If you’re old enough to remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy, you surely remember exactly where you were when you heard about it. I was in junior high school, and the incident was announced over the public address system. When I walked home from school, cars were pulled over on the side of the road with the radios on, and people were standing outside those cars listening to the news through the open windows. Everyone was discombobulated for months.
Now all of us lived through 9/11, and I also remember where I was then. We always listened to the radio while doing flies in the lab (the radio was on the lab bench where up to four people had their microscopes), and the news came on that something had happened to one of the World Trade Center towers. I happened to have an old black and white television in the lab, and we quickly set it up on the bench and sat around watching the news.
There was no more thought of flies, because soon thereafter the second tower was hit, as was the Pentagon, and then there were rumors of a plane crashing in Pennsylvania. (Later we found out about the brave people who tried to breach the cockpit and caused the plane to crash.) The news continued for days, and eventually we found out what happened, and that got us into war.
The funny thing is, I can’t remember how I felt after the attacks, except for a pity for those who died (the “jumpers” broke my heart) and a burning desire to know what happened. Nearly three thousand people died that day, as opposed to one during the JFK assassination, and 9/11 was so much closer to the present than was 1963. But my memories of the atmosphere—of what it was like on the street, or in school—are far more vivid from 1963.
This is, of course, a request that readers recount their own experiences on this day twenty years ago.
Here’s something that conveys both the attacks and what was happening on the street in New York City.