Where were you on 9/11?

September 10, 2021 • 12:00 pm

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.

122 thoughts on “Where were you on 9/11?

  1. Living in Renton, Washington. I got up at about 6:00 (one-hour later than usual*) and flipped on NPR per my usual morning routine (KUOW, Seattle) and heard about an airplane hitting one of the WTC towers. I thought, oh man, bad accident! Who screwed up?!

    Then, I heard about a “second plane” hitting the WTC.

    My immediate thought was: “This is no accident.” And later: Looks like an act of war.

    I pulled my TV from the back room where I stored it on a cart, to my kitchen and watched the news coverage (replays of the second plane hitting), the Pentagon, rumors of other attacks, the Capitol being shut down, etc.

    I was working for the FAA at the time, in aircraft certification (certification of design). I went to my scheduled training (see below); and others showed up as well. The instructor said, “well, there’s not much point in trying to train today, we’ll reschedule” and we sat and watched the news on TV for a couple of hours (at the training room).

    Finally, he told us to head home. I headed to the office; but was turned away at the parking lot: They had shut down all Federal facilities and our office was one. I don’t know how they could stand up that level of security that quickly; but they did. Within a week, the building was surrounded by huge concrete barrier blocks (we called the Legos).

    On the afternoon of 9/11, I had time on my hands, so I did something I had been meaning to do: I went to South Center (does it even exist anymore?) and got my first cell phone (I’m a late-adopter). I got a Motorola Startac from Verizon and I’ve been with Verizon ever since.

    (* I had required root-cause analysis training through the FAA on this morning, at a remote site, a hotel conference room.)

  2. I was at work, assistant registrar at a community college at the time. A coworker came up and talked about a plane hitting the building. I had just read about a B-25 hitting the Empire State Building near the end of WWII. I thought that’s what she had seen on TV. I went down a floor to the student center just in time to see the second one hit.

  3. I was working from home which was my regular work life. My main client at the time was on Long Island. All work on our project stopped for several days. There were no planes in the sky for days either. The world rallied to our support. Bush squandered it.

  4. I was driving to a little country church for a recording session with a classical guitarist, and I happened to hear about the first impact on the car radio. I thought, that’s weird, it was probably a stupid accident with a small plane. But we were out there all day and didn’t learn the rest until later. One thing for sure, we weren’t bothered by the usual aircraft noise while we recorded for the rest of the week.

        1. I do play classical (nylon string) guitars; but poorly due to limited practice time. I had to sort of “standardize” on a single size (00-size, small body, based on a large 20th century Ramirez classical guitar size (not shape though)) steel string acoustic guitar for reasons of limited practice time. However, I hold the guitar in the classical position (foot stool and all) for reasons of ergonomics and avoiding injuries.

          My hope is to get back “into shape” with my favorite classical guitar once I’m retired. 🙂

          The strings feel very different between the two and the width and shape of the neck is also very different. These are all quite important for efficient playing and tone production.

  5. I was on the #2 bus in Capitol Hill in Seattle when someone shouted “Oh my god! The Twin Towers fell”. People were stunned, silent; I remember one one woman crying softly. I got off at my stop at work and found people staring at their monitors in disbelief and horror.

  6. I was taking a shower getting ready for work, and my wife stuck her head in the bathroom and said “Mark, a plane just hit the World Trade Center.” I said something like WTF? and I was picturing a Cessna or some other small aircraft. I quickly finished the shower and joined my wife in the living room to watch it on the tube- once I saw that the plane was a passenger jet, I knew it was a terrorist attack. I even said it aloud- “that’s a terrorist attack”. Not much happened at work that day, a bunch of people in higher management brought in tv’s (even the CFO brought in a tv) and we all just sat around watching the horrible events. I also remember drinking a lot of scotch that night, and having emotional outbursts of rage and tears.

    1. Technology changes. Less than 20 years later we watched the events in DC this Jan on our computer screens, without the need to access a TV

    2. I was working on an optics simulation in the computer lab at my U., when someone turned on the TV. It was after the first jet had hit and the reporters were replaying the footage and asking, could this be terrorism? I was thinking, duh, it’s the same building the terrorists had tried to bomb some years back, and what pilot would be dumb enough to hit a major building even if they had engine trouble or whatever? Then the second plane hit and many, but amazingly not all, reporters recognized the decisive evidence in front of their faces. Most students went home, but, not having friends nor family near there, I kept working.

  7. I’ve just heard the BBC reporting that some US right-wing nut jobs think that the Dems hate America more than the 9/11 hijackers – the US has become much more divided in the past two decades, sadly.

  8. I was sitting in a little joint called The Sunset Café having a late breakfast with a business partner. An important announcement interrupted whatever was playing on the little TV hung from the ceiling in one corner. We watched the aftermath of the first plane hit as we ate steak and eggs. I was wondering how on earth that could happen by accident in this day and age, but hadn’t quite formulated the thought that it was an intentional act.

    And then the 2nd plane hit. Instantly I knew that it was terrorists, as probably most people did. We left the café and went to my place and watched the news as events continued to unfold. Never did go back to the office that day.

  9. I was teaching a morning writing course. Some of my students were crying, saying they had family in NY. We had a TV in the classroom and turned it on. The rest is a blur.

  10. No joke, I was in a taxi with my family on the way to my local CA airport, about to fly to Washington DC for a conference. The grounding of the airlines was announced on the radio while we were in the cab. The driver turned around and took us home, and we watched the towers fall. We were lucky we hadn’t made it to DC.

    1. Peculiar how this type of thing happens seemingly more often than expected:

      A less momentous but memorable event was the mid-April 2010 Eyjafjalla (sp?) volcano in Iceland which shut down air travel in Europe for a week or more. With my wife and close Norwegian friends we had just woken in Dublin for morning flights, them home, us to Glasgow and the Highlands for a week before returning to Canada.

      Dublin is far from the worst place in the world to be stuck for several days. Kjell though has a small plumbing firm in Asker near Oslo to which he ended up a week late, meanwhile directing work via cell phone to his son and other workers. I was to lecture a couple of courses starting May 1 back home, and jokingly thought of phoning the Chair to announce my non-dedication to swim the Atlantic in order to carry out my duties. But that plane I was grateful to feel lift into the sky from Glasgow for Toronto merely 8 hours behind schedule.

      In between, we four got to sleep on the floor of a Dublin-Liverpool ferry, I rented a car and drove the Norwegians to Newcastle for another ferry, and a good friend of theirs (who lived up there but was actually from Amsterdam originally) drove all the way down from Oslo through Denmark to get them back home much faster than rail would have. We got to Glasgow, my wife got her work done there, but no enjoyable sojourn though the Scottish Highlands that time.

      However we managed to start visiting Iceland (about 10 times before Covid)) after that, Love it there, and maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all without the big eruption. I just had to see that damn volcano, but Iceland has been our most frequent place to visit by far. The best ‘distant’ view of that mountain and nearby Myrdalsjokull (sp?) is from the ferry connecting Vestmanneyjar (Westman Islands) to the ‘mainland’ of Iceland.

      A little joke(?) on a tee-shirt in Iceland just after:
      A lot of places in UK lost investment money big time when several Icelandic banks went bust in the 2008 financial debacle. So much contention, because the Icelandic banks were really London banks and no insurance would be paid. (Don’t know the eventual legal outcome.) Anyway, some negativity in England after, e.g. some small counties or whatever had lost all their investment money. The Icelandic tourist tee-shirt from soon after the later volcano a few years later:


      This I’m sure was amusing to not everyone. But there are some pretty dopey politicians and bureaucratic political poo-bahs investing public money.

  11. I was working at a Brain Injury Unit (Madrid), in the mornings, but that day I changed my hours to the afternoon to see some patients. So when the first plane hit I was in the subway, no way to know back then. When I arrived at the Unit the reception was strangely empty and quiet: everybody were watching the news in the Occupational Therapy room which had a TV. Between patients some coworker or another kept me informed (‘hey, now it’s the Pentagon’).
    I remember the fear, the silence, the feeling of impending doom, the talk about Third World War commencing. I just wanted to go home with my then husband and my 1-year-old daughter, to feel safe.

  12. I was teaching for a small Liberal Arts College in Kentucky. I watched the towers fall on the TV in the lounge of the main classroom building. It wasn’t too long before talking heads on TV started speculating about Bin Laden, so I spent quite a long time discussing with students who Bin Laden was, and what Islamist groups are all about. When I finally returned to my campus office, I sat and wept like a baby.

  13. I was just getting some last material together to go from my NASA office in Hampton, VA to a one-year assignment in DC where I would split my time between the NSF building in Arlington and the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB) on t he White House grounds. My light rail ride in each day would go through the Pentagon station. There was a commotion in the hallway and we all went into a conference room to watch the TV news, and of course recalled the B25 crash into the empire state building years earlier. Then the second plane hit right in front of us and my boss immediately said that we are at war. I do not recall whether our NASA lab closed…I do not think so, but security became very heightened as we shared our location with Langley AFB, hq of the US air Force Air Combat Command. I delayed reporting to DC for a week, and other than my OEOB office being moved two blocks down Pennsylvania Ave to a nondescript general office building because security thought that the 17th st exposure of OEOB was too tempting a target for an attack, there was not too much out of the normal…business seemed to go on.

  14. I was home sick from school in Finland when I saw it on the TV. I remember thinking it must have been a movie at first, and slowly realizing it was not. Our school was then deemed a high value target – and so we were greeted with armed guards to check us in for a while after that.

  15. I was at work in a new distribution center on the west coast at Lathrop, Ca. Just about two years from retirement. I was the outbound manager and was in the shipping office at the time. We had a television in there and turned it on in time to see one of the planes hit the building. One of the guys who worked for me, the transportation manager, was from the area, Bayonne, New Jersey and he was more affected at the time than most of us. Our job in the Army & Air Force Exchange service was to go where they go so we were shipping items all over the middle east in those days anyway.

  16. I was just getting to my postdoc lab in the genetics dept. at the U. of Pennsylvania. As I walked in, my boss walked up and said “did you see what happened?” It was a few minutes after the second plane hit. I went over to the neighboring lab where there was a TV and everyone watched as the towers fell.

  17. I was at the bench doing lab work as well. News spread via word-of-mouth and I and my lab mates/boss tried to access the news through the computer and had trouble getting information because news sites were crashing due to so many people doing the same thing. This was in Pittsburgh and once it was learned that Flight 93 went down so close, the dorms and other buildings on campus were locked down. No one knew for certain how many more attacks there might be or the details of Flight 93 so we all just wanted to get home to our families. I picked up my son from the campus daycare then sat in line in the parking garage for at least an hour waiting to get out. I was heartsick and frightened when I finally got home and was able to watch the news. I just sat in horror in front of the TV for the remainder of the day.

  18. I used to be a Visitor at a local nursing home and was driving to see a lovely woman with aphasia when I heard about the first plane on the news. Like others, I assumed an accident with a small plane. When I got to the nursing home it was already on the tv in the room. We just sat and watched, and for a while neither one of us could find the words to say.

  19. In downtown DC, getting ready to hear a lecture from an Ambassador on science and public policy (he didn’t show, for security reasons). About a hundred of us used the lecture hall to watch the news as it rolled in.

    First thing I did when I realized what was going on was try to find the status of my cousin, who at the time lived and worked in downtown Manhattan. She was luckily enough away on a business trip.

  20. I was at a meeting at the Royal College of Surgeons in London (where it was after lunch). I finished giving my talk and a friend from Roswell Park told me that a plane had hit the world trade center, but no additional details. Things became progressively more surreal as the afternoon wore on and it became clear that this was a coordinated attack. There were some fears that there might also be attacks in Europe, and London has seen its share over the years. I didn’t get to see much TV footage until I had caught a train out of the city. I ended up getting stuck in the UK for a week or so longer than I expected, the flight back was a bit odd, although the full scope of airline security that ha been standard in the UK for many years had not at that point reached the US. A month later, in October flying into NY on my way to Maine the devastation on the southern end of Manhattan was obvious from the air.

    1. I flew to Washington about the same time, to attend a USG conference on what to do next. I vividly recall the same aerial view of the site of the crime. Heartbreaking.

  21. I was at a small conference in Spain, in the middle of a session. I did not own a cell phone at the time, but some of the people in the session started to receive repeated calls. There were few other attendees from the United States, so a lot people came up to me to give condolences. I thought it was kind of people (most of whom I hardly knew) to think of my feelings.

    It took me a couple of days to find out much about the event. I didn’t immediately find a newspaper in English, and there was just one small TV in the lobby (and folks would not turn off a soccer game in order to to let me see the news). I took a train to Madrid, where I was stranded for a couple of days while planes were grounded, but there I was able to purchase a London newspaper and finally learn more about the event.

    I had just moved to Chicago from Idaho a few days before that trip to Spain, and I was very worried from afar about an attack on the Sears Tower.

    PCC’s comment—the “jumpers” broke my heart— truly resonates with me. I still tear up thinking about those people, twenty years later.

  22. I was in the small Berkshire town of Heath in western Massachusetts and would get up to let the dogs out each morning before 8:30. That morning a jet flew overhead when I looked up while putting one of the dogs on his run. Which was odd because we NEVER saw jets overhead out there. Well, a few days later the Boston Globe printed a graphic of American 11’s path with time stamps. Turns out the jet I saw that day had already been hijacked and its course had been altered northwest before turning south to hit the first tower

  23. I was still living in Chicago. I worked at a company right by the Merchandise Mart. I got in just after the first plane struck. I wasn’t sure what to think. In 1945 a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. Then the second plane hit, and it was obviously no accident. Around 11am our boss told us to go home. A co-worker’s husband picked us up in their car. It was crazy. People were wondering around the sidewalks like they didn’t know what to do, and the drivers weren’t much better. I can’t remember when that day we heard the rumors that there might be attacks in Chicago, too, but we did. We had a co-worker flying in from the UK. He never did make it. The plane landed in Canada, and he was there for a few days before he went home.

    1. I was at work on Michigan Avenue office. Walking to our library, I saw our CEO in one of the conference rooms with a tv on, then he shouted “Oh my god!” A co-worker told me a plane hit the WTC. I recall asking “a passenger jet?” thinking “how could that happen?” Then the second plane hit. Most everyone in downtown offices was told to go home. I was one of those wanderers on the street. I remember hearing fighter jets high above, as there were rumors of a Chicago attack.

      I went home and watched news well into the night.

  24. I was in an RAF 146 on a visit to Sierra Leone, with my boss (a Lt Gen, also the MOD Director of Ops) and my Brigadier opposite number. We aborted the visit, diverted to Dakar, slept in the Embassy overnight (since the RAF crew were out of hours), and spent the journey home next day working on the first outlines of what became the UK contribution to the military operation in Afghanistan. I remember the whole thing as pretty breathless; also, worrying about what the threat might be for us in London.

  25. I lived in California at the time. I had just gotten out of bed and turned the TV on to play in the background as I got around. I don’t recall which network was on but I remember thinking I was watching a disaster movie; seriously, a fictional motion picture/film. A reporter was atop some nearby building with the north tower of the Trade Center smoldering in the background. Just then, over the reporter’s left shoulder, the second plane hit the south tower and I knew I wasn’t watching a movie.

  26. I was at work. I felt confused: how could America be attacked? What I remember most clearly is the silence. My colleagues barely spoke at lunch. The grocery store had the usual number of customers, but everything was silent, and no one was making eye contact. For a week there was silence. People were stunned and glued to the news.

  27. At 9/11 I was working at the UK Distributor for Eurocopter at Oxford Airport as the Principal Avionics Systems Integration Engineer and at the moment when the news was televised I was in the cable harness manufacturing workshop where we had a TV high up on a cabinet. The stunned workforce are something I will always remember together with the dreadful images.
    When JFK was shot I was in the bath at Number 2 Flying Training School, Royal Airforce Station Syerston near Newark Nottinghamshire listening to Radio Luxembourg a popular music station of the time. The bath water was cold before recovery.
    Some memories!

  28. I was driving to give a piano lesson when the news came over the radio (4 or 5 pm? UK). When I arrived pupil and mother were watching it live on TV as the newscasters we’re trying to make sense of it. There wasn’t much of a lesson.
    I remember recognising Giuliani from Seinfeld and being full of admiration.

  29. I was working for BT in Ipswich (UK), with a crowd of colleagues huddled around the few monitors that were showing the news. I also saw the second plane hit. There was a silence that you could cut, After a while the boss just suggested that we left and we drifted off into a shocked evening.

  30. I don’t remember my exact whereabouts on 9/11, but I keenly recall a meeting I attended 10 or 11 days later. It was supposed to be a discussion of the 9/11 terrorist attacks from a Left point of view. I was struck by one very curious feature of the gathering: the room crackled with indignation,
    but it was mostly directed against the US, which was the injured party. Some of the congregants believed that the US had itself connived in (or even organized) the aircraft hi-jackings and attacks. What for? Why, to create a pretext for a long-planned imperialist assault on Afghanistan, in order to steal that country’s fabled wealth.

    It was that verbiage which persuaded me—after long association with various Leftwing activities—that the Left had now lost its mind. [That same day, a similar meeting in London held by Lindsay German, George Galloway, Jeremy Corbyn, and their friends, gave rise to the Stop The War Coalition.] Within a few years, the verbiage shifted partly away from the dark US conspiracy to loot Afghanistan’s gemstones, arriving at the hodge-podge of Grievance Studies and post-modernist clichés we now call “woke”. And in academia, the inmates were taking over the asylums.

  31. As a cognitive scientist, I would like to pass on an important finding about flashbulb memories–those that are so vivid they seem immutable–including research on memories of 9/11 (I was watching the Today show; my brother was working at a bank near the Towers and walked home to Riverside Drive and his wife was working at the Federal Reserve building).
    It has been shown repeatedly that flashbulb memories are more vivid and remain more vivid than other memories, but they are no more accurate than ordinary memories of the same age. The reasons how and why are complex (I can send references or a just written brief summary from a book I’m writing), but the conclusion is well established, and extends to other vivid memories (e.g., eyewitness testimony).

  32. I was in London with a group of college students, who had just landed to begin a semester of studying abroad. It was surreal. Frantic parents calling, planning for an emergency evacuation, seeing the recording playing over and over on televisions wherever we went. And London went eerily quiet for three days.

  33. September 11th 2001 was a Tuesday, an Election Day. I’ve been an election poll worker off and on for decades, and I was scheduled to work in a church polling place that day. Pollworkers show up for work early, so I was awake before dawn. I was in the bathroom combing my hair; my partner, Brad, was in the living room watching the news on TV. I heard Brad gasp and I went to see what was happening. The news broadcast was showing the first explosion of the World Trade Center over and over again, and my first thought was something like “Wow, the towering inferno.” But when the second plane hit, my brain churned out the conclusion that the incident was not an accident, but likely terrorism.
    I look back on it now, and I have regret. I should have stayed home with Brad, but instead I felt so committed to the election that I went ahead with my preparation to serve. (Poll workers are brainwashed into believing our election gigs are saving democracy. I think the failure to provide a cancellation in case of an emergency is a weakness in the election process.) Brad even gave me a small portable TV to watch at the precinct with the other poll workers. Someone tried to tell me that we are not allowed to watch TV or listen to radio in the precinct, and I said “You don’t know what happened, do you?”
    She watched for a moment, then got a big TV out of a closet and it was on all day.
    Now, after the longest war in American history, we hear that the greatest terrorist threat is not foreign religious zealots, but domestic extremists. Freaking depressing.

  34. I was teaching a high school class, out behind the main school building, in a portable classroom (in small town Ontario, Canada). After the class was finished I headed into the school to do some prep work in the staff room. A colleague was running down the hallway with a stricken look on his (normally cheerful) face. I said: “Kevin, what’s the matter?” He could hardly get the words out
    “A plane crashed into the twin towers!”
    “The what?” I said.
    I had never been to New York city and didn’t really know what the ‘twin towers’ were. Someone had hauled a TV into the staff room and we all sat around glued to it, watching in disbelief. The rest is a blur, but I do remember when I got home that evening watching it over and over again on the telly. And feeling sick. And confused and scared.
    I have still never been to New York city.

    I was also in a high school on the day JFK was shot. This time though, I was a student in grade 9. We were all sent home early and when I got home, my mother was watching the TV in the living room. I knew then that what had happened was pretty drastic because the TV never went on the daytime in our house. That was a hard and fast rule. Even though we were Canadian, living in Canada, everyone I knew loved Kennedy.

  35. I was on a month-long business trip in London. I was eating lunch in the company cafeteria when I overheard some conversations about a plane hitting the Trade Center. I assumed that a general aviation pilot had gotten lost in clouds. When I returned to my office I found everyone streaming CNN’s coverage on their computers. A few hours later someone figured out that London’s financial centers and the Tube could be targets also. We were in one of the high rises in Canary Wharf so it was decided to evacuate the building and send everyone home. I flew home to LA on American Airlines 2 or 3 weeks after the attack. My plane was mostly empty and the crew was very somber. Security at Heathrow Airport was insane. I must have had to show my passport 8 times between check-in and boarding.
    I had been working in NY at World Financial Center the week before the attacks. I’m so glad that I avoided being at ground zero that day.

  36. In the hills above Braddock PA, 9mi E of Pittsburgh, I was watching the Today show when the report of the first plane came in and they went to a live cam on the Towers. Then I saw the second plane hit in real time. I had an errand to run down in Braddock that morning and, realizing that things were not going to be the same for a good while, I thought I’d go down to Braddock before anti-normalcy fully set in. I was still going basically downhill and near the (Monongahela) river when, later running the tape in my head and after seeing the flight path of the Shanksville plane, I THINK that I MAY have seen it flying low, heading east.

    Also, in re. how it took some time for everything to sink in, I remember listening to the radio after the Shanksville plane had hit maybe 20min earlier. This was before noon and a reporter was interviewing a guy who worked in a sandwich shop in close proximity to the site. The guy had felt the impact and smoke could be seen from the shop. After a minute or two about what the guy had experienced, he said something like, “Say listen, I have sandwiches I need to make.”

    Also, a good number of years later after reconnecting via Facebook, I learned that the sister of a college friend was on the plane that went into the Pentagon. There is now a foundation in her memory.

  37. I was not teaching that Tuesday morning and was listening to NPR as usual when Bob Edwards announced that there was a report of a plane having struck one of the towers. I immediately turned on the tv and stood there in stunned silence. Then I saw another plane coming in at such an angle that it would obviously hit the second tower. Most of the day I was glued to the tv until I could not cope with it anymore, at which point I went outside to weed in my flower beds. One of my most searing memories is the total silence outside: I live between Harrisburg, PA, and Philadelphia, and there is regular air traffic overhead. But then there was nothing for over a week–just total silence in the sky. Besides the visual images of the second attack and subsequent events at the towers, that silence is what I remember most. I do remember calling a friend in Germany who was at work–they had not yet heard anything about the attack.
    When JFK was shot, I heard the news over the car radio on my way home from classes at a music conservatory in Cincinnati. I was surprised, but thought the news reports might not be accurate (it had just happened), so didn’t take it seriously at first. 9/11 has affected me far more than Kennedy’s assassination: there are still times I feel traumatized, especially every year at this time.

  38. I was living in Arizona, and so by the time we woke up it was all over. My wifes’ sister from New Jersey called to say what happened. We turned on CNN to see the rising smoke plume over the familiar NY skyline. No twin towers. It wasn’t until the news replayed the sequence did we understand the events.

    1. I was visiting my sister and her husband in Columbia, MO, where sis was a prof at U. Of Missouri. On my way back to Ohio from a birding trip to the Dakotas. Both of them were working that day, so I went out early to a nearby state park. On the trails for hours. Came back to the parking lot, and met a distraught professor who tried to tell me what had happened.

      I had parked some distance away, and when I got near my vehicle there was a park ranger sitting in his truck doing paperwork. He spoke to me, and remarked that he needed to get out of the office on such a nice day, but had reports to complete. Thought he would inspect a trail repair next. It was then I realized he had no idea what had happened. And I actually thought maybe I should say nothing, let him have a while longer without the terrible news. But I just said something horrible had happened, and he might want to turn on his radio.

  39. Just on 2:00 pm I was driving back to my office in Aberdeen, Scotland from a lunch when I got a call on my mobile from a cousin. I pulled into a layby to return the call thinking it was bad news about her mother who had recently undergone a major operation. It wasn’t, it was what came to be referred to in every part of the World as 9/11. When I arrived word was beginning to spread. It was obvious no work would be done that afternoon. We decided to close down a little after 3:00 pm. It was unbelievable watching the scenes on television over the next few days. It affected a great many people in Britain.

  40. I worked at 24th St and Madison Ave and lived at 5th Ave and 18th St, in Manhattan. After the second tower was hit we weren’t allowed to conduct business as our support staff had been evacuated from 5 World Trade Center.

    There was that huge smoke cloud over downtown Manhattan and not knowing whether it would drift north, and having an infant at home, We decided to leave the city for a few days. On my walk home, what I remember is the screeching of fighter jets echoing through the canyons as well as the ghostly look of people covered in ash, trudging north from downtown.

    Lots of people were standing on 5th Ave looking south, which had a direct view of the towers. Up in my apartment, while we were packing, we heard everyone outside scream as the 2nd tower fell.

    Our travel destination was NJ, but with all the bridges and tunnels closed the only way available was north through the Bronx and over the Tappen Zee bridge.

  41. My wife and I were on vacation in Switzerland and didn’t hear about it until the next day. We entered a store in Brienz to buy some lace thing for my mother and the elderly lady who ran the store said she was so sorry. When we wondered about what, she almost broke down, so unhappy was she about the the messenger of such bad news. We were very touched by her sadness and regret. Then we went back to our hotel and turned on the tv for the rest of the day.

  42. In 1963 I was on active duty in the Navy. The word came down that there was a National emergency and all non-essential communication was suspended. I don’t remember much beyond that. On 9/11, we were touring the tower of Salisbury Cathedral. We returned to our B@B (above a pub) and eventually went down to the pub for dinner. A crowd was gathered around a TV watching what we took to be a movie about an attack on the world trade center. Then some kind patrons, recognizing us as Americans, brought us up to speed. The good will toward Americans (lawn signs, etc.) was touching. Too bad we squandered that over the next few years. The weird one was Nixon’s resignation. We had been backpacking way out of touch. There happened to be some kind of faculty party on the evening we returned. We kept hearing fragments of conversation suggesting that something significant had happened. We finally asked and got the scoop.

  43. I was driving home at about 04:00 p.m Athens time when my wife called to say: “Terrorist attack in N.Y.. Lots of dead people”. I felt angry … what possible result would a twisted mind aimed for by killing unsuspecting innocent civilians?
    Arriving home, and without even changing my clothing, I got glued on CNN and saw the second airplane hit the twin towers live. I felt a bit numb, but my feelings turned towargs the families of the dead. I tried to fathom the grief: I am sure I was not able to.
    I watched live George Bush saying:”we will hunt them down and …”. I felt part of the “we” along with the sane part of humanity.
    I saw, and highly recomend, the BBC doc being aired currently on 9/11

  44. I remember what I was wearing. I had on this vintage black leather trench coat that my mother had purchased in Tel Aviv before I was born. Not really appropriate for the place or the weather, but I loved it. I had it paired with jeans, a She-Ra Princess of Power baseball tee, and these adorable suede ankle boots I’d picked up in Paris the previous year. I wasn’t exactly a fashion plate but I felt cool.

    Anyway, I had just started my senior year at Smith College (yes, Smith, and no, there’s nothing I want to say about that right now). I wanted to sleep in, but my friends dragged me out of bed early so we could go to this strawberry breakfast thing (I still have the flier). After that, I quickly did my homework then hurried off to the class for which I had just done the homework (Japanese Literature). When I got there, around 9am, there was a television playing what I thought was a movie. The Twin Towers were engulfed in black smoke. Then I noticed that everyone watching the television looked absolutely stricken and I realized it wasn’t a movie.

    My professor let us out early and I remember walking slowly back to my dorm. It was such a beautiful day. I’m sure that in the years since 9/11, I’ve seen skies just as clear and just as blue, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t really believe that. I’ve learned that the term for a sky like that, which sometimes comes after a strong thunderstorm, is called “severe clear.” It’s strange, but I don’t really remember the rest of that day.

    I grew up in New York City. (In Queens, but still. I had lately been spending a lot of time in Manhattan.) It felt personal, but I also felt so very detached.

  45. I had taken my middle son to New York for a week of sightseeing after his high school graduation. We were at the World Trade Center at 4PM, Monday, the day before where I mailed 6 postcards, that were never delivered. We had toured the towers on Sunday. On Tuesday, the day of the attack, I had wanted to take the subway to get to Wall Street for the opening, but my son was on west coast time and wanted to sleep in, so I let him. We were north at 33rd and 2nd Ave in a diner eating breakfast when the first plane hit. After that, it was a steady stream of sirens as fire trucks and ambulances came down 2nd Ave, literally by the hundreds, from all the surrounding cities and areas. From where we were on the ground, we could not see the towers, just the smoke billowing up. It looked like what we saw in Portland, after the eruption of Mt St. Helens, with cars covered with an inch of ash, driving north from the area. As we walked around people were walking uptown to where the subways still worked, with clothes covered with ash and dirt. Some were crying, others hugging each other. Some were headed to the various schools around Manhattan to get their children. Later in the day, we came upon a line of people 2 and 3 deep that stretched around several blocks–as we got closer we saw it was the blood donor line going into one of the hospitals. By the afternoon, cranes, loaders, vans and convoys of soldiers and police were on all streets driving downtown. The next day we saw a convoy of 7 long semi-truck parked on the side of our street, (2nd Ave). Later on the news, we saw that they were all refrigerated vans that were brought in for bodies. I also saw another long convoy of five very large tanker trucks of liquid nitrogen go downtown,(I assume for putting out fires?) We didn’t have much to do the next two days as everything closed down, so we just walked around. After two days and nights of continuous vehicles driving right beside where we stayed, we both still heard sirens in our ears later. The smell that permeated the air was unlike anything we were familiar with, and was another lingering unpleasant memory.

    Before 9/11, we had reserved a rental car to drive to Philadelphia, so after two days we were able to leave where we waited until the airlines resumed flying in order to get home.

  46. Sept. 11, 2001 was my 29th wedding anniversary. (Yes, tomorrow is our 39th, thank you.) Living on the west coast, I was the first to rise and start normal routines, without turning on news, TV, internet. My wife woke up around 8:30, turned on the TV, and immediately called me in, “Something’s wrong!” That began a day – and many more days after – of utter disbelief at the scope of what happened. I went to the office that day anyway, trying to distract myself with work, but my coworkers were constantly buzzing with conversation, and I finally suggested to management that they let people go home for the day. They did. Out here, we felt hopeless and useless but worried that we might be the next targets. We knew nothing.

    I forgot what plans we had for celebrating our anniversary that day, but we certainly canceled and stayed glued to the TV that night. Obviously, the our anniversary day has never been the same. I wonder how many couples have gotten married on Sept 11 since 2001. Going out to “celebrate” on the date has been awkward, so we usually celebrate on a different day. In 2011, we happened to be in Paris on Sept. 11, and the Parisians held a lovely remembrance ceremony at the Esplanade du Trocadero with large twin banners in French and English: “Le Francais N’Dublieront Jamais” – “The French Will Never Forget.” It was very touching.

  47. Son called and asked if we had the tv on. We said no. He said , “You better turn it on.”. We turned it on just in time for the second hit. I remember being stunned and horrified. Our son ( a pilot btw) was in Texas at the.time, but he and his wife lived in Queens. He was desperate to find out if she was okay but could not get through by phone. She was going to school in Brooklyn and took the subway through lower Manhattan every day. We were all worried sick. Turns out she was on the subway near Wall Street when it hit. The train stopped and they had to go up to street level where there wss so much dust she could barely see. She walked home (!) frm there across the bridge but was out of contact with us for about half a day Only way son could get back was to rent a car and drive which he did in record time.

  48. I was on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on 9/11. I was on a volunteer lobbying trip. I was also writing a daily guest column for Grist Magazine so I have a written record of what I saw and felt while I was there. The writing is not great but it still brings back memories. Below are few excerpts.

    “The nationʼs capital closed its doors this morning. Tamaryn Gladden and I had just entered the Hart Senate Office Building when people started streaming from the offices and down the stairs. Earlier, the World Trade Center had been attacked. Now we were told there has been an explosion at the Pentagon and “something” on the Mall. Shortly after we entered the office we intended to visit, an official evacuation was ordered. Outside, thousands of people milled around the office building. We crossed over Constitution Avenue to the Capitol grounds. Capitol Hill police were ushering people away from the building.

    “Soon we heard the news that the Pentagon had been attacked. All government office buildings were being evacuated. Cars and black SUVs with sirens raced down the street, pouring out of strange, tucked-away parking spots.

    “Billowing gray clouds are rising from the southwest.”


    “All 30 of us volunteers huddle around the television trying to follow the events of this morning. The Metro shut down. Telephone lines are tied up. Cell phones donʼt work, as too many people try to use them all at once. We have been told airline flights have all been cancelled events of this morning.”


    “Police have been at every intersection since Tuesday, usually pairs of them with backup in cars, vans, or SUVs parked nearby. The tunnel and subway between the Senate office buildings and the Capitol is closed to the public. I think the tunnel from the House office buildings is also closed. The public gallery for both houses of Congress is closed, I was told by my representativeʼs office.

    “Tuesday night and Wednesday night police barricades and vehicles blocked traffic for a block around the Capitol building. Flares burned before some of the barricades. I never expected an American city to look like th is. I picture this as the way martial law might look, with strange, smoky lighting and heavily armed and uniformed men controlling all traffic.Tuesday night, the police prohibited even foot traffic within a block of the Capitol. But, by Wednesday, we were permitted to walk about freely.”

    “Yesterday morning and today, the white ashes of flares mark all the intersections like misplaced and scribbled pedestrian crosswalk markings. But the police opened Constitution and Independence Avenues to vehicle traffic.

    “The sound of sirens comes from Capitol Hill in a constant stream. Dark SUVs with heavily armed police cruise the area. The National Guard patrol the streets farther from the Capitol. Forest-camouflage humvees roam the streets.”


    “Two of us went out to the Roosevelt Memorial. The FDR Memorial is relatively new. The monument stretches along the Potomac tidal basin in a series of waterfalls over granite walls quarried from across the country. The memorial struck me as particularly valuable last night. Across one rock face was engraved FDRʼs memorable quotes: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself, ” and the remarkable quote that ends with, “I hate war. ”

    “We were able to move with ease around Capitol Hill during the night, with the exception of the area surrounding the Capitol building and the House office buildings. Again, the red flares glared at the intersections closed to traffic. Capitol Hill Police stand guard at every intersection.”

    Another that reflects some politics reminiscent of today:

    “We have heard many strange reactions to the terrorist attacks, but the strangest comes from Alaska. The Anchorage Daily News reported the following concerning Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska):

    ” ‘Young warned against rushing to the conclusion that Middle Eastern terrorists were responsible. Thereʼs some possibility, he said, that the attacks are linked to the protests against the World Trade Organization, another of which is scheduled for later this month in Washington, D.C. “If you watched what happened (at past protests) in Genoa, in Italy, and even in Seattle, thereʼs some expertise in that field, ” Young said. “Iʼm not sure theyʼre that dedicated but ecoterrorists — which are really based in Seattle — thereʼs a strong possibility that could be one of the groups.’ “

    1. I was a few miles from the Pentagon right off 395. I remember the rumours of the Mall being on fire and a car bomb outside the State Dept.

  49. Interestingly your post aligns with research showing that we tend to remember objective details of what they call flashbulb events while not remembering the emotions.

    From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2925254/

    Memory for emotions can be quite unreliable (Levine et al., 2006). Here we show that, despite the salience of the emotional reaction to flashbulb events such as 9/11, the memories of these emotional reactions tend to be forgotten more quickly than other aspects of the flashbulb memory, even over the long-term.

    I was watching TV in the bedroom in Denver while my wife was getting ready for work. My first words: “I think we’ve just been attacked.”

    1. On the strength of the “flashbulb” moment thing , the BBC just interviewed the photographer who was with Dubya on the day of 9/11. Fortunately for him, he was too busy taking photos to be scared about the predicament he was in (for some reason, it was decided that the safest place was in the air).

  50. We all seem to recall exactly where we were / what we were doing on the occasion of certain events, often those involving the death of public figures. I wonder how universal such events are and whether they occur on both sides of the Pond
    I recall where I was and what I was and what I was doing on the occasions of the deaths of JFK, Winston Churchill, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Elvis and Diana, Princess of Wales. Also, the Dunblane school shooting ( 1996 ) and 9/11. Rather surprisingly, I don’t recall so specifically the death by shooting of John Lennon. I do however have a vague uneasy feeling that I was with my parents listening to news bulletins on the radio about Suez. I think I felt their fear so soon after WWII.

    1. Strangely, of all the memorable events in my life, I remember only 9/11 in any detail. I also remember when I learned Reagan had been shot. I’d just gotten into a cab at O’Hare at the driver told me. I think I was coming back from visiting my grandmother.

  51. I was at home when the radio announced one of the towers had been hit by a plane. I turned on CNN to see the second plane hit. Then I was certain it was a terror attack. (In his disbelief a CNN commentators said there must be confusion at air traffic control.) When the jumpers began to throw themselves out I was so sickened I switched off and went out. Late that afternoon a pub TV showed the towers were gone. It’s a cliché but I could not believe my eyes. How on earth…? I felt for America. What a horrible day.

  52. In Australia I woke up to the radio saying Cuba has offered aid and assistance to America. What the heck? Something big has happened and for the first time ever I turned on the TV to see the what ? Everyone here felt physically ill and dazed and pretty much all activities and meetings were cancelled. Who knew empathy could stretch so far across the seas. It was so shocking and dreadful

  53. … (the “jumpers” broke my heart) …

    Don DeLillo wrote a novel Falling Man, named after a post-911 performance artist who would show up on the streets of New York wearing a business suit, hanging upside down suspended by wires, in the pose of the jumper in the famous 9/11 photograph by Richard Drew. The novel’s protagonist, who keeps running into the Falling Man on the streets of New York, is a lawyer (who later quits the law to play professional poker) who was working in the WTC on 9/11 and narrowly escaped the collapse with minor injuries. (Anyone interested can read an excerpt from the novel here, published in The New Yorker under the title “Still-Life.”) The protagonist, one Keith Neudecker, has an estranged wife and a son and a girlfriend.

    Which in a strange way, I’m a bit abashed to say, circles me back to my own story of where I was when I learned of the 9/11 attacks — in the rack with my girlfriend, having overslept, when my estranged wife called to say we should turn on the tv because a plane had just run into one of the World Trade towers, probably just a single-engine number that had wandered off course is what they were saying on tv, she said. We popped on the tube just in time to see the second plane plow into the other tower, at which point everyone everywhere knew the shit was on.

    Spent the rest of the morning glued to the tube watching one tower, then the other, crumble to the ground. The rest of the day is a blur of sick feelings in the pit of the stomach and bone-deep sadness. I recall that Dubya — who’d spent the day wandering around at 48,000 feet somewhere above the Midwest in Air Force One, while Dick Cheney was running the country from an “undisclosed location” — addressed the nation, but I can’t remember much of what he had to say.

    1. “I recall that Dubya […] addressed the nation, but I can’t remember much of what he had to say” – I seem to recall that he didn’t have much to add to his earlier recitation of The Pet Goat.

  54. I was 27. I was leaving my apartment in Long Island City when Pat Kiernan (on NY1) says, just before I turned off the TV, something about reports of a plane flying into the World Trade Center. He looked confused. I was confused, but I shrugged it off and left for work. I had no problem getting on the subway, which was weird. Mine was the last stop in Queens so it was usually packed. I got off in midtown and walked past Bryant Park on my way to work. I marveled at how beautiful a day it was. I registered somewhere that there didn’t seem to be many people about. Got to work, went up the elevator, went to my office, all without seeing a single person, not even the doorman. When I got to my desk, I turned on the TV just as my supervisor came in and said that we were under attack. I dismissed it, because how could that possibly be true, and turned back to see the towers on fire. I worked in traffic for a TV network (commercial scheduling). My first thought was that all the airline spots had to come off the air, now. I kept working because I honestly didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t go home – all the bridges and tunnels were already closed so I sat there working as the news got worse and worse. When the first tower fell, I thought, “I should probably tell my mom I’m ok,” but the phones weren’t working. That shook me out of whatever trance I had been in and I left work. Almost everyone else already had. There was a report that Madison Square Garden would offer shelter to anyone stuck in Manhattan, so I started in that direction when I heard that the bridges were open and I could go home. No taxis or trains though, so I walked from 34th and 6th to the Queensborough bridge. As I walked across the bridge with what looked like a couple thousand of my fellow New Yorkers, fighter jets started circling the island. Every time they passed, we all cringed for a second, then kept walking. I finally made it back to my apartment. The towers were right across the river and I could see the site from my bedroom window, which was open because it had been such a beautiful day. The whole apartment smelled like burning metal. I called my parents and broke down crying.

    I don’t remember anything else that day.

  55. As it happens, 9/11 is my wife’s birthday. She was awakened by a call from her sister in New Jersey telling her to turn on the TV. We did, and, like everyone else, watched in horror. To make things worse, my wife’s brother was at the time a NY cop, and we knew that he was at the scene of the attacks on the Twin Towers. It wasn’t until late that evening that we learned that he was safe. Needless to say, it wasn’t one of my wife’s more pleasant birthdays.

  56. Living in California, the jets hit the buildings around 6:30-7am-ish. I was still in bed but I heard about the first hit on the WTC from my clock radio. I got up and went downstairs to see it on TV. I didn’t go into the office until after the second plane hit the other tower. It was an other-worldly experience.

  57. I had begun an 8am ‘Freshman Seminar’ class at my college when someone in the hall began loudly talking about the first tower’s being hit by an airplane. I went quickly to the student center to see what was going on, saw the disaster, and rushed back to fetch the student over to see. We were unfortunate enough to see the second plane’s crash into the second tower.

  58. What is now the Wells Fargo Tower in St. Paul was at that time the World Trade Center (St. Paul style, meaning it is half as tall as it would be in Minneapolis.) I was at work about a mile away at a body shop, out back having a cigarette and chatting with the production manager, The painter rushed out to tell us that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane, so I looked up at the WTC. I looked back at him, confused. He said “No, you dummy. The World Trade Center in New York!” So we rushed into the office to see on tv what was happening, and we still had a hard time figuring out that it was on purpose but I didn’t know what airport that it would have come from if the WTC was close to its flight path and this was an accident. Smoke was billowing out from the tower, and then the camera panned to the second plane.

    And we all knew what that meant as we stood in mute silence.

    I bought a newspaper on the way home, a special edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and I wrapped it up in cellophane. I kept it for about 10 years, then realized it wouldn’t really be all that valuable as a collector’s item.

    People were kind and thoughtful the next few days. Then a customer blew it for me when he said it was all Jimmy Carter’s fault, and the liberals. The customer is, as it turns out, not always right.

    1. I was barely 3 when JFK was killed and have no memory of it. I do recall that our family had a JFK doll, with him sitting in his rocking chair. I remember hearing about Bobby’s death, watching the excitement around the California primary and the sudden change as my mother and sisters started crying on hearing the news. Same with MLK getting shot, Just a sudden change in everything.

  59. It was 7.00 am approximately, walked into my recording and dubbing booth at a national TV station to be met with images of planes flying into towers on every monitor in the room… drinking my flat white and fresh hot muffin (a.m. ritual) stared and slightly in disbelief

  60. I had the day off and was driving to take my dog for a hike around a local lake when I heard on the radio that a plane (or planes, I don’t clearly remember the timeline) had hit the towers. By the time I turned the radio on again at least one of the towers had collapsed. I remember being in total disbelief, so I rushed home to the TV. I watched in absolute shock for the rest of the day.

  61. I remember JKF being killed very vividly. I was in sixth grade, and we were all sent home. The rest of that Friday and the weekend that followed my family was glued to the tv. We watched as Oswald was murdered.

    On 9/11 I was listening to morning NPR, when the first plane hit. I turned on the tv, watched until I had to leave to teach, but carried my big old boom box with me so I could continue to listen. I remember that the computer teacher, who also ran the school tv broadcast, was upset that he hadn’t gotten the classroom broadcast going yet, since it was still very early in the year. But especially I will never forget how stunned I was later to hear how many hundreds of body bags had been brought to the crash site, and that virtually none of them were used.

  62. I was reading on a boat in the Galapagos archipelago, waiting for the afternoon landing on an island, when the group’s naturalist guide came and told me what he had just heard on radio.

  63. I was working in London and had a BBC ticker tape app running on the bottom of my computer screen. Didn’t get much work done after the second plane hit the WTC and remember watching the TV news all evening with my then girlfriend (now wife, and mother of my kids). I just remember the indescribable horror of us trying to process what had just happened.

    When I emailed a work colleague who came from NY the next day hoping that her loved ones were safe I stupidly misinterpreted her “they’re calling it ‘911’ ” reply as a reference to the first responders rather than the (US style) date.

    1. I’m too young to remember the JFK assassination, but I clearly remember watching the 1965 coverage of Churchill’s funeral on our tiny black and white TV in our so-called “mobile home”. (I guess that makes me what in the US would be called “trailer trash” – as an actor, my dad struggled to get a mortgage and it was almost as difficult to get his occupation registered on my birth certificate. When my sister was born, the birth registry official put up less of a fight, saying “well, if that’s what is on her brother’s, I’ll risk it!”

      1. On the trailer trash front, my daughter moves into her new university accommodation tomorrow and I just recalled my own experience of that… I missed out on a place in the university’s halls of residence and was allocated a rented room in a private house. Not sure what to expect, I knocked on the front door which was opened by a friendly guy who said “I’m just hotting up some baked beans – d’ya want some?” I thought it was another student staying at the same place, but it turned out to be my new landlord. He had bought the terraced house next door too, so there was a bit of a Beatles Help! moment when I realised that the house was much bigger than it appeared from outside. The living room had a huge pub mirror along one wall, bean bags instead of furniture, and a high quality stereo system (switchable to any room in the house – the landlord was an electrician) together with a pretty decent record collection.

        Several years later, having dropped out of university, I coincidentally ended up in the same city looking for a quick summer job to finance travel abroad. I found myself working as a rubbish collector emptying the bins of my old student accommodation (the employment agency used the bin lorry job as a way of weeding out unsuitable workers – if you could reliably show up at 6 a.m. for a week you were allocated a more pleasant and better paid role with more sociable hours). But that “sliding doors” moment emptying the bins of my old student house is one I’ll never forget!

  64. Well, I was already on a joint US base in the sandbox. My work day was over, and I had turned on Armed Forces TV in my office while I finished up a bit of paperwork. With the time difference, the “Today Show” was on, and I happened to look at the TV right when they cut to the image of tower 1 and the smoke. I went over to my commander’s office, and we turned on the TV in his office, and as the events unfolded, other officers got the word and filtered in.
    When we saw the second plane hit, it was apparent that our threat condition was going to go way up, so I made those arrangements on the radio while we watched.
    Looking back at the days after, it seemed like a we just kept developing more and more wartime momentum. It felt to me like being caught in current. I knew where it was going, and was not very enthusiastic about more combat, but the current was relentless. The move to Afghanistan itself was an amphibious operation with no beach, but was organized more or less like any other amphibious operation. I primarily managed the movement and security of vast amounts of stuff from the ships offshore to the giant stockpile. For me, in the short time I was there, it was mostly a 24-hour cargo airlift operation. Talking to the helicopters day and night, and breaking down loads
    The bombing campaign made a vivid impression on me. Seeing so many B-1s, B-2s, and B-52s was sort of what I imagine the air war in Southeast Asia must have been like.
    The B-2s make an impression. Like the wrath of, you know, the thing.

      1. The fleet was in the northern Arabian Sea. First, a USMC temporary base was established in central Pakistan. The distance between the fleet and FOB Rhino in Afghanistan was a bit over 400 miles, so the helicopters needed to refuel to make the trip, and the Pakistan base was used for the air tankers that refueled the helicopters in flight.
        Pakistan is a “frenemy”. Our military and theirs have worked jointly for years. The same goes for the Saudis and several other Gulf states. But in all those cases, a sizable percentage of their population agrees, at least in principal, with the basic ideas that the terrorists act on.
        However, using Pakistani airspace was not an issue, as far as I am aware.

        I even have a nice little award that the Pakistani Air Service gave me at a dinner they held for us. It is in a velvet case, and the case has sort of an incense smell that takes me right back there.

  65. I was in Kansas City, MO, where I was interviewing for a position at UMKC. When I left the Provost’s office my escort told me that NPR had reported that someone had flown an airplane into the World Trade Center and there was some damage, leaving it to my imagination to guess what kind of plane, what kind of damage and any other details.

    By the time we returned to the School of Biological Sciences, televisions were showing the first tower coming down. My next interviewer was very shaken and offered to postpone, but I thought that we may as well soldier on since I had a plane to catch. He was watching TV in his office and when the second tower fell we were both so emotional that I had to leave. The remainder of the day was spent trying to find a way back to Madison, or rebook my hotel room for what turned out to be a five-day stay.

    I was badly in need of company that night, as were many of the other hotel guests and they kept the bar open for us. As I sat there and watched endless replays of the footage of the day’s events, I recalled how very familiar I was with with the two towers because the east facing windows of my high school in suburban New Jersey offered a clear view of the New York skyline from the George Washington Bridge down to the Verazano Narrows Bridge. From our classrooms we could follow the daily progress of the towers’ construction, which was pretty quick due to their modular design. In fact, up until 9/11 I always harbored some resentment towards those two rectangles because their presence contrasted so starkly with skyline’s classic look which I had lovingly known since childhood. Later on I learned that there is a 9/11 memorial at a scenic overlook called Eagle Rock in my old hometown because this is where people gathered to see the smoke plumes from ground zero for several days. The local media there carried many reports of missing people who commuted to the city and stories written months later describing the removal of abandoned vehicles from park-and-ride lots.

    But what really captured my attention were the reports coming out of Shanksville, PA., which I been to many times since it is located fewer than 5 miles away from the homes of all four of my wife’s grandparents. I was obviously concerned about their well being and was relieved to hear that nobody on the ground was injured when Flight 93 crashed. This is probably because it is a very sparsely populated area and the plane came down in a meadow that once was the site of a drag-line of a now-defunct strip mine.

    I finally got a flight out of Kansas City, but my connecting flight from Milwaukee was cancelled because the plane got diverted from La Guardia because of a bomb threat. Amazingly, the airline coughed up for a stretch limo for myself and another person (who turned out to be the wife of Sully Sullenberger’s co-pilot!). At that point, less than a week after 9/11, the midwest was engulfed in a wave of brotherly love (is that term still OK to use?) but even then I knew that it could never possibly last.

  66. As for 9/11:
    I was building the foundation for a large deck that morning, extra strength because of planning a ‘summer-kitchen’ or some such thing on that part of the deck. As it happens I’m now typing this in a ‘sun room’ which is what happened, sitting almost directly above where I was hammering nails or some such. My wife came out and said you better come in and see on TV, it’s really awful. So it was just us.

    As for JFK 38 years earlier:
    I had just arrived in UK two months before, was in Manchester lying on my bed upstairs in a bed&breakfast rental place arranged for me back in Canada by the Commonwealth Scholarship people. That was a Saturday morning, the assassination would have happened during the night, due to the 5 or 6 hour time difference. Heard it on BBC, probably a ‘classical’ music programme, probably planning to go to Old Trafford for a ManU game at 3PM, actually 50-50 but could find out. If a home game, I’d have gone. There was shock, but maybe not all that much talk about it publicly, IIRC.

    1. I was a student nurse in Birmingham England and a lecturer cancelled the afternoon session, stating that there had been a terrorist attack on New York using aircraft. At first I thought he must be about to start a simulation exercise.
      On the way home I stopped in the supermarket and some Asian men were scooping goods off the shelves with their arms and throwing them on the floor and laughing too loudly. A shop assistant was trying to speak to them. There was a lot of bad feeling in the city because of accounts of people leaving mosques beeping their horns etc. Not a good time.

  67. I was in the Air Force, stationed at Holloman AFB in New Mexico.

    When I got to my desk that morning, I did my morning work routine of counting the sorties of the previous day and tracking which ones had mechanical problems and which ones didn’t. While working, I saw on the news that a plane had “accidentally” crashed into one of the WTC towers. I am born and raised in NYC, my mom worked a few blocks from the WTC so it was a staple of my childhood when I would hang out at my mom’s job during summer vacations. So I knew how huge the towers were; I joined the Air Force in 1997 so I hadn’t been out of NYC all that long.

    Most people at the time thought it was an accident. I for some reason was under the impression that it was a small plane, like a private plane or something.

    About a half an hour later, the second plane hit, and things started getting busy on base. Pretty much everyone (on base, at least) knew it was some sort of attack when the second plane hit. I remember emailing my friend Jodi at the time (who was also in the Air Force) and saying “We’re under attack!”

    The timeline after that is a bit hectic, but a bunch of us first started gathering around a TV that had been brought out to the common area and we were all watching the news as the first tower fell. That’s when I attempted to call my mom, who, again, worked a few blocks from the WTC, to make sure she was OK. But phone lines were obviously disrupted by the event (Mom was ok; as soon as she got out of the Chambers St station and looked up and saw the first tower on fire, she said “NOPE” and peaced TF out back home).

    So probably an hour or so (again, not certain of the timeframe) after the second tower fell, we went to THREATCON DELTA. Which sucked for me, because I lived on base.

    Pretty much all non-essential work stopped, as supervisors and 1st Sgts were trying to help people get in contact with loved ones if they had loved ones in NYC, DC, or PA. All non-essential sorties across the Air Force were grounded, and I remember having to write in my monthly report for that September that all flights on Holloman AFB were grounded due to the 9/11 attacks.

  68. Parsippany, NJ working at Tiffany & Co. satellite office chatting about the previous night’s football game. Like others, it’s when I heard of the second plane that I knew it was no accident.

    I worked diligently until lunch time, annoyed that my co-workers were making such a distracting fuss. We were sent home at lunch time.

    Driving East toward my home in West Orange, NJ it was then that I started to understand the magnitude of what was happening when I saw what I originally thought was the strangest cloud. Orange in color, it billowed up from the ground all the way into the sky seemingly to the stratosphere on an otherwise clear day.

  69. I was living in a small village in Ecuador then, and I had no TV and never listened to the radio. I went out to buy bread. and the breadmaker told me that New York was under attack. I just laughed and patiently corrected him, thinking he must have misheard or maybe he had seen a movie and mistaken it for the news. When I got back to my house I dusted off the radio and found out he was right.

    1. We were at home in New Zealand; I was in bed asleep with my wife, when in a 4am call from Sth Africa, her father yelled down the phone; ‘turn the TV, turn the TV on!’. It was a rude awakening for my wife’s birthday (a date I have found easy to remember ever since!). Later in the day, in my science classes I was able to show replays from TV; it was very distressing.

  70. I worked for Aon Consulting here in Chicago. That July we had just moved into our new offices in the newly named Aon Center (formerly the Standard Oil Building)
    Aon Corp also had offices on the 95th floor of the Trade Center. One of my coworkers in Chicago had recently transferred to the New York office. I found out later that she had a dentist appointment first thing that morning and so that saved her life.
    In Chicago we began to hear rumors that the Aon Center and the Sears Tower were potential targets. By 9:30am we were all told to go home. I went back to my desk to get my belongings and call family members to tell them I was OK and we were all being sent home.
    Aon lost many employees that day. There were 2 woman in New York I worked with quite a bit, just by phone. I was worried about both of them. In the following days I found out that Mary had died, but Jane had survived. Jane was off work for months but eventually returned. She called me one day, with a work question, and I asked her how she was and if she could talk about it. She said it helped her to talk about it so I asked her how she escaped from the second tower. She said after the first plane hit they told employees to just leave and start walking down the stairs, the elevators were full of firemen on there way up. The stairwell was jammed but she just kept walking down. Then an announcement was made that it was ok to go back to your office, but she ignored it and just kept walking down (from the 95th floor, remember). As she was going down, the second plane hit her building. She just kept going. She said the worst part was when she got to the ground floor and walked out of the building. There were bodies everywhere and she could hear the sounds of people who jumped hitting the ground. She said she focused on looking at the tops of her shoes and saying to herself, just keep walking. She got away before the towers collapsed. I asked her if she had seen Mary at all. She said the last time she saw her, Mary had gone back in her office to get her purse and call her family to tell them she was ok and was about to leave the building. After 20 years I still get chills thinking that I had done the exact same stupid thing! It was definitely a case of a few minutes wasted costing you your life.

  71. I could show you the exact spot in my house where I was standing when the first images of the first plane came on our TV. It was about 1am (East coast, Australia) and my son was staying with us for a few days so we’d stayed up later than usual.
    Just momentarily I thought it was footage someone had mocked up until I heard the commentary.
    We continued watching, absolutely horrified. None of us slept that night.
    I, too, feel sickened at recalling the falling bodies. I can’t watch footage of the event — the horrible surge of adrenaline I get from seeing those images is just too much, even now.

  72. i was with a group of people. one of them was a bit left leaning naive. i asked her what she thought was going to be the response to this? she thought that it would lead to the world becoming more sympathetic and understanding in the face of tragedy.

    i said i thought it was going to lead to blood. oceans of blood. i also had been following cheney and “the project for the new american century” so i prophesied that we were going to invade iraq no matter who was responsible for the towers.

    i wish the future had not been so predictable.

    1. Seconded on that.
      When we went to desert storm/shield, I did not have a real opinion of the larger issues, and was mostly concerned with doing my job and worried about whether I would live up to my own expectations.
      Hitting Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001 seemed right, although I was apprehensive about going there.
      When we went back to Iraq, we knew it was going to be a disaster. Not militarily, but it was obvious to anyone who had spent any time there that the end result of removing the Baathists from power was just going to lead to more suffering, and have a negative effect on security in the region.

  73. My parents told me they cried when Kennedy died.

    I have a really terrible memory for events in my own life. I really live in the moment.

    Having foolishly, perhaps, decided to do a masters at UCL straight after my degree, one where the exams were in September AND I was trying to finish a thesis on a topic I was not so interested in, I was having one of 3 exams on the morning of the 11th.

    Came out at 1pm & went into Gordons coffee bar on the corner opposite the then Bartlett building. It was on on TV. Not really clear on much other than that I had another exam either on Wednesday or Thursday, so should have gone home & revised. It was a little difficult -TV beckoned all afternoon when I was at home.

    Inevitably one imagines the horrific dilemmas of those trapped…

    I recall many people saying now the US knows what the rest of the world experiences -I suppose the end of American exceptionalism.

    All those poor people – & for what?
    Religion is moronic.
    Bloody gods…

    Ps spent the best part of an hour reading everyone’s accounts…

  74. We lived in NY for a couple of years during the 1980s. We lived on the intersection of West 10th and West 4th streets and from a window we could see the twin towers, about a mile away, so the view was quite familiar. During 2001 we lived in Italy, and checking my email, there was a message saying, “What is going on in New York?” We switched on the Italian TV and we saw the same skyline we were used to in NY, with one of the twin towers on fire. We had someone cleaning our apartment and when I told her to look at our TV she just said, “Oh, this is science fiction,” and she walked away. A few minutes later we saw the second airplane slamming into the second tower, and for a second I believed this was science fiction. We could hear the comments of the American TV station that was relayed and realized that this was serious. A day later I learned from my coauthor that the son of our literary agent was missing, and he never recovered from his loss.

  75. I had started my first job after graduation a few weeks earlier in Ludwigshafen am Rhein and was at work. The internet was much slower and streaming news or breaking news were actually still Terra incognita, so I did not even notice what was going on in the USa.

    Actually I received the first information about the attacks on the way home as I listened to the car radio. At home, I then turned on the TV, where all public or private channels were also broadcasting the horrific images from New York and Washington. I called my parents then. My father was on the phone and he also had not yet realized what catastrophe had just taken place in the USA.

    It was a restless night afterwards, although we were a thousand kilometers away and not directly affected. But in Germany, too, massive security measures were ordered shortly afterwards, because similar attacks were feared.

    It turned out later that some of the attackers had lived in Germany before moving to the USA. Then came up again uneasy feelings, whether we could not also still become a victim of further attacks, which fortunately did not occur.

  76. From Wikipedia:

    The officers and crew of the German destroyer Lütjens (D 185), say goodbye and render honors to the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) by lining the rails in their Dress Blues as they came alongside the ship at sea. The German Sailors, who had become good friends with many of the crew on board Churchill, were flying an American flag at half mast and had hung a homemade banner that read, “We Stand By You.” The ships had been conducting joint exercises off the coast of the United Kingdom prior to the terrorist attack on the United States on 11 September 2001.


  77. I was 20 years old and living and working in an apartment building 2.7 miles down 395 from the Pentagon. My best friend’s NYU dorm was 8 blocks from the WTC. I watched a video filmed from her building today. I wish I hadn’t. .

  78. I was away on a work trip, my husband phone me around 11pm (we are in Australia) all distressed to tell me to put the TV on. Unfortunately I’d chosen the cheapest room, with no TV, so I could pocket the rest of my travel allowance. I ran down the corridor to the hotel restaurant hoping it was still open, to watch the TV. It was closed. I went back to my room and spoke with my husband who told me what he was seeing. I finally got to sleep that night, early the next morning there were thunderstorms out at sea. I could hear the rumbling and wondered if the War had started.

  79. I was at home, in our rural community at 108 Mile Ranch in British Columbia. At 7:00 AM our radio came on with a special announcement by a CBC newsreader. My wife and I, with our teenage daughters, went downstairs to turn on the TV. We saw the second tower fall. I exclaimed “all those people!”. Although we are Canadian, I felt as if my family were personally under attack. As a consequence of that day I found myself 8 years later in Kandahar as a reserve medical officer in the Canadian Forces. By that time the mission had evolved from eliminating al-Qaeda to trying to install a western-style democracy in the country. I believed (and still believe) that the key was to educate women. For twenty years we made some progress at this, but time will tell if any of it was worth it.

  80. It was a beautiful spring morning in ChCh (New Zealand) when I woke up on Sept 12 (we’re 16 hours ahead of the US East Coast at that time of year) – my flatmate worked in a bar and had got home late and turned on the TV and saw it live when the second plane went in. He then stayed up all night watching CNN and he came and told me about it when I was in the garage getting my bike out to go to Uni. I remember riding across Hagley Park as fast as I could to get to the lab, where we raced up to the room on the 4th floor where there was a TV. At that stage I didn’t even know that both towers had collapsed.

    I had spent April and May of 2001 in New York doing some experiments for my PhD in the same lab that I later postdoc’d in. On a clear day we could see the twin towers from the windows on our floor (Hammer Building, 168th St). I’d been back in NZ just 3 months when 9/11 happened, so all the streets and buildings and people were really familiar. I still have a receipt from Duane Reade pharmacy on or below the ground floor of the WTC – not sure where it was exactly, but I presume under the concourse somewhere where one emerged from the subway. I never went up the towers – was never keen on queues and tall elevator shafts. I didn’t even enjoy going up the Empire State Building. But I still spent a fair bit of time walking around those streets near the WTC.

    I moved to New York in late Sept 2002. As soon as I accepted the job I started to have the nightmares about planes flying into buildings. It was still very raw in Sept 2002, and quite scary at times. Some days I’d go up to work and there would be teenage boys in military uniform with big guns guarding the 168th St subway station. They’d be gone for months and then suddenly appear again. It was super unsettling. Every time something happened, like the big ‘blackout’ of summer 2003, everyone would be super anxious.

    What I find difficult to comprehend now is that almost none of the students I teach were even born when 9/11 happened! They say that about 25% of the population now were born after 2001, and so have no recollection of it.

Leave a Reply