Where Were You on 9/11?

The dual big days of our parents lives were when Kennedy got shot, and when man landed on the moon. For us, it was when the Berlin Wall fell and 9/11. On 9/11, I was lying in bed at my dad’s house in Virginia when a friend of my sister’s called and said, “Did you hear that planes flew into the World Trade Center?” My first thought was, “How could a plane get so far off course that it ended up in downtown Manhattan?” I got up out of bed, ran downstairs and turned on the news. Once it became evident that it was a terrorist attack, I totally wigged, convinced that the world was getting ready to end.

My sister and her boyfriend at the time had just flown in to visit from Hawaii, where she was living at the time. She called there the next day, and her friends told her to not bother to return. Everything was closing, as everyone in Hawaii realized that with nobody flying the fall and winter seasons were going to be disastrous.

I had been in New York two weeks before looking for a job and an apartment. I had found neither. I had been planning on moving there, but the lack of prospects coupled with the fear of another attack ensured that I would not, and I moved to Philadelphia a month later. I remember being absolutely convinced that this was merely the first in a multipronged attack, and every day for weeks, I just waited for the other shoe to drop. I swore I would never step foot on a plane again, and in fact it was several years before I flew again.

It sounds crazy now, but that morning I wondered if the two planes were merely the opening volley in an all out attack on the United States, and a couple of my friends and I decided to go to our favorite restaurant, The Exmore Diner, for lunch, since we thought the meal might be our last (I lived near an enormous naval base, so I thought they might be wiped out next.) I’m curious as to where you were on 9/11 and what your remembrances are of it. Please post below.

17 thoughts on “Where Were You on 9/11?

  1. Should I be embarrassed that the Howard Stern Show broke the news to me? I was driving to work when reporter on the scene, Stuttering John, burst into the studio and relayed the unbelievable events. Howard Stern and Stuttering John are, apparently, my Walter Cronkite. Ugh.

  2. I was a Senior in high school, and as I walked into my Current Events class,my teacher was sitting on his desk watching the television, jaw to the floor saying, “this is not an accident, this is a terrorist act”. Then, we saw the second plane hit. We looked to him to explain. and in a rambling of anti-muslim-terrorist-jihad rhetoric that our young adult minds didn't quite understand, we just sat, in silence, in awe. I left school early every day to take college courses, and this day I was let out before they officially closed school, before anyone could quite wrap their heads around what had happened. My parents both worked midnight shifts and typically slept until the afternoon, I can't remember my drive home, but I remember walking into my house screaming for my parents to wake up- asking if any of our relatives worked near the towers. They were already awake, in bed, and staring at the television. I hopped into my car and speed down the road to the church. A vigil had already started for members and family of members who worked in the tower. Even my pastor, a man of true eloquence, could not find words to express his sadness and fear. We sat in silence, crying, lighting candles, praying for those we knew and for those we did not. I remember feeling as if someone had taken something from me and replaced it with panic. I felt like I had no control over the situation, so I did what I always do when I feel out of control: react. Four days after the planes had hit, I started a blood drive at our school. We were 45 minutes from NYC, and I was certain blood would be the cure to that sickness in my stomach. Unfortunately, the Red Cross asked us to stop taking donations, as there weren't enough survivors.
    I remember how small the world seemed those few days. I felt relieved that I didn't know anyone in the towers, but overwhelmingly saddened for the families I knew who were still holding onto some glimmer of hope that, soon, their loved ones would be found.
    Needless to say, those few days will never be forgotten, not even if I wanted to forget.

  3. David Foster Wallace, whose fiction I have advised / implored / outright required a few of you to read, did a great essay on 9/11 called “The View from Mrs. Thompson's.” It's in the collection *Consider the Lobster*, I think, but it's also available online (in a shorter version?) from *Rolling Stone*:


    …worth the read (or the listen, if you can get ahold of the audio, read by Wallace himself).

    1. RIP, DFW.

      EXCELLENT!!! I have read this story AND lived in Bloomington, IL, from 2002 to 2006, when I moved to Philadelphia. As I mention below, I was in Indiana on 9/11//2001. DFW's desription of Bloomington, IL is very accurate– a town “lousy with churches.” God damn, and the CORN everywhere! Winter is a “pitiless bitch” and summer is an oppresive humid dictator!

      DFW nails what it was like to live in a small town so far away from the real action. Yes, you mourn and you feel awful and you are scared out of your wits for a while. And, when all of these emotions should be dying down, it doesn't… People keep it up with the flags and the paranoia and the anti-Islamic bullshit. It was absolutely suffocating for reasonable people. Not liberal v. conservative thing but for people who didn't let their emotions get the best of them.

  4. heard it on the radio from my favorite morning show in highschool. ran downstairs to the living room where my mom and brother were watching the tv. i was living in arizona at the time, so it was early – 6 AM. the school principal said the terrorists would want us to be afraid and would want us to stay home, so they decided to keep the schools open and told all the teachers to act like nothing was happening and to ignore it, to specifically leave the tvs in each classroom off and to go along with whatever lesson plan they had originally planned to teach that day. and the teachers ACTUALLY did that, for the most part. the only class we talked about what was going on was in my AP government class and the intro to drama elective i was taking.

    arizona is a little weird sometimes.

  5. I was at Indiana University, at work at one of the campus libraries. Far far away from any action, but wondering, “WTF just happened?” I had only public radio (yea NPR!) to fill me in. The campus Internet was jammed. We all just listened. Its all that we could do.

    I didn't stay panicked because it was pretty quickly evident that this was terrorist attacks and not an attack by a real country with any real power to continue such attacks. My own tears of mourning stopped soon after, too. But, the paranoia in Indiana for the next few weeks was appauling. That is the good and bad of having national media and will gladly spoon out every detail of a tragic event, including replaying video of people falling to their deaths off the WTC (does the nation really need to see that???) With a zoom camera, events that really don't affect you directly seem to be right at your front door. I had to completely cut off all media for a few weeks until the pornographic-like retelling of the tragedies finally cooled down. It was just too much to keep mourning for people that I didn't know! Like some sort of S & M Mobius strip.

    Then, a few years later, I moved to Philadelphia, and met people who WERE directly affected by the attacks…

  6. I was in the dentist chair getting my teeth cleaned, when I first arrived the planes had just crashed into the Towers so they had the radio on in the dentist office. What I remember most was the reporter on the radio screaming and crying and running and trying to catch his breath and still trying to report when the Towers started to collapse. Radio is much powerful in a way than TV as you have your imagination. After I left the dentist I walked to the library and they had rolled out a TV to watch the coverage and actually saw what had happened.

  7. Goodtimes, I was supposed to play golf at a Naval Course in VA Beach and was literally watching the Today Show when the 2nd plane hit live on TV. I was just getting ready to leave when I realized it probably wasn't a good idea to go through the Norfolk Tunnel and head towards the Naval Base. Such a surreal moment.

  8. Just as an aside to our 9/11 discussion, I'd like to point out that a 2007 poll found that 35% of Democrats subscribe to the “Truther” conspiracy theory, which posits that the attacks were either engineered by the U.S. government, i.e. the Bush administration, or that the Bush administration had advance knowledge of the attacks and allowed them to happen for various nefarious reasons. (This is, incidentally, also a much larger percentage of Democrats than the percentage of Republicans who believe the “Birther” nonsense about Obama.) Another 16% of Democrats stated that they weren't sure about the “Truther” conspiracy theory. For those of you who can add, that equals 51% of Democrats, a majority, who doubt that Islamist terrorists acted alone to attack us on 9/11, either subscribing to an outright conspiracy theory or at least holding doubts about the generally accepted as well as documented historical record. That's a lot of stupid people, and… (cough… ahem)… they all happen to be Democrats. Just sayin'.

    Where was I on 9/11? I was at my job with the DoD, and I was also appalled and shocked. I was also very angry. I don't think I was quite as amazed and suprised as a lot of others that the U.S. homeland had been attacked by terrorists, simply because I had been aware for quite some time of the rising threat of radical Islamist terrorism. Part of this awareness came from my job, because though I wasn't involved in any sort of intelligence work, I had been reading various reports and documents for years cautioning DoD employees about various threats from terrorists. So the idea that there were people in the world who didn't like us very much and would kill us if given the opportunity didn't come as a complete shock to me.

    1. Oh Bob. You and your stats. If that was a poll taken at Berkley or at a G-20 protest, I may be inclined to believe your stats. Charlie Sheen and Rosie O'Donnell do not represent the majority of the party no matter how much you would like to believe it. No more than the “birthers” represent the Republicans.

      1. I believe it was a Rasmussen poll. I also agree that the “Truthers” do not represent the majority of the Democratic party either. Thank you for agreeing that “Birthers” are also not the face of Republicanism.

        But Van Jones seems to have been a Birther in good standing, so what was he doing in the Obama administratiion? What about the famous (infamous) Obama vetting process?:

    2. Bob,

      Your first paragraph is completely unnecessary. Your second one is interesting. You can give more of an “insiders” view on how our govt completely dropped the ball on preventing the attacks, for various reasons. Put aside the partisan bullshit every once in a while and just be a person, OK?

    3. And, OF COURSE, the radical nut jobs in the coutry are going to identify as either Democrat or Republican. We have a two-party system. There is no other room for the crazies to go to leave the rest of us normal people alone! Rarely does voting against mainstream get you anywhere in the US.

  9. I was at work and panicked. Not because of any danger I was in, but my father was actually working at the Pentagon that day. It took a couple of hours, but luckily I found out that he was still in his hotel when everything happened.

  10. My daughter lives in NYC and was planning to leave from La G. to DC that morning on business. More detail than that seems a bit too much info for a parent to know so I didn't know the departure and arrival times. Naturally, hearing about ariplanes and buildings brought on major anxiety. Phone lines were out, so I couldn't reach her or her office. When news came of the Pentagon involvement, I was beside myself. Finally, my daughter was able to contact her cousin who lived in north jersey, and she relayed the message that she was safe and sitting in a plane at a closed airport. By a fluke, after a sudden change of plans, my daughter had her car with her and was able to get back home, along with a carload of friends she met coincidentally at the airport without walking miles and miles on stilletto heels.

  11. I actually saw the towers on fire and also saw the second tower collapse. I was on my way to a meeting at a law office in Newark, NJ. While driving on the Turnpike, listening to Imus (long before the “nappy headed” disaster), I heard that a plane had crashed into the first tower. Within a few minutes, traffic on the Turnpike slowed to a crawl, as everyone with a sight of New York slowed to watch. Then I heard that a plane had crashed into the second tower. As I came up on the bridge over the Rahway River approaching exit 13, where you first see the skyline, I saw the towers burning with a trail of smoke pluming out to the south. I called my office on my cellphone and was generally incoherent, as it was clear that this was an attack. As I wasn't sure what to do, I continued on to my exit in Newark (cell phones no longer were working), went to the building I was heading to, stopped in front and called up from the front desk to let them know I was getting the hell out of there. As I got back into my car on a Newark street, there was only one tower standing. As I watched, the second one disappeared in smoke.

    I just got my ass on Route 1 south (I was too paranoid to get on the Turnpike as that was far greater a target than US-1) and drove all the way to Philly listening to the radio. Philly was an absolute ghost town when I returned mid-day, as everyone had left and gone home. Very very strange. I was able to call my house and get in touch with people from my office, as my parents and brother both live in New York. I'll never forget the sight of the tower disappearing in smoke and ash.

  12. i was at work, stayed there till the end of the day, took the PATCO home, then went out to dinner. i had friends meet me out. i wasn’t like bob going to upset my normal day as the terrorist would have wanted us to. i guess they scared bob

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