Boing Boing's September 11, 2001 archives.

Very early that morning, as the smoke was rising, Boing Boing re-blogged this eyewitness account by Teresa Nielsen Hayden:
I just climbed back down from my Brooklyn rooftop. An airplane has flown into the World Trade Towers. There's thick black smoke billowing out of several floors of both towers. Let me pause for a moment to say with all the lucidity I can muster that it is the strangest sight I have ever seen in my life.

I can hear the sirens of multiple emergency vehicles, 360 degrees around. There were people on other rooftops in my neighborhood, some of them talking on their cellphones. Down in the street below me a workman was shouting in some language other than English for the rest of his work crew to come out of the house they're renovating and see what's happening. I couldn't make out a word of it, but there was no mistaking the sense.

Patrick called from the office. He says from where I'm standing I can't see the big hole in the side of one tower.

And Cory wrote:
The Internet's major news sites have been shut down by a massive flood of traffic as everyone in the world calls and emails everyone else in the world to tell them the news. God, this feels so apocalyptic. Five people have just called me to tell me about this, and more -- all flights in the US have been grounded, the Pentagon's been hit, the flights were hijacked commercial airliners... Holy crap.
And Mark linked to this prescient piece by Dan Gillmor:
What happened on Tuesday was an act of war. The American government and military should and will respond in kind. If law enforcement and national security agencies declare war on the American people in the process, they will give the terrorists a gift. The despicable people who planned this will triumph if we add to the damage.
On 9/11, Boing Boing linked to this, from John Perry Barlow:
Control freaks will dine on this day for the rest of our lives. Within a few hours, we will see beginning the most vigorous efforts to end what remains of freedom in America. Those of who are willing to sacrifice a little - largely illusory - safety in order to maintain our faith in the original ideals of America will have to fight for those ideals just as vigorously.
Boing Boing: September 11, 2001.


  1. saw the news on TV, drive to work under strangely empty skies, told someone the world had changed, was disbelieved.

  2. I was living in Calgary….

    I was on my way to bed–having been up all night–when I checked an art forum board and saw my friend, Ali, who lived line-of-sight from the WTC post a thread saying, “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.” I figured it was a Cessna or a little Piper or something small and tried to look the story up on CNN. Got nothing. Site down. Finally was able to pull up the story on the CBC’s site and saw a picture. We turned on the radio in time to hear about the second plane. We listened. My then-boyfriend said, “Holy shit, your country is under attack.” We walked over to a friend’s house because they had TV, and we watched the footage of the towers falling over and over and over. News kept coming in. Flights were being grounded. Four planes were unaccounted for in Canada, and I remember we were worried about the oil offices in Calgary–connected to my building through Calgary’s plus fifteen system. I couldn’t sleep, even though I’d been up all night. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I think it was 36 hours before I was finally able to sleep.

    I still have all my journal entries from those days but reading them makes me cry.

  3. My mother woke me up when she heard the news of the first plane, and I remember turning on the TV and seeing the footage of the second plane. Then I went to uni because I was going to be late. But hardly anyone was in class; they were all out in the hallways where extra TVs had been set up in common areas. All anyone could do all day was watch, worry, and wonder what was going on.

  4. Sitting in junior high (god, it’s been half a life a ago for a young’un like me), over the intercom comes “There has been a major news event today, would all the children who have parents who live or work in new york please come to the auditorium. ” and that was it. It was all I heard till i got home, and saw the reports on the TV.

    I wasn’t a BB reader back then, but god, seeing whats happened since, and what you said, the fucking day of the attacks, i must applaud ya’ll for being nigh precient.

    Thank you BB, for that, i’m sure it helped someone see, and understand the turmoil that followed.(though mabye not the 9 year old me)

  5. I was working for a design firm in a high rise in downtown Philadelphia. Right after the first plane hit, we all gathered around a big screen TV in the conference room to watch. In addition to the general “holy crap” feel of the thing we were also very concerned because several of our office mates had a morning meeting in one of the buildings adjacent to the WTC (We found out several hours later they were all fine, having still been in midtown Manhattan when the first plane hit).

    But when the second plane hit and it was beyond doubt that this wasn’t just some sort of freak tragic flight accident, all hell broke loose.

    The Mayor of Philadelphia declared marshal law, but never really explained exactly what that meant. They ordered all of the high-rises in Philadelphia evacuated, in case they were targets too.

    I started to head back home to my house in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, but discovered that all mass transit had been shut down, in case THAT was a terrorist target too. So I started to walk the 15 miles to my house. About 5 miles in, a passing pickup truck filled with stunned looking white collar workers pulled over and the driver offered me a ride to my home town.

    My son was in second grade at the time, and to his school’s everlasting credit they did not close the school, rush all the kids into the auditorium or in any way do anything to freak out the students. Nevertheless, by the time the school bus brought him home all the kids knew that SOMETHING was up.

    My son and I went out into the backyard for a game of catch. He asked a few questions, and I gave a few simple answers.

    As we threw the ball back and forth an image popped into my head and I started to tear up. I wasn’t thinking about all those who died, or the country’s “loss of innocence”, or the shock of the events. What I became obsessed with was that George Bush would now take us into a Forever War, and that my little boy was about a decade away from being drafted and sent off to war.

    The reality turned out a little bit different. It remains to be seen if we are in a Forever War or not, but at least…mercifully…my fears of the return of the Draft were unfounded.

  6. I was in middle school when this happened. We spent most of that day watching the news. In the days that followed I became progressively more obsessed with media of all sorts.

    Now I’m about to get my degree in journalism, largely because of the interest sparked in me by the eerie horror of that day and the chaos that followed.

  7. I woke up to a radio reporter saying she used the Trade Center train station all the time, and she could have been a victim.

    I thought she was talking about the 1993 bombing.

    Then I turned on the TV…

  8. I’m apparently one of the ones who didn’t get traumatized– I saw the news, then went back to work. Worse stuff than this happens so often all over the world and will happen again sooner or later for one cause or another.

    Not to say it’s not awful, or a tragedy, but I never did understand why so many people saw it as world-changing. Man’s inhumanity to man is nothing new, and this wasn’t anything near the greatest example of it, either.

  9. @6 Cicada;

    It was world-changing because it was -us-, America which labors under a belief that all evil happens elsewhere and that we are untouchable, and it was theatric and it involved a form of transport that the whole world used, so theoretically the whole world could be a target. And it snowballed; Tower One Tower Two Pentagon attempt on White House etc. It was horribly well executed.

    I was in fifth grade. Students started getting removed from class, the teacher left the room briefly then came back white as a sheet, I was the seventh person to be withdrawn that day and joined a crowd of kids in the foyer. I asked my grandmother what was going on, she wouldn’t explain, merely took me to the truck and turned on the radio. I had a general ‘holy hell’ opinion of the situation from the start. But, being a kid, I didn’t understand why I was withdrawn, since a little elementary in Texas wasn’t going to be a target. I said as much.

    In the end, my grandparents and family became those people who would panic at every shift in the country’s climate from then on, and who now support any and every act for our ‘safety’, and laud the people who reduce our liberties for our ‘well-being’. It started right then, when we didn’t go anywhere or do anything for days.

    Terrorists sure beat the shit out of my family.

  10. I remember talking with my dad shortly after the attacks and we both agreed that the best response was to treat them as criminal acts, not as acts of war. Yes, extraordinarily destructive criminal acts, but clearly not within the definition of “war” which before that time required acts of a government against another government. A plot by a band of like-minded thugs is not an act of war and to describe it as such dramatically twists the frame of reference for ensuing public dialog and policy decisions.

    Unfortunately, but predictably, this was not something the Bush administration could manage. The political possibilities of having this unseen yet very scary enemy to trot out at all times were just too great to resist.

    The events themselves were definitely traumatizing and I have a hard time understanding where Cicada is coming from. But they were traumatizing in the same way that murder or robbery or assault are traumatizing. Our sense of safety and security had been breached in a dramatic way. However, why any one of us should have ever thought that our nation was endangered is also something that I have a hard time understanding.

    What would Al Gore have done?

  11. Another long-winded story, but as a previous Boingboing article said: “Everyone has a story and everyone needs to tell it. Over and over.”

    I was in an Central NJ high school – first period was choir (8:03am-8:47am), where we practiced “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield. Second period was gym (8:52am-9:35am). All the gym teachers were huddled in their office listening to the radio (none of the school was AV equipped) and would yell at us if we got too close. Third period was US History (9:40-10:22) and someone asked whether it was true the WTC had fallen down. None of us had heard the news, and even the teacher dismissed it as a rumor.

    The rest of the day must have been pretty typical for kids in the Mid-Atlantic: trying to call parents and relatives between classes, talking about the kid who punched in some lockers because his dad worked in the WTC and was probably dead, wondering if your mother made it through the city safely on her commute.

    My friends and I had planned to take Tuesday walks around the old cornfields south of town after school. We did, but the typical constant buzz of airplanes flying from Philly was gone. (It was something I loved, watching the line of three planes, so evenly spaced, flying slowly from the horizon over my house. When one passed over, a new one appeared on the horizon. It was soothing.) Instead, out of nowhere, a great rumble startled us and three fighter planes soared low over our heads.

    It hit us then, what this all really might mean, and we laid down in the cornfield and cried.

  12. I was a sophomore in High School, and we pretty much spent the day watching TV in the library. The morning started with me thinking that a flight controller must have seriously screwed up with the first flight, and the second flight being an obvious mark that it was intentional. I became the information lifeline for my surrounding students since I was (and am) a nerd who had one of those “news service” dual way pagers that was flooded with messages and updates.
    The most memorable thing about that day was seeing a message on my device from my mom saying “No matter what happens know that I love you.”
    Something I will never forget.
    Flash forward to 2003 and in my high school history class we all watched the invasion of Iraq (Shock and Awe!) live on MSNBC as though it was something to be proud of. I spent the remainder of my high school time being the one to always call out the atrocity that the invasion was, which, being at a Christian fundamentalist institution, was most unwelcome. Ahh memories…

  13. @cicada

    I don’t understand your not understanding, so I’ll let you know why it was such a big deal to me.

    I moved to Manhattan in the fall of 2000. If you never were there in person, they were truly massive. Fir those like me who didn’t grow up here, they provided the best landmark ever. Come up out of a new subway stop you’d never taken? Not to worry, that way is South! They were a friendly beacon that made this town navagatable. The Polaris of pedestrians.

    I remember going home one evening and coming around a corner and just simply gasped when I saw them. They made this town bigger than anything else. And then one day I came up out of the subway on 8th Street and they were on fire. A staggeringly perfect blue sky with a massive plume. I stood on a rooftop and watched one fall. I stood on a rooftop and watched the second one fall. Cars had been taken off the streets and from the eerie silence I heard everyone in the entire city wail. It was the most sorrowful, horrifying keening I ever hope to hear. Eight million crying out at once.

    I waited for the subways to start working again and eventually went home. I woke up the next day and waited in line to give blood. Waited in line to ask someone if I could help out at the site. Waited for the other shoe to drop. Waoited for something else out of a Michael Bay movie to happen to something or someone else that I thought would always be there.

    It’s been eight years now. I’m still here. I now work as one of the people that helps out on the Tribute in Light, the massive beams of light that show the towers again, if only for one night. It’s been good to be part of the healing process, for myself and any of those who lost someone in this tragedy when terrorism struck down three thousand people.

    But you don’t care. That’s cool. People are mean to each other all the time, there’s no point in trying to stop it or even bother helping anyone else out. That’s the way you want to run your life and go back to work. But there are others around that are willing to view this and other tragedies againt man as actual tragedies, learn from them and just do what they can to help people out.

    The next time you get on a New York subway, just ask anyone in the car how to get somewhere. People will argue with each other trying to get you there the best way. This town has undergone a realization that other people matter. Yeah, it gets tough sometimes and people can be jerks, but there are enough wonderful people willing to do whatever it takes, show you on a map, help to hail a cab, jump down on the subway tracks and prevent you from being killed while you’re having a seizure, that make every day worth getting up and leaving the house.

  14. i was at my company headquarters in asheville, nc – there was board meeting and we had a number of internationals in the office mainly from Sweden and Australia (they would end up stuck in the US for a week).

    We gathered around a 12inch tv with rabbit ears and watched the second plane hit in complete shock. It’s funny, but what stands out most in my mind was this temp worker that we had working the phones, she did not know what was going on yet and laughed at all us standing there in our suits staring at this tiny little tv screen, as if we were watching “the view” or something.

    As we watched the whole thing play out, one of my colleagues got a phone call from a staff member working a project at the Pentagon that he just saw a plane crash into the building. He could not reach another employee already in the building and was worried (turned out he was on the other side of the complex).

    Then we heard about fighter jets being scrambled to find un-accounted for planes in NY and PA…..all within a 30 minute time frame….just insane!

  15. @cicada

    On third reading, I think I realize why your reaction is so different from ours. You are analyzing the inhumanity of the terrorists as typical. We’re analyzing the humanity of the victims as atypical. I think this is why we were traumatized. We didn’t see the bad people in the plane, we saw the good people (dead and alive) on the ground.

  16. I was 11, am Egyptian and never left the country
    so the accident it self was happening on the other end of the world for me, that’s y it was mostly just another world disaster where ppl die all over the world

    what really affected me of course was the wars that came next, especially the one on Iraq where i heard about it on the radio on my way to school and was just in disbelief

  17. I can’t speak for Cicada, but I have seen stories about millions killed in African genocides and Indonesian earthquakes, felt bad about them in passing (and maybe even donated a small sum of money), then put it out of mind and more or less forgot about, knowing everyone else around me would do the same. The victims of those were just as human, except of course to people who knew them or were there.

    As I wasn’t one of those, I wasn’t any more traumatized by this than by other great tragedies of our time. There is simply too much wrong in the world already.

  18. I live in France. I was speaking with friends on several Undernet chans. Suddenly something happens, lots of people have been disconnected and several irc servers were down. People began to speak about a terrorist attack on Manhattan. No info on any website but big rumor begin to grow. I switch on the TV and i when i saw the second plane, i told to myself : war has just begun.

  19. As a somewhat aspergoid type myself, I think I understand Cicada’s reaction. For me, between the daily childhood bullying and a real desire to make the world a better place, I too see man’s cruelty in a cruel world as inevitable. Neither anger nor sadness can help, only action.

    I also saw an opportunity to make a fair bit of money in the stock market.

    And all this on the same day that my then-best-friend lost her father.

    My hubby mocks me by calling me a robot. I have a bad habit of taking it as a compliment.

  20. I was living in the Bay Area. My clock radio snapped on at 6:00 am, and the BBC reported that that a light plane had hit. By the time I was eating breakfast and listening to NPR it was clear that something really awful was afoot.

    I did myself the huge favor of not watching television until I got home from work. I flat out didn’t believe a co-worker who told me that the towers had fallen. It sounded like a net-rumor. But sure enough . . .

    What was worse for me was the fact that I had relatives living in the city. My cousin, who still lives in Chelsea, didn’t know what was up until he got up to walk his dog. Both towers were down by then. Sound sleeper.

    Another cousin was fine. A college friend was evacuated; he was a banker at the time.

    And while a lot of folks from the town where I’d grown up, Locust Valley, never made it home, no one I knew died or was injured.

  21. I was in bed with my man at his parents house. Just sleeping, thankfully, because his sister burst into the room crying, saying the twin towers in New York have been bombed again, they ran two planes into the buildings! We watched the news footage of the shit hitting the fan over & over & over. The phone at their house was constantly ringing with friends & family checking up on everyone. Later my bf & I went to visit our friend at work at a yuppie grocery store juice bar, and my bf, who (then & now) sports a long beard and long hair (and btw is also Iranian) was constantly getting nasty looks from idiots at the store. Almost got in a fight with one asshole who said some really disrespectful shit to him. Later we heard about the Indian (fuckin INDIAN! ok! not even middle eastern!) gas station owner who was gunned down by a bunch of Texas-style good ol boys for “bein’ a terrist.”
    I fucking hate people.*

    *not all people. not all the time. I’m just remembering how fucked up everyone was toward middle eastern/Indian/Pakistani/”brown skin” people in the U.S. and getting mad.

  22. I was in elementary school when this happened, in my Christian private school actually. We’d just come in from recess when another teacher came running in and told my teacher to turn the TV we had in our classroom to Fox News. By then, the first plane had already hit, and the teacher (who I guess was trying to keep us all calm) was telling us that everything was going to be alright. When the second plane hit, she was telling us that it was a military plane that was keeping anything from happening. It was at that point she started talking about her son, who was in the Air Force, and how he was going to be going into war now.
    All of the other kids in my class were checked out early. I was the only kid in my grade to still be in school, even though nothing happened for the rest of the day. When my mom did come and pick me up, she tearfully told me that she’d been unable to pick me up because she was crying over a ‘prophecy’ written in a book in the 70s about a ‘great fire in New York’. That was what really told me, at least to my 10 year old mind, what kind of person she really was. I think that was what damaged my faith in God more then anything else. But, that’s another story.

  23. In Los Angeles, like most places, airplanes were grounded that day. Unlike most places Los Angeles has a layer of smog fed, at least in good part, by air traffic. That night and for a couple days after you could look up into the Los Angeles sky and see more than a few stars. Any Angeleno will tell you; anything more than a planet and a stray star or two is an uncommon sight. The city is one of the few places in the world where a clear view of the night sky feels unsettling and strange — especially after what had just happened. For those moments it really did feel like those attacks could and did change everything.

  24. I live in California. When I woke up and turned on the radio, the talk show host said “in case you just tuned in, we have been attacked, one trade center building is gone, the other on fire”, and then started a multi day news fest with no commercials.

    After that every morning I would hold my breath when I woke up and turned on the radio. I distinctly remember the huge relief I had the morning I turned on the radio and heard a commercial…

  25. This page has a collection of blog posts from NYC bloggers that were written on 9/11 about the attack. (Mine is on there under

    I repost my story on my blog every year as my own personal way of remembering. It was a terrible, frightening day and I always remember how lucky I am that my family and loved ones were all safe. I still can’t listen to “Midnight Radio” without crying, 8 years later.

  26. I remember that day so clearly… everything about it. I was driving on my way to work down Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles and listening to a David Bowie album. I decided to turn off the music and listen to some KCRW (local NPR station) and heard muffled reports about planes and New York and the first tower of the World Trade Center being hit by a plane. I could barely process what I was hearing. I was so confused and shocked.

    Then shortly after they reported that the second tower had been struck and it hit me… My cousin. He worked in the second tower, on the 96th floor. My eyes began to well up with tears and I had to pull over to the side of the road because before I knew it, I was sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. I finally pulled myself together enough to get to work and talk to my family. My cousin had called my uncle when the first plane hit but no one had heard from him after that.

    Our office closed for the day and I drove down to San Diego to be with family. We spent the next few days glued to the television, our only real connection to what was happening to people we loved on the other side of the country. We kept on hoping that we’d hear something… anything. Days went by and no news of his whereabouts ever surfaced. He was never found, and he will always be missed.

  27. I normally don’t watch any television, but that day I could not help but watch that footage over and over again. Honestly, I didn’t even know the 2 towers existed before that day but now I can’t see a picture of them on fire without being overcome with incredible sadness.

    re: not being similarly affected about genocide in Africa, above comments…

    To me the difference is that (unfortunately) the people that live in Africa are all too familiar with the daily dangers they face. For the people who worked in the towers, they had just woke up and went to work like they had done every day that week and the week before – just like I do every day without thinking. It was so sudden, unexpected, and just shocking. It could happen again, anywhere in the world, at anytime, and its scary to think about.

  28. By the time I got up – 0900 Pacific or so – we knew the WTC attacks were on, and one of the towers might already have fallen – I’ve lost track of the exact timeline.

    I got to work around 11, and we had a radio running at the central librarian’s desk all day… more than slightly unusual in a public library!

    My clearest memory isn’t directly related to New York, but of a CBC News “breaking news” bulletin talking about explosions in downtown Kabul… and my first thought was “Damn, the Yanks have gone off half-cocked gunning for Bin Laden and the Talibastards…”. Turned out it was just an inter-Afgan incident. I was early by a few months, I guess.

    About a week later, one of our librarians was approached by a man in a suit, in tears. We had a “1000 Great Modern Buildings” photo book in the collection, with the WTC on the cover, and he’d lost several co-workers on 9/11. We moved the book behind the counter for a few months, with a note to ask a clerk for it…

  29. @CICADA It is strange to me that you would think that. Thousands of innocent people died that day due to deliberate actions from a singular event. That is not a daily event in the world. There maybe plenty of injustices in the world, genocides here and there, but when they do happen, they are news and remarkable. But even more strange, is that this was not a local/civil war, nor was it even declared or expected at a society level. It simply was the act of a sect of extremists that managed to unofficially declare war by hijacking something seemingly innocuous and with it doing a lot of damage without warning. There was nothing ordinary about it, and to say otherwise is just plain ignorant.

  30. I wanted to get this up sooner, but it took me awhile to decide to do it, and then a bit longer to find the images on my drive and fuss with PhotoBucket. This is a slideshow with seven photos of a portion of my experiences on that day.

    The photos were taken by a coworker, but he basically duplicated my path out of 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza and onto William Street after the South Tower fell. I escaped the dust cloud on my bike, and the North Tower fell as I was on my way to meet up with my girlfriend in SoHo. We made our way uptown and crossed the Queensboro bridge into Astoria along with around 40,000 other people.

    We were allowed back into the building about two weeks after the attacks, and I spent the next nine months or so watching, hearing, and smelling the cleanup.

    [There are brief captions, but the PhotoBucket tools along the bottom of the screen can obscure them when they pop up unless you keep your mouse still.]

  31. I lived in Hawaii at the time with my mother and sister. I was 18. My mother taught classes for the university of Phoenix, and at the time she was on another island for a class. She called us sometime after 4am to tell us what was going on and that she wouldn’t be able to fly home for a while, as they had grounded all flights. I am embarrased to say this, but the first thing out of my mouth, groggy as I was at that hour, and before I turned on the tv, was “cool!”. The second thing I said was, “oh wait, there were people on those planes. And in those buildings. Fuck.” I immediately got online and don’t remember much of what I looked at except that at one point I was in a chat room and a girl from England tried to strike up a friendly conversation with me. I said, “um, turn on your tv”. There was a long pause and then she said, “oh, god, I’m sorry, I just got home from school. I didn’t know.” I stared at the tv screen and watched the towers fall. My sister had left for high school. I had an art class scheduled for the afternoon. I decided to take the bus to the blood bank before class and give blood. I ended up in the waiting room at the blood bank for five hours. I kept watching CNN non stop with all my new friends in the blood bank and we all stared at the repeated images in disbelief. I missed my class. They brought us pizza. Finally it was my turn to give blood. The nurse said that my finger prick said my iron was too low to donate. I whined that I had been waiting for five hours, and she decided to fudge it and let me give blood. I went home and watched tv, and began shaking uncontollably. The next day I had a fever and was throwing up.

  32. I don’t have a great memory. I can only name a few teachers, or classmates from 30+ years ago.

    But I remember every second of 9/11/2001. I was working for CPAC (Canada’s version of C-Span) at the time and we were doing the final touches on a new control room. As the events unfolded we started picking up raw feeds from everywhere and displaying them all on the monitor wall. All the journalists, techs and office staff came in an we mostly silently watched. It was surreal to see the towers fall in real time from multiple angles. Around one pm our building was evacuated. There was a real fear that Ottawa would be attacked too.

    I still remember being ticked because I was already working 18 hour days to have that room finished by that Saturday, and I lost a day and a half because of this. I realize this was incredibly shallow of me, but frankly the whole thing was so mind boggling, that I wanted to drown myself in my work.

  33. I’ve said it before. I was at werk in a large open-plan office, and decided I wanted to go to the lavatory. People milling about as usual.

    Upon my return, I found the entire office (more or less 80-odd people) gathered around one computer in silence.

    “What? Has some major world disaster happened while I was having a shit?”

  34. Believe it or not, I was playing counterstrike when the towers were hit. Terrorists against police, how fitting. Someone in the comments told us what was going on, I thought he was bullshitting us. I guess the terrorists won that round.

  35. I remember going on, for information from the “mainstream” media. There was an article saying that the top people in government and defense had stopped using commercial airplanes that summer. The article raised the question, why did they stop using commercial flights, what did they know, and why didn’t they share the information? The next day I went back to to find the article (I wanted to share it with someone) and the article was gone.

  36. @MISTERJUJU (btw i’m #4)
    yeah, being an indian, niether of who’s parents worked in the new york area, who didn’t really buy into the whole idea of “american exceptionalism”, by far the biggest extent of the change caused by the attacks, was that I now knew what i was to be on the reciveing end of that (admittedly mild) racism.

    Before, people jsut coudn’t pronouce my name, and it was hard to ingratiate into a clique. (remember, i was middle school age) But after, well the worst racially motivated stuff, was that i was spit at, and had my lunch stolen by kids who said “why should the terrorist have food?” (turns out they didn’t like terrorist food, and dumped it all over me). That said, all my friends, and teacher stood up for nd helped me, and i will not forget the help of that janitor who helped me clean up after those kids decided they didn’t like my indian food.

  37. For me, I was working in a high-rise in downtown Tampa, right down the street from the tallest building – the federal building, and a mere 10 minutes by car from the major international airport. We were just starting a staff meeting when someone said a plane had hit the WTC. We flipped on the news and were brainstorming what would cause a plane to do that – heart attack, bad radar, serious malfunction, etc, when the second plane hit. The first thought was, “This is a seriously screwed up malfunction!” for all of about 10 seconds before we all went, “Holy crap, we’re under attack!”

    We spent the next 2 hours watching the news and every single plane that came into site until we could see it had landed at TIA. Then we were released and they shut down the building.

    However, about 2 years ago I got the chance to do some consulting for a big company up in NYC. I stayed at the Millenium Hotel right across from Ground Zero, with my room overlooking the worksite. I could hear the round-the-clock construction, and in the evenings tried not to think about what I would have seen from that room on that day.

    The people I consulted with that week had *all* been there. One was supposed to be on the floor that was hit, but woke up late. Another was in the building. Another was in the crosswalk between the two. They all shared openly about their experiences, what they felt, what they saw.

    And perhaps the most fascinating thing was how many of them told me, “What we saw – it wasn’t right. We were there, we saw it, and we can’t help but wonder what *really* went on”. And that blew me away – it’s one thing for us to all have our conspiracy theories, but for someone who was in the building, or was in the crosswalk between the two, to say, “I don’t trust what has been told to us” well…

    I was a firefighter at the time. I’ve listened to the tapes. I can scarcely imagine the horror those people felt. The tapes do a sadly amazing job of expressing that. I am thankful the US did not declare full war on its people, though some of the policies are rather messed up and need to be rectified.

    And the amazing thing that these comments confirm – we have people in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting this war who were in *elementary school* when these attacks happened. Think about some 5th or 6th grader, who is now overseas shooting at Taliban.

  38. I had just moved out of Manhattan, lived in Hoboken across the river. I could see the towers from my living room window.

    I was working from home. I awoke at 8:46. I remember it distinctly because I was staring at the clock and thinking that I didn’t need to get up this early. This, of course, was the exact moment that the first plane struck the North tower, but I didn’t know it. I turned on the computer, checked email, and a few minutes later went to the Yahoo homepage and there was a small little blurb that said “Plane strikes WTC”. Nothing more, I guess it was too early yet for more information. I thought “Hmm!” I had just read a few days before about a time back in the 30s or 40s when a plane struck the Empire State Building and just assumed it was an accident like that. I leaned back to peer out the window, and sure enough I saw smoke rising from the tower.

    The rest of the day was surreal as I watched it all from a distance. Cell phones, of course, weren’t working. My landline occasionally worked for incoming calls only. The only thing that kept going was my cable/internet connection.

    A week before I had been talking about how I hadn’t gotten up to the observation deck in the WTC yet and would like to do it sometime.

    I took the PATH train into the WTC a lot in those days. When the PATH finally reopened, I tried to get on it as early as I could (by this time I had moved to Westchester). Riding into what was once the WTC was a very odd experience, as well. I remember being shocked at how much they made the temporary station resemble the original PATH station.

  39. I live the UK. I remember, 8 at the time, coming home from school: vaguely aware something had happened, I think, but of course it was mid-afternoon over here at the time. I think I found out, or realized, when I turned on the VCR to watch Digimon, as you do, when you’re 8. But all 5 channels were on the news, showing nothing else, information as it came in. At first I was annoyed at my lack of cartoons: then, I actually watched it, and realized what it meant.

    I remember hearing it on the radio, the first estimated death toll, or something like that, which must have been a lot less than what it ended up being, and breaking into tears. It was the first time that I felt the world outside my life, on the news, out there, had affected me. I always watch the news now: that was the day I started to pay attention to it.

    Half my life, now.

  40. I had been working on a project finance deal closing until around 2am (Pacific) – which had been scheduled to close on that Thursday – so took a cab back to the East Bay, had a belt of whisky, and went to bed… and woke up to the phone ringing, then my wife yelling “oh my god, oh my god” repeatedly until I bolted out of bed. I’d assumed at that moment either her folks or mine had been killed and though we’d only been married a couple of months, knew everything would be okay — so, sadly, my first reaction to the television was relief — since I assumed from the television that a King Air turboprop or some such had gone in to the tower, a tragedy on the 20-person scale, but nothing to anyone we knew.

    But my wife’s company’s NY office was in the South Tower (she had been scheduled to be there until a few weeks before for a sales/marketing pow-wow) and she knew damned well some of her friends were in there. It was a long, long day. Sadly, three of them – who had apparently decided to make a phone call first – didn’t make it out.

    The oddest thing about that day, for me, was calling a family friend to tell them my folks (who were on a trip to NYC) that they were okay. This was about noon Pacific. And she had walked out to get the papers, but never turned on the television or received a call. And hadn’t a clue that anything had happened. She must have been the last person in the United States to hear about it.

  41. I was living 1500 miles away from NYC at the time and what struck me was how EVERYONE knew someone who worked in the Tower complex.

    Most eventually heard from friends/family, but many never did.

    The surreal lack of airplane noise for three days…the surreal feeling of watching the towers fall, and the horror of realizing that some 50 THOUSAND people walked in and out of those doors on a normal day and holy shit how many made it out…and the wonder for days of who did it (the rumors of it being a US job swirled for a while)…and the fear of where ARE we safe? Anywhere?

    We left on vacation to another country a week later — we’d already bought the tickets, figured it was pretty safe to fly at that point as everyone was on edge…and it was actually a relief to be away from the nonstop media blitz for a while.

    I was pretty surprised, though, to find myself bursting into tears a few years later when I flew home from London through Newark and the emptiness of the skyline was heartrending.

  42. Like Theresa, I watched the towers burn from my rooftop in Brooklyn. Saw the the second plane hit, and the South tower fall. I can understand what #8 is saying–there’s a lot of horror in this world–but for me that doesn’t make it easier. Watching the televised bomb-porn at the start of the (2nd) Iraq War left me shaking.

  43. Though the body count was higher, much higher, this event was akin to the Patty Hearst kidnapping, or the Oklahoma City bombing. That is, a scheme planned and carried out by a small group of disgruntled early twenty something MEN, and nothing more. Virtually all the crap one hears about Al Quaeda is nonsense.

    Unfortunately, it became the pretext to keep pouring literally trillions of dollars into the Defense Industrial Complex (DIC) since the so-called “red” scare, the former excuse to keep the war machine well-oiled, had lost all credibility.

    Now, we have to be coshed on the head every time September 11th rolls around with notions of heroism, patriotism, jingoism, etc., which of course reinforces the notion that we have legitimate enemies who don’t want us to be free, that hate our way of life, and so on.

    The implicit message, really, is that we need to keep spending money on tools that disarticulate human flesh so that we may remain safe from, as Bush so eloquently put it, “evil doers.”

    If I am going to remember 9/11, it will be as the day that would lead to 1,000,000 Iraqis losing their lives, or the day that the mendacious republicans decided to appropriate tax payer money so that they might vicariously live out all of their violent, racist, sadistic fantasies, and while doing so, truck favor with all of their constituents who might have been of a similar bent.

    The Democrats are no better, and, as I have formerly noted here on Boing Boing, they are

    “The catamites of American politics at the present moment or maybe just the partially developed, heartless, anacephalic, parabiotic twin hanging limply, parasitcally, and grotesquely from the only real functioning political party in this country. We may all rightly despise the despots currently in power, but we may rightly despise even more their feckless deformed enablers”.

    I wrote the above paragraph when Bush The Terrible was in power, but it still remains somewhat true today.

    Instead of beautiful cities, instead of equality, instead of universal health care, instead of cities free of mentally ill homeless people, we spend our money on weapons and prisons. As a result, we have a very mean and war like culture where violence and paranoia run rampant — social Darwinism writ large.

    If there is a lesson I take from 9/11 it is to distrust male power. It is paranoid and leads to extreme, relentless, and merciless violence.

  44. I was skipping my morning classes because it was my 21st birthday. Woke up to my cell phone ringing, and it was my father. “Turn on the tv” “Whaa?” “Turn on the fucking tv”. That got me up, since he never swore. Turned it on about 5 min before the second plane hit. Sat there for an hour or so, not really able to process anything else. Drove to school for no other reason than it felt like I needed to do something, and sat through about 15 minutes of an accounting class, where we only talked about the various rumors of more planes unaccounted for flying around. We disbanded, went to the student union, and watched on the big screen (42″) tv. Going home, I could see the smoke from NYC, even though it was about 100 miles away. The traffic going towards NYC was backed up that far as well, and people were just standing around outside their cars on I-91. No birthday party that year.

  45. My recollections from Bristol, England. Tuesday September 11th 2001…

    Woke up late, not long finished my job with Frank and slept in late, as is my habit when unemployed. Was having a wet shave and between splashes I could hear the radio talking about an aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center in New York. Interesting, picturing a light aircraft, I’ll put the news on when I finish, its bound to be on, did not think too deeply about it, no rush, went downstairs.

    Mother watching TV, what I seen on the box did not compute with what I heard on radio a few minutes earlier, she seen a plane crash into it, I could only think Mum was watching a replay of footage, both towers on fire though? how big was this plane that set both towers on fire? Mother explained she was watching the news about a plane crashing into a building and then another crashed as she was watching, and then I walked in…

    A minute or two of confusion, then the only conclusion of a plane crashing into each of the towers is it cannot be the accident as I presumed, Mum was confused I was confused and we were watching the first replays of the second plane crashing into the south tower, no accident Mum, no accident Luke. Glued, goosebumps, understanding & realizing hundreds were dead & dying with each breath inhaled, confusion, just confusion everywhere by everyone on telly, witness to murder, oh my God, hand over mouth, yes its real Mum.

    I can describe the following hours of coverage as the most bizarre televisual experience of my life, spent it all with Mum. Dad was at work, I phoned him several times throughout the day, never phone Dad at work usually, wanted to hear his voice. He was listening to the radio, all over the world I imagine the common feeling of checking the whereabouts and thoughts of loved ones.

    The Pentagon attacked, plane crashing in Pennsylvania?, America under attack, act of war, rumours flying over Washington D.C., evacuation, panic. A plane flies overhead, a shiver down my back, are we under attack? is this how it starts?

    When the south tower collapsed the coverage was momentarily elsewhere, when the live footage returned to New York the camera position was from the top of a skyscraper looking down into a dark grey cloud of stupendous magnitude swarming Manhattan. First notion was of a nuclear bomb exploding, then the footage of it falling from every angle.. The most horrific and amazing sight I have ever watched. Every channel going apeshit with attacks everywhere, on a hundred planes that had been hijacked, of a no-fly zone in the western hemisphere. America is under attack, we are under attack.

    I know enough recent history to realise it had been 60 years since anything close to this had occurred, knew this had changed EVERYTHING – Kennedy, Diana, Cuba all rolled into one. Shamed and privileged to witness this-then irrational event, a moment in time, pre 9/11 and post 9/11. Glad I was with Mum that day.

  46. I was in the fifth grade in the Maritimes. I think that the teachers might have told some of the older students about the attacks, but I don’t remember hearing anything about it until I got home from school. My dad was watching the news, and told me a plane had crashed into some building in New York. I didn’t think much of it – I assumed some confused pilot had crashed and that it would end up being a big joke about human stupidity or something. It wasn’t until my brothers got home and told me World War Three had started that I began to understand what was going on.

  47. I had just graduated college 4 months earlier. I’m a theatre Technician and we had just finished up a call at the Skydome in Toronto. Setting up for a big fundraiser or something for a prominent Jewish Doctor. We finished the call at 5 am or so, and so I waited for the first train back home to Oakville. I got home and turned on the TV (normal routine) and it happened to be on CNN JUST as they were breaking with the news. HOLY CRAP! My roommates and I sat there for a while watching, then they went to school. I stayed and watched for a while. Just after the towers fell I got a call from my Mom. A friend of hers lives/works about 6 blocks away. She was trying to get a hold of her for a while…couldn’t. I told her all the info that I was able to glean in the short period of time from the news and told her everything was ‘fine’…she wouldn’t have been close enough to be seriously affected. OF course, I may have been lying…but…trying to calm down a near hysterical mom is always hard. Turns out she was fine. Then I received a call from work. They closed the Dome and CN Tower, and would I be able to come BACK TO WORK to strike the stuff we just set up, as the event had been canceled. It was the FIRST time I refused work. Closed due to fear of attack, but you can come into work…makes sense to me! Wait…no. Plus, no sleep isn’t a good position for me to work in! I can still remember thinking as soon as they hit (right off the top) was that Al-Quida finally did it.

    It was a sad day…

  48. I was on my way to class, but class never happened. I ended up back at my dorm. My roommate at the time, Olga, was from Greece. We watched the towers fall over and over again on TV. She just kept saying that the rest of the world hated America. Like it was to be expected or something. I just didn’t understand.

  49. I was six at the time and as my parents were selling their house, our realtor was standing in our kitchen talking with them. I remember her say something like “It just crumbled down from the top!” I was to shy to say anything, but I wondered what was going on. I asked my parents later and they explained that two buildings in New York has been hit by planes and a lot of people had died. I remembered asking if my uncle was ok, because I knew he lived there. Luckily he was somewhere else in the city.

    I offer my sorrow to all of those who lost someone.

  50. I was sleeping; call from my mom woke me up shortly after it started. My first reaction was, “Holy fuck, 50,000 people work in those buildings.”

    Thankfully the assholes who hijacked the planes didn’t realize that New Yorkers (the slackers) don’t start work till 9AM. (Why is that anyway?)

    Then I called my dad, an architect. Woke *him* up with the news. He turned on the TV, and after absorbing what was going on, said words to the effect that he wouldn’t be surprised if both buildings collapsed. Dad’s a pretty smart guy.

    Spent the rest of the day just zoned out in front of the TV in various places. Was in a coffee shop in West Omaha when Air Force one flew over on its way to Offutt AFB. Spent quite a while worried about my town being targetted, due to the presence of STRATCOM.

    Actually blew out the tuner on my TV watching news coverage over the next couple months. I hardly slept; looking back, I think it traumatized me without my even realizing it. Weird.

  51. I was in eighth grade. One of my teachers tried to get us to have a discussion instead of just watching news coverage, my two final teachers of the day made us continue with class.

    In all my other classes we watched the television, those same images over and over again.

    That night, Mom and I needed to watch somehting other than the television coverage. We went and got takeout from Boston Market in a semi-surreal haze and watched the promotional Yu-Gi-Oh tape I’d been sent in the mail weeks before, eating our slightly-sweet mashed potatoes.

    I don’t remember when/if Dad came home that night, honestly. He’s a journalist and he covers Sandia and Los Alamos, so it’s entirely possible he was busy with that.

    During the school days, we talked quietly about whether we’d be a target. Maybe as New Mexicans we have a different awareness of that. We know that we have most of the nukes and the people who make the nukes, though as children there was a lot more lore about where they were hidden (secret chambers in the Manzanos, etc.).

  52. I was a junior in high school. I always came to school late because my first period class, Italian, didn’t care about attendance or not (a typical blow-off class). I was putting my books in my locker in the abandoned hallway when the intercom came on and the principal mentioned what had happened. The way he described it, I thought that two planes had had some sort of navigational errors and hit each other in front of the WTC towers. I started walking to class at the same time my Italian teacher was walking away. I remember opening my hands, palms up, with a stupid grin on my face, saying, “WHAT?” because I didn’t understand what was going on. He ignored me and walked past me. It turns out his brother worked in one of the towers and he was understandably worried about him (though it turns out he wasn’t there yet that day so he was okay). It wasn’t until I sat down in class and watched the TV reports that I started to understand what had happened.

    I still remember what I wore that day because… you’re not going to believe this, but… it was picture day. And we still had to take pictures that day for the yearbook.

  53. I was in the UK West Midlands working in a Cardiac operating theatre. Too junior to be completely left to run cases but senior enough that my supervising Consultant could be around on the floor but not necessarily in the room while I gave the anaesthetic. One of the nurses coming back from a coffee break mentioned a plane hitting the WTC – I blithely replied that they were designed to withstand such an impact and thought little of it. Then the second plane hit and it was obviously more than just an accident…

    After that the boss and I took it in turns to run the case while the other watched TV in the coffee room and kept the Theatre team up to date as it happened. The mood was very sombre and there wasn’t much discussion, just shocked silence and refuge in concentrating on work.

    From 1700 on I was resident on-call for emergencies over night, the case had dragged on and the Consultant had to wake the patient and set him up on ICU alone. It was relatively quiet in the evening with lots of time to watch it all over and over again on TV from every angle. I remember being disgusted by pictures of rejoicing from the Middle East, but at the same time understanding. Plenty of time too to worry about the other planes that were supposedly missing and maybe headed our way and I’d be on the sharp end of any healthcare response.

    Time also to realise that while the US had an idiot in the White House that Americans were going to get mad and try to get even, and we were all screwed. I dearly wish I’d been as wrong about that as I was about the quality of the WTC’s engineering.

  54. My (now ex) husband and I had been in Austin, TX since September 1st for a semester-long research project he was doing. On September 10th, we stayed up late watching War Games with a friend of ours who had also recently moved there, from NYC. Obscenely early the next morning (it must have been around 10am central), the phone rang. It was my friend. She said “Turn on the TV. Doesn’t matter what channel.” One of the towers was so completely surrounded by smoke that we couldn’t tell whether it was still standing. I kept telling my friend that it was impossible for the towers to fall, because they were engineered to withstand a plane strike (turns out that meant a 707, not a jumbo). We were watching when the remaining visible tower fell. My ex-husband woke up to me saying “Oh my God!” My friend started trying to get in touch with her friends who still lived in NYC, but the long distance system was so overloaded that she couldn’t get through. When we heard that the Pentagon was also hit, I tried to call my parents (my dad worked in northern VA at the time) with the same results. I felt like I should send some kind of e-mail to my own classmates back in Finland, but I had no idea what to write.

  55. A note to all commenters:

    I would like for us to do something special with this thread. Humor me, please.

    I want to preserve this thread for first-person testimonies and reflections, not for internet-arguments about whether “men” are responsible, or whether one commenter is right or wrong about some theory of violence.

    Those who wish to may argue or muse may do so in this 9/11 thread.

    But I see dozens of amazing, real, personal accounts piling up here. It’s amazing. This is a wonderful and rare thing. It’s a living historic record.

    That is the highly restricted topic I will permit in this unusual thread. I will ask our moderators to remove other noise.

  56. Here is my story. On 9/11, I had recently quit my stressful, exhilarating, larger-than-life job at Silicon Alley Reporter Magazine in New York City, and was unemployed, trying to figure out what would come next in my life. I was living in San Diego at the time. The dot-com boom had just gone to bust.

    Just a few weeks before the attacks, Jason Calacanis and I had put on a conference called The Rising Tide Summit in New York. I’d put together all the editorial with Jason, invited all the speakers, events were my job there. My “pet” panel at this event, the one I was really excited about that I conceived and booked, was with Ambassador L. Paul Bremer on one side, and Hussein Ibish from CAIR on the other. A debate about civil liberties of Arab-Americans in the context of the CIA’s increased anti-terror + surveillance ops. This was right when some of the smarter folks in our social circle were thinking and talking about Bin Laden. After the Cole bombing. I remember that most of the conference attendees were bored with the government guy talking about some dude in the middle east they’d never heard of and didn’t care about, and people walked out of the debate to go check their stocks. Bremer was a compelling speaker. I didn’t expect him to be as smart and eloquent as he was. The stuff he said scared me. He said Bin Laden was America’s greatest threat. Almost everyone walked out of the panel, they were there for schmoozing and internet business networking.

    So a few weeks later, September 11. Back then, as now, one of the first things I did when I woke up is check email. I had recently subscribed to a new email service CNN was offering: news alert headlines by email.

    I saw that morning’s headlines drop into my inbox, one by one, each more surreal than the last. “Some asshole thinks this is funny,” I thought, “CNN really ought to get a better handle on their internet security, clearly someone is pranking.” Within minutes, I was called to the living room, and soon we were all glued to the TV, watching the planes hit and the fire explode and the people soar out of the windows like gray birds, earth-ward bound.

    I remember the sense of dread, and everything being different. I remember the silence in the skies in the days that followed. I remember feeling afraid and deeply depressed, and knowing everyone else around the country felt pretty much the same.

    The thing I remember the most about my own personal experience, though, was reading Declan McCullagh’s politech mailing list, and sites like Boing Boing (I wasn’t part of BB at that time), and emails/essays from Dan Gillmor and John Perry Barlow and other smart, bold minds, and thinking — I have to do this. I MUST be part of this. I want my work and my life to amount to something, and I want to make the kind of contribution to truth that these people are making. I want to be that kind of journalist. I can’t do anything but this anymore, what has happened changed everything. What I do has to matter now.

    The other little thing I’m remembering now, this is a little morbid funny here — a family member had recently launched an online furniture company. I was inbetween what I’d just done, and whatever I was going to do next (shitty time to start being a freelance reporter). I was working with them to build the business. We went out together on some sales calls in the field, to try and buy/sell office furniture from collapsing tech startups. I remember having long debates about when was “too soon” to do field sales calls. I think we waited like two weeks, and we had to start, because we were out of money. We walked into one biotech office building, and everything was still totally empty. Upon hearing our sales pitch, one receptionist just glared at us and — she didn’t even say anything, she willed us out with the force of her eye-lasers. We knew what she meant. That happened a lot, around that time. And we stood outside in the parking lot, and looked at each other, and said “Yeah, it’s still too soon. I guess we go home and watch more CNN.”

    I remember spending a lot of time with the people I love most. And worrying about friends back in NYC. And — everyone says this, but it’s true — knowing that everything would be different after. I think I became a more “serious” person. I had more respect for friends and family members who’d forecasted this sort of doom, and the long war and terrible injustices and economic mess that have followed. I made some changes in my personal life around that time that were — how do I say this — one of the first times I felt crushed, sad, and powerless, and hit bottom and chose a path out that involved growth, positive change, and a determination to live and work differently. Some of what happened around that time made me learn what it meant to trust people in a new way. Bonds between loved ones became stronger.

    So: many have spoken about what they witnessed outside, but that was what was happening for me, inside, on the other side of the country.

  57. I wanted, needed, to wait to post this.
    I was on Australian Avenue, West Palm Beach, Florida, heading towards
    my job at the science museum. I was just passing Lake Mangonia when my
    normal radio was interrupted by the DJ’s.
    A plane had hit the World Trade Center.
    They were switching to CNN.
    As I drove in, it all seemed surreal. What sort of plane? Sightseeing,
    maybe? I remembered the B-25 that had struck the Empire State Building
    in the 1940’s; could it have been a military plane?
    All of this was going through my head. But I had a busy day ahead of
    me; a couple of classes under the dome, some production work on a new
    show, some artwork. Busy busy busy.
    My office was under another dome, the observatory. I had just arrived
    when the museum’s CFO came around the corner and asked me to come here
    and see this.
    Another plane had struck the other tower now.
    The network, which one I don’t remember, played that footage over and
    over again.
    Then news that the Pentagon was on fire. Another plane had struck it.
    That’s when it hit me.
    “Oh my God. This is Pearl Harbor.”
    Soon, the towers fell. There was also a smoldering crater in a field
    in Pennsylvania; another hijacked plane.
    The museum was less than a mile from the airport. The director felt it
    was best to close for the day.
    My fiancé called. She was heading home as well.
    After what seemed like an eternal drive, radio off, I arrived back at
    our apartment, sat there waiting for her, and cried.
    What seemed like a new decade filled with so much hope, so much
    potential, had just been blown to hell. I had a gut feeling that this
    was going to end poorly for everyone.

  58. The most significant detail I remember is thinking for about 30 seconds that maybe it was just as well Bush was elected (or not elected?). The rest of the eight years I knew that was the dumbest thought I ever had.

  59. I was in seventh grad social studies class. We were doing an exercise on foreign relations and resources. The teacher was handing out Hershey’s kisses to demonstrate the amount of resources that each country had.

    “So the US has five Hershey’s kisses and Afghanistan has none. What do you think they’ll do?”

    “Attack them!” Laughs all around.

    Shortly afterwards the PA system came on.

  60. I remember the day clearly, as many others do. It’s not something anyone is soon to forget, I hope…

    I worked for the local press here in Upstate New York. It was a late night, stuffing papers, as it usually was. I suppose I got home around 4 or 5 AM, and went to sleep.

    That morning, I fell asleep with the television on. Just a couple minutes before the second plane hit, I woke up out of a dead sleep, and looked at the TV.

    It was such an unreal day. My sister and I, for lack of anything else to do (and not wanting to stay glued to such horrible news), went out to some of the local stores that stayed open.

    Our little city really was a ghost town, that day. Stores were empty, there was no one around on the roads. The only place that had any kind of activity was the local campus.

    My mother worked for a coffee shop there, and I remember going in to visit her. Everyone was transfixed, and their eyes welled with tears.

    It certainly was the most somber day I can remember. And very surreal.

  61. I’m 100% sure having a hangover saved my life on 9/11, and it’s the main reason I’m here to write this now. I had been working on Fulton St., which is 2 blocks east of the WTC. I lived 10 blocks north of there, and my usual commute was taking the E train to WTC stop, and then walking the 3 blocks.

    One of my oldest friends came into Manhattan the evening before, and the two of us went out to John St., a bar a few blocks away from the WTC and got hammered.

    In hindsight, this next part will seem unbelievable, but this was something we did fairly often, before Manhattan became locked down like a prison ship. If not for what happened the next day, this would have just been a typical night out.

    After drinking we walked over to the plaza between the Twin Towers and smoked a joint. We used to smoke there late a night because it was always desolate, like most of the Financial District at night, and the plaza was a pretty wide open space with great views. We hung around and smoked cigarettes, and I remember we were talking about how awesome the BBC Jane Austen films are.

    I stumbled home around 3 am, knowing I had to be back down there by 8:30am to work. I woke up with a horrific hangover, and a I was running late. I was completely nauseous from overdoing it, so I jumped out of the shower and decided to hop on my bike and ride the ten block instead of the subway. I hate riding the subway hungover because of how stuffy it is, and I thought the fresh air would wake me up a bit.

    Riding my Haro 8 ball BMX, I was at Church St when the first plane hit, about 3 blocks away. I didn’t see it, but I heard and physically felt the impact. I had no idea it was a plane at first. I looked up and saw fire and debris falling from the towers. I stopped at my usual coffee spot, and asked my coffee guy what happened. He said he thought a plane went off course and hit the WTC.

    At this point I had no idea it was a terror attack, and thought it was a terrible accident. I went to work over on Fulton St., and I stood outside watching the chaos down the block.

    Then the second plane hit. Fulton St. had a completely unrestricted view of the towers, and there were myself and 3 of my co-workers standing outside. The impact shook the windows and set off every car alarm on the block. Everyone started coming out of their offices and we were all standing on the street, feeling lost. One of my co-workers had spent 10 years in the Navy and he said “This is attack. There’s no way this was an accident.”

    Until he said that, I honesty wasn’t scared. I felt bad because I knew quite a few people had probably been killed on those planes, but we felt safe standing where we were.

    After the second plane hit, I wasn’t sure what to do. I was technically ‘The Boss’, and I was unsure if we should start working or not. Again, in hindsight, I know that seems insane, but at the time we had no idea how bad it was going to get. I called ‘The Big Boss’ (our phones still worked at the time), and he said we should get to work.

    We stood around outside, not working as the cops and firemen started streaming over to the site. We also noticed some people who were walking, but were a bit cut up from falling debris, headed towards us away from the towers.

    The there was a rumble and the 2nd tower started falling. The whole street shook, and we actually saw the dust cloud coming down Fulton St. at us. I ducked behind the bumper of a silver Volvo Station wagon, with my co-worker from the Navy and the smell hit us before the dust. It was the smell of burning metal, which I never really have experienced before or since. It was hard to breathe and I was covered in white dust, which we learned later on was of course asbestos, aluminum bits and who know what else.

    The wave went over us, but you couldn’t see a thing. It was pitch black. I stood up and said to my co-workers “Let’s fucking run for it, to the Seaport.”

    We ran down to Fulton St., and at this point there were also hundreds of other people running with us. It was hard to see, but really hard to breathe. When we hit the South Street Seaport, two of my co-workers said they were going to ru across the Brooklyn Bridge.

    I thought of my dog, and my first thought was I had to go get her. I ran North, and it was pandemonium. For some reason, I remember a lot of people running past me in the opposite direction, towards the WTC. People were screaming and holding hands. A lot of people were bloody from tripping and falling, and everyone was covered i dust from head to toe.

    I saw a woman in a wheelchair, that was knocked over and she was screaming she couldn’t get up. A guy in a Burger King uniform pushed her back up, and she was bleeding and he started wheeling her towards up town.

    I ran as fast as I could, but by the time I hit Canal Street I was out of breath. People can’t asking me what happened, because they saw I was covered in dust and out of breath. I just kept saying ‘Run, Run Uptown’. That was the only answer I could give. I was definitely in clinical shock.

    When I reached my block, every single person was out in the street. Sometime during my run, the second tower fell, but I didn’t hear or see it. I was just concentrating on making it home. I grabbed my dog and stood outside, talking to the deli owner across the street. She asked me if I wanted a beer, and she had one too. My cell phone (one of those very early flat Nokia’s) stopped working, and my landline did too. There were two cops on the corner by the deli, and I asked them what I should do.

    They said they were trying to evacuate lower Manhattan via ferry, and I should head to the west side and walk North, but I probably couldn’t bring my dog. I decided to stay, because I wouldn’t leave my pooch. Plus the chaos of all the people heading North was scaring me.

    There was a steady stream of bloody, dusty, scared people walking up Broadway past my block. I sat on the steps of the deli, drinking beers with my neighbor, and the whole conversation centered on should they stay or leave. They decided to leave.

    This is really sad. There was a guy I recognized, but didn’t know. He was basically a neighborhood junkie I would see spare changing a lot around the block. He had on one of those orange workman’s vest, and a an of spray paint. He went up to the deli owner, and said the cops told him they wanted businesses to paint ‘Emergency Street Numbers’ in front of their stores to make it easier to find them in the chaos. It would cost them $40 USD. What a fucking opportunist.

    I went up to my roof, and the smell was unbelievable. I tied a bandanna around my face, and all of lower Manhattan was just black. I had a Polaroid in my apartment, and a neighbor on the roof took a shot of me. It looks like the photo was taken at midnight, in the fog, but really it was just how thick the dust was.

    I stood on the street in front of my apartment, giving beers to strangers, trying to figure out what was going on. Because of where I was, I had almost no information. No web, no phone, no tv. There was no solid information, and every person that walked past, had a bit of news or a rumor.

    Everyone was drinking. It seemed like the only thing to do. I was certain I was going to be dead in a few hours, so I thought I might as well go out drunk. I knew that many people must have died, but didn’t realize how bad it is. When I heard from someone that the Pentagon had been hit, I became petrified with fear. I thought maybe this was the prelude to an invasion of some kind, and that I would be trapped in Manhattan.

    I ran into a friend down on the street, who was trying to walk back to Brooklyn. I lent him one of my bikes and wished him luck. People continued walking North from downtown, and many of them were really injured and bloody. The bar and deli across the street started handing out water and beers to people walking past. Strange as it sounds, there was a small block party on the street. By now, people who were still standing around were staying to ride it out.

    One of my neighbors, a very elderly Italian woman, kept asking me what all the smoke was from. When I told her both WTC towers had collapsed, she wouldn’t believe me. You couldn’t even see to verify it because the smoke was so thick.

    The rest of that evening is just a blur of images to me. The one that sticks out is, is an older black gentleman, who standing next to me on the corner, crying. He looked at me, and just hugged me and then I started bawling while I held this guy. Logic just failed me from that point on out.

    The next few weeks were the strangest of my life. I lived in the closed off zone, and by the second day there were very few people around at all, other than soldiers and cops. The deli and bars ran out of beer and food by the next day. I laid down in the middle of Broadway on the yellow line, because I figured that was something I would never be able to do again. I couldn’t get in touch with friends or family without phone or email, and many people I knew thought that I had been killed until I found a working payphone uptown on the third day.

    I returned to work, downtown 12 days later. Those weeks after, trying to act normal and business as usual in the weeks after were the most sad, strange and surreal of my life. We cleaned up our space as best we could, and just tried to hang in there. It was the only time in my life I felt that it was important to just get our business up and running, mainly to show the world that you if you knock down a NY’er we’ll get right back up.

    I lost a lot of friends that day, and many more afterward who have become sick from breathing in the dust. I also lost my entire way of life, and it’s taken me a long time to deal with this in a positive way. I’m a much different person because of what I saw that day. I absolutely abhor violence now, after having seen and smelled what it looks like. I also realized that humans just naturally bond and help each other in a disaster.

    That’s my story of 9/11. Sorry if it’s a little disjointed or rambley.

  62. @emilydickinsonridesabmx:

    “I also realized that humans just naturally bond and help each other in a disaster.”

    This was truly the great thing that happened in Manhattan as a result. I see so many more people offering seats on the subway to just being courteous on a daily basis. I wish the niceness had come with a cheaper price but it’s certainly been a great comfort.

  63. I remember that day in flashes, probably because I spent most of the day in a state of shock.

    That day was the first day of classes for my freshman year of college. I remember I had an 8am writing class, and had been awake maybe five minutes when my friend called me in my dorm room. “The World Trade Center has been attacked,” she said. “A plane was flown into it and it’s on fire.” I was barely awake and said “Well… damn. I still have an 8 o’clock class, though. I’ll talk to you later.”

    When I got to class, everyone was quiet. Our professor talked briefly about a tragedy in New York, but said that we may as well go back to our dorms. “Don’t worry about going to classes today,” he said.

    My dorm had a big-screen TV in the lounge, and I spent hours in front of it, just watching. I felt strangely disconnected from it all. I grew up (and went to college) in the Pacific Northwest, about an hour south of Seattle. New York seemed so far away and removed from me. I didn’t know anyone who lived there. But sitting there, watching the TV, watching the replay of the planes, watching the first tower fall, I felt sick.

    I remember there was one piece of footage where a cameraman was taping the people hanging out of the windows above where the second plane had hit. They were waving white pieces of fabric out of the windows, and a couple seemed to be trying to climb down. Then, one person just jumped… JUMPED out of a window, and the camera followed that person down until they were lost in the smoke. I thought I was going to throw up. Of all the footage they replayed that day, I never saw that clip again.

    What was so strange about it all was that it was a beautiful day were I was… the sun was shining, it was perfect shorts weather, and if it hadn’t been September 11th students would have been outside, throwing around frisbees and running around. It didn’t make sense to me… “how can it be so beautiful and peaceful here while there are people dying at the same time?”

    That sick feeling only got worse over the next few days, as Bush made his speeches about “evil” and “retribution.” I was furious that the president, OUR LEADER, was going to turn a national tragedy into an excuse to go to war, to kill more people in the name of some bastardized quest for retribution. I was furious as the members of the Senate and the House gave him 27 standing ovations. And in 2003, as I watched us invade Iraq on the big-screen TV in our college’s cafeteria, I felt the same sickness and anger.

    Maybe my story isn’t relevant because I wasn’t in any way directly connected to those events (lost no friends or family, never been to NY, etc). On that day, I was just another American who felt the loss and tragedy of the deaths of so many Americans. And after that, I was an American who felt loss, frustration, and anger, over the knowledge that more Americans, and many more Iraqis were dying, simply because of the actions of a small group of terrorists. We were all hurt that day, and I feel for those who were hurt the most… but September 11th, and the resulting actions in the years that followed, served to remind me that all killing is a tragedy, no matter how you package it… and killing for the sake of revenge/safety/etc… is still a tragedy, and will only bring about more pain, hatred, and hurt.

  64. I was working in Century City, CA, as a web development consultant. My father called and said that someone had crashed a plane into the twin towers. There are two buildings in that area which people also call the twin towers. I assumed someone from the local airport had crashed their cesna into those. We were working in a high-rise as well so we didn’t go into the office for the next few days. I remember the surreal experience of no planes in the sky and the equally surreal feeling when they started flying again.

  65. I would really like to thank all of you with absolutely all my heart for writing these personal recollections down here. Especially especially especially those of you who were there in New York City on that day. My god, seriously, thank you all, this is just amazing to read. Thank you.

  66. I was living in the Capitol Hill area in Salt Lake City on the day it happened. I kissed my fiance’ and headed out the door of our apartment. Someone in the next building over, who I’d never met and never spoke to again, came out on his balcony and told me to “Go back in and turn on your TV. The World Trade Center has been hit.”

    My first thought was a confused “and?” but I turned on the local news and watched the live feed as the first tower fell. I got my fiance’ out of bed.

    She begged me not to go to work that day. I think it was fear that I’d be hurt somehow. I was and still am a federal employee(postal). I couldn’t think of being anywhere else on a day where we were under attack. I wasn’t about to be afraid. I wasn’t about to let whoever did this win. My America as I lived it each day would be the same as I could make it.

    One of my coworkers had brought in a TV for the lobby. We watched with our customers of which there were few. We stayed open all day. It meant a lot to me that amongst all the fear and confusion, we were there to show the strength of not letting the fear scare us off that day.

  67. @MCCRUM I agree 100%. I’m a born and raised city kid. I was 23 during 9/11, and NYC had become a mean, jaded place. Even ravers were killing each other, Michael Alig anyone? I was definitely planning my getaway. I think anyone who stayed after 9/11, and for all different reasons many people did leave, really learned how to be a citizen in the traditional sense.

    Your statement about NY’ers fighting to give a stranger the best directions on the subway is spot on. Anyplace where people have experienced a terrible event together is like this. I’ve found the same type of humanity in places in Eastern Europe.

    I’m enrolled in the WTC health registry, and from time to time they send you a letter and ask you to come in if you like, take a questionnaire, send medical records etc., to track the physical effects of an event like this on a population. I’ve spoken with some of the docs and shrinks working on this project on many occasions, informally over the last few years (they are great, smart folks). One doctor said it to me best, “911 taught people how to give a shit about their neighbors.”

    There were definitely negatives on the population too, especially racially. There’s two that stick out in my mind.

    There was a family of Sikhs that ran a little deli in the Bway-Nassau-Fulton stop, underground. When we went back to work after 12 days, they had a huge sign in their windows that said “We are the Sikh Community. WE ARE NOT MUSLIMS.”

    About a month after 911, I was taking the A train to Brooklyn Heights to meet a few friends for dinner. When the A train pulled up, I was standing on the platform with a dozen or so Wall St. types, and as the train pulled in I looked in the windows and thought ‘Score…Empty car I’m getting a seat and I can listen to Sarah Cracknell on my Archos Jukebox!”

    The train pulled into the station, the doors open, and the car is completely empty…except for one guy in his 20’s, in full traditional Middle Eastern/Muslim dress. I’m embarrassed to admit that no one got on the car, including myself. We were scared and paranoid of another attack. That’s the ugly side.

    Overall though, @MCCRUM, NYC is a much more human place, despite the cost.

  68. Cheers to everyone here – and thanks for your words

    I’m originally from NYC, and that day was far from home in MA a meeting that morning with the president of the Catholic school I worked at in the IT department. The president walked in and said a plane hit a building in NYC, and we should pray for them. I assumed it was a small plane, and felt bad for the folks.

    About 30 minutes into the meeting, my co-worker got coffee and a cafeteria worker told him the Pentagon just got hit – that we were under attack. I sat there for about 5 more minutes, but couldn’t hear anything at the meeting anymore. My brother and sister and cousins worked in the city.

    I walked across campus back to the helpdesk where my co-workers were watching TV. I asked what was going on with the towers, when one woman replied grimly: “What towers?”

    Dan Rather was crying. No one said anything. I walked back to my desk and put my head down. I felt sick. Grabbed my cell phone and called my Dad, who said everyone was OK that we knew. That night I didn’t have one wink of sleep – it replayed over and over and over as if I was in a torture chamber – intentionally. I was out of tears by 4am, but I still cried.

    Everyone we knew wasn’t OK, and I knew some who died later as a result of the conditions. But it didn’t matter who they were. My friends, my family, my city, my hometown, my country was attacked. As soon as I could think clearly again, I returned NYC because I had to go home again, and I’m here now. I’m ready for the bastards who will never succeed again.

    Even though I wasn’t there, I never thought I’d be able to digest what happened that day.

    Friday I finally watched “102 Minutes that Changed America“, an riveting documentary that just won 3 Emmy’s yesterday. It’s a compilation of video from the people who were on the streets that day. I couldn’t look away.

    After watching that film I think I’ve finally started to deal with what happened. Thanks to Siskel/Jacobs for their brilliant work. Watch it when you get a chance.


  69. I’m an American, but I’ve been living in the UK since 2000. I was working in London on September 11. Somebody came up to our floor and said a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

    Like many people, I assumed it was one of those little Cessnas that are often flying around Manhattan. I guessed that some green pilot had made a very bad mistake or was trying some stunt that went wrong or even decided to kill himself.

    At some point, somebody said that a second plane had hit the tower and I knew that it wasn’t an accident. One plane might be, but two planes? This was clearly something planned. There was a television upstairs and I joined a bunch of people gathered around it to watch. There wasn’t much information, but I did learn that it was commercial jets, not small planes.

    After a few minutes of watching, I remembered my last visit to New York. My company had an office in Midtown and I was there on business only a few month before. My boss and I stayed at the Millenion (sic) hotel right across the street from the WTC. I remembered meeting up with a friend from college in the south tower. My friend who works there. One the 100th floor. For Cantor Fitzgerald.

    I returned to my desk and began a futile attempt to contact my friend. Of course the phones weren’t working and her mobile wasn’t getting through either. What followed was an afternoon of e-mailing other college friends, hoping that someone had heard from her or her parents to say she was OK. Of course, we’ve since learned that nobody where she worked survived that day.

    I don’t remember leaving the office or traveling home. I don’t remember if we left early. I think we did. When I got home, my wife and I just cried. It was such an awful thing to have happened.

    A few days/weeks later, I went to visit Grosvenor Square, the site of the American embassy in London. The entire square was filled with flowers. The sheer scale of sympathy from people around the world struck me and the number of people who came to lay flowers around the US embassy was an amazing sight.

  70. I lived in NYC from 1994-1999, and used to ride the 2/3 daily to graduate school from Brooklyn. I still remember with great relief the release of humanity at Wall St and again at the Chambers St stop.

    But on 9/11, I was in the middle of nowhere French countryside in an art class, painting in a barn. No phone. No cell coverage. It was around 3:30pm, France time, when another student’s husband broke into the silent room and announced, “There’s been an attack in NY. And they’ve got a fourth plane!” Or that was the first thing I heard. He had been watching CNN alone at home, overwhelmed. At some point, he realized we needed to be told, and hopped on a bike. So we all raced back to his house, about two miles away, just in time to understand the chain of events, to hear them theorize that 50,000 people had possibly been at work inside, and to see the towers fall on live TV.

    That night, in a village restaurant, my wife, a friend and I sat absolutely stunned and exhausted, watching ongoing live and recounted coverage on a small TV over the bar. The mood was of course apocalyptic. The place was empty except for us, the owner, and another guy, French, nicely dressed, maybe 65 years old. He ordered a bottle of St Emilion, brought it to our table, poured us all a glass, and toasted our health, thanked us for saving them from fascism so long ago, and pledged France’s solidarity, saying, “We are all Americans.”

    How many, many millions of years ago that seems now. It will never cease to make me cry.

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