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Remembering 9/11

I will never forget where I was the moment the mighty towers fell.  I live in the Mountain time zone (2 hours behind Eastern), so it was still quite early in the morning here.  I was already at the hotel where I worked, making sure my convention was running smoothly when a co-worker approached me, asking if “I’d heard about the plane crash yet.”

What plane crash, I’d asked?  Her eyes were as wide as could be and her skin had turned a ghostly shade of white.

Immediately, I thought of my dad, who’s a pilot and works in the aviation industry.  I thought she was getting ready to tell me my father had been in a plane crash and it took me a minute to realize that he was home and not traveling.  I was in no way prepared for what she would say next, that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

Still unaware of the details, I assumed it was a small plane and a genuine accident.  Moments later, we found the nearest television in the hotel’s bar and sat in astonishment as we watched the horror unfold.  I could not comprehend what I was seeing.  How could this be?  Was the world ending?

The rest of the morning was a blur until a bomb threat was called into the hotel early that afternoon.  I wanted to run as fast as I could but the hotel management was asked to assist in evacuating hotel guests.  I didn’t want to do it (I was in the midst of planning my wedding after all), but being moved to action was perhaps the best thing for me, it pulled me out of paralysis and got me moving.  Several hours later, it turned out to be a false alarm.

The rest of the day is a blur until later that evening when Mike, my sisters and I gathered at my parents house and sat glued in front of the television, watching President Bush as he tried to make sense of it all and assure the American people that they would do everything they could do to protect us and bring justice to those responsible.

We watched the news long into the night as the details of the attacks and the heroism of the passengers of flight 93 became known, and I later went to bed totally exhausted.  The mixture of thoughts and emotions was unique, ranging from confusion to anger to concern for the world my future children would inherit.  Waking on September 12, it was becoming clear that we were living in a different world than what we had known before.  It’s so hard to fathom that it has been 10 years; so long ago, yet just the blink of an eye.

Where were you on 9/11?  This has become my generation’s “question,” much like my parents’ generation would reflect on the assassination of President Kennedy.  For us, 9/11 was the “pivot” in our collective history, the day when everything changed.

So…where were you on September 11, 2001?



  1. 10 Years On


    I remember how topaz blue that morning was, the crispness of the air and the smell of fall as I walked that morning. As I returned back home, my neighbor came outside, handed me a cup of coffee and told me that a plane had hit the world trade center. I thought it odd but believed it to be a small plane. We went inside and were visiting when her husband called and said the 2nd tower had been hit. That is when the realization set in that it wasn't an accident. We called our loved ones and turned on the TV and watched in horror at the death and struggle for life wrought by hatred. Crying and numb, we watched. I don't think we even ate the rest of that day. We were too numb to even think about anything but being with other people. It didn't matter whether those other people were friends, family or strangers. We just didn't want to be alone. We heard about the collapse of the towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon. The waves of nausea, shock and grief washed over us repeatedly like the coming and going of tide.

    Then the news came that President Bush was coming to Offutt AFB in Bellevue. A new wave of terror overtook me. It was terrifying to know that Stratcom is a target and that we might be next. I remember walking to the stereo and putting in Anne Murray's "A Little Good News" and playing it repeatedly, wishing there would be some good news. I rocked back and forth in a catatonic state and the tears found a wellspring I didn't know I had.

    Our church held a prayer vigil and we sleepwalked our way into the sanctuary and held hands with our friends and neighbors, prayed for the lives lost, for understanding, for love to overcome hate and reminded ourselves that vengeance is not ours.

    We gave blood, helped fund first responders and rescue dogs to help and tried to find our way to a better love of one another. We pulled together as a humans, as neighbors, as a country and as part of something bigger than hate.

    It seems that each generation has its version of The Day the World Changed – WW I, Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, Vietnam, Kent State, OKC, the 1st WTC bombing, the Cole and 9/11. It seems the fabric gets torn apart so that it can be patched together in a more meaningful fashion.

    We lost so much that day: 2977 souls and service and rescue dogs, our sense of security, innocence and freedoms.

    Yet we also gained some valuable things: Appreciation for connection, the value of binding together in times of crisis, sorrow and confusion and pride in our country. While I was always glad to be an American, I think I took it for granted before 9/11. After 9/11, my heart swells at the national anthem and the flag waving in the breeze moves me to tears. That day will never be forgotten. For me, it was the day I learned to appreciate my country.

    Now, 10 years later our lives are impacted nearly daily by the reactionary nature of the response to the attack. We have readily given up freedom after freedom as 9/11 is invoked as the end-all argument for never-ending regulation, eavesdropping and stripping at the airport. There is no denying the effect of 9/11 on our freedoms but what about upon our hearts? Are we living our lives with joy and fullness, loving our neighbors and striving to foster understanding of one another? My heart answers yes, what about yours?

  2. I had just returned from working on staff at a summer camp in upstate NY, and was enjoying the two days I had to sleep in before returning for my sophomore year of college later that week. The phone rang, and I decided not to answer it. 20 minutes later, it rang again, and this time I picked it up. It was my dad, calling from work to have me turn on the tv. I did so, a few minutes before the 2nd plane hit. I thought it had to be something out of a movie, and not really happening. I got onto the computer and emailed everyone from camp, as half of the people I'd just spent my summer with either lived, worked, or went to college in NYC. The day was spent going between the computer, waiting for email responses, and the tv to watch the latest news. After hearing from several of my camp colleagues, many with their own crazy stories about how they didn't end up going into the city that morning for one reason or another, I decided to organize an online chat for those who could make it. It would be a way to check in with each other, and also to pray for those who had been killed or were still in harm's way. So many stories were shared that night, from the daughter who walked home to safety from Julliard across the Brooklyn bridge, to the interview that was canceled last minute (but before the attacks), to the residents in shock as the skyline outside their window had forever changed. Many of my colleagues had friends who were missing or had been killed, and typed words on a screen from my midwestern home seemed to be able to comfort little.

    The year before, my college pushed back the start of classes because a tornado had passed over the school. The next year, they were pushed back due to 9/11 making it impossible for students to arrive on time. There was no question our world had changed that day, though we were young enough then that now, ten years later, we don't remember what it was like before. The post-9/11 world is our world, the world we entered into at the cusp of adulthood.

  3. I was 23, which seems ridiculous. I was at home here in California, and my dad woke me up. My dad and I have this thing about the news, we are news junkies. He told me to turn on the tv, and I stared in disbelief. My dad said, one plane is an accident, two planes mean war. I knew that everything I thought I knew about life and country had literally just gone up in smoke.

    What I remember most about that day was the silence. It was so quite, no planes in the air, little traffic, on the street, hushed voices, and silent tears.

    I'm on a mission now to find the best way to explain the severity of 9/11 to my daughters, while being able to capture the pure hope and patriotism that was born of 9/11.

    Hopefully I can do the memory of 9/11 and it's victims justice.


  4. The cruelty of those who carried out the attacks added to the sense that this was new. No quarter or tactical restraint could be expected from those responsible. The unbounded hatred that motivated such a plot was among its most unsettling aspects. So too was its divine inspiration: “You love life, we love death.” What might such people do, given the means?