My memory of 9-11-01

| September 11, 2008

My son was home on his first leave after joining the Air Force. I’d been planning to take a few days off with him later in the week, but on that day I’d gone to work. One of my workmates stopped by my desk and told me an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center.

We went to the conference room on the west side of our office just in time to watch the second plane hit – the moment we realized that it was an intentional strike. While we all watched in silence, assembling our thoughts and taking in the gravity of the moment, from our conference room window, we saw a plume of smoke rise in the western sky and it continued to rise until it dominated the skyline. We learned from the television that it was the Pentagon, about two miles from our downtown DC office.

Between the images on the television and the ominous cloud on the horizon, it seemed that the whole world was on fire.

Terrorism was nothing new to me…I’d been in Panama in 1976 when terrorists car bombed the Main PX at Corozal and they’d thrown fire bombs off of the Thatcher Ferry Bridge into the military housing area in Fort Amador below. I’d been in Germany near Frankfurt when Bader Meinhoff murdered an American serviceman and used his ID to drive a car bomb onto Rhein Mein Airbase.

But this was in our own fortress, our own country. Our office shut down early and we all headed to Union Station to catch our rides home. The crowds there were backed up out the door of the huge station and the faces of the thousands of commuters were of confusion and disbelief.

Rumors swirled through the station and whispered from ear-to-ear. One rumor said the Capitol Building was attacked (even though the Building was in sight of Union Station and it was obviously fine). Another said the National Mall was burning (why someone would catch a big grassy field on fire is ridiculous). I got tired of the rumors and walked the three  miles home.

Phones were jammed, cell towers were overloaded and only the internet worked. After I accounted for all four of my kids, I settled down to watch Brett Bair’s live reports from the Pentagon.

I remember one clip more than any – a sea of green shirted soldiers pouring from the building being directed by military policemen, until a call went up for volunteers to help with the evacuation. The sea tide changed at once and swept back into the burning Pentagon. To me that became the enduring symbol for this war. Me and my fellow civilians running away from the danger while the military got it’s bearings and rushed back into the flames.

Of course, my son was called back from his leave, but since he’d come home on an airplane and all of the airports in the area were closed, he had to take a bus all the way back to Nebraska. After we dropped him off at the bus station two days after the attack, we decided to walk around the city which was eerily deserted. The normal frequent siren wails were absent and many of the restaurants were closed.

Passing by the White House, we noticed that the line for the tour was understandably short. I asked one of the security guards if we could get in line (even though we’d been there two years, we’d never been in the White House). He said that we could and that President Bush had ordered that the White House tours continue…that everyone continue business as usual. So we got in line and finally got a tour of the White House – my small act of defiance in the face of terrorism.

Feel free to leave your memories of that day.

Category: Politics

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  1. defendUSA says:

    WOW!! I was not that close…But, in a carpool line in NC. The first words out of my mouth, I kid you not, when I heard a plane had hit the WTC were, “Fucking Terrorists!” I then drove across the street to Wal-mart and purchased the rest of their only patriotic fabric in stock…ripped it right there, tied a strip to my rear wiper blade and then folded the rest of it. It is still sitting on my dash board today. I will not ever let this day go by without doing something physical to remember what was lost, the continued sacrifice of our Military. Today, it will be a seven mile walk with four US flags and a sign in hand. I will pick a corner periodically, and hold up the sign, “who remembers?” I will count every honk or thumbs up.
    You’ve got to stand for something…
    America, the best place on earth.

  2. Kath says:

    A friend called our office and said a plane had hit in NY. We all thought what a terrible accident, how horrible. And then the second plane hit.

    Bec. we are very near a lot of military bases we started hearing all kinds of rumors of what was or was not happening or was going to happen — there was so much going on and it seemed out of control. I sat on the phone with a girlfriend as she described the smoke from the Pentagon that she could see out her office window.

    The next few days seemed a blur as the stories and the pictures all came out. There was too much information, I felt overwhelmed.

    And then there were the planes overhead, the patrols — that sound is what I remember. That even when you were in your own backyard, trying not to think about it — then you would hear the planes overhead, just circling and circling.

  3. September 11, 2001, started out as a beautiful day, weather-wise, similar to the weather we’re having today, except it was warmer. I was at work when I got a call from my wife telling me that something was happening in New York City and the Good Morning America program was interrupted by a special report. Nobody really knew what was going on yet and they were reporting a fire in the World Trade Center. I have a small 5 inch TV/radio combination and I hooked it up and tuned in on Channel 13. They were showing one of the Towers that had smoke coming out of it, and that’s when they reported that a plane had hit it, but at that time, nobody really knew what was really going on and thought it may have been an accident.

    A few minutes passed and the second plane hit the north Tower of the WTC and we all knew this was an attack by terrorists. I called my wife back and she was also watching when the second plane hit. Word spread in my workplace about the attacks and that I had a TV tuned into the news of it and I had at least 10 people crowded around my desk, watching in horror at what had just transpired. We could see the people in the windows, gasping for air and trying to keep away from the flames and the heat. We saw a man and a woman, holding hands, jumping to avoid the flames. It’s been estimated that for most of the jumpers in the upper floors, the fall could last 10 seconds and most were conscious until they hit the plaza below.

    9/11: Remembering the Jumpers

    I make it a point to go to Mass on each anniversary of 911. My prayers are with the victims of 911 and their families and all the rescue personnel that tried to save them.

  4. GI JANE says:

    I was stationed in Yongsan, South Korea at 8th Army HQ in Ballistic Missile Defense. Needless to say, the pucker factor and the anger levels were quite high. Everything went into lockdown and we frisked every Korean national coming onto post. No ID, no enter. Funny how the ususal student anti-American protest for lunch bunch ceased all activities for awhile. Might have been the prospect of them getting their asses beat by angry GIs I was pretty livid and pissed off that I wasn’t stateside or another place where I could get deployed faster. I made in back to Ft. Campbell, though, in time for deployment to our attack into Iraq.

    It’s damned important that we not just remember the heinous attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the one thwarted by brave people over a field in Shanksville, Pa., all of which killed nearly 3000, but resolve that it never happens again.

    You’d have thought that Pearl Harbor taught us a lesson, but 60 years had passed, memories faded, and complacency set in.

    Our borders leak like sieves, our immigration policies are lax, and we have slid back into complacency.

    The foolish hesitancy to profile will probably result in another catastrophic attack on America. I hope for the sake of my country, that I am wrong. But, I don’t think so.

    The problem is–and this cannot be stressed enough–is that the enemy has patience. They understand us better than we understand them. They will continue to exploit our openess and unwillingness to completely destroy the Islamic nation-states who breed, fund, train, and indoctrinate their terrorist spawns.

    Unless or until we are willing to reciprocate with the same brutallity, they will be back. Til then, this war ain’t over by a long shot.

    That is a cold, hard fact.

  5. usnretwife says:

    Sept. 11, 2001 was a rare occasion in that I didn’t have to crawl out of bed at o’dark hundred. I was laying in bed reading when my husband came in and told me a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I got up in time to see the 2nd plane hit. We were glued to the tv for the rest of the day. That year Sept. 14/15 was set for the dedication for the WWII Memorial here in Pierre, SD. After much discussion the state government decided to go ahead with it. I was glad they did. It was like the Greatest Generation would help guide us through this. But Jane’s right, we are sinking back into complacency, at our peril.

  6. Martino says:

    It was my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. The picture taken of her at 8:00 a.m. is calming and heart warming as she held her book bag and smiled in pride.

    By 1:00 p.m., my wife was nearly hysterical and begged me to come home. I work in a skyscraper and she was convinced my building was next. We went to our church to see if anybody was there. It was packed with stunned citizens who were clinging to our silly notions of faith.

    At 10:00 p.m., I was exhausted from the coverage on T.V. and went outside for a smoke. Standing in my driveway, I caught site of my neighbor approaching. We looked at each other and said nothing. After a few minutes he said: “It’s been a long day fella. Try to get some sleep. We’ll need our wits tomorrow.”

    On Sept. 11, 1683, the Muslims were turned back at the gates of Vienna. This crushing military defeat lead to the eventual elimination of Islam from Europe. Too much of the Western World is either ignorant of, or willfully blind to the fact that Islam has been at war with all non-Muslims since Muhammed gathered his first army in Medina.

    Sept. 11, 2001 was a simple continuation of the war that has been simmering since the 7th Century.

    It might behoove us to wake up.

  7. Laurie says:

    I was running a little late for work that morning. I was just getting ready to turn off the t.v. when I saw the footage of the WTC after the first plane hit. They didn’t know what happened, but I saw the size of that hole and said that was no accident. If it had been a small hole, a small plane, yes maybe it could have been an accident, but not that. Not long after, the second plane hit and everyone knew. I went to work, and I remember being very numb. I remember the looks on the faces of my coworkers. Someone brought a t.v. in to the lobby and I went out there every so often to see what was happening. People were crying. Two things stand out so clearly still and I can still hear the words and the voices when I think about it. One was when a coworker who is in the Navy reserves came in my office and told me the Pentagon had been hit, and he said “this means war”. The other was when I went to check the t.v. and saw the first tower fall and I said but what about all the police and fire trucks and everything, and a coworker said “they’re gone, they’re all gone”.