View Full Version : Remembering September 11, 2001, ten years later (Threads merged)

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09-11-2011, 11:18 PM
I was at the dentist. At 8:50, the dental assistant got a phone call from her husband, who worked in a building next to the WTC. He told her that a plane had hit the North Tower, and that she would hear about it on the news, and he wanted her to know he was okay. At that point we were all puzzling over how a plane could hit such a large building, it had not occurred to us yet that it was intentional. 20 minutes later her husband called back to tell her that there had been another explosion in the South Tower. At that point many people in neighboring buildings (could not see and information was limited) had believed that that explosion was caused by the initial North Tower explosion. That something had flown across and that possibly a boiler blew. I left to go home shortly after, and as soon as I got home, I turned on the TV. Within the 10 minutes or so, the footage of the second plane flying into the South Tower was being broadcast. There was no question of accidents, it was a deliberate attack. Then the Pentagon attack came on, and then flight 93 in PA.

I sat in front of the TV in shock. I went up to the upstairs bathroom, at night we could see the lights from the Towers (though we are about 40 minutes away), and I had some crazy notion that I would see something. But, in the daylight, it was too far to see. I went back to the TV, wondering why I thought I would see anything from my window. I watched until I had to pick my daughter up at school (she was leaving early). It was around lunchtime and when I pulled up to get her there were dozens of students outside frantically trying to call loved ones from cell phones. Of course all cell lines were out. These kids were wandering around crying. Our town did lose several lives. We lost a close friend (in the WTC) and the brother of another friend (on one of the planes).

It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years. The memory of that day is still so vivid. UMBS, your story was chilling and eloquent. Thankfully you are here to tell it.

09-11-2011, 11:57 PM
I was beginning the third day of my teaching career and I remember being so excited of all the possibilities that lay ahead of me. I had the first block off for my prep period and was sitting in my classroom at my desk, with the lights turned off, when someone walked by my room and mentioned that they heard a plane had hit the WTC. Our principal turned the televisions on throughout the school and gave the teachers the opportunity to allow their classes to watch the footage as it was happening because he felt that history was being made and our kids, who were all high school age, should be able to watch it unfold.

It didn't hit me until I watched the plane hit the second tower that it was a Tuesday. My father, from the time I was a little girl, would either fly down to NYC (we live outside of Boston) on Tuesday mornings or drive down the night before for meetings with the NY branch of his company. He worked very closely with the Port Authority and was supposed to have a meeting at the Twin Towers late Tuesday morning. The plan that particular week was that he was going to fly down around 10am that day.

My father had called his coworker who worked in the 80th floor of one of the buildings around 8:40 Tuesday morning to let them know that he was heading over to Logan to catch the flight and he would see him that afternoon. A few minutes later, the plane struck the building. My dad might be one of the last voicemail messages left.

Logan was closed shortly after and my father never made it down to NYC that day. I thank God everyday that my father is safe at home. I can't even imagine if he had decided to drive down the night before like usual. He probably would have been in the building. Some of the coworkers that he would normally meet with did not make it out of the building although some did. I remember that no one seemed to know what had happened to one particular coworker for over a month. Luckily, he survived and my dad was so excited to hear his voice a couple months later. My father was so not like his normal happy self after the events that happened in NYC and it was sad to see him struggle with what his friends had to suffer.

I can't believe that it's been 10 years already.

Moto Guzzi
09-12-2011, 12:38 AM
I was working across the river from the Pentagon. The following (edited for privacy) is from an email I sent to a friend several days after the attacks:

You can't imagine what it was like in here on Tuesday. One of my coworkers happened to be on the internet when word of the first plane crash went out. He sent out an email, and we were trying to get more information when we learned about the second plane crash and knew it was a terrorist attack. Shortly after that, one of my friends from *** called to say that she had just been informed that the Pentagon, too, had been attacked. I immediately tried to call my sister but the cell phone lines were not working.

As my sister told me later, when the plane hit the Pentagon, they heard the explosion but didn't know at first whether it was a bomb or a nuclear attack or what. Announcements were made to evacuate the building immediately, and she grabbed her purse and ran. She said one of her coworkers stopped to call her husband, something my sister thought was stupid as they could smell the jet fuel and for all they knew, the entire building was about to be incinerated. My sister said a lot of people stopped running as soon as they got out of the building and grabbed their cell phones and started making calls. You're warned not to use your cell phone around gas pumps because it could trigger an explosion and here all these people were surrounded by jet fuel and propane tanks stored outside the Pentagon. She said all she could think of was that it would really suck to get out of the Pentagon safely and then blow yourself up with a cell phone. She eventually made it home nearly five hours later.

From where I work we could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon. We were all in a state of shock but very few people seemed to be panicking. Our building immediately went into lockdown and people were not allowed to leave. Some people made it out of the building before the exits were locked, but they were turned away from the gates and were unable to leave the grounds or reenter the building. We were told that our building had anti-terrorist measures and that we were probably as safe here as anywhere. Since the Pentagon supposedly had anti-terrorist measures, we didn't take much comfort in this.

Not long after the second Pentagon explosion, we heard what sounded like another explosion nearby and our building shook. Rumors were that the Capitol had been hit. I could see the dome was intact so we decided it couldn't have been another plane crash. Shortly after, we heard what sounded like another explosion and again felt our building shake. Soon rumors went around that a car bomb had gone off near the State Department. Some people were terrified to hear the sound of aircraft, believing another aircraft was on its path of destruction. The explosions we had heard, though, were the fuel tanks near the Pentagon.

There were so many stories going around it was hard to know what was true. It was rumored that another hijacked airplane was still circling Washington and that the military might shoot it down. We heard reports that smoke was coming from the Old Executive Building. We were ready to believe anything. After all, who would have believed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon would be hit?!

We could see the clouds of black smoke rising from the Pentagon and could hear the sounds of many, many sirens. We could see military aircraft patrolling the skies. We watched in horror and wondered what our world had come to that such a thing could happen here. I worried more for the survival of our country than I did for my own safety, and I think others felt the same. There was no widespread panic in our building; on the contrary, people seemed relatively calm given the circumstances.

We were ordered to turn off all cell phones for fear they could trigger an explosion if a bomb were planted in our building. The auditorium was turned into a media center with the wide screen connected to a TV monitor. Counselors were available for people who were having difficulty dealing with the stress of the situation. I went down to talk with one to see if I could learn more about the situation with the Pentagon personnel and found the counselor knew even less than I did.

For a while it looked as though we would be spending the night in our building, but around 12:30 p.m. we were told we could leave. Incoming roads into Washington had been blocked and many of the outgoing roads were gridlocked. We were told to take I-295 south to the Beltway and cross the Woodrow Wilson bridge but received word from another employee that the road was completely blocked. I was driving my carpool and we decided to try to go home our usual route past the Pentagon. It was the most amazing thing to see no traffic at all on the road except for two official vehicles that sped by us. We thought we would be blocked at the exit near the Pentagon, but no roadblock was set up so we continued. Emergency vehicles were parked on both sides of the highway and rescue workers were trying frantically to aid those who had been injured or who were still trapped in the building. All inbound traffic had been cut off and, by this time, there was very little outbound traffic. We made it home very quickly and spent the rest of the day glued to our TV sets trying to make some sense out of this tragedy.

My sister's office is located near the area of impact. She was able to make it out of the building without harm, but many of her colleagues did not. At last count, 68 Army people were confirmed dead, including 38 she worked with. In several divisions, there were no survivors. A neighbor also works for Army and his coworkers were all killed. He survived only because his wife became sick and asked him to give her a ride home. He was in the parking lot and saw the plane hit.

Several people from our directorate were at the Pentagon but all are safe. One carpool member says one of her former coworkers who now works at the Pentagon is among the missing. His name is not on the list of confirmed dead, but there really isn't any hope that he will be found alive. So far, 42 Navy military and civilians have been confirmed dead. I was able to find out that several of my friends in other agencies there are safe. It is hard to comprehend that so many are gone. The sadness here is almost overwhelming.

Early Wednesday morning as I came to work, I passed by the Pentagon and saw the smoke still rising. In the dawning of the new day, though, it was heartening to see how much of the Pentagon was undamaged and to see, back lit by the rising sun, the Washington Monument and the dome of the Capitol still standing, unharmed. It was strengthening to see, too, how many of my coworkers arrived at work to continue our jobs of supporting our armed forces. Several people commented that they had planned to show up at work that morning even if they had to walk in to get there. The general feeling was that we weren't going to show weakness in the face of a cowardly terrorist attack, and we owed it to those who lost their lives to come to work on Wednesday and do our jobs.

People are still in a state of shock but are trying to continue as normally as possible. It is difficult when so many people are gone. Too many of our conversations begin "Are your family members ok? What about your friends? Your neighbors? Your colleagues? Is anyone you know missing? Have you heard anything from this person? What about this one?" When the lists of the missing and confirmed dead came out, we carefully read them to see if anybody we knew was listed. My sister and I went down the Army list in the DoD phone book and she told me which people were missing and which were confirmed dead. So many names!

We are all trying to concentrate on getting our jobs done as we need to make sure we are ready when the time comes for action. And the time will come. Maybe not this week or the next, but there will be a day of reckoning. We will do all we can to ensure the safety of our country and to show the world that this tragedy cannot and will not defeat the spirit of the American people. Never doubt that we will survive this and that we will come back stronger than ever.

I put two of my favorite quotes on my message board at work so I can read them when I feel overwhelmed by this tragedy:

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall-think of it, ALWAYS." Mahatma Gandhi

09-12-2011, 12:46 AM
I put two of my favorite quotes on my message board at work so I can read them when I feel overwhelmed by this tragedy:

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall-think of it, ALWAYS." Mahatma Ghandi

Wonderful post, and a wonderful quote. Just one correction (I am nitpicky when it comes to spellings): It's Gandhi (not Ghandi)

Thank you for sharing your experience.

09-12-2011, 12:58 AM
As a wife of a pilot, you know something is bad when you get a phone call that starts out, "I'm OK, but have you heard?". My little one was a preschooler, so we were watching a network that did not cut to long form. He was on the ground in LA watching the news of his coworkers demise. The flight attendents on those hijacked planes gave very detailed information of seat assignments of the highjackers that allowed them to be identified right away. Soon phone calls came into my house from all over the country asking if my husband was OK.

09-12-2011, 01:36 AM
UMBS - that is a chilling story. I am glad that you are with us.

I worked in a hospital education office in the Midwest. It was general hospital orientation where all cell phones were to be turned off. One woman kept getting urgent repeated phone calls (set on vibrate). She finally contacted one of the coordinators in the room and said "I have to get this, my husband knows that I would not be answering my phone but I have gotten 4 phone calls in the last 10 minutes". Turns out that he was at the Pentagon that morning and was calling to tell her he was ok.

The rest of us in the office - had no access to outside world communications got a phone call from one of my co-workers' husband who said America is under attack. We did have a TV that we used for video tapes and could use a "rabbit ear" antenna to get reception. Watched most of the day. The hospital IT department shut down the internet within 10 minutes because of the traffic to news sites.

My niece was on the runway ready to take-off (in Memphis). She was talking to her fiance (like she always did before she took off - she did a lot of business travel) and said they were on the runway ready to take off. He told they would not be taking off, but didn't want to alarm her. They were taken back to the terminal and all TV's in the airport were turned off. They were told to leave the building immediately without explanation. All the taxis were taken. She had friends who came to pick her up, but they didn't get there for 3 hours.

My two youngest were in high school and described to me the teachers in shock and watching the pictures over and over again like the rest of the country. Also tell me the most surreal thing was driving home from high school and no planes in the skies. Typically not what you think about, but you certainly see planes without thinking about it on a routine day. Then as they were exiting the interstate to our home route, seeing Air Force One was descending with the fighter jet escort. (we live approximately 15 miles from Offutt.) Also living in this area all my life, I knew where AFO was going when it was announced that the President would be going to an undisclosed underground location.

09-12-2011, 01:51 AM
Wow UMBS. I had no idea you were so close.

I had just moved overseas to Kazakhstan. My husband was on business trip. I was alone with 2 small children in a strange city where I knew no one. The only English language news was CNN International and BBC World. I had friends and neighbours who work(ed) at the Pentagon and DC, family in New York. I didn't know what to think.

09-12-2011, 02:32 AM
My cousin's company was at a breakfast meeting at the Windows on the World Restaurant on the top floor of Tower One. He was suppose to be at that meeting but his boss asked him to take some documents to Jersey City before going to the WTC. He was on his way to the WTC when the first plane hit Tower One. All of his co-workers perished.

The father of one of the children at my son's daycare had just started work at the WTC, it was his second day, he didn't survive.

09-12-2011, 03:55 AM
So many stories and so much pain.

My sister works for a disaster relief NGO and is occasionally tapped to work for FEMA. She spent some months in NYC - two week intervals only since the air quality was so bad. Her assignment was to try and track down the families of undocumented workers that also died. Many of them were afraid to come forward to claim the monies they were entitled to because they were afraid of the government. So sad.

09-12-2011, 04:29 AM
As shocking as the first day was the profound sadness for me really started on the second day when so many people were posting pictures of their loved ones hoping against hope that they were alive. I remember a CNN reporter losing it on air after she talked to the son of a man who was a window washer and had been a hero during the WTC bombing in the 90's. He didn't make it out though his son continued to search and that young man was so dignified. As for the reporter---I don't how she didn't break up earlier as she was talking to so many of these poor folks looking for relatives.

The other thing that stuck with me (and I don't know if this is true) --but I heard someone called up to Cantor Fitzgerald after the first plane hit and a man answered and said "We're f#&&#& dying up here" and hung up. I cannot imagine the horror on those floors on/above where the planes crashed. And I think everyone at Cantor Fitzgerald --several hundred people--did not make it out.

Finally--HBO ran this program 9 years ago and CBS ran it tonight but two French brothers were doing a documentary on a first year NYC firefighter and were with the fireman when the first plane hit. They each were in different areas but the story of what happened that day--to the rookie--to the firestation and to them was riveting.
Allezfred one of the brothers was near Father Judge when he died.

UMBS--I'm sorry for what happened to you. Thank you for sharing your story.

09-12-2011, 05:56 AM
I was living in the DC area at the time, near the White Flint Mall. I skated most mornings before driving to my job in Alexandria, VA. Some mornings I skated at Cabin John, then drove down the GW Parkway (which goes right by the Pentagon), and some mornings skated at Gardens Ice House in Laurel, then drove down the BW Parkway.

That morning I skated in Laurel and was on the BW Parkway listening to NPR, when I heard the newscaster announce that a plane had hit the first tower. I was still on the BW Parkway when they announced that the second tower was hit, and the newscaster gave his opinion that this was clearly an attack. I remember thinking how odd it was, that a newscaster whose job it is to just read the news without his/her opinion had interjected his opinion.

I immediately called my two friends in NYC to see if they were okay, and I reached one (who was fine but freaked out) and left a message for the other. Neither worked in the WTC but I wasn't sure how close they were or where their commute took them.

I crossed the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and headed north to my job. Around when I parked my car, the Pentagon was hit. I was about 3/4 of a mile away, and our office was right on the Potomac on the 7th floor, with a clear 360 degree view of the Capitol, the Pentagon, the Washington Monument, White House, and the naval base across the river. The Pentagon was burning and we were all in the conference room trying to get the TV picture to work (though we could hear Peter Jennings on ABC just fine). We weren't sure if we should leave, get on public transit, stay put, etc. Fighter planes from the naval base across the river were taking off like mad. Peter Jennings was saying how several planes were unaccounted for, so we were all looking at the sky and the city in front of us to watch the landmarks. We heard about the rumor at the State Department that a bomb had gone off and our boss - a stoic and tough woman - burst into tears because her husband worked there. Nobody's cell phones were working, and the internet sites were all down. We all gasped when we heard Peter Jennings say very calmly that one of the towers had just collapsed, and one of my coworkers just said softly, "what do we do?" None of us could answer.

We all hung out at the office until we personally felt safe to leave, and once it seemed like all the news sites were saying the DC roads were wide open. I left around 2:15, but wasn't sure which way to drive. I had called my husband hours earlier to let him know I was okay, and called to let him know I was leaving. I chose to take the GW back since it was the more direct route home. I got on the road and it was eerily quiet, like I was the last person to evacuate. When I got by the Pentagon, oh that smell. I can't describe the sickly sweet smell of jet fuel, burning buildings and bodies. I'll never forget that smell.

Once on the GW Parkway, it was just me and one other car. No traffic at all, nobody else. I passed two officers along the way who were waving us on to get out and drive faster . . . I was going almost 80! I got home in amazing time, since truly there was nobody on the roads. Anyone who knows DC traffic knows how packed the roads are at all times. It was surreal. I got home and just watched the TV coverage and cried.

I wonder if I had skated at Cabin John instead that morning and drove by the Pentagon if I would have been there around the time of the impact.

We had a lot of weird coincidences that day in our family:
1) my MIL is now a retired flight attendant for United. She was still working then. We didn't know if she was flying that morning until my husband called her and woke her up out of bed.
2) my sister was in Logan Airport waiting to get on her flight, which was taking off around 9:30 am. She and a colleague ended up paying a taxi several thousand dollars to drive them down to North Carolina to get back.
3) one cousin was on a flight out of JFK to London.
4) another cousin who worked in the WTC was in Italy on vacation that week.

As it turned out, I did know someone who died in WTC, though I didn't know him well: Chris "Buddha" Clark was my cousin's best friend. I'd met him several times growing up. September 11 was his 6 month anniversary of his marriage, and he wasn't feeling well. His wife told him to stay home from work, but he felt obligated to go in. He called her when the first tower fell to tell her what happened, that he was fine, and that he was evacuating and would call her when he got to the street. Then he called her ten minutes later to tell her that a voice over the loudspeakers said it was perfectly safe for everyone to stay in the building so he and his coworkers decided to go back to their office. Needless to say . . . :(

I remember too that once I got to my office I called my mom on her cell and when she answered the phone, I said "mom, I just wanted to let you know that I'm fine." She was annoyed and bewildered because she was in a meeting at a museum she works with, and was like "ummm, okay." They had no idea. She told me later all of a sudden all the ladies' cell phones went off one by one around the table with sons and daughters calling to say they were okay, and they all were wondering what was happening. Then a security guard came in and told them about the attacks and they were all being sent home immediately.

09-12-2011, 06:08 AM
FYI: the NY TImes has an amazing interactive site of the 9/11 (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/09/08/nyregion/911-tapes.html?hp) tapes between all the airtraffic controllers.

John 3 17
09-12-2011, 06:24 AM
I just finished watching some 9/11 things on tv -- the 102 Minutes on History Channel, FNC's as it happened, and Nat Geo's new interview with President Bush.

It made me remember how when I woke up that morning, both towers had already collapsed. I woke up to the worst already being over and I had so catching up to do to understand what had happened. It must have been easier for the people already awake to process... it was so overwhelming to get up to the news that both towers were just gone like that.

Seeing the footage of the second plane hitting is still just like getting punched in the stomach. No matter how many times I see that, I still have such a visceral reaction.

All of the stories posted here are amazing to read. I can't get over so many usernames I know being so close to the sites. I'm so glad you're all ok.


09-12-2011, 02:02 PM
My cousin's company was at a breakfast meeting at the Windows on the World Restaurant on the top floor of Tower One. He was suppose to be at that meeting but his boss asked him to take some documents to Jersey City before going to the WTC. He was on his way to the WTC when the first plane hit Tower One. All of his co-workers perished.

The father of one of the children at my son's daycare had just started work at the WTC, it was his second day, he didn't survive.

Our friend, who passed, had just taken a new job at the WTC. 9/11 was his first day. He was on a floor below the hit level, and he and an associate were evacuating. He suddenly remembered something he needed in his office. told his co-worker to go on and he went back to get whatever it was he needed. he never made it out. We know this because his co-worker did make it. So sad. The brother of our friend was supposed to be on the Boston/LA flight the next day. His co-worker was scheduled to go back to LA on 9/11. Our friend's brother decided to leave a day earlier with his co-worker. Our friend's family believed him to be safe, as they thought he was leaving the next day. They found out, on the news (because he had some celebrity status), that he was on one of the planes. So many tragic stories. UMBS mentioned Karma, it can be fickle.

09-12-2011, 04:04 PM
Thanks, to all who have shared their stories here.
I continue to learn; about, and from, that awful day.