Almost the middle of September, 2001. The sky had lost the cerulean tinge that we’d reveled in all summer and had faded into that washed out light blue that I’d long ago come to associate with the arrival of autumn.
As we all know, the America (dare I say the world) that we knew changed that day.
I asked a simple question of my Twitter followers and FaceBook friends:
1). Where were you on September 11, 2001?
2). What feeling do you most remember from that day?
Over the next few hours, I heard from friends as far away as Australia and Italy, and have thus far logged dozens of remembrances from people of all backgrounds and political persuasions.
With their permission, I’d like to share some of those with you.
There was shock and disbelief.
I was at home in bed. My hubby told me a plane crashed into WTC. Not knowing what kind of plane, I asked him if it was on purpose.
From Judy Ward on FaceBook:
I was at work at Americo Insurance in downtown Dallas. Someone came in & told us what had happened. One of our agents called in to check on something about his commission and I asked him had he seen the news and he said, No, why? I said just turn on your TV. He did and then all he could say was Oh, My God! Oh, My God!! over and over. I felt the same way he did.
There was, of course, fear and concern for family members.
My son worked in Midtown Manhattan.I couldn’t reach him for 8 hrs. Our family cried,prayed. He & roommate helped in BucketBrigade.
and for friends
I was at work. I remember it took a while to account for a friend who worked in the Pentagon. (He finally got home and emailed)
Feelings of dread and rage.
At home, online, watching on TV and helping people track down loved ones. I remember dread combined with rage.
And anger, even hatred:
From Charles Brown (FB):
I was fishing in northern Minnesota had a great morning over 60 crappies went in to get key for fish house as I was in there saw the second tower get hit we sat there for 2 more days watching the news then went home I felt shock then anger then for the first time in my life I felt hatred
and from Malcolm Granville (also FB):
1) I was running a trash route in Leesburg VA down the street from the FAA building and was advised to come in. I had left my base shortly after the first plane hit the WTC and word came in that the FAA building had been targeted. 2) A burning anger at those that sought to threaten the very way of life I had sworn to protect as a Marine. I was ready to suit up and join the fight. The next three months, I posted at the impact site at the Pentagon as 30yd boxes of rubble were loaded into my containers for their trip south to King George landfill to its final resting space.
From those who were close by NYC:
John S. Wisniewski (FB):
On the New Jersey Turnpike across from NYC. I watched it all happen. 2. Total numbness and disbelief
and right there, right then.
was in my car watched the 1st plane fly into the tower. I worked 4 the city of NY. I worked downtown. I still can’t talk about it.
And watched the Pentagon be attacked:
DC native. I was in my car stuck in rush hour traffic and saw the plane hit the Pentagon.
To those who were on the other side of the country:
Jeff Reynolds (FB):
Eugene, Oregon, preparing for a business trip. Feeling of absolute desolation.
Even in a country far away, the shock was palpable:
Petra Michele Diamanté (FaceBook)
I was just arriving to work early hrs of the morning in Australia turned on the TV my first thought was that it was documentary for a new movie… as i sat glued to TV i realised how that it was a real life Tragedy.. i was carer at time for disabled lady… i went into her room to tell her about what happened.. i just burst into sobs and couldnt keep talking…..i just kept saying OMG OMG over and over took me hours to calm down.
Peter Benjamin (FaceBook)
I woke up and was getting ready for work.turned the tv on and thought it strange that yhere was a disaster movie on at 5.30 am.then realised it what i was seeing.couldnt comprhend what was going on.
in Aviano Italy, and I felt powerless, devastated and detached from my country. I wanted to come home.
And the pain of losing a friend across the sea, from a colleague in Italy is still heart wrenching:
Sara Pistoli Parneau (FaceBook)
I was on the phone to a colleague working in the South Tower. He told me to stay on the line, I couldn’t understand what was happening though I began to feel wave after wave of fear. He came back after what felt like ages and told me the North Tower had been hit and off he went again only to come back one last time before we got disconnected: “We have been hit too, these are the last words I say”. I have never felt more helpless in my whole life.
And when questioned about what happened to her friend, she said “He died. Not a single day goes by that I don’t think about him. I can still hear his voice.”
Some of you were just kids on that fateful day.
Like Robyn Rodrigues (FB):
I was 11!! I remember seeing the second plane hit when we dropped off my little brother at his sitters. At school that day we did not get to walk the halls we stayed in our home rooms and it was at our teachers discretion whether we watched the news or not.. We did not. We had class discussion all day about what was possibly happening. I remember being afraid, angry, and so very sad! I will never forget the feeling I got watching that plane curve to hit the second tower!
Others were (and still are) taking care of kids:
Kim Zygula Rothhammer (FB):
I was working in a school. We had a lock down. We didn’t know what was. I lived in New York for 2 years though. Our Principal came around to tell us and I was trying not to cry cuz I didn’t want to let the kids see my fear cuz they were saying Chicago could be hit.
Lyn Liphart (FB):
I was working on grant writing with my supervisor, on a tight deadline for that evening with the TV on in the background. My son, who was a college freshman, had called very emotional. (He did not recover academically that semester.) I was kept on task due to the deadline which probably kept me from completely falling apart. At some point in the day I had to return to my satellite office to console my team at work–and my daughter at home. I found time to fill up all the cars and stock up on emergency supplies. That is me–get through the emergency first–the days that followed were dark and I slept poorly. Over the years I have worked with children (now grown) who lost loved ones that day. Trust me when I say they are still reeling.
But there was also a sort of hope – a “We’re all in this together” feeling on that horrid day:
From J. Michael Cobb on FaceBook: I was working in the Georgia Pacific HR building (next to the big GP building). I had started working there about the week or two before. I recall seeing the news reports come in on Yahoo/Internet and thinking, “Must be bad weather up there – like when the B-25 hit the Empire State Building”…then the news spread.
The biggest feeling I recall was riding the MARTA train home and seeing *everyone* all worried together. No races, no ages, no gender bias, nothing but – we are all together in this. Remarkable feeling.
And my most vivid memories from that day, and the days that followed were:
1. The fear – the eerie silence of no planes in the air, save the military jets and helicopters on patrol.
2. The fist pumping hallelujahs every time a survivor was saved from the rubble that were tempered with story after story of cars left at auto parks that would never be reclaimed by their owners.
But my most important memory was the camaraderie I felt with my fellow Americans on that September day and for many days that followed.
While I and my circle were not in NYC, DC or PA – we did what Americans do best – we sent people to help, we sent supplies, we prayed.
Not once did we ask what party the victims belonged to, what their country of origin was (374 foreign nationals from 61 countries were also victims that day). It was people, real people helping other people who were hurting, who were scared, who were in need. They were our brothers, our sisters, our aunts and uncles, our children our friends.
Even a country or a continent away, we all became New Yorkers, DC-ers, Pennsylvanians that day. And we were briefly better for it.
I remember both houses of congress gathered together in the Capitol steps, singing “God Bless America” at a press conference. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiQ5s6JvojPAhVBTSYKHT0vD0EQtwIIIjAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D400FMTMeYmg&usg=AFQjCNG9QMgSGtSX2eOnFhsv6Nx-6VN3JA&bvm=bv.132479545,d.eWE
Soon enough, there would be accusations and political posturing from both sides of the aisle. “Your side caused this because of ..whatever” was the favorite suggestion or outright accusation of those who habitually seek to make political hay out of any tragedy, those who prefer to put party above country. But on that day, and the days that followed, we were all one people, united in our grief, in our shock, in our resolve and our caring.
A friend opined this morning that if the attack of 9-11 happened today, we’d eat each other alive. With the hostility I’ve witnessed this year (again, on both sides), I’m almost tempted to agree.
Then I read your comments. Then I see your tweets. Then I remember that no matter what political affiliation we have, we are all still brothers and sisters at the core. We all have families, friends.
Our real difference is not in “do we care” but in “how we care”. And I have to hope that there is still a middle ground that we can find to come together and care. I pray that it won’t take another September tragedy to make us do that.