When I was a kid, my grandmother told me about her experience on the day that JFK died. She was working for Kodak, and news of the event circulated throughout the building. The entire office gathered around a radio and listened and cried.
Every generation has it’s tragedies, days that are burned into our memories and that we’ll always remember. I thought of this in middle school when the Challenger space shuttle exploded. I hoped I would never have another such experience that I would remember so well.
September 11th is my mother’s birthday. On the day, I was sitting in front of my computer writing on Livejournal and chatting with friends. One of them started writing expletives and told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I turned on the news where they were talking about it as if it were an accident. Then the second plane hit.
A lot people have that same experience. They turned on the news and saw the second plane hit live. Then we knew it wasn’t an accident.
The truth was overshadowed by rumors. I heard and passed on “news” that a car bomb had exploded outside the White House. The Supreme Court building had been hit by a bomb. A helicopter had crashed into the Pentagon. It seemed like the world is ending.
Thank God most of it was wrong. The world didn’t end, but it definitely changed.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the tragedy. The other day I asked my Facebook friends where they were on that day. The responses were so emotionally powerful and personal that I thought it was a good starting point for a conversation.
Where were you on 9/11? How did you feel?
Jennifer F: I was living in Winter Garden, and that morning my friend and I went for our usual bike ride in the morning. We liked to go to a coffee shop downtown for breakfast. While we were eating, both of us felt weird and rushed to get back home quickly. We had no idea what was going on.
I worked for Disney Cruise Line. I didn’t think to turn on the radio on the way home. When I got to the back entrance of the theme park there, was a long line. Security was having everyone get out of their cars, and they searched every vehicle. I asked the officer what was going on and he said, “The world is ending today.”
They let me pass. I drove around to the front of the Magic Kingdom. It was deserted. My drive through the park was very eerie as there were no other cars on the road.
When I pulled into the parking lot, groups of my co-workers were standing around cars with the radios on really loud listening and crying. Many people were on their phones.
I was immediately assigned to a special team of representatives taking calls from guests who needed to reschedule their vacation. I spent the next 12 hours on the phone with airlines, hotels and many distraught guests who had been planning their family vacations for over a year. Most of the people I spoke to were in shock and disbelief.
I was in a long distance relationship with a guy who lived in NYC at the time. I couldn’t get in touch with him because the phone likes were jammed, and I didn’t know if he was OK for several days.
Janice S: I was at home getting ready to go to work and a friend called to tell me to turn on the news. Within minutes the second plane crashed into the tower. I remember watching the news as people fell or jumped out of the building. My heart was breaking.
My mother was on a flight to Taiwan because her mother had just died. Her flight was grounded in Oklahoma City, but I didn’t find out until a day later because phone service was busy everywhere. My mom agreed to stay with 2 elderly Chinese women who spoke no English. The Chinese women would have been stranded without her.
I lived behind the airport, and when it shut down for 3-4 days (I think), I had nightmares every single night. It was devastatingly quiet and uncomfortable. Just horrible for all.
I trained with United Airlines to become a flight attendant before 9/11. It’s a fairly long and rigorous training lasting about 12 weeks. At some point in the training, trainees watch actual plane crashes and learn what to do vs. what not to do. These was unfiltered footage and extremely graphic. It really shook me up.
About 3 months later 9/11 happened, and a fellow flight attendant from Ft. Meyers was one of the victims. She graduated 2 classes ahead of me. Everyone I knew was furloughed.
Vanessa V: I was in 2nd grade in Woodrow Wilson Elementary school in Weehawken, NJ. We had an early release because we were so close to NY that there was debris floating around the school. You could see faint films of white on top of cars and trees.
Because of how young I was, I did not think much about what was going on. The next day when I saw the news on tv I asked my dad why they were repeating it if it was something that had happened yesterday. I just didn’t fully grasp how incredibly serious it was.
One of my classmates was telling everyone the next day that her sister worked in one of the buildings, but she was vacationing in Florida that week. Very lucky woman.
Brian R S: I lived in Southfield, Michigan at my childhood home. The day before I had returned from a 3 day visit to San Francisco to see Belle and Sebastian play two shows. My mom came home from work on 9/11 hysterical. I had just woken up to get some breakfast. She was crying and said, “we’ve been attacked.” I turned on the TV in time to watch the two towers fall. It was unbelievable.
If I hadn’t come home on the 10th I would have been stuck in San Fran because flights were grounded.
That was the last time I didn’t have to go through security checks.
Tracy A T: I was at home, getting ready for work. I called a cab and when he got there, I sat down and he said, ” did you hear someone blew up the Pentagon?”
“Someone blew up the Pentagon and two planes crashed into the trade towers. It’s been on the news all morning!!”
” Are you fucking KIDDING ME?!?”.
I didn’t have a cell phone. I was a wreck. My father worked in the area, and my uncle was in the NYC carpenters union. I had tons of friends from Manhattan. I felt sick. All in the span of a 3 minute ride.
My father wound up watching everything from the Anheuser-Busch factories roof, across the river.
My uncle ran for his life. He came out of the train station for a union meeting and was wondering why there was confetti. The confetti was ashes. When he looked up, the second plane hit and he ran.
Typing this out makes me extremely upset, but it’s good to remember. And I’m so thankful that everyone I know who worked in the area or who was actually there that morning, survived.
I think people are more afraid now. Afraid. Not cautious. Not aware. I think everyone plays the blame game, making everything more confusing. I saw people getting out of control with all these theories.
Rob D: I was working at Carquest at the time was listening to Josh Cohen & The Home Team that morning on ZZR. After the first plane it was thought to be a “freak accident.” Then the second tower was hit.
Every place I delivered to that day, everyone was glued to the radio or the TV.
The freakiest thing about all of it was the day’s of no aircraft anywhere in the skies, PBIA was a ghost town. Funny how empty things seem when a common sound is completely gone from the background noise.
Jennifer S: I was working at Palm Beach Hyundai! I was 8 months pregnant and I remember that my baby stop moving after the first tower went down. It must have been the stress. I left work early to pick up my oldest from preschool in Delray. Then I went home and cried in front of the TV the rest of the day.
This year on 911, my oldest will be landing in Parris Island, starting his career at a United States Marine.
Jennifer H: I was working at a private investigative office staffed by former CIA agents. The owner had flown to Paris right around 730 am, and his wife and her sister who were also former CIA and who also worked there were frantic because he was unreachable. With their backgrounds, they knew who was behind it and why right away. I remember thinking that it was sad so many lost their lives, but also it didn’t really impact me much. I didn’t know anyone in NY or anyone personally affected, it didn’t turn me paranoid or especially watchful.
Erica M: I was in Germany at the time. I got home from an afternoon walk with my son, pushing his stroller through the post. I put him down for a nap, turned the TV on, was making lunch when I thought it was something out of Die Hard. I thought I was watching an action movie. That is until I changed the channel and it was on every station.
I called my (former) husband who was on another post and was terrified. He was on lockdown. No one could go on or off the post.
That same day my post was broken into and several vehicles were stolen. That’s what scared me the most.
Donna M R: I was working at Barnes and Noble in Orlando and our office salesperson called and told us to turn on the TV in the back. It was after the first plane hit, and we saw the second one hit.
One of our cafe/coffee shop workers had a sister that worked in the coffee shop at the bottom of one of the towers so there was a lot of worry but she turned out OK.
Walker H: I cried all day. I was working at photo studio in Lake Mary, FL. I was the only person in the building. I had a TV above my desk, so I saw the first coverage. I watched live as the second plane crashed.
A close friend had just finished Basic Training, and I think she was in AIT. All I could think of was her getting sent overseas immediately after joining the Army.
My uncle was a paramedic in Manhattan. He worked for three days straight, and most of the time my aunt had no idea if he was safe. He developed lung problems because of what he breathed in, and he–a large, formerly healthy man–eventually passed away from pneumonia.
Do you an experience you’d like to share?
I was living with a friend in a townhouse, Quail Hollow, owned by by soon to be ex-boyfriend. I had just moved back to Florida from Arizona. I was looking for a job. I spent the rest of the day on a BBS talking to other folks trying to console each other.
I went to my Live Journal on that date to see if I had written anything but all I wrote was “What has happened has sadden me and made me physically ill for 2 days now. My prayers and love go out to everyone.”
I was in Ft. Jackson, trying to join the Army Reserves but had not passed the PT test so got stuck in a fitness training platoon instead of going to Basic. That day I and another girl had caught colds so we went to sick hall for some meds and it was on the way there that I first noticed something was wrong. We were passing enlisted in pairs and groups, they were all freaking out, either really angry or crying. We were not allowed to speak to them or to each other so I didn’t say anything. When we got to sick hall, I took out a pad of paper and a pen and wrote a note to my partner and it turned out she could read lips so had already figured out most of it. I still have that note in a journal from that time. When we got back to our platoon the DI’s sat all the platoons in formation until around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. This was very unusual and because we were not allowed to talk it was hard to tell who knew what was going on and who didn’t. Finally, they came out and told us what happened, that the base was on lock-down, that Red Cross was standing by for those who had families they needed to contact in New York. The rest of us were asked to stand down on the pay phones and let those in New York and D.C. have them first which we did. We spent that night in the barracks…with the base on lock-down we had no access to television, radio, or newspapers. Rumors were flying all over the place. The DI’s had already told us we were going to war, it was just a matter of time on the declaration. Other rumors got crazy, one that caused a bit of near panic was that the bases were expecting a nuke attack, including Ft.Jackson. Members of the platoon formed prayer circles and were up all night praying. We were also put on 4 hour exterior and interior guard duty and interior patrols. The first night they had us outside wearing heavy duty flak vests and helmets (I think they might have been Vietnam era, no joke) and had us paired with enlisted soldiers carrying assault rifles. This was probably more to scare the shit out of us since we were in the middle of the base and not really likely to get overrun by terrorists. It was pretty effective. The days that followed were full of dire warnings about war and battles. One DI had to be stopped from exercising us too long and hard one day. We didn’t see any planes in the air for a couple of weeks, except for Military jets and then we would watch them fly over. The first time we saw a commercial jet again, I was on an interior door guard duty and my partner and I both stopped breathing and watched it cross the sky without a word then laughed at ourselves for it. We didn’t see newspapers for weeks, TVs either, news came in to us through letters from home. I read a copy of Bush’s first state of the Union address to everyone in my barracks after a friend included it in a letter. At the time I think I was mostly numb and wondering how my family and friends were doing. I didn’t know what to expect insofar as the future and was just trying to get to Basic. In the end I got sent home instead. In my life I have seen a lot of really fucked up things…there are two dates that are turning points I guess for me….the day my fiance got killed, I was never the same person I was before that day…and 9/11/01….it was like the world was never the same. There is a pre- 9/11 reality and a post 9/11 reality at least for me and the last 15 years….it has been a rough roller coaster ride. Some days its like it happened last week and others like it happened in another life. I think I have photo of that note Daniel Valencia. Maybe I will post it again.