Monday, September 11, 2006

I'm Gonna Be That Guy

I woke up groggy and caught the 6 train downtown, like every other day since I started my first job out of college. All six of them.

After transferring to the 4 at Union Square, I exited the system at Wall Street, then walked towards the water. It was exactly 8:40 am when I bought my bagel and bottle of Nesquik, said hello to the security desk and elevated to the 30th floor of the Trump Building. Fewer than 23 minutes later I'd be running for my life.

Everybody's got a story, whether they were inside the World Trade Center or teaching Hapsburgs in an Austrian schoolhouse. Some people enjoy a bit of the 9/11 One-Upsmanship, bragging at how close they were or how many people they knew in the Towers. Others like to share stories for the sake of personal history. And since I've always said that in a very weird way I was actually glad to be down there, to bear eyewitness to the events that changed the world, obviously I fall into the latter camp of pro-storytelling.

I was too far away to be a true victim, yet we were way too close to feel safe. Our office at 40 Wall Street may have been located a half-mile away from Ground Zero, but our windows shook fiercely when that second plane hit the second tower. We heard it. We felt it.

The giant fireball from the second tower that's permanently etched into our collective memory seemed no more than 10 feet away (we were in that tall, pointed building on the left) and stunned everyone pressed against the windows. Finally someone yelled, "Let's get the FUCK out of here," and we sprinted down 30 flights of steps as fast as we could. I still remember wondering whether the stock market would open as we descended the stairs rapidly.

When I think back to that crystal-clear and curiously bright morning five years ago, I distinctly remember commenting on how gorgeous the weather was for a post-Labor Day morning. It's always made me wonder what would have happened if it had been raining and flights were delayed: Would 9/11 have happened on another day, like 9/21? Would it have happened at all? I mean, what if the planes had been grounded that morning? Did Mother Nature fuck us, and if so, is she with us, or is she with the terrorists?

The "What If Game" is dangerous, however, because for all the negatives you'd like to wash away, you could also erase the positives. My brother, Red Cowboy, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald in the WTC for a while, and would certainly be dead right now had it not been for a bad placement decision after his training program. More than 650 Cantor employees died that day -- I think everybody in the office at that hour -- but because my brother got royally and undeservedly screwed, he wasn't one of them.

Instead, my brother was standing directly next to me at the window when United 175 killed many of his old friends and colleagues before our very eyes. Then we ran together down the stairs and walked up the FDR Drive in the strangest silence ever known to New York. If there was ever a time to be with family...

By the time we made it to the bank around the corner from Red's apartment, the first tower had fallen. The second tower fell a few seconds before we left with cash in hand. I cried for the first time that day as I watched the last remnants of a skyline institution collapsing on television at the Chase teller window. Hours later I don't think I had any more tears to give.

I always think back to what my mother must have felt that morning with no television in her fourth-grade classroom. She had two boys in 40 Wall Street and a husband across the way in the New York Stock Exchange... and no real way to contact any of them. Thankfully, we re-united two days later when the Empire State Building received a bomb threat and I evacuated my nearby apartment to the comfort of Long Island for five days.

It's amazing to me that five years have passed, that five years have passed since Red, Slack commenter ALL CAPS ANON, and a crew of dudes ran down the steps as fast as they could, that five years have passed since cell phone service just stopped for a day, that five years have passed since I called my roommate and told him to look out our window at history, that five years have passed since the last time I crawled into the fetal position and wondered whether we'd ever be the same as we were yesterday. Can't we just TiVo back one day?

So here's an open thread: What's your story? Where were you five years ago? Who were you with and could you even find words to exchange? Who roused you from sleep or whom did you wake up with the news? Seriously, I'm sure we'd all like to hear it...

32 Comments:

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

I was living in Hartford at the time, with three people I knew little about except for the fact that they had allowed me to rent the extra bedroom in their apartment. I had worked late the night before and was sleeping heavily when my roommate Kerry came blasting into the room to wake me. I had no idea what was going on, but I ambled my way downstairs to see my roommates sitting close to each other on the floor, staring blankly at the bigscreen. I sat down on the couch and tried hard to adjust my half-open eyes to the tv. 20 seconds later, I was on the floor next to them in utter shock.

None of us moved for most of the day, save for a few bathroom breaks and to pay the delivery guy for food. We barely spoke, and even though I hardly knew them before it started, we were very close by the day's end. Betsy, one of my roommates, would periodically lean over and sob on my lap. Chris, whom I didn't really like as a person, was frantically on the phone trying to call everyone he knew because he was originally from NY and knew a lot of people who worked in the city. Although I didn't care for him very much, I would have done anything for him that day.

I only knew one person who died in that tragedy, and I had only met him once in passing. His name was Tim Coughlin and he had just recently donated a large sum of money to my college lacrosse team, of which I was still the assistant coach. He was the first to do so, and as a starter program, he meant a lot to us in many ways aside from the money. Apparently, he attended a lot of our games, both when I was playing and coaching, and followed our team every step of the way. Yet we had no idea.

Three weeks later we had our annual alumni lacrosse game, and he was supposed to attend and actually play. We had a moment of silence for him, but it was not silent at all. Tears were shed by almost everyone, yet almost no one had ever met him before. Since then, the lacrosse field has been named in his honor and we have a moment of silence before every alumni game. I still think about him all the time and I wish I had known him better.

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger Alex Fritz said...

[Standing up and applauding, Ace. Great job.]

I was in the Marines, going through a Unix Shell Scripting course in North Carolina. I had a hard night of surfing and drinking that monday night (9/10/01-9/16/01 was the best week of surf I saw in four years on the East Coast.) and was passed out on my keyboard when my buddy Sammy ran into our classroom and broke the news.

Once more and more news started breaking, I actually didn't feel safe being in a top-secret Marine Corps facility (an odd feeling) so we canceled class, made sure everyone went home and got their war fighting gear in order (in case anybody made a call for us that night) and made some phone calls back home.

I went back out to the beach and surfed for a few hours in one of the most serene and awkward silences the ocean has probably ever seen.

Then I went back to my barracks and got drunk off of wine and listened to the Allman Brothers. A lot of other guys were drinking beer, listening to TuPac really loudly and bragged about how they'd have Bin Laden dead within a month. Those guys always crack me up.

Then I started crying like I hadn't in years and fell asleep. I remember when I woke up late Wed morning, I didn't open my eyes for about 30 seconds... I just laid there on my couch, looking at the back of my eyelids, hoping it was all a nightmare.

It wasn't.

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger Michael said...

9/11 was the week before I was to start at my first firm, in Battery Park. I would normally have been asleep that early, but I had spent the night in hell's kitchen with the girl I was seeing and she had to be at work by 8:30. I got out of the subway (Christopher) and looked downtown at the towers, maybe 5 minutes before the first plane hit, then went to my apt on Grove.

I first heard a plane hit from the aforementioned girl via IM. I turned on CNN. This was shortly after the Concorde crash, it wasn't immediately apparent that this was a malicious attack. Then the second plane hit, and the PEntagon...

I think everyone I have ever known called me that day, especially out of town folks who have concept of Manhattan and just knew that I lived downtown. I only had one friend who worked in the towers, and a phone chain established that he was safe fairly early in the day. So most of the day I did what everyone did, watched the TV in horror.

At some point I ran up to St. Vincent's to donate blood, along with 35,000 other people who felt completely helpless and wanted to do something, anything, to help. It was an utter mob scene.

I was well within the quanatine zone, and spent most of that week holed up in my apartment. My first day of work, 9/17/01, was the first day anyone was allowed down there. I'll never forget the smell.

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger dhodge said...

I was unemployed and living in Boston. As I did most days, I woke up much too early for someone who doesn't have a job (ca. 8 am), ate breakfast, then fired up my computer to start searching for jobs. I checked the headlines on boston.com around 8:45 before checking for job leads and read a breaking news story about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. The details were so sketchy that I actually thought that the article was talking about the World Trade Center in Boston, not NYC. I tuned the TV to NECN at that point to see if I could get more details. By this point, NECN had already switched over to a feed from one of the NYC network affilates and I figured out pretty quickly what had happened. I spent the next eight hours watching TV, mouth agape.

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger KidVideo said...

I am a New Yorker - I was born on the Upper West side and I'm still here at 30. I worked for a number of years in Midtown on 50th street at a television job. That morning I was at work early and busy - so busy that I only stopped into the kitchen for a second to get some water. There's a tv in there and that's when i saw the first plane had hit. Now here's the weird part - I took a minute - thought "That's terrible." and then turned around and went back to work. How crazy is that? Then when the second plane hit my entire office just froze. 80 people on my floor - all of us glued to any available television screen. It's like my heart stopped. That's how it felt. The rest of the day was a blur. I had editors calling in - saying they couldn't get into Manhattan. One who lived a block away from ground zero called me after he had run away down to the river. He and a bunch of other people had set up camp at the Blarney Stone. Mark, also a native New Yorker, spent the entire day walking frightened people back and forth across the Brooklyn bridge.

Work shut down and everybody left. That event was literally the only time I have ever seen the film and tv industry in New York grind to a halt. My sisters came to get me - one had been in Timesquare and had stood with thousands of other stunned people to watch "NEW YORK CITY IS UNDER ATTACK" scroll across the giant New York Times electronic headline banner. My other sister had been at 34th street and ran with a bunch of other people who feared that the Empire State building would be atttacked next.

We walked togehter uptown with thousands of other silent New Yorkers and picked up my mother - a school teacher who wouldn't leave until the last child had been collected by their firghtened parents.

I was so numb that day. It wasn't until the evening when I went out with my sisters and mother to a local bar/resteraunt where we know the owner. We thought it would be emptybut instead it was packed - filled to capacity. We sat down and I looked around at all those faces and finally I know it sounds ridiculous - but I didn't feel so alone. It's like my heart started beating again and I knew that life for all of us - wheteher we liked it or not, would go on.

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

It's almost embarassing to have been so far away after reading these accounts.

I woke up first and turned on ESPN, as I did every morning. Walked obliviously to the shower with the TV still on, got out, and put on my suit. I had an interview later in the day for an internship with the Texas Rangers. As I was absently watching ESPN it soon became clear that they were not talking about sports today, which was odd, but kept referring to the "horrible tragedy." This was the scariest moment, as I got to imagine everything it could be. Presidential asassination, plane crash, earthquake all went through my mind. My imagination, as it turns out, could not hold a candle to reality. At this time only tower one had been hit as I flipped over to the live CNN video and went to wake the roomates. No one knew what to do or how to behave for awhile? Skip work? If you skip work, what do you do? Walk around moping? We all watched together as the second tower was hit, as the Pentagon was hit, and as both towers fell.

I went to school, because it seemed as good a place as any.

We had class, no one paid attention. Everyone went through the motions. I actually had my interview, but no one was into it. The Ranger people were almost in tears, and they were stuck in Milwaukee. They did what a lot of people did, which is what they planned on doing in the first place, but without any heart.

I called to check on my one NY friend, and eventually tracked him down.

When I got home my roomates had beaten me. We all watched forever.

 
At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Scotty Greene said...

I've looked at those towers my entire life while growing up on Long Island and still cannot believe they no longer exist - even 5 years later.

One of my best friends Scott Saber died that day as he was attending a training seminar in one of the towers, and I can only begin to express the loss I feel thinking back. He was my brother more than my friend - still is.

I was doing what everyone else was that day, watching TV and sobbing non-stop. When my best friend Henry told me about Scott, well, let's just say the day got a zillion times more emotional, if that's even possible.

Seems like we've lost our way since then, but it's important (and therapeutic) to remember the events that day.

Big Up to Scotty Saber aka "Buff" - we will never forget you my brother, never.

 
At 1:17 PM, Anonymous JMoney said...

I was listening to Howard Stern when the first one hit and someone on the radio said to turn on your tv. Until last week when I had a rental car with Sirius, this was the last time I listened to Howard. NY1 was reporting a small plane crashed. I left for work not knowing anything more than that. I took what was probably the last N train to enter Manhattan...from astoria...it crawled...I could see the towers burning from the train window and it just looked bad.. I thought how are they going to put that fire out.

Got into my office in rock center and got caught up on about 40 minutes of horror..called home to say i was ok..check phantasytour for news since cnn & yahoo were down. msnbc was in & out too. saw 1st one collapse on tv. emailed everyone i knew to try to find out about my friend who worked in the towers (she got out, i found out about 7hrs later..as did another friend who walked down 70 flights). then rock center was evacuated since it's a tall high profile media filled building.

people were saying that other flights were unnaccounted for nobody knew what the hell was going on, so i went with some coworkers to central park to get away from the buildings. picked up cigs and started smoking again. looking down 6th ave, all i could see downtown was just smoke. a cop on 57th said the other tower fell too in that sort of matter of fact stoic way nyc cops can talk.

met up with some freaked out coworkers in central park, fighter jets screaming across the sky not making us feel any safer. someone had a radio and was giving us news. once things sort of settled down as far as all planes being grounded, we decided to go to hooters for drinks and lunch. weird choice but the rationale was that it's nearby, away from any tall landmark buildings, has food, more importantly- drinks and tvs and nobody could go home anyway since subways were out.

after lunch i walked home dazed over the 59th st bridge all the way to ditmars. spent the next few days trying to stop crying and trying not to look at anyone in public since their faces showed the same grief.

 
At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ALL CAPS HERE:
Great post Ace..obviously I don't have much more to add since I was with the Cowboy that day but not a week goes by that I don't think about that day.

I remember sitting at the trading desk watching CNBC broadcast what was happening directly behind me. We stood at the windows several blocks away in amazement at what we thought was a devastating plane crash...papers flying everywhere.

While most finally sat back down at their computers a few of us remained at the window...I remember seeing the plane right before impact and then seeing the fireball as the plane just disappeared. The windows shook and I turned and said holy shit another plane just hit. Someone asked if I was sure it wasn't just an explosion from the initial crash and I wasn't sure. It was that unimaginable. I think someone confirmed what a few of us had seen or it came on the TV and we hear GET THE F OUTTA HERE. We ran down those stairs and then walked all the way up the FDR drive with thousands of others. All I remember from the walk is some lady standing there crying facing downtown screaming/crying THERE ARE PEOPLE JUMPING... I knew not to look back- went home and just sat there for hours upon hours...I really don't remember much else though that view of the plane hitting just never seems to go away.

I just listened to a Howard Stern replay of the show from 9/11/01 really crazy to listen to a broadcast from back then--the information that was out there was just crazy and so off base it is amazing

 
At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Opal Irma said...

I was still in bed sleeping after having spent the prior evening getting my gear ready. I was living in Tulsa getting ready for a trip to the other side of the world for maneuvers with my National Guard unit. I was awakened by the telephone and the frantic voice of a friend telling me to turn on the television.

I sat there and cried wanting to believe this was not happening. Throughout the day my friends and family all called to ask if we were still going on maneuvers. All I could do was tell them I would be safe and that I would do my best to train in case there was more to come. I gathered close to those that meant the most to me and made sure each and everyone of them knew how I felt about them.

While it does not compare in size it took me back to the Alfred P. Murrah Buidling in OKC, and the pain and terror we all felt. Having been on the scene right after the bombing I could only begin to empathize for my friends in NYC.

I remember feeling so completely helpless and needing to DO something. What I could do turned out to be serving my country to the best of my ability. We ended up doing what we do in the Military. We decided that continuing with our mission was a much better way to show that in America……We don’t’ scare easily.

I did not know anyone personally who died in the towers, but they were all my family. I still mourn the senseless loss of life on this day 5 years ago. I will never be the same.

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger DrunkBrunch said...

I live in NYC now, but five years ago I was 1,000 miles away and in my second week of graduate school. I sat outside at the Sample Gates at IU Bloomington and cried with my classmate.

Helluva way to make new friends.

 
At 2:57 PM, Blogger NewmRadio said...

Good to read all your stories. 9/11 will always be the marker for how long my wife and I have been in New York.

At the time, we had only been seeing each other for 9 months and we had moved to New York together in June of 2001, just 6 months after our first date. It was a very hot summer (compounded by staying in someone's bedroom in an A/C-less apartment in Washington Heights for the first couple months). Everything was unstable, new and beautiful. Life was tough but we were happy to be becoming part of the greatest city in the world.

We had secured our own tiny apartment in Carroll Gardens by August and were just getting by on very little money, a good deal of midwest ambition, and lots of love.

On September 11, 2001, I got a call from Franny's father who was, at the time, not the biggest fan of mine since I was the older non-Jewish guy who moved to New York with his daughter. I was awakened by the call since, as a bartender, I wasn't much of an early riser.

"Haven't you heard what's happened!" he says.

Of course, "No," says I.

I was quickly and sternly briefed on the what was going down right across the river and then we both kept attempting to get through to Franny who had left for work shortly before the first tower was struck. We were able to get in touch with her and she remained in midtown Manhattan for a while, until afternoon.

While I waited for her to return, since all I wanted at the time was to have somebody to share feelings with, I watched the news for a few hours, drank coffee, sobbed, and thought about how the world would never be the same. About an hour after the attacks, I remember looking out the window and it literally looked like it was smowing... hard. This went on for a couple hours, as debris from the two towers made its way across the water to the west side of Brooklyn. Papers that were once filed neatly in filing cabinets in the towers' many offices, were now in shreds, spilling over the streets and homes and people of Brooklyn... from order to chaos... and for many, from life to death. To this day I can't even bare to think of the horror.

After Franny got back to Brooklyn, we spent a little time walking the streets and feeling the collective sadness that was everywhere. We had dinner at a local restaurant and we cried hard at least three times during the meal and looking around, we saw we were not alone.

It was amazing in the weeks to follow to see the way that New Yorkers pull together for each other and the way they mourn together and move on together.

So, Franny and I will always remember the year that we moved to the greatest city on Earth. And we will always remember those who lost their lives and the heroes who risked their lives and the power of New York love. May those who we lost rest in eternal peace and may their memory help to bring peace to all inhabitants of Earth.

Thanks for reading... it felt good to write this.

Oh yeah, and Franny's dad likes me now and we were married in June of this year.

 
At 3:40 PM, Blogger MDS said...

I lived in Long Beach, California, and I hadn't left for work yet. I was just flipping through the channels and I realized something was wrong when Tom Brokaw was on NBC, not Katie Couric. What I remember most is how long it took me to understand the gravity of the situation. Even after the second plane hit I was trying to tell myself that it could all just be some horrible mistake, that no one would intentionally crash a plane into a building. And I remember Tom Brokaw, before the buildings collapsed, saying, "The damage is so bad, they might have to tear the towers down." And I thought, "That's impossible. There's no physical way for a building that big to be deconstructed." And then I sat there and watched it collapse with my own eyes.

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger Jason said...

I don't have an interesting story about where I was that morning. I know where I was and I can't imagine anybody caring about where I was. It was insignificant. Stories like yours, though, are extremely touching, and I thank you for sharing it.

 
At 4:20 PM, Blogger Boski93 said...

Great post Ace.

I was running on a treadmill at my gym. Just running along thinking about the Broncos win the night before and how were they going to cope with out McCaffery, when I saw image on the TV go to the WTC and smoke coming from the first building. I was thinking what the hell. A plane hitting the WTC. Must have been a small plane fucking around. When I saw the second strike. At first I thought that too was a small plane. When that second one hit then all hell broke loose and as we all know the rest of the day tumbled into maddness.

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger Don Fiedler said...

I was in Saarbruecken, Germany in a month-long intensive German course, living in a solitary dorm room and surrounded by people from all over the world, none of whom I had known for more than 10 days. I was in a computer lab that looked like something from Wonka's factory. I was sending my Gramps a happy 82nd birthday email. After I sent, I had a new message from this Japanese guy from the previous month's language course. It said:

Hast du das gehoert!? (Did you hear!?)
Newyork!
Flugzeug! (Airplane!)
wasinton!
pentagon!
Ich sehe jetzt fern! (I'm watching it on TV now!)
I am shocked!

Needless to say, I had no clue what this cracked out Japanese guy was saying. All of the news websites were jammed and I could tell there was a buzz around the computer room. Then a Swedish guy got on to a Swedish news site and told me and the one other American that we should find a TV immediately.

We walked into the basement of the dorm and about 50 Germans and international students were sitting around stunned watching a German TV station. When we walked in, they switched without a word to BBC so we could watch in English and cleared a space for us to sit up front. Again, no words. Now I can't forget the trippy weird BBC news music which I think they still use on BBC World. It freaks me out.

Then after playing soccer and scoring a goal (!), we got wasted in the basement of the dorm at one of those parties they only allow you to have in Europe. Big German beers and a DJ. Things got ugly when the DJ played "New York New York" and my drunk ass ran up to him and threatened to beat the shit out of him. Then my friends, consisting of a Turk, a Spaniard, a Bulgarian, and 2 Germans calmed me down and we got stoned and that was that. Wacky day.

 
At 4:39 PM, Blogger poophopanonymous22 said...

absolutely phenominal post Ace.

I too have quite an insignificant story from that day after reading some of these, as I was in Quincy, MA for the first day of my first job post college. but today also happens to be the poop mans bday, so hey why not. someone came in a little late and said he heard on Stern a plane had hit the WTC, no one really thought anything of it. that was until i went to get my picture taken for my idea and said "Whats going on today". To which the woman in charge of pictures turned to me with a look i will never forget, and said "What ISNT going on today, 2 planes hit the Trade Centers, and another has hit the Pentagon". After much waiting and not really knowing what was oging on, being that i worked at a financial institution we were all sent home shortly thereafter. it was one thing to hear about the reports on the radio from the drive home, quite another once i first saw the images on tv, and i am sure not nearly as shocking as being mere miles away.

hearing the Stern broadcast of that day makes me remember how completely out of control that day was with reports all over the place of explosions everywhere.

 
At 5:34 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Thanks to everyone for replying with such great stories...a big kudos bar to you all.

I wanted to write one of those mammoth posts with more insight on the day -- shit like how truly awesome it was to see NYers come out in droves to help -- but I also wanted to just hear what you all had to say. And it played out exactly how I hoped it would, so I'm glad I showed restraint.

Well, tomorrow is another day.

 
At 5:41 PM, Blogger rob ronanea said...

i was in florence, italy. semester abroad in college. our program had just started--it was our first day of classes. NYU's campus is an amazing 57-acre plot of medieval villas on a hill to the north overlooking Firenze Centro. olive trees, hills--the whole nine yards (er, meters). paradise.

after our italian class, i was in the computer lab catching up with some buddies who were still in NYC when one friend said "did you hear, a plane just hit the WTC!" now, knowing this guy, my first reaction was "haha, boller, that's not funny." but i decided to check a news website before saying that--and i couldn't load any single news site.

so i called out to the entire computer lab and everyone (about 40 people, mostly strangers, all who had just started this abraod program together) gathered around my comptuer as dave IMed me play-by-play of what was happening. he was watching it from his window. then we found out about DC. my dad works for the federal gov't, but his office is in rockville, MD. every now and then, he goes downtown for meetings--i just knew that today was one of those days. so i had a friend in NYC (thank god IM was still working) call my mom, and sure enough, my dad was downtown.

we heard there were car bombings on the mall--some museums were up in flames, etc. and my dad was right there. granted, i'd find out a day or two later that he had been whisked away VERY quickly with the secretary of HHS and made it home to my mom in about 40 minutes (faster than it would normally take during rush hour traffic).

so then we cried. we hugged. 400 of us. we looked over the hill--at the duomo, the campanella, the uffuzi. one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we longed to be back home, in NYC. i had just moved out of my apt, on water st, 3/4 mile from the site. in the next few days, we heard all sorts of crazy rumors--that our old dorm's foundation had cracked.

luckily, i had a very good friend study abroad in italy the previous semester and he left me his cell phone. i had just put $50 on it (prepaid service) and i was the only one on campus with a phone. an hour later, everyone had called their loved ones, or at least tried to. no $ left on the phone. no wine left, no cigarettes left. just hugs and tears.

we all felt so helpless--we couldn't give blood, we couldn't shovel rubble, we couldn't be with our friends and family. part of me was convinced that if i were in NYC, i'd be in the wetlands that afternoon--downstairs in the lounge. 18" of concrete below the main stage. i knew my friends would be there and there would be sweet songs to rock my soul...

that night, we tried to entertain ourselves--card games, truth or dare, lots of vino. nothing worked. what an odd way to start off a semester.

 
At 7:02 PM, Blogger ts said...

I am a Canadian and was driving a truck in Toronto when I heard. I was downtown, at a stop light, listening to Howard Stern when Gary came in and said a plane hit one of the buildings. I thought of the dude that flew in to the White House years earlier; a small plane or even an hang-glider sort of thing. As the show went on, the horror of it all also went on, and everyone listening learned as I did, in time. I remember Stern stayed on the air for hours after his show was over. I also remember puking my guts up when I saw the CNN footage later that day. I still feel sick when I think of it.

It was the worst thing I ever saw in my short life.

T

 
At 7:08 PM, Blogger Shaun said...

I was in my last semester of college, last semester of being an RA, and I had been working on my thesis until late into the morning as I was on duty that night. I was in a deep sleep when I heard someone pounding on my door. I woke up groggy and half awake – opened my door with some smart ass comment along the lines of “someone better be dead or dying.”

With that 19 year old female freshman resident of mine collapsed into my arms screaming “my parents are dead!” I snapped into reality in the blink of an eye and tried to calm her down.. asking what had happened. She looked at me almost confused and said.. “Were you sleeping? What the fuck is wrong with you, don’t you know that we’re being attached. A plane flew into twin tower 1!”

As I turned my television on.. In that exact moment, the second plane hit the second tower. It was then that I removed a heap of clothes off of my phone that I had kept there to muffle the noise of the ringer. I saw that my messages light was flashing. There were a myriad of messages from my mother, father, sister, and president of the university – calling an emergency meeting of all staff.

At the meeting we were briefed on emergency protocol and what would happen next. We then heard a really loud thunderous roar- and all ran to the window. Air force one and two fighter jets flew over our campus (we later found out that they were decoy planes – flying towards camp David- which is located directly south of where I went to school.)

Even more frightening than that was the military convoy of fully armored marines and army personal that rolled through the main drag of Rowan University’s campus. (**I am not sure if the following information was ever announced to the public of the school- but the following information was divulged to staff members regarding the military convoy.) Exactly 26 miles south of Glassboro, New Jersey- lies a naval compound center that holds the largest military stockpiles of siren gas in the country. The military convoy were on their way to guard this compound against any attack.

That night we held a vigil on campus and the next morning the red cross set up to take blood donations. I felt horrible that I could not donate blood as I was born in South Africa in 1979- so instead I donated $1100 that morning, and spent the semester borrowing my course books from the library. I donated my book money and any spare funds I had left.

My heart and prayers still go out to any victims or their families.

 
At 7:12 PM, Blogger Shaun said...

P.S. My thesis was on the Arab Israeli conflict- with a focus on Iran/Iraq war, and how the United States used that conflict to strengthen their position in the Middle East while combating communisms spread. Ironic that what transpired that morning was the culmination of what I was writing about.

 
At 8:50 PM, Blogger Claven said...

Kinda like Shaun I was about to start my second year of grad school studying international affairs. I had been away from San Diego that summer. I got back in town on Sunday the 9th, and drove out to pick up a friend flying into Vegas on the 10th. From Vegas we drove to the north rim of the Grand Canyon where we planned to hike for the next few days. We woke up around 8:00 am PDT on September 11th. I was still in the tent looking up at the sun coming through mesh top when I heard my friend talking to a campground volunteer. He asked, "Were you planning on flying today?" She responded, "No, we just got here last night." Then he said the Twin Towers in NYC had been hit and destroyed by hijacked planes. For a second I thought he was full of shit. Then I realized that retirees don't make jokes about 10,000 people being dead. I sat up immediately. Then he said the Pentagon had been hit as well.

We got in my car and turned on the radio. I was with a chick friend I'd known since college. We both grew up near DC. She lived a few miles from the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. She tried calling her brother who also lived in Arlington, but couldn't get through. My sister lived in Arlington too, but we couldn't reach her either. The radio news was mostly talking about the firefighters who had been trapped in the towers.

At that point, we realized we couldn't reach anyone and we couldn't do anything. The last thing I said at the time was that there would be no reliable news for the next day, just rumors. We decided to turn off the radio and go on with our plans. About twenty minutes later over breakfast I said, "This is al-Qaeda and we are going to invade Afghanistan." After talking about it over breakfast, we barely said anything about the attacks the rest of the day.

We weren't ignoring the horrors of the world. We couldn't contact them. Over the next few days we hiked across the Grand Canyon. I knew at the time that we were in one of the physically and emotionally safest places in America. I kept thinking about the attacks on the trail and what would be happening in my classes the following week in grad school.

Over the next few days we encounterd relatively few people on the trails. We finished around sunset on the more touristed south rim Friday evening. We reconnected with the rest of the world on Saturday the 15th. Our refuge was gone. But I am ever thankful I was in that place on that day.

 
At 10:50 PM, Blogger The Bourbon Samurai said...

I didn't find out anything till 2 o'clock in the afternoon. it was a terrible odd day.

 
At 10:51 PM, Anonymous mitch said...

Kudos bar to YOU. Thanks for being that guy.

This was slated to be the FIRST 9/11 since that day that I wasn't going to be "alone", thinking

about it. I had a busy day at work, and didn't get to "the regular rags". I went to the bar

tonight to catch some NFL action, as I don't have ESPN this season, and brought the laptop, to

pull the free wireless. And THEN ...

That day, I had the ONE office meeting I had ever had (barring the first five days of

orientation). When we got out of the meeting, the office manager told us about tower/plane 1,

and was listening to the radio. My mind went off. I thought at first maybe it was a big

"oops", but she told us that it was a large plane, not some private job. There were a few other

things floating around my noggin, but basically, I convinced myself right quick that it had hit

its target. Then, plane 2. All doubt left my mind.

Not knowing anyone who would work in the towers or even have to travel there for work, I wasn't

immediately affected, but yet I was just in a daze. I hung around the office for about two

hours just taking in the radio and internet coverage (we didn't have a TV in the office), and

then I called my client (on the other side of town -- I was supposed to go there after my

meeting). They still wanted me to show up (not sure why, as I can't imagine they'd believe

anyone would get much done that day), so I drove over there.

The drive over was powerful in itself, listening to the radio crew go over the newest

developments, but then, at work, the radio was on the rest of the day. Usually, I'm not very

good at multitasking, but that day, I somehow was listening to every detail on the radio while

still taking care of the task at hand. The days were powerful, listening to all the tributes on

the radio. It was one of my proudest moments as an American citizen, being able to see politics

pushed aside to focus on the important issues at hand, everyone kind of banding together.

I know the next year, on 9/11, I was on my way to a client in another state when the

"anniversary" time hit, and they had a moment of silence on the radio in between all the

anniversary coverage. I felt almost as moved in my vehicle that morning as I had the year

before.

Anyhoo, thanks for bringing it up. Thanks for giving me a chance to write. Thanks for listening. I didn't really have anything at stake that day, and some people had everything, but it moved me just the same, and I don't want to ever forget that day.

 
At 10:52 PM, Anonymous mitch said...

Wow, that's pretty fucked up right there.

 
At 11:18 PM, Anonymous JMoney said...

i posted a quick photo series, before, during, after that i took if anyones interested..my story's up above..
http://velvet-sea.blogspot.com/2006/09/911.html

 
At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Rashid Z. Muhammad said...

I called in sick to work that day because I had talked to my ex-girlfriend the night before and arranged a mid-day blowjob. I wasn't getting any at the time, so this was like a golden opportunity that I didn't want to miss.

I was woken up at about 10:15 by an instant message on my computer from a friend telling me to turn on a TV. I turned it on just in time to see the second tower go down. Having only been awake for less than a minute, it was an indescribable moment. As much of a cynic as I am, it was hard to not have a visceral emotional response to something like that. It's hard to feel more helpless than when you're crying through a thick haze of drowsiness.

 
At 11:59 AM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

This whole thread is awesome...as I said in the post above this one, I can't thank you guys enough for taking the time to write your stories. To all those who haven't yet, feel free to keep piling on to what's already been said...

 
At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in Cleveland, OH. My sister-in-law had stayed up late the night before after the kids went to bed. We maybe watched “AI” and drank some beers. I decided to sleep as long as my daughter would let me. I was walking down the stairs and Ginger said she was about to go wake my ass up, a commuter plane had hit the WTC and no one knew what was going on.

We watched in horror as the events unfolded. As the afternoon wore on, I REALLY wanted to go home, I was living in Columbus, OH at the time, but they had just evacuated Hopkins airport, directly on my route. The plane that crashed in PA went over Cleveland airspace, I think the highway was closed and no one knew what was going on.

When I finally made the mad dash home, gas had gone up to around $4/gal (a lot for Ohio) and I was paranoid driving down I71, thinking bad thoughts, feeling afraid, not really knowing what was going on.

The most poignant reminder I have of that day is the picture of my then one year old daughter and her cousin playing. There is a time stamp in the corner of the picture and thankfully, neither of them had any idea what was going on.

-Hilary

 
At 11:17 PM, Anonymous Kristina said...

At the time, I was living with my best friend in a crappy little apartment in the crappy little town of Lacon, IL. I worked the front desk at the hotel portion of the Par-A-Dice Hotel/Casino in East Peoria. I had to be at work at 11 AM that day, so I didn't get up until 10. Got up, took a shower, put on my lame uniform and got in the car.

I turned on the radio, and there was something weird going on: There was a morning radio show I liked to listen to that got over at 10. Seeing as it was just past 10:30 and the show was still on, I just figured it was some sort of special episode until one of the hosts mentioned something about a plane hitting the WTC. I remember thinking, "That can't be right..." and didn't think much of it as I drove to work.

I got to the hotel, punched in, and was on my way to the front desk when the security guard on duty that day (Chris, aka Butterball) came running up to me yelling, "Kristina! Did you hear what happened in New York?"

"Something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center?" I remember asking.

Sure enough, I went into the office just behind the front desk, and the phones (usually ringing off the hook) were silent. The manager had found a TV on a cart and wheeled it in; the gals working the reservation hotline were transfixed.

Since the casino is on a (now stationary) riverboat, and all waterways were ordered closed, the casino was also closed. Since the casino was closed, at about 3 pm a rash of customers came to the hotel to check out of their rooms for the night. Some totally understood - "I wouldn't feel right gambling under circumstances like this," a few people said. Some were kind of confused as to why the casino had to be shut down.

And then there was one lady who was downright ticked. She said to me - and I'll never forget this - "I don't see why you people have to shut down just because some plane flew into a tower."

I never talked back to customers. But this time, I just could not help myself:

"Okay. So, there are thousands of people in New York dead, even more missing, they think it might be a terrorist attack, and you're honestly standing here worrying about not getting able to lose money on the slots? Ma'am, I'm sorry, but I think you need to reorganize your priorities."

I didn't get another complaint from another customer the rest of the day.

My manager came in at about 4:30 to announce that lines at the gas stations were ridiculously long, and that gas was over $4/gal. In some places, it was almost $5.

I got off work at 7 that night, and went to my co-worker Annette's apartment. She was having a candle party that night, but I was the only one to show up. And honestly, I only went because my roommate had a church function and my boyfriend had to work, so I was going to be home alone with nothing to do. Since I was the only one to show, Annette just gave me the catalog while we ate dinner (she'd made goulash, and it was actually pretty tasty). I ordered a set of tealights, and her boyfriend Chad came home. We discussed how surreal everything felt, and then decided that we couldn't stand sitting around anymore and drove to Family Video to drop off a couple of movies they'd rented.

We took note of the gas prices and the apparent gouging (on the way to the video store, gas was still over $4; on the way back, it had dropped to a still-high but more reasonable $2.something). We talked about Chad's future, because he was in the Army Reserves (he never got called up, though). We talked about what this meant for our country.

We got back to Annette and Chad's, and turned on the TV, shocked at what we were seeing. I stuck around for another half-hour or so before leaving because Annette had to be at work early the next morning.

I drove home in stunned silence - I remember turning off the radio, because I couldn't stand to deal with this whole thing while I was driving. I got home, and my roommate had a note tacked to the door saying that she was going to stay at her mom's that night (in Pekin, where we're both from, where I moved back to, and which is a good hour or so away from Lacon).

Ben (the aforementioned boyfriend) called shortly after I got home, and I remember that we talked until well past midnight. I don't remember exactly what we talked about, but I know we were shocked and confused and scared.

A week later - while we were still unsure whether or not there would be a mandatory draft - Ben proposed. There never was a draft, but we got married the following April. I moved out of the cruddy apartment on New Year's Day. I don't work at the Par-A-Dice anymore. But I'm still shocked and confused and a little scared.

 
At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was running my own small company at JFK at the time, and on my schedule for the day was a 730 networking meeting in Midtown followed by a 915 sales appointment at 2 WTC.

the networking meeting ran late, and i never made that sales appointment, thank God. i came out of the networking thing around 850, and as i was walking down 5th Avenue i saw people congregating on the sidewalks, and a strange haze of smoke in the distance. My cell phone rang - it was the last time i was able to get service out of that day - and it was my mother calling from England. She told me about the first plane and i decided to get the hell of the city as fast as i could. i walked to Penn Station and got what may have been the last LIRR train out of the city before they shut everything down.

i'll never forget the thick air of grief that descended over my city that morning - the sight of people in Midtown far away for downtown in the streets on cellphones, crying, desperately calling their loved ones.

When i got on that train - which i made with about a minute to spare - and sat down, i realised that everyone on there was crying. nobody spoke, nobody had headphones on listening to music - total silence, everyone in shock. the conductor came to check my ticket, and even he had tears running down his face.

As the train headed out of the tunnel at Long Island City, looking back towards the city the pall of smoke had gotten huge.

i got home to Flushing, turned on the tv, and the full horror of everything hit me. My cell phone was useless, so i IM'd my girlfriend to let her know i was ok - she's been frantic knowing thats exactly where i'd been heading for - and then started to try and track down friends who i knew had been right there.

JFK was closed - i wouldnt be able to even get to my office for three days - and i spent the a good chunk of the day watching CNN. i cried until there were no more tears to shed, then i cried some more. i spent some time on the stoop of my building, and even out in Queens the silence that descended was eerie.

it wasnt til much later in the day that it hit me just how damned lucky i was. if i'd have been on time that day, i would have been right there in the midst of the madness.

in the days and weeks after, New York became a different place. there was a sense of collective mourning that i'd never experiences, and i hope i never have to experience again. in the months that followed, it drove a rift between me and my girlfriend - she worked the whole day out on Long Island, and i think to truly understand the effect of 9/11 on New York, you had to have been there. looking back, i think i was suffering from some kind of depression and didnt realise it. We made it trough the rough patch, and she knows to leave me alone on the anniversaries when i watch, start to finish, the memorial services (she still think i'm being overly morbid). But that palpable air of dread, terror and grief that
latched itself onto me as i walked down 5th Avenue, and followed me home on the train, that will stay with me always.

Apart from the anniversaries, i try not to think about 9/11 much. even sitting here typing this, i'm in floods of tears. I didnt lose anyone i knew - even the staff at the customer i was due to visit that day made it out ok - but i couldnt love this city more if i was born here, and it changed that day. the weeks afterwards - the endless "have you seen ... ?" signs, the makeshift memorials that sprung up around the city - were just so harrowing.

there were sad side effects that i remember being guilty even thinking about (the Wetlands never reopened after 9/11, for instance) . it felt wrong to smile, to laugh when there was so much mourning going on. The first time i went to see live music after 9/11, the whole audience was subdued as if there was something wrong in what they were doing, as if they felt guilty for trying to enjoy themselves when so many lives had been lost, so many families devastated. in the end i rationalised that if we carried on like that, then the terrorists had won - that smiling and even dancing was, in the circumstances, an act of defiance to those that would seek to destroy us.

Mark in NYC

 

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