment were too intense. Had to get out of the building and feel our adopted city. But about 10 or 15 minutes into our walk we looked up towards the ESB, and thought…fuck… that could be another target.

    So we walked back towards school and everyone huddled around the TV. There was so much crazy information on Channel 1 that day. I felt like they were letting any asshole on TV who could string a phrase. Crazy fucked up stuff was being said that turned out to be really far from the truth ( enemy soldiers spotted in the city, gas having been released by the planes, et al.) By the way, Fuck Channel 1 News NY.

    Later, we all started trying to plan where we would spend the night. Most of the Brooklynites eventually got home, but folks heading over to Jersey City like myself had a longer time of it.

    I spent the night with my girlfriend at the time who had an apartment in midtown. I remember so few stores had any food the next morning. It was really bizarre to think that the edge of things was so close in Manhattan – one day without trucks getting in and the stores looked half empty.

    After getting home at the end of the next day I remember how it smelled like a smoky car battery in our neighborhood (right across the river from Battery Park) for the next week and a half. I also remember that the Egyptian guys who owned the deli at the corner of our block started putting American flags, crosses and pictures of Jesus everywhere in their store. I remember learning the difference between the sounds of an F15 flying overhead and a commercial jet flying overhead. The former being considerably higher in pitch.

    Ah, craziness…and I am quite capable of rambling out images from those days.

    I would say though, for the sake of accentuating the positive, that I feel like I and many people were made better by the events that came out of the days following 9/11. I feel that we started to care more about the direction of things and also achieved a lot of clarity for ourselves. Its more complex then that, but anything else would turn into a rant or some such now.

    Cheers.

  • I was playing hooky from a drunk driving seminar. Seniors who didn’t have to retake any of their exams were “rewarded” with a 4 hour convocation where we learned how drunk driving is a bad thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good message but the cheesy 80s music had us bored to tears and the images of people with half their faces torn off or a brain just sitting on the sidewalk was not holding our attention.

    As we sat on the back row (cause we were stage crew kids) our friend Adam comes up and tells us that the World Trade Center has been attacked. Adam, a conspiracy theorist who would tell us during lunch that aliens were spotted in Castleton, was acting like his normal self so we didn’t believe him at first. When he offered to show us his proof we snuck out the back of the auditorium and went to the auditorium’s office.

    We were stunned. We literally couldn’t understand what was going on. Images of burning buildings and panicking people filled the screens. We were young and didn’t fully understand what was going on in our country. All we could do was something very simple; we had to tell our fellow students.

    We started dragging the TVs on the A/V carts out into the lobby and began setting them up. A math teacher found us and yelled at us at first, wondering why we were there. When we explained we wanted to set up TVs for people to watch the news he grew very solemn and gave us his silent approval while he went to lock the doors. You see, at a public high school like ours there was over a thousand kids and within minutes of the news panicking parents were knocking on the doors and threatening to add to the chaos.

    They told the students at the end of the seminar about the attacks and we could hear the screaming wail of all the girls who couldn’t believe what had happened. Students poured out of the auditorium and piled around the TVs we had set up. Unfortunately, the TVs were cheap and falling apart so with all the people surrounding them we had to have people pressed up against the box and shouting the news to everyone around them.

    The rest of the day is a blur. There weren’t any real classes that day and I remember people crying. I remember people talking about how they wanted to kill muslims or how they wanted to kill Bin Laden, but the rest of the day was a blur until I got home. My family went to our church for a special mass that night where we prayed for the souls of those lost in the attacks.

  • I was at work and a guy in my group said he heard a plane hit one of the towers.

    A few of us went to the break room and checked out what was up on TV. I expected a single-engine Cessna–not a 767. We watched the second plane hit. It took about a minute for it to click: we were being attacked.

    I didn’t want to watch; I went back to my desk to e-mail my wife. I wanted to be home with her. I heard somebody say the Pentagon was hit, and later, that a plane went down in Pennsylvania.

    I also saw the first glimpse of the fear and ignorance to come. I was a team lead for my group, and a guy I was never fond of came up and asked me if I knew where a guy in our group was.

    “Chris, where’s Ayoub? Don’t you find it weird that we just got attacked by terrorists and Ayoub isn’t here? Should we clear the building?”

    I wanted to hit him

    Ayoub was one of the nicest guys in our group. Ayoub was a friend. More than that, Ayoub was one of the reasons the guy all but accusing him of somehow being an accessory of what was happening had a job. Ayoub always helped the guy when he was behind. Without Ayoub’s help, he would have kept missing his daily quota and been fired. Ayoub sacrificed his production so the guy could keep a job.

    I knew where Ayoub was, but I wasn’t about to answer the guy. I was too pissed; I just walked away.

    Ayoub was at the hospital at the time we were being attacked. He came in and left shortly after starting his shift. His wife was in labor.

    They had planned to name their son Osama from the moment they found out they were having a boy.

    They decided against it that morning, and were just as appalled as the rest off us.

    When I got home, my wife and I went for our daily walk. We live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, in a town on the north side of D/FW Airport. The sound of planes is common, but it was so quiet that afternoon.

    When people at work found out my wife and I went for a walk, a couple people thought we were nuts. Somebody said something along the lines of, “Weren’t you worried somebody would have shot you?” (Meaning, weren’t you afraid of terrorists?)

    It’s no wonder politicians had little problem convincing people to give up freedoms when they were too afraid to go for a walk.

    When Ayoub returned to work, the guy who all but accused him of terrorism went right back to asking for Ayoub’s help meeting his quota. I wandered over and told Ayoub I needed his help with something. I kept Ayoub busy in the afternoons that followed.

    I wasn’t about to let a small-minded bigot keep his job on the back of one of the nicest guys I’ve ever worked with…

  • I was awakened by a call from my sister. I had worked all night driving a cab the night before. I remember her asking if I had heard about this “wave of attacks” on America. She sounded very upset and there was genuine fear in her voice. I thought there might be some kind of attack on all major urban areas and I wondered about how to get my friends and family to safety. For this reason when I actually found out the true scale of the attacks I was strangely relieved. I was just glad nothing had been flattened by a nuclear bomb. On another note, I also remember reading that in the 10 years prior to the 9/11 attacks more people on average died in central Africa in some war or other. At least 4000 people a day. Horrible attacks and mass rapes and reprisals are still going on in that area of the world. I was struck by the fact that for so much of human history and for so many people the sort of horror we saw on 9/11 is commonplace. I’m still not entirely sure what to do about that reflection, but vie thought about it fairly often ever since.

  • So, I was early in my freelancing career and had spent a late night painting, and was naturally asleep when I was awakened by the phone ringing. I groggily answered and heard my Mom’s voice asking me, “What’s going on in New York?” And I was like, “What?” And she was like, “Turn on the news!” I turned the tv on just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower.

    My immediate thought was that my wife worked in SoHo, which is north of ground zero by a good deal, but still not that far (I can walk the distance with ease). I called her. No connection. I tried again. No connection. I tried a third time, still no connection. So, I called her father. Her father wasn’t able to get in touch with her but his wife started emailing her and her father acted as a go between. He kept me informed over the next few hours of her various moves. Her first was to the hospital to donate blood, as she’s a universal donor. They turned her away after a while due simply to the fact that there were no injuries to treat. So, she tried to get home. But, the subways were down. So she started walking home. She got all the way to the 59th Street Bridge (we live in Queens and it’s the best way to get to where we live), only to be turned away by the National Guard. They’d locked Manhattan down. So she walked back to work.

    After several more hours of waiting, the National Guard began to release block after block and allow people to leave. By the time Amy was allowed to leave Manhattan, the subways were running again, and she headed home.

    My day was spent trying to keep track of everyone I knew working in the area. The news for me was mostly good, and I’m grateful for it. I remember very vividly finally hearing my wife’s voice on the phone after hearing nothing all day. She was on the train headed home, and I kept talking to her as I ran out the door to meet her. Half way between the subway and our crappy basement apartment, I finally saw her in the early evening light, debris clinging to her clothes, and relief in her eyes.

    Over the next few weeks, we each shared many a subway ride with people working the site. I can’t describe what I saw in their eyes, but they will forever have my admiration. Nine years later, we still live in New York and the permanently altered skyline constantly reminds us of that day. I’m not sure it’s something that you can get over.

    Amy had a good view of what happened – her office looked south at the Trade Center. You could see the towers from the street outside our apartment. We each saw it with our own eyes. I remember that only a couple weeks later there was an earthquake in the middle of the night that awoke most of New York. I can imagine that like our own apartment, most of the city’s apartments glowed blue with each television as everyone rushed to find out just what the hell happened.

    Weeks after that, the funeral home around the corner from our place held its first of many firefighter funerals. If nothing before had hammered home how momentous the events of September 11th were, that certainly did. I had never before seen such a display of love before. To me, that has been the day’s biggest legacy. Not hate. No, never hate. Love.

  • I was in third grade, in lunch. I was second to walk back into class and i saw my teacher crying, and a quick shot of the burning building on the tv. It was the first time i saw an adult cry, and the first time i sat in a class for twenty minutes with nobody saying a word. Yeah third graders get scared of grown-up tears.

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