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DPChallenge Forums >> General Discussion >> 9/11 memories
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09/11/2018 08:57:42 AM · #1
It all started almost exactly 17 years ago, to the minute.

I was on a plane from DC to Boston that went over New York 30 minutes before the first plane hit, and then worked on my agencys emergency response website for the next year plus.

Five years later, I created this as part of a group 30-day self-portrait project:
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What are your memories?
09/11/2018 09:21:10 AM · #2
Coming home from my son's first morning at kindergarten; I drove up to the house and wondered why my husband's car was still in the driveway. He should have left for work already. I walked into the house in time to turn the corner into the living room and see the image of the second plane hitting the tower and my husband jumping up from the sofa yelling "Oh my God! It's not an accident! Another plane just hit! It's an attack!" He looked at me with a look on his face I never want to see again and my body went cold. Robotically I picked up the phone as he explained what had been happening. My mother answered the phone. "Hi hon!" --- "Mom, is Dad with you? Turn on CNN". The moment it all changed for us.
09/11/2018 09:56:28 AM · #3
Being in South Africa I wasn't as close to it but the television sets were still showing CNN everywhere I went.

9/11 holds a more personal meaning to me though because today marks 4 years since my Dad died.
09/11/2018 10:23:45 AM · #4
Originally posted by GinaRothfels:

9/11 holds a more personal meaning to me though because today marks 4 years since my Dad died.


Oh, Im sorry, Gina. I hope your memories carry you through today.
09/11/2018 11:30:10 AM · #5
I overslept and the phone woke me up. A friend told me to go turn on the tv.

I didn't move from it for 3 days.

To this day, it all remains incomprehensible to me.
09/11/2018 11:31:20 AM · #6
I came up from the subway at Union Square. I noticed a groups of people looking downtown, more confused than anything else. When I looked, I saw one of the towers on fire (the towers were about a mile away but clearly visible. a very clear, beautiful day). It looked like there was a hole in it, with fire coming out. It looked very, very wrong. It was too terrible for me to look at. I went into work and watched news coverage instead. Then around lunchtime or so I started wandering home to Queens. I walked uptown to Lindy's and had something to eat. The city was eerily quiet. I tried the subway, and believe it or not, it was running. The E Train took me to Queens.

And I stayed there for a week or so. The neighborhood was Jackson Heights, mostly Colombian. Life went on normally there, which in itself was jarring. I was traumatized the same way most people were. I offered help within my skillset, which was computers, I thought maybe I could create a site for finding the status of people, but couldn't find a taker. Lots of offers of help were pouring in.

When I did make it back to Union Square, it was like a shrine to the missing. Pictures of them were everywhere. The square was full all day long, with people making music, preaching, looking at the pictures and shrines set up everywhere. Just about three weeks later, all the pictures and shrines were removed. That is what I will always remember Giuliani for. Regardless of anything he says today, to me he will always be the man who removed the memorials to the victims of 9/11.

I just realized something. When Trump was elected, I had the same feeling I had when I saw that hole in the tower. Something was very wrong, and the consequences were beyond what I could imagine, and would take years to unravel.
09/11/2018 12:34:38 PM · #7
We were supposed to take ' . substr('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', strrpos('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Isaac and his cousin Ethan to Disneyland for the first time on September 11, 2001, but the park was closed ... we ended up going the next day, though judging from the relative lack of crowds, a lot of people didn't.

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09/11/2018 01:29:29 PM · #8
Originally posted by levyj413:

Originally posted by GinaRothfels:

9/11 holds a more personal meaning to me though because today marks 4 years since my Dad died.


Oh, Im sorry, Gina. I hope your memories carry you through today.


Thanks. September 11 is never easy.
09/11/2018 01:57:32 PM · #9
That's a hard one, Gina, to have personal sadness linked with a notorious day. In a strange way, many people share the grief, so the emotion can even seem supportive. Maybe my mother would understand. Her brother died on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Hope you're doing well.

Here's another 9-11 story.
For twenty-five years I worked at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, in the maintenance shop mainly. It's about three long blocks north of the World Trade Center towers.
That day I as I walked to work I remember noting how beautiful it was, crystal clear sky flocked with attractive clouds.
I came back down the elevator to the first floor, where the other shops were located, along with Receiving and Security. The hallway was empty but for a few people hurrying towards the exit. Curious, I followed them. Outside a group of people were on the street corner all looking up, looking south, talking loudly and gesticulating. Smoke was pouring out of the north tower and there was a huge diagonal gash in the building's upper portion. It was just so chillingly there. It took all of fifteen seconds to realize this was no "ordinary" accident but a terrorist attack. We were in shock but kept jabbering away out of raw amazement and horror. It had happened just a few minutes ago. The emergency cars and trucks were streaming to the scene. The sirens were blaring non-stop, a cacophony of wailing at a multitude of pitches, lights flashing and revolving. Someone said that people were jumping out of the top floor windows, and I turned away, not wanting to see this. People started streaming by, north on West Street, by the Hudson. They were shocked and wild-eyed, smoky dirty, bedraggled, crying, some bleeding. Like refugees fleeing a war zone. We felt helpless, like we were floating out in space. Scraps of paper blew by, in the air and on the ground, debris,confetti even, from the destroyed offices. We heard that the radio news-people were talking about attacks all over the place. Panicky rumors were rushing through the building crowd.
A few of us decided to go up to the roof, eight stories high. We got up there and surveyed the scene, feeling even closer to it all. In a matter of a few minutes we saw a plane arcing towards us from the southwest. I thought it was a military plane on a flyby. But it came closer and closer, and we wondered what it might be doing. It was breath-takingly close. We couldn't see the south side of the south tower, but we heard a really loud thud as that second plane hit it. We went nuts, looking at each other, cursing, what's going on, what do we do? We ran downstairs. If anything, everything had ramped up several notches all over now.
My wife, Shelley, was teaching that day at City College (CCNY) up in Harlem. Someone told her a plane had hit the World Trade Center, and she figured it was an accident. Then a student came into the classroom and said the Pentagon had been hit. She said, "Let's not get hysterical," thinking that some panic had set in. After class she went to a south-facing window and saw the smoke down at the opposite, lower, end of Manhattan. When she got back to her office I was able to reach her by phone. But after a few minutes someone stuck their head through the doorway and said the building was being evacuated. I told her, "I have to go." Then she went to look out the window again and the towers, having fallen, were gone. Now she panicked, thinking we had gone down there to help out. She kept calling the shop but no one answered. A bit later I was able to call her again, so she was quite relieved.
At 4:30 I left for home, in the outer borough of Queens. The subways were down in southern Manhattan so I had to walk up to 34th Street to catch a train. It was announced that only emergency personnel would be allowed below 14th Street next day, so I stayed home. All planes in the country, I believe, were grounded. I looked west out our apartment window that night and was awed by the calm, living several miles from LaGuardia Airport and being used to planes, from Kennedy airport as well, being part of the background atmosphere. Next day I tried getting to the college but was stopped at 14th Street. The following day I got through. The gym, on the second floor, was taken over by the Fire Department and the Port Authority Police, but the Fire Dept. soon relocated. The theater and adjacent areas were commandeered by the Army. Nearby them tents were set up for search and rescue dogs. We in the Maintenance Dept., five of us, were put in charge of supplies for the Port Authority Police. We worked twelve hour shifts round the clock for weeks, maybe more, I don't remember. Across West Street the Hudson shore was dredged so that barges could be brought close up to be loaded with everything that had to be removed from the Trade Towers site. After a few days huge trucks started hauling debris to be off-loaded onto the barges. Most impressive were the trucks loaded with the steel beams of the structures, huge and still steaming. Men hosed down every truckload to cool it off and keep down pollution. This, too, went on round the clock. At night the scene was brightly lit with powerful arc lights. We, too, kept up this wearying routine for what seemed forever, for the duration.
My partner, Alex, lost his nephew, Nestor. He worked for that big law firm high up in Tower 1. He was trapped by the flames and couldn't escape. His mother, Alex's sister, also worked for that firm, but started her day there at 10 AM. So Nestor called her and told her, "Don't come down here." The daughter of one of the painters, Annibal, a gentle bull of a man, worked in the tower, and he rushed there to find her. He was turned away several times, but kept trying to get in. She survived. So many stories like that.
The emotional aftermath lingered for some time, but has pretty much faded away. Though my heart still stops when I see an airplane coming in low, at a certain looping trajectory.
09/11/2018 09:28:56 PM · #10
How are your lungs, Rich?
09/11/2018 09:50:18 PM · #11
Full of hot air.
09/11/2018 10:37:54 PM · #12
I was asleep in bed with my 10 month old, and the phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing. No one calls at that time and constantly calls unless it was an Emergency from England and dire news. Picking up the phone, Rose's Dad, said "Turn on the TV the tower has been struck by a plane" and promptly hung up.

I turned the TV on, still half asleep with a struggling waking baby and trying to understand what he was talking about when he said Tower. I had never heard of it. As I sat watching the 'tower burn' and all the speculation that the news hosts and on ground reporters where talking about. I spotted an airplane on the left. The ground people where still talking, I watched the airplane go into the next tower and was screaming "No" the TV was a shambles as they where looking and trying to grasp what was going on.

I just stood in my living room, clutching my baby, crying and saying " No, no, no" over and over. It wasn't real. Then everything seemed to happen in a rush on the TV, people talking, crying, screaming, more planes. It really was horrifying. And I wasn't even there, I was on the other side of the country and no way infected by this or knew anyone that was involved. But it ripped my heart out.

It was surreal, my parents at the time where boarding an Airplane in Italy at the time this all went down, and where held at gun point in lines and every single possession was taken off them and every other passenger. They where allowed 1 book, nothing else a book. No one knew what had happened at that point.

To this day, it still rips my heart out. And hearing from ' . substr('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' posthumous and ' . substr('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' streetpigeon their first hand accounts, has me again, streaming in tears and my heart breaking for them.
09/12/2018 01:23:23 AM · #13
I live near Washington, DC, and at the time, I worked for the US goverment 4 blocks from the White House.

I flew to Boston that morning for work, going over Manhattan 30 minutes before the first plane hit. I had planned to return home that afternoon, so I didn't even have a bag with me.

Both planes hit while I was on the Boston subway to our regional office. When I walked in, no one had heard anything (this was before everyone had a cell phone, and smartphones hadnt been invented yet). News trickled in slowly for the first bit. I remember frantically trying to get to various news websites, but everything wa jammed. Then we found a TV just on time to see the towers fall.

My day-long workshop was cancelled; we all spent the day huddled in front of TVs in our hotel rooms (I was able to get a room since no one was arriving), scared out of our minds about being downtown in a major city full of high-rise buildings. Meanwhile, there were reports of a bomb at the State Department, another plane circling the Capitol, and a fire on the National Mall.

I called my wife and left a message to pull the kids out of school and head west. Anywhere. Anywhere other than near DC. She didn't get the message until it was all clear, and I didn't know they'd stayed home until later.

Many of us took the train home the next day, passing through New York. Before arriving in Newark (a short ride further south), we stopped on a bridge and were told there was a bomb scare. That was a harrowing addition to an already tense situation.

Arriving back in DC, it took every ounce of willpower to get on the subway home. Deep in a hole was the last place I wanted to be.

I then ended up heavily involved in my agency's response to the attacks, leading what we put on the web. Some of the most rewarding work I've ever done.

Three months later, a thunderstorm woke my wife and me up, straight from deep sleep. In my groggy mind, a nuclear weapon had gone off, and I threw her off the bed away from the window. That reflex has submerged since then, but it's still there.

For years, I avoided the news each 9/11.

My then-four-year-old is now a senior at NYU. I went with her to the memorial in Manhattan and Ive taken her to the memorial at the Pentagon, too.

Message edited by author 2018-09-12 01:25:23.
09/12/2018 01:24:29 AM · #14
Thanks very much to everyone for sharing!

Message edited by author 2018-09-12 01:25:11.
09/12/2018 11:26:55 AM · #15
Everyone reacts to trauma differently. I didn't have any more evidence or knowledge than anyone else, and yes the second plane was a terrifying shock that put our brains on high alert, but I felt no fear after the towers collapsed. I went directly to grief. I had a strong feeling that the towers were the goal, and they had achieved it. The damage was done. That shows my New York bias. But it also shows my view of the world. It is mostly chaotic and difficult to organize. That's why I rarely believe in conspiracy theories. It was far more likely to me that a small group of people got lucky and the wealthiest nation on Earth was unprepared.

Actually, I did have fear, but it was not fear of terrorists. It was fear of how our country would react. And much of what I feared came to pass.
09/12/2018 12:02:44 PM · #16
Very prescient, Don, about the aftermath, which carries on to this day in war, overblown fear and xenophobia.

There are two more emotions that I felt that make me wonder.
First, before the attack I truly disliked the Trade Towers, considering them to be a blot on the skyline. After they came down I felt guilty. Was there even a trace of "good, they're gone"? As if it were a purely esthetic transformation and not a human horror. I don't think that sentiment was really there, but I'm too afraid to plumb deeply enough for an honest confrontation.
Second, and it may be a corollary of the first, my inability to focus on the human tragedy. At the base of the north tower there was a large Borders book store. Instead of imagining all the dead bodies, I kept thinking about all those ruined books. Maybe it was simply a human displacement to avoid thinking about a tragedy that was so difficult to wrap one's mind around. But again it had me wondering about what kind of person I was. It troubled me, and still does, but I put it up to the complexity of people, the possible impossibility of all light and no dark.
09/12/2018 12:38:38 PM · #17
My premonitions were very vague. I just heard the nonspecific calls of war and fascism.

I also hated the architecture of the World Trade Center. It's a convenient symbol for my complicated feelings about the event in general. If you think the U.S. does no wrong, then the reaction to 9/11 is traumatic but very simple. But that is not what I think.

Yes, the destruction was evil. But for me, evil is almost always a reaction to other evil. It's just the wrong reaction. Evil breeds itself.
09/12/2018 01:03:31 PM · #18
Originally posted by posthumous:

Yes, the destruction was evil. But for me, evil is almost always a reaction to other evil. It's just the wrong reaction. Evil breeds itself.

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09/12/2018 01:22:40 PM · #19
Too hard for me to add anything on this topic. Yes, we were here, my family and friends scattered all over Manhattan, some living in Battery Park. We rushed to donate blood along with all my son's friends and coworkers, still cannot go to see the Memorial Museum.
Life goes on and we carry all on our backs
09/12/2018 01:24:25 PM · #20
My story as a young 5th grader...

It was a little weird for me as a Floridian who has never been to New York... I didn't quite understand what was going on honestly. I remember the teacher turned on the TV and called the front office for help to cover the class as she stepped out to make a call (don't know who the call was to but I assume a family member or friend who lived near or in New York to see if they were okay). I remember not knowing what was going on... I just assumed it was an accident... My young brain didn't understand what terrorism was at the time... Hell, I didn't even know who or what Al Qaeda was... It wasn't until the next couple days that I started to really understand what on earth actually happened. News stations were the only thing on at home for weeks. No sports, no cartoons, no random shows... Just the news... In 2004 my brother enlisted into the US Army between his JR and SR year of high school. After he graduated, he went to AIT and almost instantly was shipping out to Iraq for the first time. A long 14 months with barely talking to him, he finally came home only to get shipped out again to Iraq some time later. Afghanistan was next. Since then, he's been in relatively calmer places thankfully.

Anyways, I personally remember the days after more than the day of being that I was so unaware of what happened.
09/12/2018 08:47:13 PM · #21
One interesting thing is how people experienced and came to understand what had happened.

Since my flight had just gone up the east coast and directly over Manhattan, I knew the skies were clear. I was actually looking down and remembering flying by Manhattan in my own plane a month earlier (and 30,000 lower). By the time I heard anything had happened, it was two planes hit the WTC.

Putting all that together, I never experienced wondering whether the first one was an accident; I went straight from excitement about my trip to knowing wed been horrifically attacked.
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