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Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America. It was a day I’ll never forget, and a day I don’t believe anybody should forget. It was a day whose images have forever scarred the souls of those who were watching. It was also a day that changed our entire nation.

To me the images from that day are important reminders of freedom. They are reminders of our own vulnerability. They are reminders of the heroes that both lived and died that day. And they are reminders that evil still very much exists in this world. For that reason, I will be sharing some of the images that I remember with great clarity, even today.

September 11, 2001. I was asleep in my college apartment when a friend texted me, telling me to turn on the television. “NOW”, the text demanded. I walked into the front room and nudged my fiance who had fallen asleep on my sofa the night before. “I think something’s going on,” I told her, tossing my phone across the room to her so she could read the text. I turned the television on and images of the first World Trade Center billowing with smoke immediately filled the screen.

At that point nobody knew whether it was a freak accident or something that was done purposefully. At that point I don’t know that it mattered. A plane had just crashed into a building and the weight of that was horrific.

I was, of course, glued to my television when the second plane hit. I saw it hit the building. I was watching it live, as was most of the country. Tuned into CNN, this is what I saw.

I remember I just sat there staring at the screen, my mind slow to absorb the truth of what I had just witnessed. The only words I could eventually muster were “No, no, no, no, no.”

It was after the second plane hit that I first cried that day. It wouldn’t be the last.

Then the Pentagon was hit. There were no live images, just news reports that began trickling in. Yet it was the news of the Pentagon attack that filled me with terror. It was then that the people in our country really understood that our nation was under attack. There was no doubting it at that point.

Before that, it was an attack on a set of buildings. Horrific. Terrible. But localized and far from where I sat watching it on my television. After the Pentagon, it left me and the rest of America feeling vulnerable, panicked, and… terrorized. Were there more attacks to come? Where would the next attack take place? Would anybody we know and love be involved? Was anybody we know and love already involved?

With every moment that ticked away, reporters and newscasters offered different situations, theories, and explanations. The fear intensified with every detail and every image that came pouring through the media.

And then the south tower collapsed.

When it happened, I didn’t realize it had happened until they showed further footage. If mayhem wasn’t mayhem enough, it was now. Reporters started shooting casualty estimates that ranged in the tens of thousands. I remember crying again.

Eight minutes later, reports came in that another airplane went down somewhere in Pennsylvania. I cried again, wanting to turn the TV off. Unable to do so. Unable to do anything but sit terrified, hurting, crying. Praying that nobody I knew was anywhere near any of it. Praying for those who were. Praying that we’d seen the end of it. 19 minutes later the north tower collapsed.

The only thing I remember after that was watching the same images from different angles replayed all day long. Speculation was as thick as the smoke that continued billowing into the New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. skies.

September 11, 2001. At the end of all of it, I remember a country more united than I’d ever seen it before and more united than I’ve seen since. It seemed for a little while there, this country had no democrats after 9/11. No republicans. No religions. No anything. Just Americans. Hurt, pissed-off, determined, united Americans.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing Not Forgetting

PS. Where were you that day? How did 9/11 affect you personally? What lessons have you carried with you since then? Do you believe that it is helpful or hurtful to review those images from time to time?

Oh, and one other thing… have you ever listened to Alan Jackson’s song “Where Were You?” (the song from which I’ve titled today’s post) If not, you should:

 

SDL’s Quote of the Day

“You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes.” ~Walter M. Schirra
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146 comments
Allwaysjust2bme
Allwaysjust2bme

I'm a bit late to answer this one.......I was 21 and working at the T-mobile call center in the Southwest.  I think it was still Voicestream at the time though.  I got to work at 6am our time which is 3 hrs behind NY, and we had a queue of about 110 calls waiting to be answered. I was at the last part of my 8th call for the day when I hung up and went into Aux to finish my comments in the acct. and looked up to see the queue to have still 110 calls and a wait time of 25 minutes for the oldest call. I looked back at my computer and hit incoming to get nothing.  I looked back up at the queue and it was sitting at all zero's.   The week before we had a couple of days where our center was knocked out of the phone tree and had to wait several hours to get calls again, so we thought that is what happened.  After all we had no access to internet or TV.  Just what we needed to do our jobs and aim for 60 customer care calls a day.  It took an hour and a half of waiting before a call from pennsylvania came in and I told him I wasn't sure I was going to be getting calls.  He told me what happened.  I told my nearest co-workers. Others eventually got calls and asked about what was going on too.  The center found some TV's and put them in the break room.  I took my first break and walked into the room right when the first tower was going down.  because I still had to work I was not able to watch much more than for my breaks.  

Kehly K
Kehly K

I was 11 years old (6th grade) and living at Edwards AFB at the time. I remember waking up at around 6:00am (we usually got up at 7:20) to the sound of my Dad rushing around in his flightsuit and muttering to himself, "How could this happen? How could this happen?" whilst my Mom was crying and watching Fox news. My Mom woke us up shortly after my Dad left for work, and had done what she could to maintain a brave face. We got ready like we normally did, but instead of taking the bus to school, Mom dropped the 3 of us off at our schools an hour early (7am).

At school, things were different. There were no children outside playing, just campus aides patrolling the grounds, and that's how it would be for the remainder of the day. I knew something bad had happened, but this was consistent with the regulations for a whole base lockdown, which would only happen if something really bad had occurred. Walking into my classroom the lights were out, the news was on, and my class was watching the events unfold in silent shock. After the first hour of news watching my teacher, Mr. Richards, explained to us the severity of what had taken place, and that the base and schools were on lockdown because our base was considered a high priority target for terrorists. He then assured us that our parents and the other service members were doing all they could to keep us safe, but that we still need to be diligent and cooperative while we wait to be released. The schools released students to their parents at around 11am, after Bush had put the military on high alert.

My mom took us home, where we sat and waited for my Dad to call or email. We still hadn't heard from him when Bush addressed the nation that night. Looking back on it now, it is very much like a scene out of Apollo 13-- the family watching the news while Mom is crying and hugging her children tightly, and all the while she is praying for her husband's safe return. Thankfully, he called later on that night letting us know he had volunteered to be on call, and that he would be home tomorrow afternoon if nothing else happened.

I don't think I could ever put a finger on every emotion I had that day, but I do know I was sad and scared, and I still am to this day. This was on the coat tails of one of my friends losing her Dad in an experimental flight about 2 months before, so the thought of all those people suffering the same fate and being taken from their families and friends so quickly was just unbearable. Though the thoughts and memories I have surrounding 9-11 still haunt me to this day, I am reminded that freedom isn't free.

Heather
Heather

I was in Logan with the bombers.  My flight departed 15 minutes before the ill-fated ones did.  My husband and I leaving for our honeymoon.  We didn't know until we landed in Jamaica and saw the images of the terror we just barely missed.  We cried over the people we saw in the airport that morning, hugging their loved ones.  I'm sure we were the last strangers to see those people.  My family, who knew we were flying that day were crazy with fear.  We were lucky to have been able to email them to let them know we were Okay.  What a long, awful day.

CarolBall
CarolBall

I was asleep, I had a 3 week old baby. My sis-in-law called, we thought she was lying. I went out and turned on the t.v. and there it was. We actually had an appointment at Kiddie Kandids that day, my son's first pictures were taken on 9/11. It was also the first day I heard "How you remind me" by Nickleback, that's what we listened to in the car that day. Day I'll never forget, heck I remember the Challenger explosion and I was in kindergarten then.

MiriamJane
MiriamJane

I was in my Government teachers class watching the news like news like every other day.  When it happened, we were fixated on the screen, none of moved, none of us spoke.  Then suddenly my principal rushed the classroom and shut the tv off.  She said it was too disturbing for us to be watching.  When she left and went on to the next class we set up a look out and turned it back on.  My teacher said it was detrimental for us not to watch it after we already saw the beginning. I'll never forget that morning.  

KittyKatze
KittyKatze

I was in my 7th grade English class when we heard a breif, undetailed annoncement over the P.A. system. When I got home I told my mom "The terrorists are coming!" She said she knew, and we watched the news together. It was a sad day, and I'm grateful no one I knew was hurt. Kudos to the brave resuce workers for their heroic actions on that day.

Tiffani Woodworth-Messenger
Tiffani Woodworth-Messenger

I was getting ready for work and listening to my favorite country music station and they were playing "Only in America" by Brooks n Dunn. They stopped the song part way thru and announced that they think we are under attack. My neighbor pounded on my door and I went to her house and watched the towers fall! Sat there in shock!

Ernest Estrada
Ernest Estrada

What I remember most of 9/11 and the days following was one of the best world series ever, which went to the very last inning of the 7th game before we had a winner. And how the Diamondbacks were snubbed by the "media", when they won fair and square. Wasn't this the "media establishment" still holding onto the sense of entitlement? Only a few reporters and commentors gave full credit to the Diamondbacks, but they were drowned out by the self righteous "haters" and "loathers"! What did they want the Diamondbacks to throw the game? Having spoken to people who have been to New York before and after 9/11 and to those that live in New York and were visiting locally here, the Yankee's losing may have been the best thing for New York. Why? According to those you lived through 9/11 in New York and still live there, it made New Yorkers really reflect and do serious soul seraching; and today New York city is a little kinder, little more friendlier and the people are less "puffed up". If the Yankees won that year many would have remained "puffed up" saying "Yeah, at least we won the world series!" I am not diminishing to the slightest degree, the fire fighters, police officers and innocent people who died on 9/11. It was tragic, but how long will we remember?

Pam Thomas Parker
Pam Thomas Parker

To me that skyline from the highway will always look like a kid's smile missing two teeth. Beautiful in it's imperfection but never the same again.

Ernest Estrada
Ernest Estrada

Pam and new teeth replace the baby teeth. The world didn't stop turning on 9/11, we were all just blissuflly unaware of the evil out there. I was at work and people were talking about it, their friends, family or spouses calling them. Our privlegded sense of security was broken, which was never there to begin with, it was an illusion! It just that we now know it.

Pam Thomas Parker
Pam Thomas Parker

God bless and protect you Rachel. Thank you for your service and your dedication. Stay safe.

Pam Thomas Parker
Pam Thomas Parker

Living in New Jersey, the Twin Towers in the sky line was a gimmee driving up and down the turnpike. I live in central NJ. Driving to my job on Rt.1 in Princeton Junction that Tuesday morning, the sky was an amazingly gorgeous blue. The kind of blue named exotic things like lapis luis or azure. Everyone commented on that glorious sky and how it was a perfect day to play hookie. About 30 min. into my day at work, my mom called me and told me to find a tv, a plane had gone into the Twin Towers. Immediately images of a small single engine type thing were whirling through my head. I pulled a news page up on my computer only to find out it was bigger. I went to the conference room and pulled up the tv. I made an announcement over our intercom for everyone to come watch. We crammed into the room to witness the second plane, then the pentagon. I worked at an architecture firm so everyone was busy discussing the engineering of the buildings and how they were somehow still standing. Then to everyone's horror we watched them fall. We could see the smoke plumes from our building. My phone was ringing. It was my friend from high school in a panic. Her husband worked in the Pentagon and could not reach him. One of my co workers was desperately trying to reach her husband who worked in one of the other Trade Center Buildings that was destroyed by the debris. My office decided to close early so that we could all deal with our personal lives. I drove back down Rt.1 under a flashing sign usually lit with some traffic snarl, now with a more haunting attack message. In a daze I drove on trying to figure out action steps. Cash in case banks went down, supplies on the black market, etc. Food, water, diapers, etc. Duct tape and plastic for the windows. I went to pick up my two year old son at day care. His young teacher anxious. Many fellow parents worked in the city, in the towers. Would her young charges all be picked up that night? I decided to stay and keep her company. We sat with toddlers in our lap singing kids songs while straining to hear muted news updates on the radio. Our school was lucky. A sister location was not. Five kids were never picked up that day. Our train stations and their parking lots became scenes that looked like movie sets for some disaster flick. Only this was real. Plastic tents were set up and those refugees, shellshocked and covered in ash, were hosed off before returning to suburban homes. Friends, neighbors trying to escape a reality of hell. The stories they lived. The images that are etched forever. The man that walked out the tower and just kept on walking. The man who called out sick because his toddler shared her cold, sat at home and watched in horror as his entire office of collegues died. I went home that night and just hugged my son. As if all of these events were not enough, anthrax became dinner conversation. My mail carrier was one of the infected. We had FBI interview us, swab our mail box, and stake out our neighborhood. Town meetings were held to discuss our safety, and what to do about Halloween. Do we send our children out for the sacred rite of Trick or Treat? Time takes the edge off but every time we drive the Turnpike or are blessed with azure skies, we remember. We live with it daily. A few years back when a plane buzzed Manhatten and the fighter jets scrambled everyone realized how raw under the surface the region still is. My coworker's husband who survived the Trade Center still works for the same firm in Manhatten. I saw that news and told my friend to call her husband ASAP. She couldn't reach him. He finally called some time later and said when the plane passed their window they all grabbed their stuff and ran. They all were back in that mode of survival. After it was deemed safe some went back to work, some felt foolish, and some went home. All were grateful again. Some were mad, especially over the statement of it being "a photo op". 9/11 is real here. It isn't just something that happened on a tv screen. It isn't a world event. It was frightening. It was raw. It hurt. My gas attendent was a young muslim kid who was always happy, smiling, friendly, gave lolly pops to kids. He changed that Sept. He was shy, scared, frightened. My mom told him one day - its ok. You aren't hated. Slowly the smile came back around. 9/11 is real here. Not just something on a screen. The sky over New Jersey is always full of planes. Newark, JFK, LaGuardia, Philly, McGuire Air Force, Fort Dix, Tetterboro, and so on. There were NO planes in the sky that week. Silence filled that haunting blue sky. Smoke plumes treked further south. It was real here. So forgive us please if we seem "overly sensitve" during anniversaries or viewing photos. The reaction is visural. It is like being kicked in the gut. May we never have to go through another time like that again.

Fatherhood Isn't For Wimps
Fatherhood Isn't For Wimps

I was in the living room tying my shoes when the phone rang. The caller insisted that I turn on my television......

Rachel Voss Sullivan
Rachel Voss Sullivan

I was in the air, flying to join my unit at a military exercise already in progress in Louisiana. We were prepping for deployment to Kosovo the following month. All of the sudden, the pilot made an announcement that we had been diverted and were landing, and called the flight attendant into the cockpit. She went in and never came back out. We were all very confused - especially when the door never opened on the ground and the ground crew took care of getting us all off the plane. Walking through the airport to find a customer service desk to re-book my flight, I noticed a lot of people standing in a bar for 9 something in the morning. I peeked in. And the first tower began to collapse. I remember saying "what the hell?" and someone turned around, and with tears rolling down her face told me that planes had been flown into the twin towers and the Pentagon. I stood there trying to process it, and then I turned on my cell phone. I had 19 messages. A lot of people knew I was flying that day, and their calls had been almost immediate. I spent the day in the USO glued to the television, much like you described...I didn't want to watch, but I couldn't turn away. When the FAA grounded all flights I called my battalion commander. They had all thought it was part of the "game" at the Joint Readiness Training Center until one of the instructors wheeled a television in and a Chaplain came to talk to everyone. Several people's parents and siblings were unaccounted for. One guy's parents had tickets for flight 11. They had woken up late that morning and missed their flight. Another guy's dad and sister worked in the north tower. His dad got to work late and was still on the ground floor. His sister was sitting on a bench between the towers when the first plane hit. They both evacuated with many other workers by ferry to NJ. The news was coming in so fast, but the information about loved ones seemed to come so slow. My commander finally decided that the 4 of us flying together should rent a car and drive the next day. We got the last car, and I think the last 2 hotel rooms in all of Atlanta, GA. Later that day I stood in the window of the W hotel, one of the tallest buildings in Atlanta, and couldn't help but watch the sky for an approaching aircraft. In the months that followed I began my first of now five deployments to far away lands in support of Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. That first deployment to Kosovo, our aircraft flew over ground zero, relatively low, so that we could all see. I was speechless. There are no words. It was still such a raw wound in the middle of lower Manhattan. I thought about visiting the towers as a college student on Spring Break. I thought about my friends who were bound for Afghanistan on a plane that left the same day as ours. America did change that day - we changed for the better. This year, it is the personal stories of 9/11/01 that are so incredibly meaningful to me. When it was all said and done, one of my friends did lose her father - though it would still be many years before I would meet hear and learn this - he was on the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon. And in the years since, I have lost more than a few friends in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many American's may only think about this once a year, but I think about it every day. It is difficult not to. Not in a debilitating way though, in a way that has shaped who I am...back then I was a young, green 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army who didn't know what I didn't know. Today I am a Major, preparing for my fifth deployment, this time back to Afghanistan. Much has changed since that day 10 years ago, but one thing that remains the same is the rawness of the reality of the attack. Yes, I think re-watching the footage of that day from time to time is important. Painful. Horribly painful, but important. It reminds me why I continue to wear the uniform, and why I am willing to spend so much time away from my family. The defense of our Nation is worth anything. I never want my children to have to watch in horror like we did on that day. To prevent that, I will do anything.

Leslie Watson
Leslie Watson

I was teaching a middle school class of English language learners from several different countries, some of whom were Muslim (refugees from the civil war in Somalia). I remember how frightened they were that war had come to the U.S. as well. Later they were frightened to show any visible sign (such as a head scarf) of being Muslim. Sad that as a result of 9/11, in a country that espouses religious freedom, this is one group we have taken so little time to truly understand.

R Shane McGary
R Shane McGary

I was eating lunch at my desk on the USS Emory S. Land in port in Italy. We were just about to turn off the television and get back to work when the first plane hit. We didn't get back to work that day- my office filled up with most of our division, and together we watched the event play out.

astronauts have always been great for quotes...

Elysia Campos
Elysia Campos

It's a horrible, senseless tragedy, and yet another example that proves that man in incapable of governing himself without God's guidance.

Shelley Hodgkinson
Shelley Hodgkinson

i had two kids at school and a brand new baby , we left really early to get the kids, their school is very close to an airport and we heard that it might be closed..i was scared that i wouldn't get the kids back that day..they were 6 and 9..it turned out ok..but our airport turned into a parking lot..never have we seen so many planes at once,..we are a majot hub on the west coast..i worried how this would effect my kids future and the agony of all those lost lives..it still hurts today

Brenda Hardie
Brenda Hardie

still brings tears to my eyes and hurt in my heart

Pam Thomas Parker
Pam Thomas Parker

I think that those of us that live in the imediate regions of New York, DC, and PA feel more strongly and have a harder time with 9/11 than the rest of the country and world. While 9/11 is a "world event" as some of comments state, it is more intimate than that for those in local communities impacted directly. To suggest we "need to get over it" and not be sensitive in our reactions to the images is insensitive itself.

Jennifer Christian Moeller
Jennifer Christian Moeller

Staci, it was a world event, more personal for some than others. The world is going to talk about it. If it's still that painful to you to see photos ten years later, perhaps you should consider grief/trauma counseling.

Erin Caitlyn Crawford-Petersen
Erin Caitlyn Crawford-Petersen

I didn't hear about it until 2nd hour. But the first plane hit when I was in my first class. We didn't have much homework that day (normally that would have been a good thing but not under these circumstances). The 2 classrooms to have cable were packed. It changed my life only because I am not as naive as I was before. I lost a really good friend (not by him dying) but by him being Muslim and him feeing the racial tension from everything he changed and not for the good. And I have lost many more friends due to the war. And I hope that my brother never has to see Afghanistan like he is hoping. It's a terrible and senseless tragedy and it won't ever be forgotten. It made us stronger. And our nation was better for a while but now its going back to its old ways :(

Katharine Geary
Katharine Geary

Staci, people are going to "throw photos around." Can't control others, can only control yourself.

Jennifer Whelan
Jennifer Whelan

I called my husband he was ok. I called the church, kiddo was ok. I went to the store stocked up on comfort food and ammunition.

Ellen Hilliard
Ellen Hilliard

Many more people were effected by the particles in the air. ...my dearest high school friend died of the effects several years after the initial assault, I pray for all who are still suffering from the horrible results of this attack!!!

Jennifer Whelan
Jennifer Whelan

Awesome blog post. I left the house to drop my son off at his mother's day out program. I decided to pick up an application from the hospital. When I realized I left my cell at home, I came home to find 20 missed calls from my mom and grandmother. I turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit. I was terrified.

Robin Sereghy
Robin Sereghy

I meant KB homes truck, I have PTS and still I am greatful to be alive. A single mom of a 5 year old. I still love America!

Sherri Hare
Sherri Hare

i was on my way to study hall and saw it on the morning news in high school, i looked up and saw the plane hit the first building, and it felt like the whole school just stopped.. we are just watching in the hallway and classrooms.. teachers told us to try to do our work, that did not happen.. Heidi i agree- i just heard recently on care2news that a retired fire fighter has cancer that they believe was caused by the ash when he was helping that day, and he was denied health coverage! that poor man! and the poor women and men who are suffering health issues for their bravery and they are not getting the help they deserve.

Staci Abramsky Risman
Staci Abramsky Risman

I was in Manhattan trying to find my father, who was downtown, fielding calls from relatives, friends and coworkers. Some of us have really lives this and find the pictures really painful to look at even ten years later. People need to be cautious when throwing photos around.

Robin Sereghy
Robin Sereghy

In bed recovering from being hit by a KB homes multi million dollar company, I never recovered and eventually had spine surgery and got no money from sueing them. I can't work and my attorney quit 2 days before the settlement. nice huh? terrorists are everywhere i am on disability :(

Heidi Techmom
Heidi Techmom

Too many heroes who toiled in the smoke and chemicals have been abandoned. That hurts.

Janice Hofer
Janice Hofer

I was living on the lower-east side of Manhattan at the time...

Amy Koninendyke
Amy Koninendyke

I have been an emotional wreck this week thinking about that day. I can't watch any footage, look at pics, or even talk about it without crying.

Gill Donald
Gill Donald

I was in the shower at my hotel on 51st street when my husband called me from his office to say the Tower had been hit by a plane. I assumed a light aircraft and wondered if it would stop my sightseeing trip up the Towers. Then I turned the tv on and my world turned on it's head.

Emily Dingwall
Emily Dingwall

I had just turned 19 on the 9th, between jobs, my mom called me on my phone (even though she was just downstairs, with her daycare) and told me to turn on the TV because a plane flew into a building. At first I thought it was not major, until I saw it of course. It was only 6 am in San Diego, so I knew it had to be huge for my mom to wake me up that early, lol... finally went downstairs & watched it with her & my bro in law, who came to get my niece because he had no work that day. Watched them fall as my mom left the room for a minute, I remember yelling "the building just fell!!" Just shocked. Thinking this is it, the world is ending.

Amanda Richardson Frissell
Amanda Richardson Frissell

I was getting ready for work when I heard something on the radio about it. I went to turn the tv on and couldn't believe what was happening. I didn't go to work that day. I stayed home and got all my husbands uniforms washed, ironed, and packed. I fully expected him to get deployed that day.

Caitlin Henn
Caitlin Henn

I was in a delivery room having my daughter. She will be 10 tomorrow. I left for the hospital after the second plane hit. I delivered her a little before 8pm. Happy birthday to my little girl.

Nicole Johansen
Nicole Johansen

In my college apartment, my roommate woke me up saying a plane hit the WTC & to come watch tv. We sat there crying & watching all day. Had class that evening & we just sat for awhile in silence. Our Prof let us talk about the fears, sadness etc. Then had such wise words about the evil in our world and hope we have in our faith. Ended up being the thing we needed at the time of uncertainty. I feel such a special bond with my roommates as we came together in grief and unity for our country 10 years ago.