Today marks the 14th anniversary of 9/11, when Muslim terrorists took control of three civilian passenger planes and crashed them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fourth plane, United Flight 93, crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers tried retaking the plane. All passengers died, but no one on the ground was hurt.
We remember it for its tragedy. We remember how the nation changed. We remember how all of us came together as Americans.
Some of you may not realize, but there’s actually a whole team of people who make this site work. Today, we all opted to share our experiences, and why we’ll never forget where we were that day.
I was at Centennial Regional Highschool in Greenfield Park QC, Canada. I’d heard about the first plane as I went into French class. At first kids thought it was tragic but the fault of a really inept pilot. Then we heard about the second plane. Since we were still stuck in class without a TV, everyone was confused. I remember it being a really bizarre experience, to be an American in a foreign land, knowing that my home country was under attack. It was like peering into a fishbowl. My dad called my brother and me and said that he was picking us up immediately. I remember the school Vice principal giving me guff as I walked out, and my parents filled me in on what happened.
What really impacted me was seeing the footage of people jumping from the World Trade Center. I remember thinking of how bad it must have been, how horrendous, for jumping to their death to seem like the most relieving option. I remember thinking that someone knowingly put another human being, an innocent person through that. For the first time, I truly understood evil. I didn’t sleep for days.
Not long after, I’m talking days or weeks, I remember hearing Muslim students make jokes about it all the time. I got into trouble for getting into an altercation with one of them. I regret nothing.
I was only 11, but I have very vivid memories of walking into my living room where my mom was watching the breaking news. “A plane ran into one of the World Trade Center buildings,” she told me. Honestly, my only awareness of the Twin Towers came from Home Alone 2, and like many kids, I’m sure, my first thought was “what idiot pilot screwed up THAT bad?”. A moment later, I remember watching the second plane slam into the second tower live on TV. It became incredibly evident, even to an 11-year-old, that this was no accident.
I remember frantically calling my dad who was in downtown Cleveland, OH that morning for work. Fearing the next attack could happen anywhere, all we wanted was for him to be home with us. Later that day, we found out Flight 93 actually turned around over Cleveland on its way to D.C. I can still feel the chills that ran down my spine when I realized one of the hijackers could have so easily decided that the Key Tower was good enough.
Perhaps the most haunting memory I have from that week actually happened the night before 9/11. September 10th, 2001, my dad sat my younger brother and I down to watch Tora, Tora, Tora. It was the first movie I had ever watched about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many remember the movie for it’s famous ending when the Japanese Admiral says: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” As the credits began to roll, my dad took a heartfelt moment to tell my brother and I that America learned her most valuable lesson that day, and that “Pearl Harbor” would never, ever, happen to us again.
My family was enjoying our annual vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina on September 11, 2001. It was the only time of the entire year I got my own room, and it had a TV to boot. I’d let my siblings come in that morning, and we were in the middle of a John Wayne movie marathon when my dad hollered upstairs for us all to come downstairs. My 16 year old self had zero desire to oblige. But the tone in dad’s voice the second time he called had me down the steps in 2 seconds flat.
I walked into my parent’s room just before the second tower was hit on live television. We sat glued to the TV for hours as mom and dad explained to us what was happening. I remember being both angry and scared as my parents discussed what was undoubtedly the beginning of an upcoming war. Though my dad was angry, I knew he wasn’t scared. We prayed for our country, for all the families affected, for our leaders, and for our military personnel. Then dad told us the bad guys wouldn’t beat us and life would go on, so we were going out for breakfast. I’ve never been in such a quiet restaurant in all my life. All the TVs were on, but no one was talking.
A few days later, we drove back up the coast to Pennsylvania. Dad drove us right past the Pentagon so we could see the damage there. I’ll never forget looking at the huge American flag covering that gaping hole and all the personnel on site and thinking, “Dad’s right. No matter what they do, They’ll never beat us.”
I was driving my sister and I to school that morning. I was a senior, she was a freshman. Like all mornings, we were listening to the radio. We lived in California, three hours behind New York, so the news hit us early in the day. Admittedly I didn’t know what the World Trade Center was, and when we’d heard an airplane had crashed into a building in New York, I imagined a cessna into a skyscraper. But as the news came in, and the radio Deejays’ tone took a somber turn, I knew my initial imaginings were wrong. This was serious, and it was tragic.
What I remember most about that morning, though, was when I arrived at school. I expected everyone to be silent, reverent, or at least shocked. I walked to my first class and was disheartened by how most of the students were buzzing about their day. Like it was no big deal. Of course looking back, fourteen years later, that’s not a total surprise. We hadn’t known what had happened. Details were still coming out. But later in the day it was clear what had happened. I cannot remember what the mass of students did. I remember going home and turning on the news, trying to understand, watching the events play out over, and over, and over again.
Days and weeks later, we all wore our patriotism proudly. For just a time, we were all Americans. Not white or black, gay or straight. We were not subgroups or demographics. Just Americans.
I live on Long Island and was sitting in the lobby before a job interview when Z100 reported that a plane had crashed into one of the towers, and thought “Gee, that’s odd.” I didn’t think much else about it, and since I had my sister’s car and she had a CD player, listened to Linkin Park instead of the radio on the ride home. When I got home, there was a message from one of her friends, “I don’t know if you know what’s going on in the world…but we’re under attack.” When I turned on CNN, they had a four-way split screen of all four crash sites.
After the initial shock wore off, then my mind started thinking about who I knew that worked in the city, plus the fact that literally anyone I know could have been in the city that day. I exhaled a little when my dad and my best friend checked in.