What were you doing on 9/11 when the Twin Towers were struck, and how did you first hear the news? Whom did you know that died? How do you mark the anniversary? Let's explore those dark days together.
Photo collage from Wikimedia Commons
Derivative work of the following:
Assembled by UpstateNYer
I was sitting in a college classroom in Florida studying Koine Greek when we received word about what happened. We continued on with the school day, and I didn't really understand the magnitude of what was unfolding until I arrived home later that day. I was home before the towers collapsed, so I did witness that on live television.
It was a terrible day that should have taught Americans (and others throughout the world) some valuable lessons, but it's plainly obvious to me that very little was learned in the end.
I was teaching a Basic Income Tax class. I could hear my cell phone ringing and ringing but we had a no cell phone policy during class time so I asked the class if they wanted a break and then checked my voice mail. There were 5 calls from my son so I knew it was important, he left a message to call him immediately. Naturally fearing the worst I called. He asked if I was watching TV and I replied that I was still teaching. He told what had happened, I heard the fear in his voice! He is a first responder/firefighter studying to be a public safety officer and wanted me to know that he had to go to the fire station and be on duty until further notice and that he had tried several times to try and reach my husband who was working near where the plane went down in Pennsylvania but could not get him to reply which scared him even more. I went back to class and the room was a buzz with conversation and it all had to do with the attack. I dismissed the class and drove home immediately and turned on the TV. Horrified and hearing reports they were preparing for attacks in several other large cities such as Chicago made me tremble even more, my son and daughter in law worked in downtown. I started calling all my children to make sure the rest of them were safe and then started texting and leaving messages for my husband. My children were fine and all concerned they too could not reach their dad. I finally heard from him around 4 pm when he called to say they were in an underground shelter and as soon as they could leave he would rent a car and be on the road back home. Relief but so sad at the same time that so many innocent people were killed & badly injured. I couldn't have been more proud of my son the day he took his oath to serve and protect, knowing full well he was putting his life on the line for his community after what he had seen happen just a mere 8 months before! God Bless all those who serve to keep us all free and safe. We will never forget all those who lost their lives!
What shattered for me, an Irish American from New York City now and on that fateful day living in Ireland, was the incredible realisation that the USA was not invincible. How could this happen? was the question on everyone's lips.
I worked in down town Manhattan a few blocks from the WTC and used to go down to the construction site on my lunch hours to join the large number of people interested in its construction. To watch it all destroyed in the matter of one hour was unbelievable.
And, of course, the most important thing was the tragic death of so many innocent people and the multiples of people left to grieve for them. They will never be forgotten.
I don't believe anything shattered within me; rather for a day or so, it looked like we would all come together and unite as Americans. Sadly that has not happened. Today the federal government seems disfunctional and we seem so divided.
Do you remember what the big story in the U.S. was on September 10? Did Rep. Gary Condit kill a young girl he was having an affair with? One day later, that story was confined to the dustbin of history, and we entered the reality of the 21st century, We learned to fear not nation-states, but splinter groups, terrorist cells within these nations.
On the night on September 10, I was on a dinner cruise in New York. Like this year, there was a post-Labor Day heat wave that was broken that Monday night by a storm. As we ate dinner before the boat left the dock, It looked like we'd spend the whole evening inside the boat instead of outside on the deck. But as we headed down the Hudson, the weather broke, and we were blessed by a glorious, clear evening.I particularly remember how beautiful the Lady in the Harbor looked and thought about the excitement that generations of immigrants, including my own parents, must have felt seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
R.I.P., the victims of 9/11
I was in Dublin, Ireland, where I live. I was on my way to Harold's Cross, to the Hospice there, to give a talk on Cot (Crib) Death to some trainee doctors there (my daughter Aoife had died some years previously and I was now active with the Irish Sudden Infant Death Association). I travelled by bus and arrived in the area about an hour before I was due to speak.
To pass the time I went into a local pub across from the Hospice for a coffee. The TV was on over the bar and I saw the image of the first tower hit with smoke spewing from it. I thought it was an afternoon movie and thought nothing more of it but continued to watch as I drank my coffee.
The sound was turned off (is it only Irish bars that do this, leaving you to supply dialogue in your mind?) and I asked the barman to turn it up a bit. I was the only patron ....
Suddenly I saw the second plane hit. Strange in the silence, no sound, nothing. The commentator was talking now about the first tower being hit and, obviously, did not catch sight of the second plane. He was talking about a tragic accident, making smalltalk as only TV news reporters do when they have no idea what is happening.
I watched in horror as smoke spewed out of the second tower and now the reporter saw it too. The realisation struck him (I'd realised it a few seconds before) that this was no accident.
I could not tear my eyes from the screen as my mind raced and my body went cold. My coffee was on the counter, forgotten. Who could have done this? Were planes involved or missiles? Was this the beginning of WW3?
The commentary (an American newsfeed) was of no value, the reporter obviously shocked but as ignorant as I was.
I stood and watched, chilled to the marrow, unable to tear my eyes from the screen, oblivious to time or anything around me.
Eventually I became aware again, and checked the time - it was time I was gone, across the road to the Hospice and my talk on the effects of Cot (Crib) Death on a parent. Fleetingly I thought of phoning in to say I was sick, my (non-existent) car had broken down or some other lame excuse because I felt sick to my stomach as I realised the awful death toll that must ensue, the hundreds, thousands, of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands who were going to be told that someone had been killed.
But I didn't make that call. Instead I went to the Hospice, to the lecture hall, and announced to the student doctors there what had happened. I asked them to pray for the dead and injured, as I desperately wondered what I would say.
Eventually, when the questions died down, I started to speak by asking them to put themselves in the shoes of the doctors who, even now, were racing to the scene of the tragedy unfolding in New York. I asked them how they would feel, not knowing, perhaps, whether a loved one was trapped there, or already dead. I told them that I knew they would work until they fell from exhaustion to save anyone they could. But, when the fires were out, the dead counted and identified, and all the injured taken to hospitals, what would there be left to do?
Someone had to tell the next of kin - perhaps thousands of them. Not all those telling would be experienced, trained people who would know how best to do this. Mistakes would be made, the hurt accidentally made worse. And that was why I was there, talking to them, because I had been through the tragedy of losing a loved one, my bay, equally senselessly, and the doctor who had had to tell me that Aoife was dead was so choked up with grief over the death of a baby he had not known that he could hardly speak.
And now, s I looked back over the years, it was that doctor's grief that consoled me, knowing that the professionals who had tried to save my daughter's life cared, and were hurt when they failed.
This had not reduced the impact of his message to me at the time. Let's be honest, nothing could have, but then my defence mechanism kicked in and I went numb, only gradually letting it all sink in for me over the next few days.
But as I looked back his grief helped. And that was my message to them that day - don't get so "professional" that you don't care, that patients become "the appendix in bed 7" or whatever. Care, and be proud that you do. Cry when you fail and help yourself. But above all, let your patients and their relatives know you care too, not with empty words but with a warm squeeze of the hand, a hug .... yes, it's ok to cry too.
As I looked at some of the commemorative programs on TV this year (2014) especially of those incredible firemen, I often felt my eyes fill with tears ... for their bravery, their lost colleagues, their tears too. I remembered what I was doing that day, how I felt, and my heart went out to them.
I've never forgotten my daughter Aoife, only 11 weeks old. I fear if I do, she'll be dead. As long as I remember her, a part of her lives.
All those murdered on 9/11 cannot be allowed to die either, and will no ... as long as we remember them, and care enough to shed a tear for them.
As we say in Ireland "Ar dheis Dé go rabh said" - may they sit on the right hand of God.
I was also in Dublin (where I lived then) having a working lunch. On reaching my workplace I saw the towers and the plane .......... I thought it was some kind of King Kong remake and switched it off. Moments later I got a call telling me to look at the TV.
It still sends a shiver through my spine when I picture it.
What's become of that keepsake, Lisa?
I was home with my husband - I believe we were cleaning the kitchen after breakfast when my mother-in-law called and said: "Turn on the TV, a plane crashed into a building in New York". We sat on the living room while my two months old cat (he is now almost 14 years old) was climbing the curtains and trying to mess up everything around. We usually would give him a little attention to calm him down, but we couldn't so shocked we were. And then - right before our eyes came the second plane. At first we thought it was a replay. Then we realized it was not. We simply couldn't believe what was happening.