Thursday, September 11, 2008

At this exact minute, seven years ago, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. It gives me chills to remember that morning.

Seven years ago. I can't believe it has been seven years.

I was a sophomore in college, living in a dorm, in a suite with seven of my closest girlfriends. It was a Tuesday, and I didn't have my first class until 12:30 p.m. So at 8:45 a.m., when that first plane hit, I was sleeping. My roommate and most (if not all) of my suitemates were at class or elsewhere, so all was quiet where I was. When the second plane hit at 9:03 a.m., and it became clear that these crashes were not accidents... I was still sleeping.

I think I must have stirred between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m. I had no intention of getting out of bed yet, but I think I had to pee. I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, for whatever reason, before I collapsed back into bed, I touched the mouse for my computer, "waking it up" from its screensaver. I would never have known anything was happening if it had not been for an instant message.

A friend, Christy, who lives out in Seattle, had sent me an IM saying something along the lines of, "I hope your mom is not traveling today, and that everyone you know is safe." My mom travels all of the time for work. I live in Upstate NY. Six hours from NYC, but still close enough to know several people who live there.

I didn't know what she was talking about. I'm not sure how long I stared at that message before it occurred to me that something big must've happened. I immediately turned on the TV.

We all know what I saw.

I don't remember ever being worried about my mom. I'm not sure if I called her, or if I just knew, after hearing the details--planes from Boston, Newark, and Washington--that it could not possibly be her. I also did not know anybody who worked at the World Trade Center (thankfully).

From then on, I was transfixed by the television. I could not turn away.

I was watching when news broke that a third plane had hit the Pentagon. It was difficult not to be scared. Our country was under attack. I was in a podunk college town, so I was not necessarily worried about my own personal safety... but I was scared for the American citizens I knew had already perished, and for those that still possibly could. And scared for what this would mean for our country.

Who could do this? Who would do this?

I was watching when the south tower fell. Watched again as the north tower collapsed a mere 23 minutes later. Just watched. In horror.

Then the news of a fourth plane crashing in Pennsylvania. All I could think was, What the hell is going on??

There was complete and utter confusion. What was happening? Who was doing this? Are they done crashing planes? How many people were in those buildings? (I remember reports that there could have been something like 20,000 in each. Holy crap.) What is going to happen next?

Sporadically, my suitemates started to return from classes. All of them clueless as to what was going on. Some of them had heard rumors, but didn't believe them to be true until I said that it was, and pointed them to the television.

I couldn't even leave my room. I just had to watch everything as it unfolded. I was desperate to learn all I could about what was happening. I'm not sure I ever even showered. All classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day, which was a relief since I never planned on going anyway.

Throughout the later morning and early afternoon, we started to hear things about friends at college... many of whom were from the New York City area. Erin says her family and friends are all safe. Tyler has a brother who works in one of the buildings--he doesn't know where he is.

At the time, I had yet to meet Michael. That would come in early 2002. But I knew some of his suitemates because they were friends with some of mine. I remember hearing that Vince's mother worked in the Pentagon. I don't remember how or when I heard that she was actually in the area that was hit. And I don't remember how or when I learned this, but she did survive.

In fact, she was the only one from her department/office who did. Badly injured and burned, but alive. (Subsequently, she was featured on Oprah several months later.)

Eventually, I remember we all just decided we couldn't handle it anymore. We had to get out and just go somewhere. Where do you go in a small college town when you want to run errands to "get away from it all"? Oh yeah, you know it... Walmart.

Except that there were TVs in Walmart and we really hadn't escaped anything at all. There really was no running away from this one.

Still, every year, I am sucked into the 9/11 specials that are played on Discovery. I don't really want to relive it; but I certainly don't want to forget.

I don't ever want to forget.

Where were you?


Penny September 11, 2008 at 9:33 AM  

I was in high school. I got called down to the Guidance Office for something during homeroom and the lady who worked at the front desk said a plane had hit one of the twin towers. I remember saying out loud "stupid Cessna pilot". It never in a million years occurred to me it could have been an attack.

I live on Long Island. I have friends who's family members didn't come home that night. I had relatives who lost members of their ladder companies and police units. I sang at church memorials and candle lit ceremonies and still to this day I can remember everything about everything. I wish I couldn't remember, but like you said, I don't want to forget.

When I went away to college (also in upstate New York) I met a lot of people from different states many of which had absolutely no connection to anyone in anyway who would go on and on about how much they were changed by what happened. I would sit there quietly and listen and in my head as they were talking I'd think about all the stories of first hand accounts I'd heard. People who ran as clouds engulfed them in ash. It still give me chills and makes me want to cry.

At my high school graduation our speaker was a news cameraman who was there that day. He was an alum of my high school and had grown up in our little 1 square mile town. (To give a little more reference to the scale of my town, I graduated one of 73 students that year). He spoke about how no matter where he went (and he had traveled the world) he always wound up meeting someone who knew someone in our town. He said it was like never being too far away from home and it was amazing how such a small community was known by so many people from near and far.

I bring up these instances for a reason. Sometimes it bothers me when people from places so far away from New York that were fortunate enough NOT to be effected by the events of 9-11 yammer on about this and that when they barely lived through it. At the same time I have to step back and remember what that speaker at my graduation said. We're all connected. We're all from that small town with 73 students in a graduating class. We're all New Yorkers who struggled to survive.

I am you, you are me. We're all Americans and on that day, we were all New Yorkers.

Thanks for posting about how you and your roommates came together on that day and supported each other. That's the true story of 9-11, how we all came together.

Heather September 11, 2008 at 11:13 AM  

I was a junior in High School. I woke up and went down stairs to say good morning to my mom. She was sitting on the edge of the bed just watching T.V., not getting ready like she normally does.

I asked her what happened. She said that a plane crashed into the Pentagon. I said, "Oh." And went about my business. I didn't really know what the Pentagon was... Not too long before this someone drove a bus into our state capital building (Ca). I thought the plane crash was to the same effect.

I didn't realize what was going on until I turned on my radio before I got in the shower. My rock station was playing no music, and was getting ready to air a live speech from the President. But I had to leave for school. I put in a cassette tape in the player, hit record, and left for school. (Unfortunately, I don't know what happened to that tape.)

My first class in the morning was Drama ironically enough. Everyone was sitting apart in different areas of the room. No one was talking. I walked in and I though, "Just like how for history classes we had to ask our parents about the day JFK was shot, my kids will have to ask me about 9/11."

It was sureal. School was not cancelled, but each class basically consited of us watching the news. But in my Trig class, the teacher refused to hold class any differently than on a normal day. Many people just walked out on her.

Control Freak September 11, 2008 at 6:27 PM  

I was a junior in college, and as I was getting ready to head to class (I was a commuter), my aunt called and told me to turn on my tv. It was astonishing, and I tuned in just in time to see the second plane hit.

As I headed to class, everyone was listening to radios or on the phone, and our prof refused to talk about it. He claimed we needed to just move on. Ironic, considering that in Education this would have been deemed a "teachable moment," where we must digres from the day to day in order to talk about real life.

As I went to lunch with my college boyfriend and best friend, the Associate Dean of Students came on and canceled classes. I went home and was glued to the TV with my family, as was the rest of America.

Jen September 11, 2008 at 7:46 PM  

I was in Windsor for work planning on heading home that afternoon on the train. I remember everyone crowding around the TV in the lunchroom. I just couldn't look away. They quickly closed the border and started to cancel trains.

My hotel (that I had just checked out of) was now completly full....so I took my rental car and drove home. There was no music on the whole way back to Burlington. Nothing but the news the whole way there. It was a long drive and I had lots of time to think about what had happened.

I moved to NJ a few short months later and fell in love with NYC. I just can not imagine being in the city on that day. I can not imagine what it would have been like.

Katy September 11, 2008 at 8:26 PM  

I was on my way to class, listening to Bob and Tom on the radio. I thought it was a joke, it is a joking show...but then I swiched and knew that it was real. I redirected and stopped at my then boyfriends fraternaty house...everyone was sleeping, so I woke him up and we turned on the news until I had to go to work. I did telemarketing, and my boss forced us to make calls. People yelled at us for calling as such a time. Then the third plane hit and we refused to make anymore calls. The whole thing was chilling. Andy and I went to NY this last March and Ground Zero was chilling, we walked past the fire house across the street and saw the memorial...I cryed...and I'm holding it back now.

Becky D. September 12, 2008 at 9:09 AM  

I was a freshman in college and was at class taking a calculus quiz that morning. I didn't know anything about. My friend and I always went to breakfast together after that class and they had a TV on in the dining hall, which never happens. My friend said that a plane hit the tower before we went to class, and all I thought was "How dumb of a pilot can you be if you hit a HUGE building?" It took me a few minutes to realize that it was intentional since the other tower had been hit while we were in class.

I cried when I saw the second tower come down. I cried when I saw that my dad's building was being evacuated since they didn't know how many planes were hijacked yet. I cried when I found out that the company I was going to work for had their offices on the top floors of one of the towers. We lost 177 people that day.

Anonymous,  September 12, 2008 at 9:28 AM  

I was a freshman in college. I had been away from home less than a month. I had 8am classes that year, so I went to my 8am and then my 9:30am class. When I walked into my second class of the morning, it was clear by all the talking that something was...different. My professor came into the room. He had not heard the news yet either. Then one of the students stood up and said "someone hit the world trade center," and there was more talking. At the time, I really didn't know what the world trade center was, to be honest. I didn't understand what was going on, and neither did anyone else. My professor calmed us all down and tried to get us back on task. After class, I went back to my room to find countless messages from my parents wanting to know if I was okay. (I live in NC, so I was perfectly fine. But, I was their baby girl off by herself at college.) I told my dad, "Yeah, of course I'm ok. Why wouldn't I be?" He told me again that someone hit the world trade center. I still didn't comprehend, so he told me to turn on the T.V. and then...then...I understood. I was glued to the t.v. for several days thereafter. That evening I went to band practice only to find many of my classmates missing. Those missing were from out-of-state. They were trying to contact their families. Luckily, they were okay. The following day my school held a memorial and I was in complete awe. Thousands of people covered the lower quad. People as far as the eye could see. They all stood there..silently. I'll never forget that moment, and neither will my classmates. Our senior gift was a memorial garden to those UNC grads that didn't come home that day on 9/11.

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