Where I Was

By Kate Riley September 11, 2011

My parents generation will never forget where they were the moment they heard that JFK was shot. This generation will never forget where we were on September 11, 2001. 

On September 9, 2001, we boarded a plane bound for Puerto Rico.  We originally had plans to spend September in New York City but switched our plans earlier that month and decided to visit New York City later in the fall instead. 

I distinctly remember going through security at the San Francisco International Airport and both of us noticed and commented that the security agents weren’t paying attention to the items under surveillance, they were more interested in their own conversation.  It was disturbing, but all we could do was shrug our shoulders and continue on our vacation.

Then came September 11th, 2001.

We’re west coasters, but that morning we were on east coast time having arrived in Puerto Rico two days before.  That morning, I went to the hotel’s workout facility, placed my headphones on my ears, and started my run on the treadmill.  I looked up to see the television in the corner of the room and saw what looked like an airplane that had hit a tall skyscraper.  I thought to myself Hollywood was trying to market another blockbuster movie with an airplane that hit a building and it was some sort of evil character involved.  I kept running on the treadmill.  It never crossed my mind that it could possibly be real. 

People began to gather around the television.  At this point, I recognized it was the World Trade Center in New York City.  The other hotel guests were pointing and commenting, and wondering how an airplane could possibly have hit the building.  It wasn’t a Hollywood movie, this had actually happened.  I hopped off the treadmill and headed back to our hotel room.

I walked into the room to see my husband watching the same video on the television.  We, like so many, wondered how this could possibly be happening.  Then we watched the second plane hit and our jaw dropped.  For several minutes we were speechless.  I turned to look at my husband.  He turned to looked at me.  I said, “Who could do such a thing?”  He said, “It’s Bin Laden”. 

Then the Pentagon was hit. Then the World Trade Center buildings fell, one after the other.  We, like all Americans, were horrified, petrified, in shock.

That morning we were scheduled to check out of our hotel, but we sat by the television until the afternoon still unable to understand what had just happened.  That evening we checked into a new hotel, and sat by the television for days, just like the rest of the country.  We weren’t on vacation anymore, we were mourning the incredible loss of what we had witnessed. 

world trade center us flag

The airports were closed for several days and we were unable to leave until September 15th.  We flew back home through JFK airport, still in fear and shock that our country had been attacked.  

Later that fall, we visited New York City as planned and the wreckage of the World Trade Center.  Words cannot describe the feeling of watching the embers still burning months later. Today marks ten years, and the pain, anger, and sadness still remain.  Yet I am proud of the heroism of so many citizens on that day, proud of our country’s resilience in the wake of this horrible tragedy, and so proud to be an American.

Where were you on September 11th?





  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve found reading and writing about that day has been cathartic. It’s so very important to remember how all of us were connected ten years ago, and never lose that feeling of unity we forged through these tragic events. Here’s my story of that day; I was teaching a class of second graders when I heard the news:


    I can’t imagine flying through JFK that following week. I’m sure that’s an experience you’ll never forget. Again, thanks for sharing your story so we can all heal together.

  2. I was teaching. I am a native New Yorker, but was living/working in Dallas TX at the time. I had family back “home”…and a hubby that was doing contract work in Australia. With the planes grounded we didn’t know when he would ever be allowed to come home-it was agonizing to say the least; being separated from the man I loved was AWFUL-but the families who lost loved ones forever are the ones in my heart today, for they suffered the ultimate loss.

  3. I was at home with my 3 year old and expecting our 2nd child. I remember feeling scared and afraid for my family. What was going to happen next? Those poor people that lost their lives! And then seeing the heroism in those that helped and would put their own lives at risk to save others. I am proud to have become an american through naturalization. Sweet land of liberty! What happened 10 years ago will never be forgotten. God is a just God.

  4. I was in English and my English teacher refused to stop teaching. She said her class was more important that what was on television. Several teachers came in to our classroom to report what was happening but she could care less.

    It wasnt until the principal came on the intercom to tell all the teachers to stop teaching and turn on their televisions.

    Needless to say this is the same teacher that told me I was not capable to completing any course work above remedial classes. Eh.

    I remember it like yesterday.

    I will NEVER FORGET.

    Rashon aka Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  5. Thanks for sharing Kate. All of this is so emotional. I can not imagine having to fly right after this horrible day. Ten years ago today I was in grad school and living at home with my parents. My mom woke me up and we just sat in the living room and watched the news, speechless. I recall heading to school and crowding around another TV in the student lounge and watching more coverage. The sadness seems stronger now that the shock has subsided. Hard to believe it has been 10 years! I am grateful for those that risked their lives and thankful for all the emergency people (including my husband, a fireman) that continune to serve our communities.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing Kate. I was at work on Sept 11th. I was working at a restaurant and I remember driving into work and hearing the same news updates on the radio. Instead of listening to them I kept changing the station trying to find music…I gave up and put in a cd instead! I got to work and EVERYONE in the whole place was gathered around the tv’s in the bar watching what was happening. That was the first I had heard about what was happening and people were crying that had relatives in New York. One bartender even had a relative that worked in the World Trade Center and she was histerical! Its mind boggling that we all thought that this could “never happen in the US”…I am praying for all the survivors and their family today! So grateful for their sacrifice!!

  7. American Airlines Flight 77 flew directly over my house at low altitude at 9:35 AM on September 11, 2001. Everyone knows what happened moments later. I did not hear the plane because I was sobbing uncontrollably at the scenes unfolding on television. Minutes later, my younger sister called from her office near the Pentagon, her voice shaking, asking what we should do. “Go home. Right. Now,” I told her. Five members of my parish were murdered in the Pentagon that day.

    My son was a young boy who went on to become a United States Marine patrolling the streets of Ramadi and Baghdad so that other children could return to school and have some chance at living normal lives.

    God Bless America.

  8. Wow, I was at home and saw it on the television. Shocking. Horrifying. Two months later, I traveled from TX to NYC to help however I could. I posted photos from that trip on my blog today. They aren’t great, but are my little piece of history and are proof to me of what my eyes saw. You are right – embers still burning. Sad day. We will never forget.

  9. I was 16 years old, a junior in high school who didn’t understand the magnitude of what was happening. I remember sitting in homeroom, confused and having never felt more afraid in my life. Our Principle, a veteran of the US Marine Corps, called attention via the intercom telling all of the teachers to continue with our lessons. Not one teacher did. Silence fell over the entire building and the only voices were those of reporters on the televisions.

    I cried for days, I didn’t go to school for the rest of the week. No one could say anything to comfort me. I still cry today when I recall how I felt that morning.

  10. I couldn’t even share in my post today…all I could do was post a picture. On that horrible day, I sat on the couch with my newborn son in my arms, and tears in my eyes the entire day. I was afraid of the world I’d brought my son into.

    Thank you for sharing your story…we are all united by that day.

  11. I guess I’m of your parents’ generation, as I remember learning of JFK’s assassination while sitting in third-grade music class – our teacher sent us back to our classrooms to wait for our parents to pick us up. On Sept 11, 2001, I was at work when a co-worker who was running late that day called to tell us what happened. With no TV or radio in our office, I got online to find out what was happening. The women working in the call center adjacent to my office were instructed by their supervisor to keep making those calls. Of course, no one wanted to speak to them! Finally, their supervisor gave them busy work. As much as I tried to accomplish something that day at work, it just wasn’t what was important at that moment…

    We will NEVER forget.

  12. I was in Alaska and my husband was temporarily deployed in Guam. I woke up to him leaving a message on the answering machine. It’s certainly a day that changed our lives as a military family.

  13. Sadly I remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot and where iwas when America realized what was happening on 9/11. Many baby boomers will too. My husband and I both worked in skyscrapers in Atlanta, which were quickly evacuated. Our house was in a flight path so we often heard air craft but what I remember most during that time was the sound of silence.

  14. I was at work, here on Long Island, a twenty something at a job that I thought I hated. Today, I’m bound to those coworkers and can remember all of their faces from that day as it so horifically unfolded. When I think back, I can recall so much of the images and sounds of that day, but not just the ones on television. I remember my boss sending us home because we were all in saddened shock. The sky was sapphire and it was still and sunny as I drove past a regional airport on my way home, listening to the news. There was this odd silence. Living about 25 miles from Manhattan, the sky was usually abuzz with airplanes, constant and low, but for weeks the sky was eerily silent. It was sort of like our collective grief. There was so much chaos, uncertainty and sadness surrounding us that often, there were just no words. Still aren’t really. I will always remember. God Bless the brave souls of that day and their loved ones, and all of us a nation.

  15. I had never considered that some people were on vacation when everything happened. It feels impossible that it has already been ten years.

    This is a touching tribute. Thanks for another reminder to stop and remember.

  16. Hi Kate

    New Yorker that I am, the morning was spent rushing around in a New York minute to get to work…and then the news…we knew so many people who perished…but other strange strokes, too–one friend decided not to heed the internal loudspeaker that said all was OK you could return to your office, another friend stopped at the post office into the towers and that made all the difference…another was late to the subway and when she came up from underground thought she was caught in a parade at first but realized it was debris…another person we know actually called in sick (why that day?)…one of our best pals, a firefighter, made it through the 93 attack only to succumb this day…and my Dad, who actually worked as an ironworker on the construction of the towers during the 70s calling me to say, “They’ll implode, they’ll go straight down, I looked at those blueprints a million times, I know where they’re going…” So somber here today, the streets are strangely, acutely quiet…

  17. I was working at “Shop At Home” (now closed) which was a television shopping channel. The facility where I was working included broadcasting facilities. When I got to work that morning, the first plane had hit the first tower, and I saw the first replay on the news in the breakroom, just after I got my coffee to take upstairs to my desk. By the time I got upstairs and settled at my desk, the bank of televisions by our cubicles had been switched from the required Shop At Home programming to the news broadcast. This in itself was odd, but when I looked up and noticed that a SECOND plane was hitting the building, we were all shocked. I worked my shift that morning, but kept an eye on what was happening, live, on television. The Shop At Home security team had locked down the building, which normally had very strict security anyway, and were actively patrolling the parking lot and building. They were afraid we could possibly be targeted as a facility that terrorists would want to take over to broadcast for their purposes. A sad, frightening, day. Couldn’t wait to get home to my children and husband. I have prayed today for those lost and their families…. and I also pray that those who terrorize will receive their appropriate reward….

  18. I was in college, on my way to my first class of the morning. I had just parked my car and was listening to the end of a morning radio program when they started announcing live that the WTC had been hit. By the time I left class, we heard the news about the 3rd and 4th planes going down. Living so close to Washington DC, I knew a lot of people who were worried about family members who worked at the Pentagon. My father-in-law’s Pentagon office was just below where the plane hit. If he had been working in the Pentagon that week, he would have died too. I remember everyone being so scared, so many rumors about bombs and other things in DC. And then it seemed like for awhile all of America joined together to take a stand. I miss that feeling of unity!

    Thank you for sharing, Kate!

  19. We lived in Germany at the time- my husband being an MP in the Army. He was on leave(vacation) on Sept. 11th as we were getting ready to come back to the States, visit a few of our favorite places in Europe before coming home, and civilian life. We had left for a few hours and came home to several msgs. on the answering machine. Just as we were about to listen to the first one, the phone rang and my husband was told to turn on the TV. We watched with tears in our eyes, mouths gaping open, and wondering what had happened. DH put on his uniform to go to work. We were in limbo. We had many unanswered questions at that point. We got back to the States, as scheduled, on Oct.1st. Safe and sound. We’ll never forget.

  20. I was living in NJ, in a suburb of NYC. 47 people from my town died in the WTC. As I saw the 2nd airplane slam into the Tower, I knew I was witnessing the murder of innocent people. Then, as the Towers came crashing down, I fell to my knees and could not stop crying. My daughters, then 1 and 4 were running around, and stopped and came over to hug me. I didn’t let them go for a very long time. Today I am so very sad, but I am reminded of how swiftly life can be taken from us so I am grateful to be here. I try to enjoy my children and husband even if they get me mad sometimes. I try new things. I am even running in a half marathon next month, something I would have never thought to do. I started to write a post on my blog, but could not finish it so I ended up posting a photo. Thanks, Kate, for allowing me to write a bit and for sharing your day, ten years ago.

  21. I was in New York and I was changed this day, ten years ago. I posted about my remembrance today too. Your story gives me chills, as everyone has a story about how they remember “our generation’s” moment.

  22. I was at work in Columbus, Ohio. Our CEO came down to our managers and instructed them to allow people to go home. It was the longest hour commute of my career.

  23. My husband and I were holidaying on Magnetic Island, a small island off the coast of northeastern Australia.
    We were in bed, my husband was asleep and I was watching the West Wing, when it was interupted by a news break alerting us to something that had happened in New York. I woke my husband and the station crossed to Peter Jennings and that’s where we stayed…watching in absolute horror.
    We’ve since visited New York …something neither of us will ever forget

  24. I was seven months pregnant and scheduled to work at a blood donor clinic in Vancouver, Canada. People were feeling so helpless that day – rows and rows of kind people sat in silence for hours waiting for their turn to donate their blood, and for the opportunity to help in some small way. I worked by far the longest shift of my twenty-one years there that day – emotionally and physically exhausted – it helped to be contributing in some way and to see the good in people!
    I remember feeling like the world I was bringing my son into had changed for ever.

  25. I’m probably not your parent’s generation exactly, but I do remember the JFK shooting quite vividly. I was quite young at the time, but it was an event that left a deep impression. Not really because it was Kennedy, but because it was an asassination of our President. As a child, that was hard to grasp and frightning.
    I think, however, that every American living on 09/11/01 will forever remember the details of that day. What a day of heartbreak for our nation.

  26. Hi Kate,

    I was working for an American company in Sydney when this happened. Because of the time difference allot of aussies woke up to images of the planes crashing into the wtc at 6am. Like yourself, we were confused as to what we were watching. Please beleive me when I say that aussies were in shock and horror at what was happening. I remember asking my partner “if this was the start of world war 3?”.

    Generally, people didn’t know whether to go to work or stay home. The streets were deserted -even in Sydney. We were frightened because we were a very small country with a very small armed forces. Alliances with other countries were discussed, questioned and reconfirmed (including England and the US). Terrified is the only word that comes to mind when I think about that day.

  27. Beautifully written. I was in high school when JFK was shot. I have had three gut wrenching days in my life. I hope that is it. Ann

  28. I was asleep, exhausted by keeping vigil, when my sister called and told me to turn on the TV. My mom (82) was in the hospital, critically ill. I was sad and shocked…by the attacks and by worry about my mother. She died a few days later.

    I’ll always associate the sadness of that day with losing my mom. I miss her still.

  29. I remember where I was: dropping off my daughter at school and then heading to the office, physically far removed from NYC, but emotionally at the foot of WTC that day, like so many others. Today, we went to a healing field – a field of more than 3,200 flags, one for each life lost. We read about the people our world lost that day – who they were, what they were like, how they are missed. I captured some of those stories here: http://twelvehats.blogspot.com/2011/09/healing-field.html

  30. I was 21 still living at home with my parents (in Connecticut), getting ready for work while listening to the radio. Gary Craig on 96.5 was the first person I heard the news from. First it was unclear what happened, he just said that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I remember thinking some small aircraft must of clipped one of the buildings flying too low or some mistake like that. Then I went to dry my hair and my mother came running in yelling that a another plane just hit the other building. It all started to sink in when I saw the images on the television. I continuted on to my job which was at the appliance and TV store, Bernies where I watched the terror unfold and the buildings collapse on the giant wall of TV’s. Even though I live only a few hours away, I have never been to ground zero…I just can’t get myself to go.

  31. I worked in Jersey City, NJ on 9/11/01, directly accross the Hudson from the WTC. I was in my office when the first plane hit. We all rushed to a window, and saw the second plane hit. We stood watching silence and worry, not knowing what was happening.
    We were evacuated from the building and I went to a friends house in NJ, as all the bridges and tunnels to NY were closed and i had no way to get through Manhattan, home to Long Island.
    As we were driving to her house, we saw, out of the back window, the first tower fall, and moments later, the second tower went down.
    Its a day I will never forget.

    Two days later I was coming home on the railroad from NYC and a firefighter was on the train. He truly looked exhausted, and i gave him a fresh bottle of water I had just bought at Penn Station. I guess he was one of the lucky ones.

    God bless all who perished.

  32. I live in Sydney Australia and I had a 3 week old baby at the time, my baby and I were in the upstairs bedroom when my husband came up to tell me that a plane had hit the WTC, it was about 11pm Sydney time, we were watching the newscast from America when the second plane hit. We were dumbfounded – we finally went to sleep about 4 hours later. I then did nothing but watch the tv for the next few weeks, especially since I was up feeding my boy at all hours. It changed the world. I have a photo of the towers from our trip to NYC a few years before taken from the Circle line ferry, there are two small planes flying in front of the towers. I love NYC – always have, always will, I hope to return there one day. My son is now ten, cannot believe how fast the time has gone. Thinking of all those families who lost loved ones xx

  33. I was at home in Brisbane, Australia with my 16 month old son. I rang my mum for a chat and she asked if I had been watching tv. I turned it on and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was crying, unable to comprehend what was happening, worrying about what sort of world my boy would grow up in. My daughter arrived on her due date, on the one year anniversary. At the time, when people would ask my due date, it was always a bit sad because of the memories and feelings it would bring up in people.

    TDM xx

  34. My husband and I were at home getting ready for work (we live on the West Coast). I had to leave for work right after the second plane hit. I can remeber being scared driving to work, wondering if our country was now at war.

    I couldn’t believe both towers had been destroyed. I visited the World Trade Center in 1984. There was a beautiful restaurant on the top of one of the towers called Window on the World. The views from the restaurant were unbelievable. I can remember gazing at the Statue of Libery from the restaurant thinking “its looks so small and green”. The entire day of Sept. 11, 2001 I thought of the Statue of Liberty, how much I love our country and how this could have happened. I wondered why so many people seem to hate Americans and hate our county so much.

    The company I worked for at the time did business all over the world. For weeks after the attack, we received fax after fax from countries all over th eworld saying how sorry they were about what had happened. The owner of the company posted all the faxes in the lunch room. I still think of those faxes and the good wishes people sent us.

  35. I was wearing a long yellow jumper with white striped t-shirt and black shoes. I was walking through my midwest school’s office and noticed everyone watching the TV monitor. Just as someone said that a plane hit a tower, the second plane entered the scene. I had a moment of panic and grabbed the phone to call my dad in southern Maine to find out if my brother-in-law was traveling that day. He was supposed to be on Flight 11 out of Portland, but a last minute change put him on another plane. His boss kept the originally scheduled flight.

    I was five when President Kennedy was shot. We lived on Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska. I was playing outside when my mom came running out of the house with a bowl of cake batter in her arms, sobbing, “The president’s been shot! The president’s been shot!” I didn’t understand, but I remember the emotion felt in the room watching the funeral on television and was mesmerized by Caroline and John-John.

  36. I am so amazed to see that everyone felt the same way I felt that day. It was a very sad, and scary day. I was feeding my 5 month old son when I turned the t.v. on, and the first plane had hit, we thought it was an accident, until we saw the second plane hit, then we knew that it was a terrorist attack. Then we heard about the pentagon, and flight 93. They had cancelled all flights after the 2nd plane hit, so that night, as we lay in bed with our boy, we heard a plane flying, and my husband and I both wondered out loud what that meant. It turned out to be the military, thank god. My son is now 10 years old, and knows about that day. I made sure he knows how united we americans became after that day, how hurt and sad we all were, and how very proud we all are to be Americans.

  37. I will never forget sitting in my chemistry class where my teacher had turned on the television to watch the coverage. We watched the second plane hit, she took one look at all of us & turned it off. Today it hits me more than ever, that one moment of watching that second plane hit and the fear we all felt. May we never forget those who were taken that day, may we always remember how precious our freedom is.

  38. I woke up every morning to NPR news and shortly after my radio came on, the plane hit the Pentagon. I immediately turned on the TV and watched in shock with my teenaged nephew who lived with me at the time. We both had to go to school, I had returned to college, and tore ourselves away from the news. I dropped him off at school and got to my 8am class. It was a medium sized biology lecture and everyone just sat their stunned. The professor told us all to go home and tell our families how much we love them. I went home and shortly after, they closed the university for a couple of days. I remember not wanting to look at the disturbing images, but not being able to look away either. Those images just ripped at my heart and I will never forget. A couple of days after 9/11 I went down to the blood center to donate for the first time, because I felt like I had to do something and that seemed like a way to help from the west coast. I have been a regular blood donor since that first time.

    My cousin’s husband should have been at the WTC for work that day, but it was their daughter’s first day of kindergarten, so he and my cousin took her to school together. Thank God.

    I was 4 when JFK was shot. All I remember was my mom crying and the funeral on television. I can still picture the caisson (sic) and the children with Mrs Kennedy.

    Thank you Kate, for sharing your memories and inviting us to share ours.

  39. I was 6 months pregnant with my son…on my way to work as a 2nd grade teacher. I, too, thought it was the filming of some movie. When the second tower was hit and I heard the shock in the reporter’s voices as I continued to watch and the first tower fell. We immediately took stock of my dad, whom travels quite a bit and was scheduled to be back east. He was stuck in the airport, but safe. I drove my little daughter to day care and taught my second graders like usual. Although we were all going through the motions like in a dream, I found peace as I pretended to be calm for my students. We even conducted our Back-To-School night that evening, with only a handful of parents in attendance. As the days progressed, I was pleased to see the renewed sense of patriotism in our community. Although many consider the heightened security and delay it causes a nuisance, I am grateful. I think they catch a lot more than we even hear about on the news.

  40. In England it was the afternoon when the towers were hit. I was in a charity shop and the radio was on. My first reaction was ‘TWO?’ Nobody else in the shop seemed to have heard or react. I was in shock as I drove home with only the radio commentary telling me what was happening. My imagination was nowhere near the real horror I saw on tv when I got home.

    A month later we flew to Florida and walking around Disney I saw people wearing t-shirts with the US flag on and the slogan ‘United we stand’. I wanted one that entwined the US and UK flag saying the same thing.


  41. When it happened i saw it live, living in australia it was very late in the night and i was breastfeeding my 4 month old twins…they had only a few weeks prior come off life support, nearly both of them dying from rsv bronchiolitis. I wa sused to being awake so late at night as they had been in hospital about ten weeks of their short little lives. I panicked but couldn’t take my eyes off the tv as we were getting continuous coverage,,,then when the secon one crashed…my heart was broken and my world just became so much more fearful…i was scared for my new babies and my four other children….my world certainly changed that night….we certainly felt the pain…xxx

  42. Hi Kate. I got married the day before (1oth Sep) in Israel and had spent the day (11th Sep) in a hotel in Tel Aviv, catching up on some sleep. I remember the phone call to our room, my newly husband was out, I still cannot remember whose voise was it on the phone, but it had advised me to turn on to CCN. I was still half asleep and at first I was not sure what it was I was watching, could it be?!?!The minute it hit me I jumped out of bed and went to look for my family and we all sat and watched it together. We had overseas visitors to our wedding from Sydney,Melbourne, London, etc. The ones that got on their flights that morning got to their destination on time. The rest had to stay with us for several days up to a couple of weeks. I remember my fear of flying to my honeymoon. We are now living in Sydney and have our 3 beautiful boys. .I keep thinking of how to explain this day to them.
    My heartfelt thoughts are with the American people. God bless.

  43. Hi Kate, I’m from Australia and I remember it was night time here, around 10.30 or 11 I think. I was in my PJs and my mum yelled out to me from the living room. When I first saw the TV I thought she was watching a movie. Then reality hit. I spent the next 4 or 5 hours in front of the TV in dis-belief.

    I think most Aussies also remember where we were when the tragety took place and we all mourned with you.


  44. Thanks for sharing! We were all moved in immeasurable ways that morning. I was there, downtown standing on Broadway looking up at the towers. After the first plan hit, everyone in my office looked around and tried to figure out what happened. A woman in our office got a call from her husband on the street to tell us a plane hit the tower. From our offices on the 33rd floor we could see paper and debris raining up and across, not just down. We stood and watched in horror as the 2nd plan hit the south tower where I had just left a job working there. I occurred to me that just an hour earlier I was walking out of the PATH train in the WTC and bought my breakfast there unaware what was about to happen. AFter that second plane hit, we grabbed out stuff and left. I made a few calls, one to my dad uptown in his office, to say I was leaving. My dad informed me we were under attack. I told him I was leaving.
    I saw and heard the most awful things happen to my fellow Americans that day, things no human should ever see. I felt like I was on the front line going into war. A colleague convinced me not to take the ferry from the Financial Center home to Hoboken so we started our trek uptown and out of hell. Just a few blocks up, we turned to see the towers and at that exact moment heard what can only be described as the sound of pure evil. The first tower fell and we ran as plumes of dust licked our heels. We grabbed a few girls who were alone: running and crying and carrying their shoes. I asked a few of them where they were headed and they said NJ. I told them to come with us and they did.
    My parents didn’t know what happened to me until hours later because phone lines were jammed. Weeks later when we were allowed to return to our offices, I heard 6 or 7 voicemails from my dad, each growing in concern for where I was until the last call was him sobbing pleading with God not to take me and asking me to please call and come home. He had assumed the worst and hoped, in some way, that his pleas to my voicemail would bring me back.
    My older brother is a Jersey State trooper and he boarded a boat in NJ that morning when no one heard from me, determined to come to downtown NJ and bring me home to my parents himself.
    I finally got through to my mom around 1 pm and will never forget the relief in her voice when she picked up, sobbing, and I said, “Mom, it’s me.”
    I made it home later that afternoon, covered in white dust, and walked into my apartment to see some friends from high school who lived further from the city and to some strangers they picked up along the way. Along the way, stores set up stands to give us water, people asked total strangers if they were OK and countless acts of kindness ensued.
    That day, and the days after, changed me in immeasurable ways. 9/11 demonstrated the worst of
    them, but the best of us.


  45. I was a sophomore in high school. I hadn’t heard about the attack until I had sat down in my seat in my first class. Everyone was talking about it and we went into the next room to watch it on television. We then saw a plane hit the second tower. One of the girls in my class started to sob, her grandma and aunt were flying that day. Later I found out that they were on one of the planes that hit the WTC. It was so hard to watch the pain her family went through. Even though I lived in Utah, we were still affected there. I hope my children never have to see something like that in their lifetime.

  46. Thank you for sharing your story, and for giving us a chance to share ours. I was working at our church when the news came over the radio about the first plane. I remember thinking how could anyone not see the building they just crashed into? When the second hit, I was confused and scared. I went into the sanctuary to pray, but could only ask, “What’s going on, Lord?” I remember calling the school where my kids were to see if they were sending everyone home. It was an awful feeling- so vulnerable, not-in-control- and yet knowing that God is still a God of love and patience and kindness.

  47. That day is like yesterday to me. I can remember it all. Besides all the footage repeating over and over I remember other details about that time in history. I remember being scared. Scared to fly, scared to drive near an unmarked truck, scared of everyone for a long time. I remember panicking that my friend and her fiance lived in NY and her husband’s subway went right near the towers. I remember her telling me she saw the second plane hit and she felt stupid bc when she saw the plane she thought it was a plane with water to put out the fire for the first. I remember flying out to NY to visit that friend that Christmas. Flying right past ground zero and crying. I remember all the firefighters on my flight that came in for memorials and crying more. I remember going out to have dinner and drinks and finding out those bright lights I could see down the street were ground zero and wanting to cry again. Ten years that the memories of this and sights of the lost are like fresh wounds.

  48. I remember being on the phone with my sister in law, I can’t remember if she called me or me her. I just sat on the couch watching the television in shock, I could not believe what my eyes were watching. The other strange thing is I had a 4 yr old and a 16 month old at home who had not waken up for the morning which was very unusual for them. So when my sister in law and I were on the phone it was as if I was there alone in the stillness of it all.

    My doorbell ranged my best friend and her husband had driven down to visit, they had no ideal what had happened. When I opened the door the weather was so calm and peaceful, the sky was so blue. But there was such a stillness as if time had stopped. I told them what had happened and they just looked at me in disbelief. Then the three of us just sat there and watched the television in shock. Suddenly I had the thought my cousin Eileen she works in the finance district, is she in that building I started to panic, not know is she okay. Thankfully she was, she worked in another building.

    I know my husband eventually called I know the kids eventually woke up but I have no memory of anything else on that day. I found out 10 years later that was the same day 18 years before that my husband lost his mother on in a terrible car accident hit by a drunk driver. Her car exploded they couldn’t even recognize her body just her wedding rings. Unfortunately 10 years later on that day my son called to tell me was arrested for drunk driving.

    So this day, this date holds has held agonizing pain for me and my family as well as the country. Prayerfully (through prayer) God has helped us make it be something more than pain, anger frustration and disappointment . I heard a statment today that struck me, sometimes it takes generations to heal a people (not a person). We are a people with God’s help we have come a long way. My prayer is that God will continue to heal his people

    K. Smith

  49. My husband and I were preparing to take our 15 month old daughter to the Children’s Hospital for surgery on her thumb. When the VHS “Baby Einstein” video she was watching came to an end and automatically rewound, we saw the first tower burning on TV. We drove to the hospital, Phoenix was eerily silent, the freeway signs warning not to go to the airport as all flights were cancelled. After her surgery, the doctor told us his wife was in NYC — we appreciated hearing about that AFTER, knowing it would have to be a distraction to him.

    The fear of the unknown, not being in control, was every plane in the air about to crash… this is the feeling I remember. But my baby going into surgery was the main topic of my prayers.

  50. I was on base at the Ped’s office with my 8 yr old son. We were stationed in Lakenheath, England. While waiting, the sirens went off and the announcement came on that the base was on lock down. That means no one on or off. The office workers turned on the TV in time for all of us there to witness the second tower go down. We were all in silence. I don’t think anyone breathed. The Ped saw my son and then we went to sit in the waiting room since we weren’t allowed to leave. The air was stale, the people stonefaced. They were in shock and they were mad. I just remember the stance they all had. All of us had. We’re ready to defeat those enimes both forgein and domestic so let’s go get ’em! To this day, when I close my eyes to remember, I see that office, those men and women in uniform, and that TV. And then I remember that 95% of the people in the towers were able to get out. And like other posters, in the darkest hour when all seems lost and frail, God is there.

  51. It’s hard to think about this day like many Americans. I was in college at the time and just before I headed out I was talking to my attorney about a discrimination case. She told me all government offices would be closed and I didn’t know why, she explained and we both thought omg we hope this isn’t the act of so called Muslims. And it was. My hart sunk for all those in New York, but sunk more for the innocent American Muslims ( including myself) who would later be blamed for this horrific act that we had NOTHING to do with. I hope this event does not continue to instill islamaphobia in the hearts of Americans because true Muslims mourn this day just like every other American. I will always remember this day, but will not be blamed for the actions of extremists who hijacked my religion. Peace love and unity. A true American!!!

  52. I was in the 8th grade. I remember waking up and as usual turning on my radio to my favorite radio station. Then the radio host starting sounding funny….I remember feeling curious because the morning show I listened to was always sarcastic and joking. Then there was silence, about 30 seconds, he comes back on and says a plane had hit the world trade center. I thought to myself “ok, I don’t even know what that building is” then I thought to myself “How could that pilot have let that happen?!” Then he continued talking and starting saying words like “terrorist attack”. I look back and think to myself, I didn’t even KNOW what that word meant!! I lived in a community and country where we didn’t have a REASON to know what that word meant! I finally felt super uncomfortable that I ran upstairs and saw my parents watching the T.V…..the image just gave me goosebumps! 3 minutes later the second plane hit. I remember being SO confused and not understanding the real threat that was happening, only knowing that something was very, VERY wrong. Being that young, the vulnerable feeling was immense and it has scarred me for life. I never EVER want to feel that way again. I was helpless to do anything…….

  53. We were at home on the West Coast getting ready for work. We both had gotten up earlier than usual that day. We heard about the WTC on the radio first and tuned in just after the second plane hit – we saw the towers fall on TV. We were rooted to our couch, but knew we had to leave to do our jobs. When I picked up a co-worker on the way to our National Sales Meeting, she had no idea that the towers had been hit – she didn’t have TV and had not turned on the radio.

    Our company chose to continue on with our sales meeting. Our sales person from NYC was a mess and I couldn’t blame her. She knew people who worked in the towers, she knew people who worked near the towers, she couldn’t get a hold of any of her family (even though they weren’t at the WTC) and she had taken a United Flight from Newark to SFO the day before – it was the same Newark to SFO leg as United Flight 93. I remember wishing that the owners would just let us move the meeting up one day, we were all pretty distracted, although it was comforting being around others.

    I think the thing that strikes me is the arms the tragedy has — a sorority sister of mine lost a friend in the towers. My best friend was seated at a table at a wedding two weeks after 9/11 with a young man who had made it out of the towers alive. And many of the heroes of Flight 93 were from my area. I spent yesterday looking at many of the photos from then and from now and I could feel the sadness all over again. I explained it to my 11 year old daughter yesterday who was 14 months at the time. I tried to get across to her how sad the day was without scaring her – it was a tall order.

  54. I was 16 and doing an exchange in Paris. By the time I got home from school at 5pm and found out what had happened, the towers had already fallen. I thought the French responded so well- I’ve never seen so many American flags in Paris and the American Embassy and Church were littered with flowers and candles. We also participated in a moment of silence at school that Friday.

  55. My husband had just graduated basic training in the Army. I thought for sure he would go off to war and I wouldn’t see him again for a year or ever! He called me and assured me he wouldn’t be going anytime soon because he still had to do his job training. Sure enough we were together a month later. He did go to war but it was about 3 years later and only for 8 months. We were very blessed! He served at Sadam Hussein’s son’s palace.

  56. I was like you, I thought they were talking about a movie. I was taking my son to school and was half listening to the radio when I heard that planes crashed into a building. I thought WOW what will they do next? Until I got home and was getting my other son ready for the day and turned on the TV only to find out that really happened. I just remember feeling numb, my husbands work closed for the day and we got my oldest from school. I just wanted to be with my family.

  57. I was at Columbia University, in the city. Still remember how beautiful the day was. It was very surreal. I wanted to get to my mom who worked a block from WTC. I wanted to hear from friends who worked there. Just a couple of weeks prior, I was there with a group from grad school working on a presentation. Fortunately, the girl who worked there and offered us to use the conference room, made it out ok. but a couple of my other friends, one very close and dear to my heart, weren’t so lucky. and my mom, well til this day, she suffers from respiratory illness. so many people were affected by the events of that day. we can only continue to pray for the families left behind and those who still struggle emotionally and physically.

    thank you for sharing..

  58. September 11th, 2001 was the day before my first baby’s due date. I worked at a structural engineering firm in Midtown Atlanta but just couldn’t take it anymore. I took my maternity leave early. And I’m glad that I did because I was home on 9/11. Jon was home too…we had just moved and he didn’t find a job until November 2oo1. That morning, Jon came up to our bedroom and said “You need to come downstairs.” Normally, I probably would have clubbed him or something. Nobody wakes me up and gets away with it. And I was so tired. But there was something in his voice that made me get up without question and follow him to the TV.

    And I saw it. The first building. Like others, I didn’t get it. I didn’t know what I was looking at. But I knew it was bad. I remembered that area from my Working Girl days Manhattan very well. I remember the retail area of the World Trade Centers. I remember standing on the observation level of that building and looking out so far that it seemed the world went on forever. And I remember wearing a navy blue, polka dotted Ann Taylor jacket and white linen skirt to an interview that I had at a financial services company on a spring day back in early 1991. I took the elevator up…up…up and remember thinking that THIS was what NYC was about.

    When we watched the second airliner go through the second tower, it was absolutely surreal. . My sister in law worked a block away from WTC and called us from her office in a panic. She had not idea what was happening. Just saw papers flying outside her office window. Through my head the words: “The people. The people. The people.” Jumping from a burning building. Calling their loved ones to say goodbye. Those people. It cut like a knife. Didn’t it?

    I went to the hospital in the middle of the night on September 13th. And on September 14th, my labor was just a side event to much bigger things going on in the world. My wonderful doctor, Jose Garcia, tried to smile when he came into the delivery room. But I knew he was sad. Going through the motions. Unplugged. I asked him to turn on the Memorial Service at the Washington Cathedral. I could see his relief. Nobody in that room wanted to be disconnected from our country. If we looked away, it would be gone. And we all needed to be together.

    We all watched the service together. When Holly was born, I asked Dr. Garcia if he had any suggestions for her middle name. I wanted it to reflect that time in history. Not just the bad, but the good that came when America was united…if only for a short time.

    “Columbia,” he said. It means “United States.” –“Hail, Columbia” was our unofficial national anthem before the “Star Spangled Banner.” So Columbia it was. Holly Columbia Roscoe was born. She will turn 10 tomorrow. A sweet, innocent little reminder of that day and that time. And all the babies that lost their mothers and fathers the same day. Of life going on.

    Jon deployed to Cuba when Holly was six months old…and will leave for Afghanistan in a few months. We feel blessed to do our part. And even though so much has changed, I can still feel the magic that is Columbia.

    Thanks, Kate, for all the beauty you bring to our homes and all the inspiration you provide. Thanks for remembering this day so profoundly. For letting me hijack your comments–I have loved reading everybody’s reflections. It still brings tears to my eyes. We will never forget the people.

  59. I was a freshman in high school living in Michigan. Young, naive, sheltered. Just trying to get the hang of a new social environment and feeling very self-conscious. My orchestra class was supposed to be starting. We were told to exit the orchestra room. I had one friend in the class (a boy, whom I had a small crush on) and we talked excitedly about what might be causing the interruption. We were herded down the hall into the choir room, which had a TV.

    I was talking loudly, laughing, excited to be sitting next to a boy. I have no memory of any teacher speaking at all in that classroom. They simply turned on the tiny wall-mounted television. Gradually the chit-chat died down. My split-second reaction was, “Oo, is something exciting happening?” because like many teenagers I believed my life was plagued with boredom. It must have been a full 10 seconds before I began to understand what I was looking at. Suddenly I was mortified. This wasn’t “exciting”. This wasn’t something to break up my boredom. This was an event so horrific it was beyond my comprehension. I will never forget that feeling of gut-wrenching shame that my first reaction was so self-absorbed.

    I watched the second tower fall.

    I then went through a familiar cycle of emotions, the same cycle most of us experienced. Confusion, shock, terror, and blistering anger. A lot has changed since then, but as we all know the effects of that day are deeply rooted in this country. Here’s hoping we’ve come out wiser.

  60. We were in Uganda, out in the bush, but our son was actually able to get through on my cell phone to let me know a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center (getting a call through was NOT an easy thing so far out in the bush). While we were on the phone the second plane hit. After we ended the call I turned our radio on to the BBC. Meanwhile my husband was at the nearby bush hospital to pick someone up. They weren’t quite ready so he went to visit his friend who served as the construction manager, and he found him watching the live coverage on his television (Gary was one of a very few who had a t.v. in the area). While they watched, the towers fell. Later that evening all the Americans in the area met at Gary’s to watch the BBC World New and then a half hour of CNN. It felt surreal, like something you’d find in a Tom Clancy book but not in real life. A week later we attended a memorial service at the U.S. embassy in Kampala, the capital city.

    On a side note: we’d bought round-trip tickets through the Belgian national airline which went bankrupt after 9/11, leaving us stranded in Africa with worthless tickets. We’d planned to be there for 14 months (June 2001 to August 2002) but in the end had to fly home in June 2002 when the new airline for Belgium offered to honor the Africa-to-Europe portion of our tickets, but only if we flew by the end of June. Then we had to buy new tickets to get the rest of the way home. And it felt so bizarre to arrive in Europe and see guards armed with large guns patrolling the airports. The world had changed so drastically during that one year!

  61. It was late night here and I remember turning on the television and I thought it was world war 3 happening, as most people I could not believe what I was seeing and still to this day it saddens me to know the impact that it caused to so many peoples lives. I do however admire the american spirit in the way that you guys carried on and supported each other. As with many other people I can only describe it like a bad dream and it must have been horrible for the whole country.

    I absolutely love the work you have done on this website as well. Being a stay at home I have repaired the washing machine, added a wash basin in our toilet room, and made a small deck out of an old pallet among other things, fixed the lawnmower and I am completely multi skilled now. Your site is inspiring proves also that we can do it.

  62. I will never forget, like so many others. I was teaching high school, and happened to turn on the tv during a class break. My mother was a flight attendant for United, and I knew she was scheduled to leave from the east coast that morning. It was hours and hours before we learned that she had been asked to take an earlier flight, and had already landed in San Diego by the time the firsts plane crashed into the tower. Those first hours were hell. I watched it all happen on tv, and then dealt with my students’ reactions as we tried to continue our afternoon classes with no success. When I remember, I think of those people affected-my mom knew some of them. We were happy it wasn’t her, but so sad for all the others. Still seems unreal.

  63. I remember when JFK was killed that I was a young girl… and I stayed home from school sick that day.. I remember how scared I was.

    9/11 We had just moved to the Oregon Coast.. my mom was visiting and I remember how paralyzed we felt and frightened … my husband was so busy (he is a police chief). My mom and I were in shock and it was not a good feeling being so far away from my children and grandchildren. My daughter moved to Philadelphia a short couple of months later and had a baby the next June… I went to stay with her for six weeks.. we went to NY while I was there and it was so shocking.. I had never seen anything like it in my life. We stayed in a hotel right behind ground zero.. I remember crying as I walked by all the shrines of people gone. signs looking for missing people.

    Ten years letter.. it is still like it was yesterday.

  64. I was on my way to work. Don Daily from the local radio station broke in and first made the annoucement that a small plane had it the World Trade Center. A few moments later, he came back on and said it was believed to have been a commerical plane. I knew right then, what was happening. I called my brother and told him to wake up, to turn the T.V on. That the U.S was under attack. I made it to the office before the 2nd plane hit. I had the T.V. on by then and watched it hit the tower. The other people in the office didn’t get it. They didn’t get the people jumping. I was in the process of explaining it to them. When I saw it. I think I stopped breathing. I remember going OH CRAP! She’s going! The South tower swayed and shifted. I knew then, that she was about to go. I remember one of the girls in the office asking me what I was seeing and before I could start explaining the tower started coming down. I remember not being able to breath. Holding my breath and just crying, because I knew what it all meant. One of the girls asked where did all the people go? I just looked at her and shook my head. I couldn’t explain it. The North just came down. No swaying, no shifting! Just down it went! I remember I started to shake and couldn’t stop. Traffic stopped going up and down the streets. The phone stopped ringing. Nobody came in the office. The title from Allen Jackson’s song “Where were you when the world stop turning” is very fitting. Because the world stopped turning for a time on that day

  65. I know I’m a year late to this comment thread but I’m a new reader and wanted to add my story to the thread. I was a freshman in high school on September 11th and was outside on the school fields for gym class. Part way through the class, a teacher came outside and said that we all needed to go into the school now. When we entered into the gym, the entire school was there along with a few tv’s and everyone was silent and just watching what was happening. I remember being very scared. Why was this happening? Are these the only planes? Are we safe? Is my family safe? My older brother was a senior that year and he contacted my mom at work. She wanted us to come home immediatly but the school refused to let anyone leave. We were stuck in the gymnasium terrified over what was happening outside.

    The other thing that I remember most about September 11th was when I found out that the terrorists had come through Maine. I’ve lived in Maine my whole life and the thought of someone like a terrorist being in our little Maine airport wouldn’t never crossed my mind. We’re trusting, we’re caring, we’re small town wonderful but the terrorist attack ruined that too. I don’t think I can accuratley describe the deflation of ones state pride when it come out that we let them in. Maine let them in. It’s just another way that we are all connected to this terrible event. Another way the country has changed with no going back.

  66. I had returned after mourning for a friend who had died that morning. When I saw the tragedy on TV as it was happening, I did not believe it. I went to see my next door neighbour who was a journalist. I had said, if this is true then its war. It is the most terrible bombing on innocent people.

  67. How did your husband know it was Bin Laden? I don’t think he was a household name at the time- but I may just not have known. Wasn’t the kind of thing that was on my radar screen at that age.

  68. I am 65 years old and remember exactly where I was when President Kennedy was shot and I could describe the next week of mourning and burial if asked as well. I will also remember every small detail about Setember 11th for the rest of my life. This year on this sad day, I spent in Prague in the Czech Republic where there is a small memorial to the firefighters who died on 9/11. In the early evening as we were returning to our hotel we happened upon a memorial service being held at the site. It was very touching to know that others around the world were also remembering the sad day.

    Enjoyed your post and by the way, my husband said the same thing, “it’s Bin Laden”. I had never even heard of Bin Laden even though I had considered myself to be well informed about current events. He’s a real estate appraiser though, like yours! I am also though, so I guess that proves nothing.

  69. I haven’t checked in on your blog in a while, so it’s random that I clicked on this post…I was also in Puerto Rico on that day. I’m from CA but had been in PR since late August on a student exchange program at the University. I had been sleeping and my Puerto Rican roommate woke me up to tell me to go downstairs to the dorm buildings only TV. All that day, I only saw the same few fuzzy video clips followed by HOURS of island reporters interviewing locals on how they felt about what happened and if they were afraid of attacks on the Island. Needless to say, to this day I feel a disconnect to what happened as I never saw most of the footage that was shown in the states. I didn’t share the fear of attack that my loved ones back home felt or hear the stories of tragedy and heroism.

    Every anniversary I find myself glued to the television as i watch hours of replayed coverage, interviews with survivors, timeline breakdowns, etc, etc. It wasn’t until this year that I realized that on my return journey, I very well may have walked the same path that some of the victims of hijacked flights did as my route was out of Newark, NJ, headed for SF. After all these years, I finally understood the feeling of unease above and beyond the usual holiday travel, that I encountered when I boarded that flight. Even though my experience wasn’t typical to most Americans, I will never forget.

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