For months after September 11th, strangers in New York talked to each other.
If you were in a restaurant or a doctor’s waiting room or on the subway, you’d inevitably overhear someone talking about the attack. And you’d join in.
You’d ask where they were that day, and tell them where you were.
The people with the real stories are the ones who got out of the towers, got other people out of the towers, were supposed to be in the towers, or lost someone in the towers.
I wasn’t one of those people. But I still remember the day.
Here are the parts I remember best:
Was still asleep when the phone rang, at around 9 am. It was my friend Allison*, who asked, “Are you watching this?”
Got annoyed and wondered why she thought I’d be watching the same thing she was. Found that presumptuous.
Turned on TV, saw big, smoking hole in the World Trade Center, and felt sheepish.
Went up to roof to check out the smoke pouring from the South Tower. Came back down and watched the 2nd plane hit, on TV.
Allison called again. She thought we should leave the downtown area. I agreed.
Put on sneakers and met Allison on the corner. Bought a bottle of water and some granola bars for the walk uptown. It was only a 1-hour walk to my parents’ place on the Upper West Side, but when survival mode kicks in, you buy water and granola bars. **
Merged into flow of shell-shocked people, all making their way uptown. There were no cars. Just a mass of people filling the street, moving in one direction.
Power-walked while Allison struggled to keep up, because her sneaker was chafing. Tried to be patient while she stopped every two blocks to pull up her sock, and then when she had to find a deli and buy bandaids.
Was in a hurry to get to safety, and, while we’re being honest, to get some exercise. This was my workout. Before everything happened, I’d planned to go for a run.
Passing that guy.
On the way up Sixth Avenue, we passed people clustered around parked cars with open doors, blaring news from their radios. We passed people who were sobbing, dazed, bleeding, and/or desperately trying to get a signal on their cell phones.
We passed a man who sat on the steps of a church, watching all these people go by.
He was grinning from ear to ear, like it was birthday, and masturbating.***
The weird mood on the Upper West Side
Once we reached 60th Street, it started to feel like a different planet. People were milling around casually. Pushing strollers. Having breakfast outside. Going for a jog.
“How callous,” I thought, wishing I could go for a jog.
A group stood in front of a window with a TV in it, watching the smoking towers and and chatting sociably, as though they were watching the Playoffs.
All day at my parents’.
Parted ways with Allison when we got to my parents’ street. She was going further uptown, to be with a guy who wasn’t very nice to her.
For about the fifth time, I tried calling my boyfriend, the guy who wasn’t very nice to me. His wife answered. I hung up.
Sat in the kitchen with my mom and sister and watched the TV coverage on an infinite loop:
Plane 1 hitting, plane 2 hitting, billowing smoke, freaked out people, collapsing towers, Rudy Giuliani with a mask over his mouth, George Bush reading to children.
Plane 1, plane 2, smoke, people, collapsing towers. Giuliani, Bush.
Being bored, going downtown, feeling kind of inappropriate
By evening, my sister and I were restless. There was no new information on TV.
Left Mom and Dad’s place together and walked downtown to The Red Cat, where we’d been invited to hang out. It was closed, but the chef had cooked dinner for a small group of friends.
(Among them was the guy who would become my husband. He didn’t know this. He was there with a girlfriend.)
Felt strange being at a sort-of party, but everyone wanted to be around other humans. And booze.
The food was gone when we got there. We were hungry. Went in search of dinner in the East Village, the only place we could think of that would have restaurants open. The rest of downtown was deserted, but the East Village doesn’t follow the crowd. It’s too indy. People were somber, but they were out.
On Avenue A, we found a bad Thai place and ordered bad pad thai.
Marian went back up to our parents’, and I went home.
The air reeked of burnt…everything. That smell would linger for weeks.
Kept the windows closed so the fumes wouldn’t get in, and turned on the TV.
Watched plane 1, plane 2, smoke, people, collapsing towers. Giuliani, Bush.
Dialed married boyfriend and hung up on his wife.
Went to bed.
What were you doing on 9/11/2001?
Were you in NYC? Were you dazed? Freaked? In denial?
Did you see a man whacking it in public?
Tell me in the comments.
*Friend’s name changed to save me the trouble of asking friend if she minds me using her name.
**UPDATE: Friend just read post and reminded me that we also had wet bandanas. In case we had to walk through a fire, I guess. Or in case the dust cloud caught up with us.
***UPDATE 2: Friend also reminded me we’ve always referred to the guy on the steps as the Masturbating Bum. I didn’t want to say bum, but now I do. Because that’s the truth. The masturbator was a bum.
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Hilary Haggerty | Tarot by Hilary says
I was in college, running out my dorm to my morning lecture class, only to be told as soon as class started to turn ourselves back around and go back to our dorms.
By the time I turned on the TV, the first tower had fallen. I watched as the second tower fell.
All the phone lines were busy. No one could get through to anyone.
As I grew up in Westchester County (only a half hour outside of NYC), I grew panicked when I couldn’t reach my family, especially my mother who takes it into her head and on a whim to do touristy things down in the city. What if today was the day she decided to be in that area? I felt the day was a blur until I was able to get her on the phone (not until that night).
Most people I know know someone who knows someone that was there, that escaped, that died, that helped, on that day.
And everyone has a 9/11 story.
I was a sophomore in college, and I was in the shower. Someone ran into the bathroom and yelled about the news. I didn’t understand what was going on, and I finished my shower.
The first room I passed was filled with women, standing in their towels, dripping wet, glued to the TV screen. We watched the second plane hit. We were shocked, stunned and silent.
I remember feeling so lost and confused starting a new school year without a solid group of friends. Then that morning everything seemed to turn upside down and we all felt lost and confused.
The women who lived in that room became two of my very closest friends.
Tara Jay says
I’m Australian, and was in primary school on 9/11, I think I was 10. I remember coming out into the kitchen (It was September 12th for us by that point I think, the attack would’ve happened while we were sleeping… is that right? The timezones confuse me) and my mother was standing, completely still, with the TV on, hands over her mouth, weeping. I asked what was going on and she muttered something about all the violence in the world, and stalked off to yell at my poor 8yr old (at the time) brother who was still in bed that this was why she hated him playing those video games.
I remember being so confused, watching the planes and the towers fall, seeing the scores of people fleeing the destruction… this wasn’t part of my life, I had no idea how this movie like event could be real.
School that day I remember was a mess. Teachers were hugging and crying (in primary school teachers NEVER cried!), we had an assembly that showed the videos again, and were given our first lesson in how our generation would come to define ‘terror’…
I was in second period math class. I attended a public school in a wealthy suburb just outside of the Bronx. The first clue that something was wrong was the mass of fire trucks that flew by on the highway outside the window, across the street from the school. When I heard them go by I looked because they were making an unusual amount of noise, even for firetrucks. That’s because there were 5 -6 of them, all in a clumped row. The highway seemed to be completely cleared as well. Maybe there was a police car ahead clearing the way, but I didn’t notice one. Classes pretty much stopped for the day, and the teacher told us that a plane hit the WTC and brought in a tv. She was strict, so the fact that she was stopping class seemed to convey the gravity of the situation. Just about everyone in the class had parents who worked in the city, myself included. My Mom was supposed to be at a meeting at Tower 1 later that morning; she luckily had not gone to the metting early. My Dad runs a building on 42 street next to the UN; i was terrified that the UN might also be hit and that he would be somewhere nearby because my Dad is one of those people who would have gone into the building to get people out. I say that with the knowledge that freaking out over this hypothetical scenario was selfish, given that at least 13 – 14 of the kids in my class had parents who actually worked in the Towers and died that day. My father was safe; he saw the second tower collapse from the roof of his building. My parents both ended up walking out of midtown that day; i am not sure where my aunt picked them up – somewhere uptown, harlem? They normally took the train but no one was sure if the transit systems were safe. i couldn’t get in touch with either of them all day, there was no phone service, or there was no service when I was allowed to try to contact them – i didnt have my own cellphone at that time, and i remember staning in a clump of kids outside the office, waiting to take a turn to try to contact my parents. I remember one kid just breaking down, for good reason. His father was above the point of impact in the 1st tower. I was anxious, but not terribly, something in me knew they would be ok, and i was lucky enough to have this belief perserved. Looking back, i realize again how selfish i was, i didnt want to talk to the kid having a breakdown because i didnt want to be associated with that – as if by panicking i could somehow change my parent’s fate. I also didnt really think about my sisters until like 11 am. I was just obsessed with getting on the phone.
That day my dad drove me to high school. My mom normally dropped me off and would have on newsradio, but that day, my dad and I were rocking out to the jazz station, I’m pretty sure.
As soon as a I got into class, around 7:20am here on the west coast, I was relieved that there was randomly a TV on in the middle of the room and that no one seem to gave a shit I was like 10 minutes late.
My teacher at the time was very wide-eyed about the whole thing, like it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened in her life.
The next period was smart person’s calculus (BC) so we did end up working, since I don’t think we had a TV anyway. However, the one thing I remember from that class is one of my classmates who is some sort of middle eastern, Persian, I believe, asked the whole class “What are my people doing NOW?!?” and everyone had a laugh. (The implication being that he was ironically referring to his people as terrorists.)
I don’t remember the rest of my classes for the most part, but I do remember my final class of the day, jazz choir, my teacher decided we weren’t going to sing that day. She said “I bet you guys haven’t really gotten to talk about what’s going on in your other classes, so let’s talk about it.”
(Of course, I was down for shaking up the normal routine, but in fact, a lot of school time was wasted that day on just milking the drama, basically. I guess I shouldn’t say that, maybe we were just being in the moment during a historical day.)
Anyway, we talked about it and what I remember most is the teacher explaining “There’s a moratorium on all international travel- no one comes in & no one goes out.” And I remember thinking that was so very dramatic and shocking.
The other thing I remember is my very mormon friend & choir mate getting emotional about the possibility of his older siblings being drafted, and then at one point he said “Now would be a great time to put out your American flags.”
Being so seemingly disconnected from the actual tragedies just made this all seem so ridiculous and self-serving. Like everyone just wanted to be entertained or make it about themselves.
After that, I just know I continued to try to figure out what the fuck was going on and what it meant by keeping the TV on and falling asleep to rubble footage, superstitiously thinking they would find more people to rescue if I left the TV on. So basically I let it shock & entertain me and be about me, just like everyone else.
Diane Akers says
Hi Laura, Jack(Stevens’father and I lived in Salem,OR. at the time) Steven called us at 7:30 ish and told us what was going on. Turned on the tv and spent the rest of the day watching.
Was so glad Steve was ok- but our hearts went out to everyone in NYC. i spent the day stitching an american flag out of silk scraps. Just ran across it the other day. It was the only thing I could do. Hope I get to meet you someday! And by the way-HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!!!!
Hope you have a wonderful trip!!
Sincerely, Diane Akers
I was home on maternity leave, on the phone with a friend when my sister called on the other line. She asked if Pete, my husband, was at work yet. His office was at the World Trade Center. She said a plane had flown into the tower. I thought it was one of those small bi-planes, and thought how sad, but assumed it wasn’t that terrible. Then I turned on NY1. My husband, who should have been at work by then, was still in the shower. My newborn twins had kept us up all night, and he had overslept and was running late. I held my girls one on each knee for hours as I watched everything unfold on TV, while simultaneously calling my sisters and brother, all of whom lived and worked downtown. I was on the phone with my mom when the first tower fell. I told her I had to hang up- whatever channel she was watching hadn’t reported it yet . For some reason I didn’t want her to hear me cry. I though it would make her even more panicked or something. It was over a year before I stopped being scared of driving through tunnels, which was pretty inconvenient since we were in Brooklyn and had to get to Jersey for every holiday. My sisters still don’t take the subway, and my brother quit his job at JP morgan a few weeks after the attack. We found pieces of singed faxes in our little yard for days- they were blowing over the river.
Feels like yesterday.
Incredible, how being late for work saved so many (not enough) peoples’ lives that day. These stories only encourage me to be late wherever I go.
I freak out a little in every tunnel, too. And often on the subway. I get a bad feeling, and wonder if I should get off and walk the rest of the way. But I’m not very psychic. Those bad feelings always turn out to be unwarranted paranoia.
Nancy B says
My procrastination keep me from being stuck in the city that day. I was running late and missed my regular NJ Transit bus, so I got the next one. As we passed the Meadowlands where you can see the skyline, I looked over and my first thought was, wow, that’s a weird that the WTC is turning their heat on today (you often see black smoke coming from buildings in the fall).
The 1st plane had just hit. Someone on the bus had a radio and told us. We all just kind of stared, trying to reconcile the now large amount of smoke with the thought that it was a small plane that hit. Then, as we were watching, the smoke doubled.
The dude with the radio said that a 2nd plane had hit. That horrible, horrible feeling. The bus was silent while we all digested it, then chatter erupted as everyone tried to call people. I called the office and Megan S answered…she and several others had been watching from the 39th floor of 1515 and saw the second plane hit. She said the building was being evacuated.
At that point they closed the Lincoln Tunnel. We were at the top of the helix – just at the last exit. We sat for a while, then the driver decided to go back to our park-n-ride in Wayne. The bus turned around in Weehawken. We had to wait for the cars that were on the helix to drive in reverse back up it. That was bizarre.
On the way back westward, passing the Meadowlands again, we saw the tower fall. The dust and smoke billowing. Radio dude yelled, “One of the towers collapsed!!” The bus driver started saying the Lord’s Prayer and was trying not to cry. I tried to call my husband who was in White Plains working to let him know I wasn’t in Manhattan – I couldn’t get through.
I got back to my car and headed home on. I turned to 1010 WINS and on the drive back listened to the second tower fall. I started crying and had to pull over.
That day was one of the first catalysts that lead me to eventually change careers. The whole “Does what I do matter?” thing.
Oh, it also caused my husband and I to decide secretly elope about 6 months before our planned 2002 wedding. For a few weeks those days we so uncertain about the future that we wanted to make sure we were legally married in case anything happened. I’m assuming my mother doesn’t read this blog, so it’s ok to reveal that part.
I’ve never really written down anything about that day until now.
Can’t imagine seeing that happen from a moving bus full of strangers.
So are you saying that your mother doesn’t know you eloped before your wedding? Luckily for you, this blog is a well-kept secret.
Catherine Caine says
It was late afternoon and there was a very blue sky. We were hanging out in my loungeroom and listening to The Cool Alternative Radio Station when it made the announcement.
Disbelieving, we turned on the TV and watched the second tower fall live.
The TV talked about nothing else for hours, and we watched. And we all agreed, “The US is gonna go crazy. They’re going to let this be a defining moment in their history. Poor Americans.”
It was exactly like watching a movie. Exactly.
That’s what we all said – that it was like a sci-fi movie. It was. So was it actually Sept 12th where you were? I get so confused by your time zone.
Catherine Caine says
I live in the future! So yes, for me it was not the 11th.
Dad Belgray says
Random recollections: Your Mom/My wifey Alice called me at my office and asked whether I knew the news. I didn’t (except for that of personal stories told me by patients who also hadn’t known of the catastrophe).
After she told me of a plane hitting the Twin Towers, I went up to the roof of my building where my office was located. I could easily see smoke billowing up from the direction of Twin Towers. It was unreal. I thought of the plane that crashed into the Empire State Building years ago, which involved limited damage. I had no idea how horrible the present situation was.
A patient kept her appointment, saying she was very upset by the crash at Twin Towers. She related the incident to other disturbing events in her life. It later turned out that she was horribly upset for months.
Another woman came from near the crash. Her shoes war covered by a thick layer of dust she’d gathered as she walked uptown from the crash site to my office on 56th St.
Later in the day I went home, and Alice and I, along with Laura and Marian watched the news in a state of feeling horrified, struck dumb, and feeling helpless. These reactions, for me, were accompanied by fantasies of striking back.
There was also a powerful sense of satisfaction of all of us watching together. I felt thankful that we were all OK and it provided a surge of love toward my family.
Wow, Dad, I’m impressed that any of your patients made it to therapy. Most people I know would use any little excuse to skip their appointment. “It’s the end of the world” and “My shoes are covered in Twin Towers dust” would certainly qualify.
I don’t know if you saw where I mentioned you in one of the first few comments above. I recalled mom trying to tell you over the phone that the towers had collapsed, and you unable to comprehend what she was saying.
Watching that on TV together reminded me of the ’77 blackout – except way darker. Pun not intended, but it stays.
David C Belgray says
We’re watching the comemmoration ceremonies on TV. They’re reading off the names of the victims, and they just showed the name of George McLaughlin Jr. You remember George, our broker, father of the unfortunate son. 9/11/01 was not a day of profit, but of capital loss.
Yes, my patients showed up, in tune with the postman of those days. ” Neither rain, nor……”. Remember that era?
Hearing victims’ family members talk about their enduring love toward the departed, arouses my feelings of affection toward you and Marian and your husbands and your 22 mo. old nephew Samson, and toward Mom, and all the living and deceased family members.Mom and I are weeping as we listen.
We love you and Steven.
Dad/David C Belgray
Amanda Hampton says
I was born and raised in NYC, I have photos of my childhood with the just-finished towers in the background as we picked out a Christmas tree. On 11 Sepetember, 2001 I was living in London with my cousins after travelling around Oz and Southeast Asia — it was an amazing time to have been over there in Asia, everything felt so open and positive. In London, I worked as a diving instructor and was at the dive shop that day. My friend Mac turned and said to me as he spoke to a woman on the phone from McKinsey about a team building exercise, ‘A plane just hit the World Trade Centre.’ Like many others, I thought about the Empire State Building incident with a small aircraft. Then a few minutes later, he said “another plane has hit the trade centre.’ I immediately tried to get onto BBC.com and all of the major news websites starting crashing. I left the dive shop and wandered down to the high street where there was an appliance store with TVs in the window and watched as the footage of WTC being attacked and destroyed played before my eyes. I rung my cousin and said, “you must turn on the TV, planes have crashed into the World Trade Centre” and within minutes they started to fall. She asked where I was and said she should come get me.I said no, I’d be alright. For whatever reason, I wandered into a department store and bought Clarins products and mumbled to the sales lady about how I was American. I took the bus home and watched the replays on TV all day for days and days.
Amanda, I also associate the towers with my childhood. We were too young to be aware of it, but did you know they were considered a huge eyesore? New Yorkers hated them, from what I’ve heard.
The dazed Clarins purchase is just the kind of detail I love. Thank you.
ps – You were doing some cool shit. Diving instructor. I guess that explains the pic of you in a wet suit on FB.
Amanda Hampton says
Hiya, re: the ‘eyesore’ bit — a great architecture friend of mine once described to me (back in 1992/3) how the WTC was a huge failure as a public space v Rockefeller Centre which is a great success. WTC has too much of a void/open space whereas RC has many little avenues to explore — a more intimate space. I think there was even a male v female element to his argument. 😉
Interesting. And, you couldn’t skate at the WTC. Or buy really cool notebooks at a stationery store in its underground section. That was what excited me (as a 10-year-old supernerd) about Rockefeller Center — a random stationer’s. I thought having a three-ring binder that no one else had would skyrocket me to coolness.
More on buildings: everyone hated The Calhoun School when it was built. It was shaped like a TV set and didn’t fit in with the classic WEA landscape. Now, it looks so 70s iconic to me. Except that they ruined it by adding another floor, which has the effect of looking like a VCR on top of a TV. Always an unwieldy way to stack.
John McNamara says
I pulled out my journal from the time (which I often do at this time of year). The first entry is from September 10th and, in retrospect, has always given me the creeps. There is no entry from September 11th. The next entry is from September 12th. A little background: I had quit my really good job waiting tables at The Red Cat and was working at Atlas, a now-defunct three-star restaurant on Central Park South. I had been there maybe two weeks.
(seen on the subway on my way to work)
Only in NY, only in new milennium: Arabic-looking man with prayer beads in right hand, lips moving silently, while listening to messages on cell-phone in left hand. Talk about a collision of cultures…
The day after the towers fell.
Call in to work. They’re fucking open. No respect for the dead. They said they wanted to open for the sake of the citizenry, “in case someone couldn’t get to food, had no place to go.” Yeah, right. I’m going to go homeless and hungry to a fucking 3-star restaurant with a $68 prix-fixe menu for shelter. The real deal is that a chef from some fancy restaurant in Montreal had a reservation for a tasting dinner. Hello, asshole. There are 10,000 dead people downtown and you want a tasting dinner? How’s this for a tasting? EAT SHIT. I promise to serve seven courses with the appropriate mise en place. Did I say “eat shit?” I meant to say, “eat shit and DIE.”
So on my way to work (they eventually let me go early because the chef from Montreal was the only confirmed reservation. Duh.) I kept looking for signs that all this had really happened. The hole where the WTC once was definitely qualified: for once the view from the bridge didn’t lift my spirits. It had always been a mood-brightener. Not today. Maybe never again. But aside from the sparse amount of people, like it was a holiday, no palpable signs. I was really looking for evidence in the faces around. But this guy’s yapping on his cell about picking up a shirt from the dry cleaners, the pretty woman is strolling her pretty baby, the queen is clucking his tongue at his lapdog, Dudley. What was wrong with these people? How dare you cluck your tongue at your fucking LAPDOG! Then somebody saying with mild annoyance, “What’s that smell?” Carnage, dickwipe. Rome’s burning. The end of Western Civilization, part deux. HOW ANNOYING.
But at work, it just so happens that two of the people who have been nicest to me (it’s easy to forget to be nice to the new guy) are there: Roy, an Israeli line chef and Mohammed, an Arab prep cook. Both looked stricken today. That’s what I was looking for. I looked at Mohammed and shook my head. “There are no words,” I said. “You’re right,” he said. “That’s right”.
A few thoughts: it’s always strange to look back on this and see how angry I was and how I thought that a $68 prix-fixe was expensive. Also, the fact that I thought there were 10,000 people killed reminds me of the tenuous reporting we always get in times of disaster. Finally, I quit Atlas very soon after this, never having forgiven the Montreal chef tasting dinner episode, which in retrospect, seems way worse than the queen walking his dog. Apologies to him and Dudley (whose only crime was having to pee). I ended up getting a job at the Harrison, which was the first downtown restaurant to open after 9/11. I remember we would serve firemen for free at the bar after they had had a long day in the trenches. I also remember that people had to get security clearance to get into the neighborhood in order to get to the restaurant. But they came. And everyone kept thanking us for having opened. Most of them just wanted to feel normal, they said. None of us did, but we were trying.
Johnny Mac, this excerpt is super chouette. I’m so jealous that you kept (and probably still keep) a journal. I kept one on and off during the late nineties, and it’s amazing to read who I was then. I wish I’d been consistent.
Your 9/10 entry IS kind of chilling.
It’s true, $68 bucks for a tasting is a pretty good deal. Not for a homeless person, though. You were right about that.
Do you remember hearing that Giuliani had ordered 10,000 body bags? I do.
VERY interesting. Thanks for that.
Amanda Brokaw says
It was probably around 8:48am. I got out of the subway on 23rd and 5th and I noticed a few random people standing on the sidewalk, looking downtown and pointing. I don’t normally do this, but I went up to one of them and asked what they were looking at. A woman said a small plane had hit one of the Twin Towers and sure enough, I saw the hole in the side of the building and some smoke — it just seemed like a freak accident. I continued to walk across Madison Square Park on my way to work. By the time I got upstairs, everyone in my office had gathered in a conference room and was watching the news. I remember seeing the second plane hit and then the buildings start to collapse. I literally dropped to my knees and started screaming no. It was one of the worst moments of my life. I was so scared. New York has always been my home and I always felt safe here. Up until that second, I had always believed nothing bad would ever happen to NYC — those horrible things you read about in the news — they happened in OTHER places, not here.
Later that day, I walked 50 or so blocks north to my dad’s apartment with one of my colleagues. As we went through neighborhood, after neighborhood, it was amazing to see how despite everything, people were continuing to live their lives. There were people at restaurants, eating and drinking, shopping and laughing. It gave me hope and reminded me how strong this city truly is.
I can’t believe the 10th anniversary is here. There are so many stories of hope and courage and pain that resulted from this tragedy. I continue to be inspired by them and know that we will never forget that day and the people who lost so much.
I’m with you, Amanda. I always felt like nothing that happened in other places could happen here. (I never even got mugged in the 70s.) And, until that little rumble last month, I thought, well – at least we don’t have natural disasters.
The one thing I was always afraid of as a kid, though, was nuclear war. I knew we’d be incinerated by that. Did you watch The Day After? It freaked me out.
Cathy Presland says
Great post! I remember exactly where I was – in Dublin for a work trip. I was at the airport with my colleagues and one of them said ‘oh a small plane has crashed flying over manhattan’ and my first thought was ‘how weird – I didn’t think planes were allowed to fly over manhattan’ You know how those out of context thoughts just pop up? Plus I’d fairly recently been to see a friend who had a small plan and we had flown round the island!
then of course more and more news came out and when I got home we were just transfixed to the tv. What a shock and what incredible bravery of the passengers who managed to divert the third plane…
And who can believe it has been ten years… I’m sure the anniversary will bring back memories for those affected by the tragedy – let’s hope for a day of peace and remembrance.
The size of the planes is fascinating. They looked like toy planes because the towers were so huge, but then you saw how many floors they spanned.
Let’s hope is right. I don’t like reading or hearing the words “credible threat”.
I went to work super early that day (before 8 am) because I voted for Mark Green that morning in the democratic primary for mayor. It would be the first of three times I voted for him since there was a do-over for the primary due to 9/11 and then again in the general. In retrospect I’m glad he lost. I like Bloomberg. I was convinced there would be a really long line to vote because there had been one that snaked all the way around the avenue in the recent presidential election but I ended up being the first person to vote that day at my polling place and because it was beautiful (what everyone always seems to remember is true; the sky was really really blue with no clouds), I walked to work. I got a call from my friend Yuki who worked with me at the time who told me to turn on the tv in the next door office. I did and remember feeling really confused. I ran back into my office and called Jason who annoyed me by not understanding what I was saying about a plane flying on purpose into the WTC. I hung up on him and he ended up watching it with Maria our housekeeper. I kept running in and out of my office to call Jason and never saw the second plane hit. For some reason I feel guilty about this to this day, or more like cheated in a way which makes me feel even more guilty for somehow wanting to have seen it as it happened which can’t be important but makes me feel like I was out of town or something. I remember many of my colleagues freaking out because they had spouses who worked in the buildings. Cynthia worked at Lehman’s and I couldn’t get in touch with her because the cells didn’t work and nobody knew if that building was hit or the extent of the damage at that point. A weird partner came in and gave me work saying “there’s nothing we can do, we might as well be productive.” Soon I couldn’t reach Jason anymore and got nervous. I started walking with people uptown from 52nd street. Jason had walked downtown looking for me and I ran into another colleague who said that she saw Jason as she left the office. I remember people jogging in Central Park while fighter planes flew in formation low overhead. I don’t remember how we met up but Jason and I went to the local public high school to wait on line to give blood but the sad news was that the sent us home because they didn’t need any blood since there appeared to be so few survivors. I remember the profound relief when I finally heard from Cynthia who had walked to Stephanie’s. I remember the smell which lasted for weeks. And the firehouses draped in purple and black. And everybody talking to each other and loving NY. And firemen. Loving the firemen. I even had a US flag in my window. And we all went out and did all the things we always did and didn’t stop being friends with Muslims or foreigners or vote for people who believed terrorism was a policing issue not a war even though we live in the middle of the bulls-eye while everyone else exploited our experience for their own venal xenophobic gain. I also remember talking to you and being so relieved that I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t know a single person who died.
I forgot that Jason went walking against the current to try and find you.
I get what you’re saying about feeling cheated, because I felt cheated out of seeing the jumpers. Sick, I know. But I was determined to see the jumpers. They took that footage off the air after about 2 hours, so if you missed it, you missed it. There was no youtube. I was totally haunted by the idea of people jumping from the towers to escape the fire, and needed to see it.
Remember how tourists all used to want their picture taken with a cop or fireman? And there was this whole new breed of hobag – the firehouse ho. Everyone was showing appreciation.
I saw pull stills of the jumpers though but I don’t remember where. I kept looking for them and could never find them again. One thing I remember today especially since we are here is that Jason and I left for Montauk a lot more often in the weeks after that. I remember the first time we left the city on the jitney the whole bus peered out the window at same time to see what wasn’t there anymore. It was the first time I saw the view of the city without the towers and it probably was for everyone on the bus. There was an audible collective simultaneous gasp. Montauk has a ton of Irish people and so many people we met had lost friends and loved ones. The pizza place was always filled with people discussing the “shivers” (funeral) they had attended that week. I wok around the corner from St. Patrick’s Cathedral and it seemed like every day was another funeral. In the trailer park many of our neighbors lost multiple people. It’s strange how disproportionately it affected certain ethnic groups because of traditional jobs — cops and firemen and traders were often brothers and cousins. Our next door neighbors here lost 6 people, 4 of them were 2 sets of cousins. In a way NYC is a small town.
On the fireman thing I remember Michelle always saying that she loved firemen before 9/11 like she liked that band when they just were playing colleges then everyone else jumped on the bandwagon. It was true though; she did always love a hot fireman.
G-d I love New York City. I feel so lucky to live in a place everyone writes about and sings about and makes movies about where you can be or at least pretend to be who you want to be. I wanted to live here since I saw The Goodbye Girl and wanted to be Quinn Cummings and I’m proud to now be a pretty good approximation of Marsha Mason, or some other UWS liberal lady. It makes me so angry when the Tea Party and their ilk use 9/11 as a slogan and come visit “Ground Zero” and then complain about all the foreigners and don’t even realize they are walking by Century 21 or are two blocks away from the best Vietnamese food outside of Vietnam. They don’t love NY. Like the terrorists, they actually hate us for our freedom. Sorry to vent but the 9/11 coverage is making me crazy.
I don’t know how the Republicans managed to co-opt 9/11. In 2004, when I got rid of my enormous grandma couch (that I did not get from any grandma), I hired some firemen to come up and take it out of the apartment. We talked politics, and they said they were voting for Bush. Their reason: “We were there on 9/11. If you weren’t down there, you have no idea.” Somehow, Bush being president then, and declaring war, tied him to their 9/11 story.
Michelle gurland says
Two things. I love all firemen not just the hot ones. I particularly like the white haired ones in their fifties. Also cops love bush as well. I was in a pOlice station when he wOn reelection and they were all cheering. It was depressing but it doesn’t bother me with firemen. Nothing does. Just the best of men.
Of course, I forgot what I’d written and just read your comment in email, out of context. Can you guess which line jumped out? A lowercase letter changes the whole thing.
I, too, like a silver fox fireman.
I’m sure you’ve heard that my bachelorette party had real firemen. It was dope.
Michelle gurland says
Typing on my new I phone. Many typos. It works either way tho. I turned on the tv at my mothers house that day. Ignored the phone ringing all morning. Thought it was a disaster movie on HBO Tried to change Chanel to the today show. Took me a minute to figure out it was the today show and the first tower had just fallen. The weather is what I remember the most.
Allison Ouellet says
I was in my freshman year at Colby College. I was on my way to my 8 am French class when one of the other students asked me if I’d heard the news. When the professor arrived, the class clown tried to tell her what was happening, but she thought it was a joke so we held class as usual.
After class, we all headed to the student union to watch the towers collapse over and over again on the new flat screens with the rest of the student body. The following morning our professor began class with an apology and an explanation that my classmate’s story seemed completely unbelievable until she saw the news for herself. I agreed.
I could see thinking it was a joke, or hoax. You really did have to see it to believe it.
I didn’t know that there were class clowns at the college level.
Allison Ariel says
Also, I think we debated stopping for Tasti-D-Lite.
That makes sense. I must have been in a real hurry to get to my parents if I said no to Tasti-D-Lite. That was at the height of my addiction. Pint of peanut butter, with a side of chocolate “dip” that would harden into a cup-shaped chocolate bar.
I called my bureau chief after the first plane (I heard it on the radio as I was getting out of the shower, then went up to my roof and saw the flames.) He said, yeah, why don’t you go down there and check it out? I’d only made it as far as Washington Sq. Park when the whole thing collapsed, and then I hung out at the emergency entrance of St. [Luke’s? Is that the one near there??] hospital with other reporters, watching the doctors standing then sitting, waiting for patients that – after a few ambulances with cracked windows and coats of dust – never came. I hitched a ride with a guy on a motorcycle and scooted around way too close to the pile – some cops were blocking off approach streets and some were sort of letting people through. He gave me a ride back to the office in the afternoon, and I stayed there late, making calls and watching press conferences. I was impressed the subways were running when I finally left.
I went back to Brooklyn and found the guy who wasn’t very nice to me playing the bongos in the backroom of a neighborhood bar and refusing to acknowledge what had happened. Bongos and denial were the last things I needed, so I went home and tried to sleep.
OMG. The bongos. Just perfect. You never forget those moments (well, I don’t) that made you think, “what am I doing with this person?”
I remember that for the first two days or so, you could actually go visit the pile of metal. I didn’t, but I know people who did. I didn’t want to get any closer to where those fumes were coming from. Asbestos and all that.
Margi Willowmoon says
September first, 2001, we had just returned from a glorious month long road trip in beautiful British Columbia, in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary. Life was relaxed and wonderful. We still had a few weeks of summer to enjoy back home in Oregon. The days that followed were sweet, and we felt happy and at ease.
September 11th, 2001, it was early morning on the west coast and the phone rang. My husband got out of bed and answered it in the other room. I shifted a bit in bed to try to avoid waking up. Why do people call so early, I’m thinking. From the other room, hubby called, “It’s Michael” (a friend of ours). “He says a plane hit the world trade center!” I’m not really awake yet and I’m thinking, weird accident but that thing is pretty huge. I guess it’s in the way of flight paths.
Then he says, “AND the Pentagon!”
“WHAT??????????” I cried, jumping out of bed. No TV here, but saw some footage online. The same footage, over and over, like they were drilling it in just to help us understand the gravity of the situation.
Spoke with my brother, who lives a few miles from the Pentagon. The whole fam damily was gathered at his house, 3000 miles away, trying to figure out if they were gonna be safe, or what the hell was happening. Everyone including our NYC relatives was accounted for, but it was damn scary.
In the weeks to follow, I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to sort out the details, and read every news article i could find online, obsessively trying to make heads or tails out of something that made absolutely no sense to my rational mind. For a month or two I could not get the image out of my head of the people jumping out of the building, having lost all hope of survival. I kept seeing that image in my mind’s eye, and I realized I needed to stop reading about it so much because it was disturbing my peace of mind (the terrorists were winning).
Thanksgiving 2001, one of my oldest friends was visiting her parents in NYC, and I too was visiting family there for the holiday. She and I went to ground zero together, walking part of the way where we would normally have taken the subway, but those stations were closed due to 911 damage, so we walked. It was like a funeral march, somberly passing the many flower arrangements and notes of condolence in front of the fire station from which many who perished had been dispatched on September 11th. Those guys were total heroes.
The sight of the towers was chilling, and we watched the constant convoy of trucks carrying debris towards the boats that would haul it to its final resting place across the water. I can hear the sound of the scraping of debris like it was yesterday, a ghoulish harrowing haunting repetitive slow grind.
Hard to believe that was ten years ago. So much has changed in our country as a result of the events of that one day. Thanks Laura for broaching this topic.
Margi Willowmoon says
Second to last paragraph, I meant the “site” of the towers.
Like you, I had a need to keep looking at the images. In fact, I still do sometimes. I start watching the footage on youtube and can’t stop. It’s a weird compulsion.
Sukie Baxter says
I was in Spain. I was 3 days into a foreign exchange, jet lagged, taking siesta. My host-mama tried to wake me up but I ignored her, too tired. I woke up in a half hour and she showed me the smoke billowing from tower 1 on TV. “Una avion se cayo!” she pantomimed. “Accidente?” I replied (I was having a horrible time remembering which words were Swedish and which ones were Spanish at this point – total brain confusion). “Si, si, accidente,” she replied.
I’m not from New York. Never been there. At the time, I didn’t know anyone there. I was 20 years old and I had scheduled to meet my friends at Corte Ingles for a movie. I grabbed a bus to the other side of town, but by the time I got there, the second plane had crashed and we were watching people waving white t-shirts and jumping out of the buildings on the giant monitors in the department store. Our cell phones were ringing – emergency meeting with our program director.
Thank GOD he allowed us to speak English in that meeting! He told us what had happened, told us that (since were were VERY close to Muslim Morocco) we should try to pass for German and to never speak English amongst ourselves in public. We lived just a few miles from the American naval base of Rota.
Everywhere I went in Spain, people asked me if I was American (so much for hiding out). Then they apologized profusely and cried about the tragedy. The Spaniards were so warm, loving and absolutely AMAZING in their heartfelt sorrow over the terrorist attacks.
I had flown through Newark Airport just 3 days before the attacks. While in Spain, I made friends with many Muslim people, even dated a man from Jordan, which gave me some interesting and unusual perspective on both my government and the context of the Sept. 11 attacks. I returned a year later to a very different United States.
I love Spain. I was there when Reagan was president and everyone hated America, and Americans put Canadian flags on their backpacks. The Spaniards were nice to us even then.
You need to visit New York!
Michael Troy says
I was in Sydney.
I was watching TV late in the evening when a news flash came on. The reporter said that a small plane had hit one of the towers and at this stage was not thought to be an act of terrorism. As I was watching the footage I realised that the small plane was not so small. Quite unbelievable.
Not long after, a second plane hit the second tower. I was watching this happen live and it was surreal. 10 minutes later I woke the whole house and we watched for another 4 hours then went to bed (about 3 or 4AM I think).
8 years later I got to visit NYC. I knew that what had happened was on a scale hard to contemplate, but my visit gave me a whole new perspective.
Yeah – we NYers mostly hate all the Ground Zero tourism (especially the vendors selling souvenirs) but I guess I get why someone who hadn’t been here would want to go and stare at the pit of nothingness that was left there for so many years.
Michael Troy says
Yeah, never went to Ground Zero. Didn’t need or want to. Did the the whole get married in NYC and ride a bike around Central Park thing. Loved it.
That’s way cooler than going to Ground Zero and buying a “Never Forget” baseball cap.
Michael Troy says
Oh geez, that is bad. People actually do that?!
I got a phone call from a coworker after the first plane hit. My friend was calling me because the BOS-LAX trip had been my route. He was worried about my whereabouts. Friends of mine were crew on the BOS flight. I watched the 2nd plane crashing into the tower and was shell shocked from then on. To this day, flying has a definite fear element for crew. Flight attendants were the first to be killed. My friend made the call to her supervisor to report what she saw, one killed passenger and 2 killed flight attendants. Then they crashed. It is on tape.
Whoa. So are you still a flight attendant? I think being on one of those flights must have been scarier than any other experience that day.
Sparky Firepants says
I started the day annoyed, too. My father-in-law called, which is automatically annoying. But we turned on the TV anyway, just in time to see the second plane hit.
We had moved to Los Angeles from NYC the year before, so we spent the morning checking in with friends there. Most of them were trying to get *to* the disaster site. Interesting.
That Friday, I had quit my job because I had landed an animated commercial project worth $75K. Among my thoughts that morning were, “Oh crap. There goes the commercial.” I felt bad thinking that. I still do. That’s honesty for you. The commercials never got made, so that’s karma for you.
I remember seeing the first tower start to crumble and yelling at Peter Jennings to shut up and look at his monitor. He was babbling on and didn’t notice until it was already almost down. Weird moment. Like, what would it have changed if he had noticed sooner? And surreal: I am seeing this in Los Angeles before he sees it, and he’s *there*.
I’ve heard people who are horrified when they hear stories of women in Tribeca chatting over wine at some cafe, only hours after the towers fell. A lot of people think it sounds tacky and crude. When I heard about that, I actually felt like it was a good thing. Like, *that’s* the NYC I know. “F*** you, terrorists, we’re alive and we’re gonna have f***ing dinner!”
“There goes my 75k” would have been my thought, too. It was hard to keep all reactions appropriate. For instance, it was nice having downtown barricaded off so you could only go below 14th street if you showed proof that you lived or worked there. The only thing you were supposed to smile about was the camaraderie among New Yorkers, the coming together. But I dug having downtown taped off, and I won’t try to deny it.
I was sitting down for dinner, probably a little stoned, at 9pm on Sept. 11th. This was in Thailand, on a small beach that at the time had no cellphone reception, and three TVs. I was just getting ready to eat dinner with two German girls and a half-insane Kiwi guy, when a Norwegian friend ran up into the restaurant, grabbed me and said “You gotta come back with me to the other end, someone just flew planes into the twin towers and one of them just fell down!” The Kiwi guy smirked “Well, that’s what you get for bombing the Chinese embassy” or something equally annoying. Off I went. Jumped on the back of his motorbike, down to the other end of the beach, ran up to the TV just as the 2nd tower had gone down. A crowd of people stood there, shocked, crying, freaking. Thais, Burmese, English, German Swiss…everyone. A Burmese friend ran and got me a shot of booze. We stood there for hours. I felt impotent, 8000 miles away from my friends and family. I didn’t sleep very much that night. By 7am (7pm on the 11th, here) I was calling home, somehow managed to get in touch with my parents who let me know all my immediate contacts were okay. I spent a good part of the next couple days responding to emails from friends who weren’t sure if I was still in Thailand or had gone back to the US. (Though, not as many as after the ’04 tsunami, when I was in Thailand but 200 miles away across the mainland and safe.) I’ve never felt so much solidarity from the international community, Thai friends saying “You no go home, you stay here! We take care!” (And it was so disappointing that within 2 years most of that solidarity was gone, thanks to the Iraq inept-vasion. I had planned to leave on the 15th, anyway, but stayed a couple of extra days to see if a war was about to break out. Seeing as that wasn’t happening, I went to Bangkok on the 19th, called a travel agent on the 20th, and was on a flight to NY on the 21st. Got back to town, and within 2 weeks I was doing temp work downtown, about 5 blocks downwind from the WTC. The smell was in the air for a good couple of months.
I had lived in the Marriott WTC for 6 weeks in early ’96, and we used to joke that if a nuclear war were ever to break out, we were sitting on Ground Zero. I hated that “Ground Zero” became common usage…and I’m glad there’s a move now to get beyond that.
That sounds like a rough place to find out about the towers, but a damn nice place to stay. How long did you spend in Thailand?
6 weeks in the Marriott – now that would be an occasion to stay stoned.
I’d remembered the smell being there for weeks, but I guess you’re right. It was months. I think it took at least a year to move all the debris, too.
The Marriott was for work, I was stuck in that building for days at a time, working 18 hours/day. But when the towers fell, one of my first thoughts was “Oh jeez, what about Maria, who I ordered room service from every day?” It was a reminder of the web of relations we weave as time goes by.
Thailand: It was the very end of my first long-term stay there, a full year in Thailand, mostly just hanging out on that one small beach. I was already thinking I’d call it a year, head to NY for 6 months and do some temp work, then head back to Thailand, so I knew my time was almost up. A bit of a tearful farewell, all the more so due to 9/11. But, true enough, I came here, did some work and went back…the beginning of my past decade or so as half-time temporary office worker and half-time beach bum. Further to what I said above, it was VERY interesting to be overseas for much of the past decade, to see how views of America changed and changed again. To have SUCH good will, only to see it slip away and not feel it again until the last couple of years.
marian belgray says
It’s true, the UWS was a weird scene — like everyone was on a spontaneous holiday together. Maybe that’s why we went downtown that night. We wanted to be more connected to the city and the reality of the events. (Or we were just looking for a free meal). My memories are fuzzy, but I do remember Steven behind the bar.
About a year later, I worked on a film a friend had made about 9/11. It reenacted certain events, including hoards of people walking uptown. (Well, we cheated and got about a dozen people and smushed them together). We had them show up in “business attire” made to look “shabby.” When they arrived on set early in the morning, they mostly looked like they were doing the walk of shame after a night of post-work partying. Then we covered them in soot. Looking back, this seems so dark and weirdly inappropriate.
Too bad we didn’t include a reenactment of your church steps dude. I guess that would have changed the genre.
I wish you had reenacted the church steps dude. That would have grounded the whole thing in authenticity.
I’m thinking now about how many people actually DID do the walk of shame that morning, trooping uptown with the masses in last night’s clothes.
I think we went downtown because we were looking for fun. How inappropriate.
Add me to the list of people who didn’t see it on tv…
We had just moved to Baltimore and didn’t have our cable hooked up yet. I was playing with Allie (then 2 years old) and my mom called from NY to tell me the first tower had been hit. I listened to the while thing unfold on NPR. First saw the images 3 days later, when Allie started preschool at the JCC and there were tvs in the gym… I was pregnant with James at the time, and very wrapped up in my own little world – but being a New Yorker also felt so connected to what was happening. I remember waiting to hear that my mother-in-law was ok – She often shopped at Century 21 – right there near the towers, at 8:30am. The phone rang -it was a family friend “I’m just calling to tell you that your mothe-in-law is…”
(my heart stopped for a second) “…fine!”. Apparently, and thankfully, she wasn’t in the mood to shop that morning.
It still seems strange to me that we weren’t in NY that day – I will never be able to truly get what New Yorkers went through, that smell in the air, the soot everywhere, the palpable fear…which I guess is a good thing, but makes me feel sad.
I would feel the same way, being a New Yorker and seeing it from somewhere else. Or, in your case, hearing it. That must have made it seem even more unreal. How could you picture planes crashing into the towers, or the towers falling, without seeing it? Was it anything like you imagined when you finally did?
I’m glad your MIL took a break from unbeatable designer bargains that day.
Mom Belgray says
I remember a lot, but first, here’s what I don’t remember: I don’t remember you calling your ex-boyfriend and had heard nothing about the wife, but I’m very glad he’s your ex. The guy you met at the Red Cat was a brilliant choice. I don’t remember you going back downtown with Marian or how Marian finally got back uptown.
Here’s what I do remember: my close friend called from Brooklyn when the first plane hit and said his wife was in Manhattan. She got in touch with me and came to our apartment. You, Marian, she and I were glued to the TV for the morning and then decided to take a walk and find lunch. People looked dazed, but feeding ourselves was a priority, so we found an open coffee shop. It was jammed with like-minded people, but we found a table. I think we tried to make some sense out of what we had found out so far. My memory is of a magnificent blue sky and grayed-out people walking numbly Northward. I remember the computer didn’t work, so the restaurant accepted only cash. I remember the constant sound of the helicopters and sirens.
It took a long time for the magnitude of the event to sink in. Everyone I knew seemed to know somebody or know about somebody who was in the towers. It was the son-in-law of a friend, or the brother of a friend, or the pregnant friend of a friend who was either killed or had a close call and escaped. If you lived in NYC, you knew someone. When we went to Riverside Park, we could see where the towers had been, and saw the changed skyline. We could see the smoke and smell the acrid air. It lasted for a long time.
Every year, on Sept. 11th,at dawn, bagpipers walk down Broadway from the Northern tip of Manhattan to ground zero. You can hear them coming, getting louder, and then fading away. It’s an eerie reminder of the day.
I remember Alice C. being there, and going to lunch. Going to lunch was so weirdly normal and everyday. Eating a chicken salad sandwich and paying for it. (Well, you probably paid for it.)
Remember that we watched the whole thing in the kitchen? I guess no one wanted to see it on a bigger screen.
Whenever there’s an intensely blue sky in NY, especially at this time of year, I think of 9/11.
I didn’t know about the bagpipers, or that you were able to smell the smoke uptown.
Stephenie Zamora says
I can’t imagine what it was like to be in the city. I was in high school and was actually just getting on the road when my then boyfriend called to say there had been a plane crash at the World Trade Center. I turned on the radio. They thought it was an accident. All we did at school that day was watch the news on TV. There were people talking in one class about a missing student who’s dad was thought to be on one of the planes. I remember feeling incredibly sad and sick to my stomach, and REALLY PISSED at the others acting like stupid high school kids during the whole thing. I had just been to NYC and the Trade Center for the first time a month prior. To see those buildings collapsing was unbelievable.
It was unbelievable. The WTC was such a permanent thing. We’re all used to them being gone, but remembering that day makes it seem surreal again.
I was a junior in college at UMass, driving from my off-campus house to class with my buddies Jim in shotgun and Ryan in the backseat. All 3 of us were from the Tri-State area with friends or family who worked or lived in NYC.
We were listening to the local pop station when they stopped right in the middle of a song as someone came running into the station yelling “a 747 just flew INTO the World Trade Center!!” I looked over from the drivers seat, both of my friends were staring at the radio with their jaws wide open, Ryan leaning so far forward from the back seat he was practically on the dashboard.
We parked at a friend’s house near campus and ran in yelling at them to turn on the TV. We saw the 2nd plane hit. After a couple of minutes, confused, in shock, and not quite sure what to do, we went to class.
It was Management 301 – a huge lecture class with ~350 students. Was feeling annoyed that nobody seemed disturbed or saying a damn thing about what just happened. The professor even mentioned the World Trade Center in his damn lecture – hello! Then I realized most people probably just rolled out of bed and went to class – they had no idea.
After class, ran back to watch TV. They were gone. Gone?
So effing confused.
Spent the rest of the afternoon day in Jim and Ryan’s living room watching the same report and images over and over while calling my parents and any friends who I suspected would be in the city that day.
I also remember one of our not-so-sharp friends, upon seeing the photo of Bin Laden, exclaim “but he doesn’t LOOK cruel!” and we all rolled our eyes…
I thought the opposite about Bin Laden: that he looked exactly that cruel. Maybe it was the glee on his face after the mission “succeeded”. But I think he was also kind of Crazy Eyes Killa.
Two things from that day that stand out the strongest for me:
1) On the TV network I was watching after I woke up, minutes after the 2nd plane hit, two newscasters were talking over a fixed shot of one of the towers. They were completely oblivious that the tower was collapsing on camera and they just kept talking about something else. One of the most powerful examples of a disconnect I’ve ever witnessed.
2) Late in the afternoon, I wandered around Chelsea with my friend and was flabbergasted to see multiple people on the sidewalks smiling and chuckling. I couldn’t believe they weren’t totally shell shocked, and I was angered that anybody could be smiling that afternoon (or, for that matter, the rest of the year).
I had a totally bigoted moment that day, which I’m not proud of. I saw some guys with turbans standing outside their Tasti-D-Lite franchise, and smiling, and I was like, “those muslims have some nerve smiling in public.”
Thank you, Laura. This incredibly therapeutic even 10 years later. I had worked 19 hours the day before and slept through the entire thing. I woke up at about 10 or 10:30 and I was living in Parker, CO so it was already after noon on the east coast. I dragged my ass downstairs and saw that I had 15 messages on my answering machine- peculiar.
I stood beside my back door and hit play. One after another they were of my then boyfriend (now my husband) screaming into the phone for me to wake up. He couldn’t believe I was sleeping. One message was about the first plane hitting the tower 1, then tower 2, then the pentagon, then the plane going down in PA, another that we were under attack, they just went on and on.
I stood there in shock and just listened. Then I thought, “we are at war,” and I opened my back door very tentatively and looked up at the sky as if to make sure it was still there, that I was still here.
I walked into the living room, turned on the TV and watched it on replay. Absolute devastation is what I felt. NYC is my home town. I started calling people to make sure they were alright. Calling people I hadn’t spoken to in years just to see.
I had to work that afternoon (Walgreens never stops), I had a customer, beautiful guy, he came in in tears. He said he was a trader and worked constantly with an office in the towers. He was on the phone with someone from their when the first plane hit and the phone went dead. He had no idea but assumed that everyone was gone. I worked with a pharmacist from Lebanon, she was cold and callous and said we had no idea what it was like being in a war and this wasn’t anything. The whole day was so confusing, I couldn’t comprehend.
I went home that night and turned the TV back on and watched Peter Jennings report on the activity at Ground Zero, the rescue efforts were well underway, but would anyone be found alive? My boyfriend shut off the TV and we went to bed. But what happened during the night is the part that still sends a chill down my spine. I awoke to the sound of a plane flying by, everything was grounded so I was terrified frozen in my bed- did a war start? Nothing else happened after that so I fell asleep. The next day I found out that Bonfils had gotten special permission to fly a plane filled with blood to NYC.
Alma, the sound of planes terrified me after 9/11. Every time I saw one, I thought it was the “war plane.” Actually, they still do scare me. I always think they’re flying way too low. I get especially freaked out near airports.
Grace Quantock says
I am in Great Britain so with the time difference it was my afternoon.
I had just come home from school. I stood in front of the television with my siblings. Still in my school uniform, still with my satchel and my bus ticket in my hand and watched the plane go into the second tower. The house was filled with screaming. We were stuck an ocean away, on another continent and what could we do anyway?
America hadn’t seemed real before – tinny voices on long distance phone calls and episodes of “Friends”. But this was so real and so devastating. The world shrunk immediately.
I cannot imagine what you all went through being there.
All my love, prayers and my heart go out to those affected then and each day since in the fall-out and hurt every day.
To me, it seemed unreal – impossible, just like “Friends” and their affordable, 2 bedroom apartment.
I think a lot of people who weren’t here in NYC felt stuck, just like you. This was the place not to be, but everyone wanted to be here.
Because it totally matters, Monica’s grandmother owned the apartment. As for the boys, I think Joey had some sort of “deal” worked out with his super’s wife or something. But I just made that part up.
It does totally matter. I didn’t know that, and it makes me think a little more highly of Friends. Grandmothers have the best unused apartments.
I was at home on the UWS, getting ready for work. Was IM’ing with a friend who was downtown. She told me she just saw a plane fly into tower 1. I thought “what a horrible accident”. I was listening to Howard Stern (for the last time ever, in fact). He announced the 2nd tower.
I walked out my door and took the subway to work IN TIMES SQUARE!! (What the fuck was I thinking? I just couldn’t comprehend.) I got to the MTV building and everyone was coming down the escalator. Someone told me to go home, so I did (because I am a sheep) – I took the bus.
Did Howard Stern say something that day to make you stop listening, or did that day make you think, “life’s too short to listen to people saying ‘bababooey'”?
I love that you went not just into the subway, but into 1515. I was afraid to walk uptown because I didn’t even want to pass 1515. I thought, “Terrorists hate our racy music videos. They’ll bomb Viacom next.”
Oh and when I got home I called your boyfriend, but his wife picked up, so I talked to her for 45 minutes.
Melody Granger says
I was driving to work in Baton Rouge, La. When I arrived I had a slight breakdown over my life and was crying. My co-worker said “You heard.”
I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.
She told me and I was in shock as we watched the planes hitting the towers and when we thought it was over, another plane hit. I remember seeing people jumping out windows…and feeling guilty for crying over being sad. The fact that I even shed a tear that day was historical because crying is almost foreign to me.
I remember that I stopped crying and felt thankful that my children and husband were safe.
We were so far away from New York that day, but it didn’t feel so far away.
That was actually fortuitous timing, you crying when everyone else was. So you didn’t have to deal with all the “what’s wrong, are you ok” questions that always make crying worse.
Yeah, definitely one of those events that puts everything in perspective. Actually, it also had the negative effect of making everyone feel insignificant when they went back to work. The “what I do doesn’t matter” feeling.
I was in middle school at the time, I remember that someone said something about it in second period, but nobody really understood what was going on. My next class was a debate class, and the teacher just turned on the television and let us watch it. I remember that there was an Asian woman that the reporter was talking to, and that she was covered in blood and white dust and was having a hard time talking through her tears.
I had an orthodontist appointment that day, so my dad came and picked me up from school during that class; I remember we didn’t talk very much in the car. We drove past a gas station and there were people lined up around the block to get gas.
That’s all I really remember – I’m sure the rest of the day existed, but I only remember the morning and walking around the rest of the day wondering what it would mean.
So where were you living? I’m wondering where people lined up for gas, and why. Where were they trying to go?
Thinking about the fact that your orthodontist went about his day, fitting kids for braces and headgear.
I was in southwestern Missouri at the time (you know that town that the tornado hit in May, Joplin? that’s my hometown). I remember hearing a classmate talking about how people were buying gas and trying to create some kind of link between it & the WTC (meaning: an actual reason for…hoarding gas), but I think it was probably people just trying to rationalize this weird hoarding instinct that we humans do. I live in Austin now, and there are grocery stories that have been completely cleaned out by people hoarding as a reaction to the wildfires, which is probably the most-impossible-to-rationalize thing ever, since having all that food won’t do ya any good if you have to evacuate!
This post is bringing up so much that I have not thought about in a long time…maybe 10 years.
I was living in Logan, Utah going to school at Utah State University. My roommate and best friend, Jaime Marie Wilson (that’s her real name), and I had every class together. Including 9 am kickboxing. It was really too early for both of us. Sometimes Jaime would come in to wake me up for class and would end up curling up next to me instead. We would both sleep through class while spooning in my twin bed.
On 9/11 we both managed to get ourselves into yoga pants, into the car, pumped up to Rocky, and kick boxing. Our instructor, who was normally way too energetic, seemed lethargic. She kept saying stuff like “Sorry, I am just so sad about the news. It’s hard to work out today.” Jaime and I would give each other confused looks and shoulder shrugs. We had no idea what she was talking about.
When we got home, another roommate of ours had the TV on to the horrifying scenes already described above. I was in shock. We turned on NPR to hear all kinds of first-hand accounts, personal stories of loss, one woman whose husband was on one of the hi-jacked planes and who managed to get ahold of her from his cell phone to tell her he loved her and that he was going to die. Good grief. I cried.
All of this was interesting timing, because this was the day I was supposed to go in to pick up my engagement ring that had been sized for me. It was a vintage ring my ex-husband and I saw together. I no longer had any excuse not to get married now that we had the ring (I had not seen an engagement ring I liked before…remember, I was in Utah) and I was about to get engaged to a man I would be married to for 5 years before realizing I didn’t know myself and I was not living my life.
What a surreal experience (and maybe telling) to go pick up my ring, what was supposed to be a happy moment, in such a somber state. It brought a sharp focus to the whole thing. I remember the estate jeweler saying that she was grateful to see that life carries on and to have this beautiful moment on such a sad day. I smiled and nodded, but inside felt like I was sinking. I felt like I was on auto-pilot, or dreaming. Just moving through the motions.
That day, New York seemed so far away and so foreign. In my little town of Logan, I felt so disconnected. I had no idea that I would one day be living in NYC in a life that I designed for me, now married to a man who brought me here. Closer to my self than I have ever been.
How confusing. You must have thought you felt somber because of the towers, when it was probably because you were marrying Mr. Wrong.
I’m glad you changed that.
One of my favorite things about these stories is the disconnect between how the day started and what was about to happen. The yoga pants and kickboxing class part of it all.
I was in Cranbrook, BC, Canada. Still am.
My two-month-old daughter was lying on blanket on the floor in the clear, sky-blue northern light. My husband called me. The TV. The End of the World, Probably. Why not take up smoking again? Nothing To Lose.
I finally quit the smoking this year.
My daughter is in Grade 5 and can speak French.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Iraq.
Trish, one of my secret fears is that they’ll announce we all have 24 hours before the world self-destructs, and as my final act on earth I’ll go out and eat my weight in cookie dough — only to find out that it was all a mistake. Life will go on, but I’ll have added 10 lbs to each thigh in that one day.
Laura, you’re hilarious.
Thank you. I like your name.
I was nowhere near New York City. Like the rest of the nation, I was going about my morning, which included getting some breakfast (I’d been up about 3 hours, walked my dog, etc) and 1/2-watching The Today Show. I had just turned it on, I think. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Canandaigua, NY. The sky was blue. Canandaigua is always beautiful, a little city at the head of Canandaigua Lake, in the Finger Lakes.
Most NY’ers don’t know anything about the Finger Lakes or this part of Upstate. And in a way, that’s always been OK here. Because it’s not on a terrorist’s radar (so far). It’s the kind of place where people live an American life — flags on front porches, Main Street shops, a homecoming parade that ends at the football field across from my house, safe to walk at night… But that life even changed that day.
I watched the second plane hit. I couldn’t leave the TV. When towers fell, I saw the glitter of all that glass billow out and thought — that’s souls flying to heaven… I cried at the images of people stumbling together, running, helping each other. I saw humans at their best — the enormous bond that made people reach out, hold each other, cry, scream, pull bleeding ghosts along, trying to get away. And the hulks of firetrucks, police cars, ambulances… I didn’t think about the evil that propelled those planes. I just saw the good that exists in us.
Outside it was so quiet. Silent. I live down the street from a VA hospital. The campus is beautiful, it could be a park or a college. The VA shut off all entrances. I doubted that anyone would attack this VA full of elderly soldiers and the addicted (it was a treatment center). But it was the biggest symbol of the military and government here.
People started painting cars with flags or slogans of support for NYC and the US. One church baked dozens of pies and started a relay delivering the pies to the rescue workers in NYC for their breaks. So many people lined up to donate blood, the Red Cross had to turn them down. There was so much unity and outpouring of love, and trying to think — What can we do to help??
It may sound sappy to say that 9/11 was one of our finest hours as a nation, but that’s how I think of it — a horrific act that made the best in us surface, and for a while we were again a brave, loving, united, inspiring people when we most needed to be.
I agree. For months after the attacks, strangers said hello to each other on the street, smiled at all cops and firemen and thanked them, put stuff we thought might be helpful in donation boxes out on the sidewalk (and nobody stole it)…Too bad it couldn’t last.
I’ve heard great things about the Finger Lakes. Though I always get them mixed up with fingerling potatoes. It’s true.
We probably grow fingerling potatoes here. It’s not that far from NYC — maybe 5 hours. Come up and have a glass of wine sometime. It’s cheaper than going to Europe, and just as pretty.
Michelle Anderson says
I was living in New Zealand and slept really uneasily… got up and turned TV on to see the smoke billowing out of the towers. Thought it was a movie! Went for an early morning walk (was 12 September in NZ) to shake off my uneasy-ness (is that even a word?) and felt like I needed a cigarette. Raid hubby’s day bag for one, discovered a love letter (and a couple of other things!) that was not meant for me. Confirmed suspicions he was having an affair!! Along with that, my Dad was somewhere in New York…. I didn’t loose anyone in 9/11 except for my husband who was safely in bed probably dreaming of his new shag!!
We live in Missouri, but it just so happened that on 9/10 we left the state to go to Pennsylvania to pick up a ’68 Plymouth Barracuda (very cool car). Tossed around heading into NYC since we were going to be pretty close to the border and we’d never been. We spent the night in some hotel somewhere in PA and were back on the road at 8am. The radio was turned down pretty low and all I heard was “… terrorist…World Trade….Oh my god…” We turned up the radio to hear the news. Insane. More insane = Flight 93 went down 10 miles from the highway we were on while we were on it. Could have flown over our heads for all I know. I didn’t have a cell phone, but my boyfriend/now husband did and it didn’t work. Apparently family was freaking out back home – but we made it to the guy with the car. Dazed transaction and drove home the next day. Didn’t get to see any TV coverage until that night. An absolutely unforgettable day.
Another one who didn’t see it on TV when it happened. It must have been so weird seeing it later. It also must have been weird buying the car. Doing anything normal that day felt so out of place.
I’m fascinated by the “almost” stories, like yours. We were supposed to go into the city that day. I was supposed to be at work in the towers.
Thanks for your comment!
Nathalie Lussier says
I was in high school, and I remember they took us out of our career guidance class to call an assembly. Then they told us what happened (no TV’s showing it) and tried to explain the gravity of the situation. Even though the school was in Canada, we had some New Yorker classmates, some of which came from firefighter families.
I remember going home and then seeing all the footage and writing about how it made me feel. Then I remember a few years later when I lived in NYC during an internship how many people tried to dissuade me from moving to NYC because of 911.
Trying to imagine wrapping one’s head around the situation without seeing it on TV. My father called my mom from his office after the towers fell. He didn’t have a TV, but had heard it on the radio, and couldn’t understand what happened. My mom told him, “the towers fell.”
He asked, “you mean debris fell?”
“No, the towers. They collapsed. They’re gone.”
“Gone, GONE. They’re gone. They fell.”
He couldn’t figure out what she meant. It was just inconceivable.