Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Ten years ago today, nineteen terrorists killed 3,049 people in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It unfolded on live television, watched by hundreds of millions of Americans (and, indeed, people across the globe) cementing in the minds of the viewers the tangled, confusion, horrifying and, yes, even uplifting moments of that day.

I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember where I was and what I was doing that morning. I was getting ready for work, watching Fox & Friends on the Fox News Channel.

At first, the thought was that a small plane had hit the North Tower. That was still my thought when John Scott, the Fox News commentator, said something like, "This has to be terrorism."

I remember thinking, no, it doesn't. It could just be an accident.

I left for work. By the time I got in my car, a plane had hit the South Tower as well. I apologized silently to John Scott and drove to work listening to the radio, my heart in my throat.

Twenty-five minutes later, I got to work and turned on the television that we never, ever turned on. (It was there to watch VHS tapes, back before everyone started putting videos on DVD).
We gathered in the conference room and watched the horrors one by one. The plane crashing into the Pentagon. The South Tower collapse. Then the North. Then we hear word that a fourth plane has crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It was only later that we began hearing the small tragedies—and acts of heroism. Tragic farewells and self-sacrificial moments of great courage. I remember thinking, and have heard many times since, that the actions of the passengers of United Air Flight 93, in forcing down their plane rather than allow it to be used as a missile to kill more of their fellow Americans, was the first American victory in the war on terrorism.

As we commemorate the day in our own ways, I ask you the question that country music star Alan Jackson asked in his poignant, plainspoken song written in tribute to the losses and triumphs of that day: where were you when the world stopped turning?

Image shown: Ghosts of Manhattan, digital art I created shortly after the events of 9/11/01.

9 comments:

Patricia Preston said...

I was off work that day and I was working on a story when my son called me. Needless to say, I didn't work on the story again that day.

Lisa Dunick said...

I was alone, in my first real apartment in State College,PA. I'd turned on the TV, because I didn't have class that morning and watched the Today Show, which I never did. So I saw it all unfold. My (now) husband was working 1 block from the White House, and there were these reports that it had been hit, and I couldn't get through on his phone. Then there was the report that what turned out to be Flight 93 was heading toward Cleveland, where most of my family is. It felt like the whole world was going crazy, because none of the news reports really knew what was going on.

I didn't know what to do, so I just sat there and watched for hours until J finally called me from the road. His dad had called and told him to get out of DC, so he did. Just got in his car and started driving north. He still didn't really know what was happening, so he had no idea that he was heading straight into the mess in Shanksville, PA. A 3 hour drive took him almost 7. So I was alone for 7 hours before he got to State College, sitting and watching.

Paula said...

Paul Simon on TV right now, playing "The Sounds of Silence" on acoustic guitar and singing. Incredibly moving.

EllenToo said...

I was in my classroom with a room full of ninth graders with the TV on.

Carla Swafford said...

I was at work and someone had heard it on the radio. We turned on the TV in the conference room and stood there and cried...men and women.

Suzanne Johnson said...

I was working as the speechwriter for a university president at the time, and as soon as we heard about it I got called to his office and spent the day sitting with him and working out how he could address all our students, especially those from NY and DC, writing words that somehow might make sense of the insensible. I remember hoping my words, as he delivered them, might bring comfort or hope to some of them.

Chris Bailey said...

I like your art, Paula! My husband was supposed to be in training in the WTC all that week, but he switched to another session because Sept. 11 is our anniversary. I'd told him it was okay, he didn't have to do that. . . .

Paula said...

This is a little on the spicy side, language wise, but it's an interesting first person account from someone who had lived in a downtown Manhattan apartment the day of 9/11.

http://hotair.com/archives/2011/09/11/quotes-of-the-day-remembering-91101/#start

Lexi said...

Chris, you gave me chills. I was at work and someone came in and said that a plane had flown into the WTC. I was thinking a small private plane and that someone had had a heart attack or a seizure while flying. Someone in another division had a television and I went down there to see the coverage. First shock: it was a jet. Second shock: the second plane. I was so upset and shaken that I left work, got my kids out of school and went home. I couldn't believe it had happened. Still unreal to me. Still a nightmare.