Where Were You Eight Years Ago Today?

Right now, on the East Coast, the wee hours of September 11, 2009 have arrived. I find myself unable to think of anything but how eight years ago right at this moment husbands and wives slept in each other’s arms for the last time, how only a few hours later mothers and fathers kissed their sons and daughters goodbye en route to work, never to see their faces again.

It’s been eight years. I’m still brought to tears thinking about those innocent men and women murdered on that cool, crisp, cloudless Tuesday morning in September, about the final “I love you” coming from a telephone in an office high above lower Manhattan. Last year, I pleaded that we never forget …

Never forget.

Never forget the horrors of that beautiful, crystal clear Tuesday morning. Never forget the confusion after news of the first impact came across the television, over the radio, or from a friend. Never forget the certainty and uncertainty alike of seeing, hearing or feeling the second. Never forget the reports from the Pentagon, another airplane and hundreds more passengers–mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters–lost in Washington, D.C. and in a field in western Pennsylvania.

Never forget the images of those who jumped rather than submitting to the flames, fumes and smoke, and never forget the God-awful sound of their desperation finally reaching the Earth below. Never forget the businessmen covered in ash, soot and blood, carrying their suit jackets to nowhere in particular, the women crying on any shoulder in reach, the masses crossing the Brooklyn Bridge with that morning’s death and destruction behind them but far from out of sight. Never forget the heartwrenching feeling which arose from knowing that those buildings, as they fell in a heap of steel, concrete, soot, ash and dust, snuffed out thousands of innocent lives in an instant.

Never forget the hopelessness, the unanswered questions lost in the eerily quiet skies of the days to come. Never forget the anger, the ensuing resolve, the wounded but undefeated nation which came together in the subsequent days, weeks and months, the flags by the curbside and in every window, the spirit determined and strong.

Most of all, never forget the families left behind, the boys and girls who never again saw their mothers and fathers, the as-yet-unborn children now in their seventh year with nothing but photographs of a parent they had never met.

And never for a moment forget the stories of those who died, and the unparalleled heroism of those who selflessly gave their lives to save others.

…and this year, I want to do something a little more different, something that will ensure that we never do.

Please take a few moments today and leave a comment. Tell us where you were when you first heard the news that an attack was underway. Tell us what you were feeling. If you lost someone that day, tell us about them. Help us keep the memory of September 11, 2001 alive. Help us put faces and stories with names. Please take a few minutes and write — throughout the day, I’ll pull some examples out of the comments and post them here.

Note that, while I do not normally make a habit of rejecting comments, I will not permit overtly political comments in this thread, from any perspective. If you want good political perspective, click HERE for a New York Post commentary by Ralph Peters. This spot, though, is for remembrance and nothing more. I hope you understand.

In the meantime, I’ll start with my own. It’s nothing special.

Back then, I was doing business-to-business sales, trying to make ends meet after realizing that journalism didn’t pay. I was leaving my office in the Philadelphia suburbs, headed downtown for a meeting. A CD was playing in my car when I got in, and I decided that I wanted to listen to something else, so I pressed “eject.” When the disc popped out the radio came on, and while I’ve never really been a fan of Howard Stern, I could hear his voice coming across the airwaves like I had never heard it before.

I quickly gathered that an airplane had struck the north tower of the World Trade Center a few minutes beforehand, and switched the station to find some news radio. For a few moments, I figured it was a small aircraft and that the entire thing was a fluke. I didn’t want to believe that we were under attack, but I came to grip with reality just before United Airlines Flight 175 struck the south tower. As soon as I heard the gasps of those broadcasting, I knew that the world had changed forever.

I turned my car around and headed for home. I called to cancel my appointment, and had a surreal conversation with somebody there I didn’t know. Almost back to the apartment I shared with two roommates, and I receive a call from my mother in California. While we’re on the phone, she says: “Oh my God, Jeff, a bomb or something just went off at the Pentagon.” I wondered what else was in store for the day, and was glad that I was not in downtown Philadelphia. Before that day, I had never heard of Shanksville, PA.

The rest of the day I spent about four feet from our television, praying, screaming, crying. People were leaping to their death, unable to face the smoke and flames any longer. That act of desperation alone was just so far beyond what I could understand.

When the south tower collapsed, it was though the tremendous loss of life could be tangibly felt. Same with the north tower. The absolute horror we were seeing in the streets of lower Manhattan looked more like crowds running from Godzilla or an erupting volcano than anything seen in real life. I remember the ash, and the crowds of people filing across the Brooklyn Bridge. I remember how the projected death toll kept rising and falling throughout the day, with one anchor even suggesting that it could have been as high as 50,000 people.

Even now, I just shake my head. I want to cry. I want to fight. I pray for those who lost sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. And I pray for America, that we all can remember exactly how we felt that day. The fear, the anger and the helplessness.

My daughter was born September 11, 2001, at 7:28 a.m. CST. That’s 18 minutes before the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. EST.

I was still in surgery as it was a scheduled C-section.

I have never been able to spin anything positive about the day she was born. I simply say, “She was born the day the towers fell.” These simple words are enough for everyone to realize exactly what day she was born. No one doubts or questions what I mean.

Being only eight years old today, she does not understand the full impact of the other events of that day. But, she asks questions. She’s seen pictures. She knows the bad men died. She knows innocent people died, too. I remind her how wonderful for us it was that she arrived on that day, and then her spirits lift. — elspeth

We here at Bishop Hendricken have two members of our faculty who lost siblings that day. I know firsthand how – what word would suffice here? – distraught? devastated? – they were when they became fully aware of how their lives had been affected. To this day, however, one of those people, Brother Casey, still holds a vigil each 9/11 during the first half-hour of the schoolday. In fact, I was helping him with YouTube during this week, as he wanted to incorporate something appropriate for the students. How he can do this, with a picture of his sister above his desk, is beyond my ability to comprehend. He is a man of great strength and faith, and we are lucky to have him here at our school. — John Feeny

Yet minutes later that day
The buildings gave way
Leaving too many heroes to name
Let us all keep in mind
These heroes so kind
Their sacrifice was not in vain

Once at home we too were glued to the TV set. My brother-in-law was accounted for and had been just outside the building waiting for a ride to go to a meeting. It took him a long time to get home. That night was really bad. We live within the flight path of Dulles Airport and everything was silent until around 12:00 a military jet hit the afterburner and shook our little town. This was so eerie. — L. Banks

On September 11, 2001, I was sitting on a trading desk next to a man whose son worked in the second tower that was hit, watching as the first plane was flown in. After speaking with his son, relieved this man of about 70 went to get coffee. By the time he returned the second tower was hit and his son was killed.

Americans historically do have very short memories, but we are in a life and death struggle with no luxury to let our guards down. — Mike, PFMC

My aunt and uncle were giving the Oath of Allegiance on that very same day. The first crash, they said, was heard in the middle of a ceremony. The person guiding them through the process told them quietly: “Go on. Nothing is more important that what you are doing now.” It took me eight years to learn how right he was…

Never forget. Never forgive. — Rix

I spoke with friends who were also expecting, wondering what kind of world we were bringing these precious children into…One week later to the day, our first daughter was born. — Jenna

We were standing on the porch staring at the sky, trying to make sense of it all when a friend and co worker of his called. I could hear him talking it was so quiet on our street that morning. He said, “Johnny, I think there is another one.”
He went on to say he was on a rural road just south of where we live and saw a low flying jet banking sharply and heading back east. We knew about flight 93 before the news reported it. I remember standing there and wondering how many more were out there. — Starys

Also I’d like to share this about a friend. On that day, she sat down at the TV to nurse her youngest child. Soon after turning on the TV, she saw the 2nd plane hit. One of her sons, who was a toddler at the time also watched. For years, her son stacked his toy blocks, and knocked them over with a toy plane. Amazing how children remember things differently. — GiveMeSanity

These are only excerpts. See the comments following this piece for the full reflections, and others like them.

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Comments

  1. Georgia Traveler says:

    I was preparing to leave the RV park which was located west of DC where I had been staying while I worked nights in downtown DC. I had been told the evening before that I had been assigned to work in another area.
    I was on the phone talking to my wife to let her know I was getting ready to make the pull home.
    The TV was on and I saw the news start showing this tragedy in the making.
    I was so upset and angry that in all my travels this is the first and last time that I was not tired after many hours of pulling my travel trailer.
    I still think about how the plane that hit the Pentagon could have struck the Capitol building. Maybe that would have been a good thing, at least it would have eliminated the crooks that are there trying to ruin the good ole USA.

  2. elspeth says:

    RIP Christina Greene.

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