the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Featured community question wherein I finally write down my memory

This one comes from member djgonzales:

Jon and I were still living in California that year in a Spanish-style apartment just north of Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. Our favorite hobby was running stairs in Santa Monica three times a week, a workout whose intensity I haven’t been able to recreate anywhere else. We saw many famous faces bounding down that staircase: Tori Spelling, Andie Macdowell, the real Erin Brockovich.

On weekdays we’d set the alarm for 5 AM and be out the door by half past because the drive took thirty minutes. That way we could start and finish our workout before seven and beat the really nasty traffic back to our apartment, traffic so bad that I didn’t get used to the physical beating of the stop and start hiccup until I had lived there for over six months.

Now that we have two kids I want to shake my 26-year-old body by the shoulders and yell why are you not sleeping in?!

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, we were headed for Santa Monica, listening to Bob Edwards on NPR when we heard about a plane hitting one of the twin towers in New York City. Snapshot: sitting at a light on Wilshire Boulevard in the middle of Westwood, both of us wondering something out loud about how weird that was. Obviously a pilot had miscalculated a turn.

After parking the car and heading to the stairs we said a few more things to each other about it: has something like this ever happened before? Could a plane withstand that kind of collision? And then we began our workout having no clue about the drama unfolding in New York City.

Our workout flew by that morning, and 35 minutes later we were back in the car listening to the radio only to learn that another plane had crashed into the other twin tower. Details were still very vague, so we couldn’t figure out what to make of it. Certainly it couldn’t be a coincidence. How could two pilots follow bad instructions within twenty minutes of each other?

Traffic that morning should have been relentless, but cars trickled on and off the freeway at the pace of a leaking faucet. We exited off of the 10 Freeway onto Fairfax avenue just as Bob Edwards reported that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. That’s when every fear I had as a young Mormon who believed in Armageddon started to rise in my throat, and I started shaking. Wars and rumors of wars. Names blotted out from the Book of Life. The sun becomes black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon like blood.

My instinct, or rather, the religious remnants of my personality wanted to pull the car over and take cover.

We made it home and turned on the news only minutes before the South Tower began to collapse. And we both stood there, sweaty and solemn, watching that horror unfold in real time. I didn’t believe it. It couldn’t be real. Neither of us said a word. Jon pulled me fiercely into his chest and stroked my arm.

Unspeakable horror.

That’s were we remained as the rest of the morning unraveled, although a couple of hours later I showered and headed in to work. I was still such a rule keeper that way, because I hadn’t heard anything from my boss and assumed that I’d be punished if I didn’t show up. And then when I got to work only two other people were there, two people who had such long commutes that they had started heading to work before the first plane hit its target. They remained glued to their computers, hungry for updates.

I immediately got in the car and headed back home because I desperately needed to be with Jon. I thought of my family a bit, mostly my mother, but I wanted Jon. If Los Angeles was next on the list, and they thought it would be for the weeks that followed, then I wanted to be with Jon when it happened.

I know I’m not alone when I say that this event only solidified my desire to live with and love one specific person.

We spent the rest of the day on the couch glued to the news, breaking only for an early evening walk to clear our heads a bit. No one was outside, the streets completely empty of cars. Every shop on Melrose Avenue had locked its doors, even the usually bustling Starbucks. So eerie. So awful. And yet, we knew that every other person in the country was at that very moment trying to make sense of it just like we were.

We were alone but felt no loneliness.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/09/07 at 2:30 pm

    A couple years ago, I finally blogged about that day, too. I still remember it like it was yesterday. My wife and I had just recently started trying to conceive. I remember thinking that I no longer wanted to bring kids into such a monumentally effed up world. I also remember thinking it might be time to reenlist in the Army.

    I’m glad I didn’t reenlist, and I’m glad we decided to bring our two children into the world. (I’m not glad that it’s still so monumentally effed up, tho.)

  • Billygean

    2011/09/07 at 2:12 pm

    Beautiful, moving account. I loved the paragraph about the sun and the moon. It’s almost like reading a novel.

  • CataclysmicStar

    2011/09/07 at 2:18 pm

    I was in high school – it was my first year, actually, by our system, and I was a sophomore. I was sitting in a class – don’t remember which one – and suddenly the phone in the room rang. The teacher took the call, then quietly informed the class that something big was going on, and she was going to turn on the TV (every room had a TV that could be tuned to a couple specific stations and to a CCTV station that the school operated) for a minute.
    We all thought that was incredibly weird. And yet at first, we thought it was just a point as to how awesome this teacher was.
    Then we saw it.
    At the time, the first tower had just been hit. We watched the plane fly into the second tower. Classes came to a standstill, nobody moved when the bells rang, and we watched. We watched the whole damn thing, a high school full of terrified kids, until the principal made a sudden announcement over the PA system that the school’s internet was being turned off for the rest of the day and TVs were to be turned off and remain that way. And until I got home that day at about 2:30, all I knew was that something insanely awful had happened, and that people from another country were at fault, but I didn’t really understand WHY.
    It took years for me to really, truly understand the hatred behind the attacks, and the level of religious extremism involved. At the time, I thought I really had a solid grasp on the world, but not surprisingly my rather narrow-minded view was nothing compared to the truth. Only now am I beginning to really accept what happened, how earth-shattering it is, and the intents and purposes behind the attack.

  • BuenoBabyGirl

    2011/09/07 at 2:19 pm

    This: “Could a plane withstand that kind of collision?”

    I remember asking those ‘why-would-you-ever-need-to-know-the-answer-to-a-question-like-that?’ kinds of questions, in the hours and days following the attacks. Like, “Why can’t they airlift people off a burning tower?” and “How long can people survive under rubble?”

    It’s still so unthinkable.

  • meganbeth

    2011/09/07 at 2:20 pm

    Goosebumps. It’s eery how almost everyone had the same, yet different experience.

  • Corey

    2011/09/07 at 2:29 pm

    My daughter was 6 months old. It was our first day of mommy and me classes. I had the news on and heard about the first plane. I did a few things and looked up and saw the second plane.

    Like you, I didn’t know what too do exactly, so I went to the class. Most of the moms were there, but we all realized we were not going to be able to sit in a circle and sing. We went home right away and I was glued to the tv for the next several days. Until people were running to the news cameras in the days following and holding pictures of their loved ones. I couldn’t handle that, particularly once it was apparent that most of the missing people were never going to be found.

    I am very glad my daughter is young enough to not have any memories of that day. I do have a time capsule of her first year and in it is a file with newspapers from that day. It’s up to her when she turns 21 if she wants to see those articles. I don’t know if I will be able to relive it.

  • Pandora Has A Box

    2011/09/07 at 2:31 pm

    I’ll start with the aside: I was doing those same stairs back in 2001. ::waves from the past:: My 42 year old self wonders how my 32 year old self had that kind of energy.

    Living in LA, the whole thing was so surreal. It had already happened long before I woke up and how I managed to avoid any news until work still baffles me. For years after, the first thing I’d do in the morning was turn on the tv.

    Thank you for sharing your account. Those of us who were on the west coast that day felt very helpless. We were afraid and worried and panicked, but we definitely felt the 2500-3000 miles between us and those directly affected. In some ways, that feeling of being useless was very difficult to reconcile.

  • dawdawsmom

    2011/09/07 at 2:34 pm

    what are my memories from that day…feeling utterly helpless.

  • alyoops09

    2011/09/07 at 2:39 pm

    I was in high school, too — a junior. I was sitting in math class when they made the announcement – plain, and matter-of-fact, like it was nothing more than a lunch change. I suppose they didn’t want anyone to freak out. There were no TVs in the math wing, so I didn’t really get the gravity of what was happening until I got to my next class. The TVs weren’t working properly to get cable in that class, so we all went down to the library to watch, and got there just after the second tower fell.

    I don’t remember a lot from the rest of the day, but I do remember that there was a lot of watching TV, and not a lot of class. And that I borrowed a friend’s cell phone at lunch to try to call a friend who lived in NYC and see if she was okay, and the school administrator caught me in the hallway with the cell phone and confiscated it. When I got back to class, I told my teacher (who used to threaten to throw any cell phone she saw in the classroom out the third story window into the no-student-access courtyard), and she handed me hers and told me to go to the teachers’ lounge and make the call. My friend was safe – she lived a little further uptown and had watched the towers fall from her fire escape – but I wouldn’t know that until that night; it was almost impossible to get calls through to NYC that day, and it took her a while to get her hands on internet access and check in.

    When I moved to NYC for college a few years later, one of the friends I made was several years older than me, and had lived here during 9/11. She would tell stories sometimes about that day, how she was working as a nanny and was taking the bus cross-town to pick up one of the kids from school, but the traffic was jammed and her cell wouldn’t pick up signal in the park to call the school and let them know she’d be late. Total strangers on the bus just handed her their phones to try, but nobody had signal that day – some of the biggest cell towers were on top of the WTC. She also helped with the clean-up, and one day she handed me a plastic film box with a rock inside it. I asked her what it was, and she said it was a piece of the World Trade Center – she’d taken a few during the clean up (apparently a lot of people who helped clean up took small pieces away), and she was giving this one to me. It has made it safely through several moves, and is still in that film box, on my bookshelf.

  • djgonzales

    2011/09/07 at 2:53 pm

    There are many memories I have but the one that just has me frozen is the first footage that was aired after the collapses. And it wasn’t what I was seeing but what I was hearing.

    Firefighter PASS alarms screaming in the dust cloud.

    Each of those alarms represented one firefighter who is down and needs help.

    It was like a thousand alarms sounding off.

  • dianemaggipintovoiceover

    2011/09/07 at 3:31 pm

    i was on the air that afternoon, on a smooth jazz station in salt lake city. verrrry subdued. verrrry stiff. verrrry mellow.

    the one thing i relished was the quiet skies. i’d “heard” nothing like it before, all aircraft having been grounded for several days. i escaped the crushing reality and found some peace for a couple of hours on a trail at the top of millcreek canyon that day.

  • mybottlesup

    2011/09/07 at 3:08 pm


    thank you for taking the time to write this, heather.

  • CourtneySamantha

    2011/09/07 at 3:13 pm

    I was in college and woke up right after the first plane hit the tower. I spent the day with my family and then the following days with the family of my boyfriend, they lost a sister/aunt in the 2nd tower. I watched him pack and un-pack his car several times, ready to drive up there to help and then being so grief stricken that he couldn’t move. Feels like yesterday.

  • kellyjcallahan

    2011/09/07 at 3:20 pm

    I was driving to work on Southbound I-205 in Vancouver, WA. My station was turned to KGON with the Mark and Brian show… I never listen to KGON in the morning… They were talking about the first jet hitting. At first I thought it was a really sick joke, so I turned the station, and another, and another… and realized it was all too true.

    I topped a small rise on the freeway that has a direct view of the planes that land at PDX, and watched plane after plane land in quick succession.

    Once I got to work, we were all gathered in the cafeteria that had a TV, all of us just stunned and horrified at the events. The week was just a blur.

    On Friday my closest friends and I gathered to have dinner together, to reconnect, to reassure, to be alive, and wonder how we were every going to be the same again.

  • jan001

    2011/09/07 at 3:37 pm

    I was working a split shift those days, going in at 10AM. I use the timer on my TV as an alarm clock, and it came on at 8:30, tuned to Good Morning America as it always was in those days (aside: show went to hell after both Gibson and Sawyer left).

    I woke up just in time to hear, before I had opened my eyes, “Oh my God, another one!” or words to that effect – the second plane had just hit. I was instantly wide awake and on full alert with my mind racing – “What’s happening? Where? HERE? What do I do??”

    I sat on the edge of the bed dumbfounded. I called my boss to see whether I had to go in. I shouldn’t have had to but he was a mean unfeeling wretch of a man and said yes, I had to show up. So I went. Nothing got done but I was there which was all he cared about.

    I had a 13″ TV and a rabbit-ear antenna in my office and turned it on to ABC. Whatever this was, I wanted to hear it from Peter Jennings and Charlie Gibson. People wandered in and out of my office, watching. No one said a word. We just stared.

    Through all that, I held it together, but then I flipped over to the NBC affiliate. NBC was showing footage of the people jumping out of the towers. They had pretty sophisticated cameras and got close enough that anyone who knew those people would have recognized them. That nearly made me throw up — not the jumping, which is horrible enough to contemplate, but that someone might turn on their TV to see what was happening and recognize someone they love in the very last seconds of his/her life.

    That did it. I closed my office door, put my face in my hands, and quietly (?) lost it for probably 15 minutes.

    I had friends who lived/worked in DC/VA and one at the WTC and one a NYPD officer. All were found to be alright although it took several days to find out for sure.

    One of the flight attendants on 93 that crashed in PA was the sister of a man I worked with. I didn’t know him well at all but it did bring it home.

    Thank God I had moved back to the same city as my nuclear family. We stayed very close to one another for many days after that. Mom and Dad spoke more than once of how it reminded them of Pearl Harbor.

    Any American flags for sale were sold out immediately. The only one I had was a 5″x7″ on a wood stick and I put it in the window. I still have it – it’s clipped to the wall of my cube about 2 feet from where I’m sitting now.

    There were also businesses giving away American flag decals and I had one of those on my car. There was something comforting in the days afterward about seeing all those flags — a reminder that we were none of us in it alone.

  • rantingravenlunatic

    2011/09/07 at 3:38 pm

    I remember the quiet that followed. So much travel in Alaska is done by plane, and being outside and not hearing them was eerie.

  • melissa_anderson725

    2011/09/07 at 3:42 pm

    I live in Iowa, but at the time I was on a business trip to the office in Florida. I was meeting my fellow commuters in the lobby of the hotel for breakfast before we headed to the office. I walked in and everyone was glued to the TV. I sat down as they replayed the first plane flying into the first tower. I said ‘wow. someone is so fired’. And then ten minutes later we all sat and watched another plane hit the second tower. We watched it stunned for quite awhile and then headed to the office. No one at the office could quite focus so our plan for meetings and productivity ended. Another co-worker was originally from New York and spent most of the day trying to locate family, which she did eventually. The rest of us planned how we were going to get home to Iowa and Oregon without getting on a plane. We kept our rental car, and took turns driving, first to Iowa where I got off and they went on to Oregon after visiting with family. It was so bizarre to watch, and to watch it over and over and over was torturous, but none of us could look away. My kids also will never really know about that day or what it has meant to our security since. Part of me is glad for that, part of me is nervous for them.

  • gretchie

    2011/09/07 at 3:48 pm

    My husband was a few blocks away from ground zero when it all started. His building was evacuated (he was at conference from out of town). He fled from the falling buildings chased by a cloud of dust. He called me out of breath, while I held mine. Then my battery died. Then we were all sent home. In the meantime, my sister and brother-in-law were on an American Airlines flight back from the Cayman Islands. They didn’t hear anything until after they cleared Customs. Our parents met them at the airport and explained it to them – they were horrified. I spent the rest of the evening trying to secure a place for my husband and his boss to stay the night in NYC, or a car they could rent and drive home to Florida. I called them at ten at night and told them if they could get to La Guardia, there was a rental waiting for them. They escaped NYC that night, and had to drive WAY around Washington DC at 3am. They came back looking like hell, their feet blistered from having to hike all day in men’s dress shoes.

    My husband declared that weekend (he got home a day before his birthday) that’s it, he’s buying a gun…. or a puppy. And that’s how we wound up with Spike the Bulldog.

    We got married in 2003; we have one child and another on the way.

  • Dawn56

    2011/09/07 at 3:49 pm

    I live in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. There is an hour and a half time difference between New York and St. John’s, so I was already at work on that morning when our director of communications came striding out of his office towards the board room where there was a TV at the time.

    My co-workers and I followed him in, curious as to what would make him move that fast with such a stricken look on his face. I arrived in the room just in time to see the second plane hit. It was utterly unbelievable. It looked like a movie. It had to be special effects. That couldn’t really have happened. Could it? We didn’t get much work done that morning.

    I was involved in a production of “Evita” at the time and at lunchtime I had an appointment at the theatre costume bank to pick out a hat and jewellery for my costume. The costume bank staff had a small portable TV tuned to a news channel. It was completely, utterly FREAKING SURREAL to be dressing up for make-believe while watching the coverage of the tragedy in New York City.

    When I went home for lunch, I searched for any bit of news I could find online. I bounced from CNN to CBC to BBC to ABC… and around and around. My mind raced, considering possible consequences. I found myself thinking that the Americans would now bomb the perpetrators, some other major power would side with the perpetrators and bomb North American targets and it would only be a matter of time before nuclear weapons were launched until I could barely breathe.

    When they closed American airspace, there were something like 240 aircraft in or nearing Canadian airspace. 38 of them were diverted to Gander airport, 400 kms from here. St. John’s airport accepted 21 planes. Only Halifax, Nova Scotia and Vancouver British Columbia accepted that many. Surely we’d be a target for retaliation for this. One well-aimed missile could take out lots of Americans and punish us as well. I figured this was it. Armageddon.

    I finally had to talk myself down off the ledge by telling myself that there was absolutely nothing I could do about this. For the moment, I was safe, my children were safe and I would just have to handle whatever happened next, regardless.

    We had a rehearsal that night, which began with the director having the 130-plus cast and crew assemble on stage for two minutes of silence. One of our cast members had gone to Arizona on a business trip with her husband and they were now stranded there. It felt somehow wrong to be rehearsing a musical at a time like this, but then I remembered how they had kept the theatres and movies going during the world wars and what comfort it had been to people then, so maybe it was justifiable now, too.

    After rehearsal, I found it so hard to get in my car and go home to an empty house. I’m divorced and had joint custody of my daughters at the time and they were with their father that week. It seemed like everyone else in the cast had family to go home to. I found myself standing at my car, watching other people drive away and wishing so much that I could go home with one of them.

    I was very lucky in that I lost no one in the towers, the Pentagon or on United Airlines flight 93, but one of my actor friends was in New York City on 9/11. It changed him. He won’t talk about his experiences. I have no idea where he was that morning or what he witnessed. Whatever it was traumatized him. Every September 11th, he has a ‘dark day’ and we all know to leave him in peace.

  • kristanhoffman

    2011/09/07 at 3:56 pm

    “If … , then I wanted to be with Jon when it happened.”

    That’s what I take away most from this story. You could fill that “…” with anything — and that’s exactly the point.

    Thank you for sharing your memory, your love. It’s not that it’s more special or important than my own — it’s that it reminds me HOW special and important my own are.

    Also, it moved me to tears.

  • Janice

    2011/09/07 at 4:11 pm

    I was going through a time of personal crisis during this time of national crisis and can’t open up one set of memories without opening the other. It’s difficult to watch movies where there are explosions because now there’s a ton of paper falling just like when the towers went down; a scene that was played over and over for days.

    But the first anniversary is one I’d like to share. Employees at my job were allowed to honor the moment of silence by standing outside in a circle around the American flag that is outside our office building. There wasn’t a plan so people were sort of mulling in a circle and we heard the screech of tires as a semi-truck passing by stopped hard as did the two cars behind him (they didn’t really have a choice). The man came running very fast yelling for us to wait. He had left his semi in the middle of a very busy road. He was sobbing as he reached our circle and as he and the ladies arrived we all joined hands. It was such a hopeful moment and we were united in a manner that had never happened at my job before nor since. And suddenly there was a plan and people were flooding out of the building and stepping into the circle joining hands, 200 people strong. Wait…203.

    I didn’t get to speak with the man but I heard him say that he didn’t want to honor the moment alone in his truck and was so grateful we were there. I don’t think he realized the gift he gave to us.

    (I’m sorry for the length, it just kept coming…)

  • aotlatds

    2011/09/07 at 4:20 pm

    I live in northern New Jersey. I was a sophomore in high school, sitting in chemistry class. I can still remember the burnt orange color of the sweater the girl in front of me was wearing. Our chemistry teacher came into class and told us that a plane hit the world trade center. None of us believed him because he had a dark sense of humor like that. But then he turned on the classroom tv to the news and we saw it. We all said, “What a terrible accident!” until the second plane hit and it sunk in that yes, someone did this intentionally. It wasn’t so much a scared feeling in the room, but one of uneasiness.

    The administration deemed the safest bet for us was to stay in the building and go about business as usual. A lot of students had parents and family members who commuted to the city for work. There were long lines at payphones in the cafeteria (a time when hardly anyone had a cell, let alone a decent one!) and I can still vividly remember the shrieks and cries in the hallway outside the phones as devastated kids found out the worst and made their way to the guidance office.

    Those of us who had cars drove to the summit of our county park to see the smoke in the skyline. I don’t even remember what mode of transportation I took to get home, but when I got there I just sat on the couch feeling numb, alone until my parents came home from work. I couldn’t find it in me to comfort my hysterical friends; I was just too numb.

    Now I’m just mad. I’m mad that after 10 years my family still frets when I go on a plane. I’m mad that I find myself worrying about my boyfriend working in the city. I’m mad that it wrecked our tri-state area economy and that my friends and I have had to scrape by after graduating college. I’m mad that all the recent memorial news coverage is making me remember again. I’m mad for all the people who had their world ripped away from them, something I cannot even begin to imagine. I think I will always be mad. But it’s a lot better than being numb.

  • annecat

    2011/09/07 at 4:39 pm

    I was at work in a law firm in DC. One of my best friends, who also worked there, called me and told me that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. I remember I was just baffled, how on earth could that have happened? Where terrorism is the first thing we would think now, at the time it wasn’t even on my radar.

    I went into one of my attorneys’ offices and told him, and he turned on his TV. We watched the second building fall.

    There were rumors and unverified reports all day of bombs at different DC locations. My firm closed early, but I actually worked late on a filing. I don’t think any of us were quite in our right minds.

    I rode the Metro to work then, and there is a Pentagon stop. It does not lead directly into the building but is underground nearby. That day and for many days afterwards, we rode through it but didn’t stop. I would cry at least a little on most of those days. That first day, you could see the smoke from one of the the above-ground stations near it.

    As bad as that was, I’m glad I wasn’t driving to work then (I do now). The route I take goes right past the side of the Pentagon that was hit. A co-worker at the time was stuck in traffic there and saw it happen.

    In the days that followed, tanks with armed soldiers were all over the streets of DC. In my walk from the Metro to my office building, I would pass two or three.

    In a way it seems like forever ago, and in another way I can’t believe it has been ten years.

  • virtuallori

    2011/09/07 at 4:42 pm

    I was living in Honolulu, and woke up in the early morning, as it turns out, a little after the first plane hit. I was fighting a sinus infection and couldn’t get back to sleep. I worked right across the street from where I lived and had some stuff that had to get done that day, so I walked over to pick it up around 6. My officemate usually came in around 8, but she was there already, having skipped her usual morning workout after hearing the news. She told me that the East Coast was being bombed, or something like that. I was a bit sleepy and out of it, so I just brushed it off, gathered up what I needed, and asked her to let the boss know I’d be working at home to avoid getting everyone else sick. Halfway up my driveway, it hit me that *something* must be happening, so I turned on the TV when I got back inside. By that time, the two towers had already fallen, but they kept replaying the impacts and collapses over and over and over again. I couldn’t tear myself away.

    My ex was over on Maui for his job, and since they had shut down all the flights, there was no way for him to get back. Fishermen with big boats were making a killing shuttling people back and forth interisland at night; I think he ended up paying close to $400 Thursday night (a flight at the time was ~$50).

    By the time I got to the grocery store Wednesday, it was cleaned out of rice, beer, and toilet paper. When I went to the doctor that Thursday (I ended up having a sinus infection + ear infection + bronchitis, yay!), she told me I needed to stop watching TV, that it was making me too depressed.

    The weirdest thing was when a huge military plane came in low right over our valley in the middle of all that closed airspace. I wasn’t on the usual flight path, and hadn’t heard a plane for a couple days, but one of those huge transports came in and everyone just stopped and stared.

  • poopinginpeace

    2011/09/07 at 5:17 pm

    My now husband and I were supposed to leave on a red eye flight that night from Los Angeles to go to Rhode Island where we were getting married that Saturday the 15th. We had 150 people planned on coming to our wedding, and alot of them from all over the country. I was running on a track behind my apartment building, listening to KROQ. The DJs were on vacation and they were playing best of show and I knew something was wrong when the news guy and the entertainment guy were talking. Then I heard what they were talking about. I got a huge knot in my stomach, all I could do was continue to run. I went back to my apartment half an hour later to find Andy sitting on the couch in a panic. He didn’t know where I was and got worried when he got a call from a family member about what was happening. It was such a shock and horror. We sat there glued to the TV for most of the morning. The even worst part for us, was as this horrible thing was going on and so many people were dying we had a huge wedding planned that we had no idea what was going to happen to. It made me feel guilty and selfish to even think about it. There was no way for us to make it back in time or for other people to get there. Fortunately for us, all the vendors were more than understanding and we were able to move the entire wedding to October 12th instead. Some people didn’t make it, but most did. Now every September 15th we celebrate our “almost wedding”, and 10 years later it doesn’t really matter that everything got moved. Our lives did not change that dramatically. Not as much as it did for thousands of people that day and really every person in this country. I consider myself so fortunate that the only thing I lost that day was my original wedding date. It still makes me so sick to see video and pictures from that day. So sad.

  • Michigan J Frog

    2011/09/07 at 5:40 pm

    djgonzales, I remember that sound very well. It was the sound I associated more than any other with 9/11. Would you believe I didn’t realize exactly what those alarms were until last week? I had assumed they were from emergency vehicles, or the firefighters we saw walking around. Hit me like a ton bricks when I found out.

  • mommica

    2011/09/07 at 6:00 pm

    Eerie is a good word for it. My sister/roomate woke me up – it was just after 5 a.m. in Alaska – shouting that we were being bombed. We both stood and stared at the TV. Shrieked as the second plane hit. I went to classes and wondered what the hell I was doing there. No one was talking about it – just walking around in shock.

    Also, two of my other sisters were stuck in Canada. They weren’t allowed to cross the border for days. And my brother-in-law, who was supposed to fly and meet them in Seattle, had to stay with us until planes were allowed to start flying again.

    It was so strange.

  • erinc

    2011/09/08 at 12:07 pm

    I was at a huge convention in Orlando for work. Little did I know at the time that Orlando was the hotbed for terrorist training. A coworker and I were getting ready to head down to the convention hall and were wondering where the heck all our other coworkers were. So we called their room. They said haven’t you seen the news on TV? We turned on the TV and were horrified beyond words. I called my boyfriend in California, it was still early there and he did not know. We could not, could not believe it. We finally were able to pull ourselves away from the TV and make it down to the hall. The hotel decided not to cancel the convention even though only the people who were local and had driven there, or had arrived the night before were able to attend. It was surreal. A half empty convention hall with so few people wandering around, half way set up booths, people dazed and unsure. They closed Disneyworld. And to top it off there was a tropical storm raging and we could not go outside. We worked the convention till it closed but it took us over a week to get a flight back to California and our party had to be split up on to several different flights. My daughter who was ten at the time was terrified that I would be killed on a plane on the way home. It was difficult to reassure her. I was scared.

    That day, and that week are forever etched in my mind and I still grieve for the lives that were lost. I always will.

  • jen.yaya

    2011/09/07 at 8:01 pm

    Hopefully without getting too lengthy I will share my memory as well:

    I was in college and rushing that morning, because I had my first critique of the semester in my pre-press & production class. As I purchased last-minute supplies for my project at the store off-campus I heard the girl at the counter telling someone on the phone about the first plane. It only sort of registered in my head, thinking “what? how weird.”

    I arrived to class early, and by the time people began trickling in we were getting more details. Instead of our scheduled critique, we spent the next two hours glued to the radio and huddled around a couple of laptops, trying desperately to get more information as we battled the overloaded news network websites.

    However, most notably, at some point while it all unfolded I went to the pay phone downstairs to call my dad. Through a shaking voice, “Well, I was just going to call and wish you a happy birthday, daddy.” “I appreciate that sweetie, it’s just not a very happy day.” “I know, daddy, I know”, as I broke down into sobs.

  • preppypitbull

    2011/09/07 at 8:11 pm

    I was a senior in college in Baltimore, Maryland. I remember thinking what a gorgeous morning it was as I walked to my mechanical engineering class that started at 9. As I walked in, the professor told me that if I had friends or family in New York City that I was allowed to leave to call and check on them. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked a classmate. He said a plane had hit the twin towers, and my first thought was a little Cessna had hit, and didn’t think much more of it. Not more than 30 seconds later there was an announcement made over the loud speaker that the campus was to be closed immediately and classes were suspended until further notice. Still completely unaware of the magnitude of what was going on, I started walking up to the library with a mass of people leaving the engineering quad. As soon as I walked into the library I saw a crowd of people standing around a TV, and I saw the footage being replayed of the 2nd plane hitting. I stood transfixed in the library for the next few hours.

    The thing that gets to me still about that day is this: My boyfriend at the time was living in Newark, NJ and it was impossible to get in touch with him until later that night. He and I couldn’t have reacted more differently. I was sobbing most of the day, in a complete state of panic, fear and sadness though I knew no one personally in any of the attacks. He knew lots of people as he had graduated the year before and had classmates that had worked in both towers. His reaction was to not have one. Since it wasn’t any family members that had perished he decided he didn’t have time to worry about it. He thought all the news coverage was frivilous. He was too focused on medical school to worry about a terrorist attack that didn’t directly affect him. I would love to say I broke up with him that day, but I didn’t. It did however affect our relationship and we didn’t last long after that. I couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who had absolutely NO empathy for all those lost, for their families or our own country.

    Sorry so long, I remember that day like it was yesterday and wanted to share.

  • jilllovesbacon

    2011/09/07 at 8:22 pm

    My husband and I were in D.C., enjoying a few days of vacation. Woke up, flipped on the TV as we were getting ready and saw the news that the World Trade Center was hit. Wait a sec—we were just in Baltimore near their World Trade Center building. Surely they can’t mean New York? We were momentarily confused until we saw the smoking building on the screen. I don’t remember what words passed between us, only the sick feeling of shock and confusion.

    We scanned the news for hours, seeing the next building hit, then seeing the Pentagon hit. A piece of paper slipped under our door advised hotel guests to remain indoors. But my husband was feeling claustrophobic and wanted out. We hit the streets—dead quiet. Everything was closed, even the parks. The parks, the monuments, all closed. Military stationed around the parks warned people to stay away.

    We finally found one restaurant open to the public. It slowly filled as the afternoon went on. It was silent but for the televisions. Customers ordered quietly and without complaint. I can still feel what it felt like, but it’s hard to describe. Though we were all strangers we were all together, sharing the fear.

    Back at the hotel we went to the bar for a drink. I called my mom to check in. “Where are you?” she asked. “DC.” She started to cry. “Mom, I’m here. I’m fine. I swear.” After reassuring her that we were safe we went back to the room. And then I remember crying.

  • 3wildboys

    2011/09/07 at 9:10 pm

    I was a second grade teacher and remember thinking about how beautiful the clear blue sky was on my drive to work. We live in Northern Virginia, 5 miles from Dulles Airport, only about 30 minutes from the Pentagon. My (now)husband and I had gotten engaged 10 days earlier. It was only the second week of the school year and I did not know many of my students well. As we were working through our morning routine, my principal knocked on the door and when I opened it, handed me a half sheet of orange paper that read “Planes have hit the World Trade Center in New York. It is possibly a terrorist attack. Washington DC may be next. DO NOT turn on your televisions or use the internet. We will not be telling the students about these events during the school day. Parents have already begun arriving to pick up their children. We will come to classrooms to retrieve them – please do not leave your classroom for any reason today. I will update you throughout the day.” I was terrified, yet had to remain composed so as not to terrify the 25 seven year olds around me. I did not watch the Towers fall live and to this day have not seen the footage of people jumping. Once I got home I watched the television for what felt like days on end. And cried.

    Every year as the anniversary approaches I feel it is my duty as an American citizen to watch the events of that day and feel those emotions again to remind me of how fortunate we are to have the friends, family, rescue workers and military that we do working and fighting to keep us safe. So I do.

    My two older children are now 8 and 7 and I feel like this is the year I should explain the events, shock, sadness and hope felt on that day and in the days that followed. But I am not sure how to explain it to them in a non frightening way especially when my own emotions can still be so raw.

    Thanks Heather, for sharing.

  • Heathers Garden

    2011/09/07 at 9:58 pm

    As usual I was running late that morning. I woke to the radio saying a plane had hit the WTC. I turned on the TV to learn more just in time to see the 2nd plane hit. I remember calling the office to say something terrible was happening and I would be late to work. We were only 3 weeks out from a major event and my boss responded with a statement that she just didn’t have time for this sort of distraction and expected us all to focus on work.

    This was early days of internet and streaming video was spotty at best. My husband (in sales at the time) rushed home to watch on TV and called me through the day to report on what was happening. I will never forget him saying, “The towers have fallen.” 10 years later and I still can’t quite comprehend that the towers fell. Around that time the local schools started early dismissals (we were less than 90 miles from Ground Zero and a potential target because the then President’s daughter was a student at Yale) and I had to tell my boss. She who had stated she didn’t have time for the distraction ran off to collect her children.

    The rest of us walked to a nearby restaurant — on the most beautiful day with crystal blue skies — to watch TV (didn’t have one in the office). I have a horrible memory of trying to choke down a salad while watching a replay of the towers collapsing. I am thankful that by that point someone had made the decision not to replay people jumping from the towers, I don’t know if I could ever have forgotten that.

    The next week or so is a jumble of work (the huge event scheduled in a few weeks), quiet skies (the idea of no airplanes in the sky still hits me hard), and crying in my car listening to the radio and seeing other people crying in their cars. I wore an American flag pin for at least a year and had an American flag pinned to my front door for the same period of time. I still have such mixed feelings of sorrow, pride, and helplessness 10 years later. The first WTC bombing happened when I was in high school, but I had no idea anything like 9/11 could happen.

    I’m sitting here in tears now. 4.5 years ago I interviewed for my current position in a conference room overlooking Ground Zero. It was my first time in lower Manhattan since 9/11 and it was as intense and sad then as it is now. This is a pain that will never go away.

  • TheScarlett

    2011/09/07 at 10:17 pm

    I had dropped my son off at pre-school and was getting my daily exercise by walking the nearby track, listening to my iPod. A woman walking the opposite direction stopped me and said, “A second plane hit the second World Trade Center tower.” It took me one beat to understand that a first plane had hit the other tower and I knew immediately that we were dealing with terrorism. I called my husband at work and was talking to him when the third plane hit the Pentagon. I made it home and saw the towers collapse and had such a difficult time wrapping my brain around it.

    To this day I can’t understand such hatred, especially in the name of any religion. I guess I grew up understanding that the world was so big and that there was plenty of room for different beliefs. And I still think about how that morning had started out so beautiful – not a cloud in that blue, blue sky – and that those people that died at the hands of those COWARDS were just trying to make a life for their families.

  • jessicapea

    2011/09/07 at 10:44 pm

    I was in my last year of high school in New Zealand (where I am from) and I remember waking up to hear that America had been “bombed” on the radio. I went and woke my mum and we turned on the TV. There is a 16 hour time difference between New York and Auckland so by the time we started watching both towers had been hit, I think one may already have fallen. My mum and I watched in disbelief, I remember my mum crying.

    I drove to school but we didn’t do much work, most class rooms had TVs in them and they were all on and switched to coverage of the attacks.

    My memory of the day is perhaps not as clear as it would be if 9/11 had happened in m own country, but the pain and disbelief was palpable half a world away. Please know that we will all be thinking of you on Sunday.

  • kat

    2011/09/07 at 11:27 pm

    My husband and I were still asleep on the west coast along with our 9 month old daughter when my mom called from Oklahoma and told me to turn on the TV. The first thing out of my husbands mouth was “we are at war”

  • mrburns

    2011/09/07 at 11:40 pm

    I was a freshman at college at Utah State University at the time. I had a 7:30am class, and didn’t hear anything until we got there that morning and my teacher showed up. My class was a political science-y university studies class, and when my teacher walked in at 7:30 everyone was like OMG WHAT’S HAPPENING HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEWS?! She hadn’t yet seen anything, went to her office, and came back looking completely dumbfounded and explained what happened. As ashamed as I am to admit this, there were no feelings of surprise. Dumbfounded, yes, but surprised that someone hated us that much? Not really.

    Turns out my professor used to work for a terrorism unit in the CIA and was among a group of people that found the government’s first physical copy of the Mujahidin I think it’s called, or the Taliban training manual. She happened to have copies of it in her office so she distributed a few pages and we spent the class talking about what the Taliban was, etc etc as most of us were clueless at that time (as I think most people were in general).

    My second class was another political science class taught by a man from NY who had family in the WTC. I’ve never seen someone so angry and at a loss for anything to say, especially a New Yorker! Nothing really hit me until he talked to us and the implications of what happened started connecting for me.

  • Tracye

    2011/09/08 at 12:35 am

    It is interesting to read what other people, who weren’t in Manhattan, were doing when the planes hit the towers.

    I cannot ever forget that day. It still seems like it never happened…

    My phone was ringing over and over until I answered it and when I picked it up my friend told me to turn on the television NOW.

    I woke my boyfriend at the time and together we watched the unbelievable. I called a friend of mine who had service because I lived downtown and couldn’t call long distance for some reason so I had him call my family in Philadelphia and let them know I was okay.

    I then walked outside in my pajamas, onto the street and the silence was deafening. So many people walking, on the sidewalks, in the street just walking like an army of zombies.

    I ran up to 3rd Avenue and it got worse. More people walking in the streets with cars and to my left the sky was filling with this thick black smoke.

    I don’t know how long I stood there…I worked at the Rainbow Room at the time which use to be below Top of the Rock which use to be the employees hang out on occasion and as I slowly walked back to my apartment I knew my life had changed.

    The next day the Army had moved in and anyone below 14th street had to have I.D. to get past them and the air was murky and dusty and it looked like a war zone and the Army, was not playing.

    Union Square had literally THOUSANDS of papers plastered onto the makeshift gates asking if you’d seen this person or that person…it was as if they had just vanished and no one could find them. I would go to Union Square everyday just to get out of my apartment and be around people…

    Later that week, I went to the restaurant of the ex chef of the RR because our sister restaurant, Windows on the World was in one of the towers and I went there to get the names of the people who we thought had perished so I could take it back to the RR a job that had done temporary layoffs in lieu of what had just happened.

    Twenty-Two names were on that list and I knew half of them. One family had lost four of their sons…I don’t even know what that sounds like to a Mother.

    On one of my trips to Union Square I recognized one of the faces and read her family’s plea for help in finding her. I broke down in that park like I have never broke down because she was such a kind, and funny woman who loved her son like crazy, Clara, I could not believe that woman was gone. I just felt so much pain for her husband and her son, without a doubt they would be lost without her.

    I still can’t believe that people I worked with for so many years died on that day. It is unbelievable to the mind that something like that could happen because of the way the buildings were designed. A building within a building just like Rockerfeller Center.

    I can’t believe it’s been ten years…the night before 9.11 I worked and it was so quiet. The restaurant was dead, like no customers and the staff just stared out looking at the towers. That night was so serene and the Hudson was so quiet…

    The next day everything in Manhattan would be changed forever, not just the skyline.

  • LillyO

    2011/09/08 at 8:04 am

    I can so relate to that indescribable need for family. I wanted them close. That day helped me realize I was married to the wrong man. Rather than come and be by my side…he took advantage of the empty golf course and golfed 36…I repeat…36 holes that day.

  • MsMegan

    2011/09/08 at 8:39 am

    What I remember:

    The quiet with no planes flying overhead.
    The PASS alarms (like djgonzales).
    Not being able to stop thinking about the people who felt compelled to jump.
    The endless crying. Days of crying.

  • Blasi

    2011/09/08 at 9:25 am

    I remember so clearly too. My work was on strike, and I was at home taking care of our new puppy. I turned on the TV just after the first plane hit one of the towers. I thought to myself “what a ridiculously stupid pilot to fly into a building!” and called my husband at work to relay this ridiculousness to him.

    Then, before my eyes, I watched that second plane fly into the other tower. While live cameras were shooting the smoke from the first tower. I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open a foot. I remember so.clearly all the announcers who had been chatting about the first tower and how it might have happened were stunned into silence. NOBODY spoke for a good 20 seconds. Reporters, who never lack for something to say, were stunned.into.silence. And as we all know, things just got worse from there.

    It was at that moment that I knew in my heart that a war had started. I was glued to that TV for the rest of the day. I finally had to force myself to turn it off that night because I was so mentally drained by then.

    My workplace immediately ended the strike because they realized that there were less petty things in the world to be dealing with.

  • alicia6270

    2011/09/08 at 10:15 am

    I live in Michigan and I was at work that morning. I had been there for about an hour, and had not turned on my radio yet. One of my coworkers who arrives later came in and asked if any of us heard about the plane crashing in to the WTC. None of us had, a bunch of radios were turned on just in time to hear the second tower get hit. I wheeled the tv out and we hooked the antenna up and turned on the news. Watching all of that terrifying coverage and then attempting to try to work that day was pointless. The president ended up sending us home shortly after noon, because productivity had ceased to exist and everyone just wanted to go home and spend time with their families. I turned on the tv at home, but I couldn’t keep watching all of the tragedy knowing that people had just lost their lives or their family members.

  • cherdul

    2011/09/08 at 10:50 am

    I remember sitting in my office and overhearing my co-workers radio. He was listening to Stern. I heard him say something about a plane hitting one of the towers. I thought that was a mighty sick joke even for Stern. Suddenly all my co-workers appeared from their offices in the hallway. Everyone was asking questions. We all made our way to the kitchen and turned on the tv. We saw the first tower burning. Suddenly we all watched as the 2nd plane hit. I remember feeling a pit in my stomach, but still not comprehending. As we continued watching, I recall someone say a plane had hit the Pentagon. I can remember thinking, “Oh my god, when is this going to end?”. I think it was about this time that I remembered my dad was working in NYC that day. I tried in vain to reach him and my mom. I couldn’t get through. I couldn’t do anything but worry and stare at the news. It wasn’t until 3pm that I finally received an email from my mom that my dad was fine. He was able to get one of the last trains out of Manhattan that day and was safely on his way home.
    I remember feeling lost, alone, angry, desperate, and in need of my family who live 3 hours away in NY.
    Ten years later, I still get a lump in my throat when I read, think, hear, or speak about that dreadful, life-changing day.

  • bcutler

    2011/09/08 at 1:08 pm

    It was a beautiful morning in Cambridge. I had an office with a window then and I could see the Boston skyline. I remember the sky being so blue, with no clouds, even though it was early September, there was a true feeling of fall. I was listening to my radio and heard that a plane hit the tower, I though that was odd that a plane would do that. Here I was thinking it was a small plane, a two seater at most, truly just an accident. When the DJ came on a while later and said another plane hit the other tower, the hairs on my neck stood up, there was a groan amongst my co-workers. We tried getting on CNN but the internet was so slow to respond. I am not sure what happened next but I remember they let us go home. I was driving to work back then and not taking public transportation. I called my day care provider and she said the kids were napping and that we should keep their day the same even though life, as we knew it was falling apart. I called my girlfriend and met her at her house. We sat in her back yard and it was so quiet, there seemed to be no noise. I am sure the birds kept on tweeting and the bees kept on buzzing, but I didn’t hear them. I then realized there were no planes in our sky over where we live, all planes were grounded at Logan Airport and none were landing or taking off anymore. Eerie memories.

  • sgigs

    2011/09/08 at 1:38 pm

    The real Erin Brockovich? Neat.

  • Lauren3

    2011/09/08 at 2:58 pm

    One of my favorite posts of yours yet. Thanks dude.

    I was in 10th grade. Found out about it during Humanities class. I came into class, and my friend Catie said to me, “Dude, did you hear about the plane hitting the Twin Towers?” I said no, eagerly, thinking I was about to hear a joke.

    Then the rest of class, Mr. Stoner let us watch TV… and every once in a while the class would talk to each other, but mostly we just watched.

    Next I went to math class, with Mrs. Baker. She told us, and I will never forget these words, “I know that there is something serious going on right now, but I don’t know the details. But what I do know is math, so we are going to do that.”

    To this day, I consider her one of the most foolish and loathesome people I have ever met.

  • pearldoor

    2011/09/08 at 6:55 pm

    I had only been at work about 30 minutes when my friend, Gail, who had called in sick that day, called me from home to tell me about the first plane. We both thought how crazy it was that a jet was flying that low. A few minutes later she called back and said another plane had hit, and I went cold all over. I said ” Gail, this is no accident”.

    I was six weeks pregnant at the time, and no one at my job even knew it yet. I remember thinking how could I bring a child into such an insane world while the whole office was watching our tiny TV in the president’s office. Also, even though we worked in a small town, we worked in a 15 story building, and it was the furniture capitol of the world and we were all paranoid that planes were targeting buildings, so there was talk of shutting down, but my husband was not home, so I didn’t want to go home and be alone. Only one girl got so upset that she left. I went into the bathroom a couple of times and got sick. Not pregnancy sick, just sick from watching the devastation unfold. When I got home, we couldn’t stop watching. It was horrible, and this week, for some reason, maybe because it’s been ten years and the memorial is coming up, it’s been particularly hard to stop watching all the things rehashing the event.

    I have become a bit obsessed with it to be honest, and my son’s class is doing a 30 minute memorial tomorrow on it, and we talked at length about it yesterday, and he actually interviewed me about it, it was part of his homework.

    I was supposed to fly to visit a friend in Connecticut this weekend but didn’t realize I had scheduled my trip so close to 9/11 and backed out; that is how freaked out I am over it.

    But I remember it as if it were just last week, that is how clear it is.

  • Totah Sam

    2011/09/09 at 10:12 am

    Driving to work from Provo to SLC. The highway was completely empty. Not a car in sight. I hadn’t checked the news and I wasn’t listening to the radio. I had no idea what was going on. It freaked me out.

    I got to work and my supervisor ran up to me and said, “they attacked the world trade center.” I said, “Which building?” She looked at me like I was crazy. I walked in to the conference room just as they were announcing a second building had been attacked.

    I wanted to go home and crawl under the bed that entire day.

  • halstead

    2011/09/09 at 12:14 pm

    I live in Montclair, NJ. It takes 20 minutes to get into the city by car.

    I was in 5th grade when the principal came into our room and whispered to our teacher. My teacher, Mrs. Smith, told us that the World Trade Centers were on fire. It was barely a blip on our radar, and as far as I can remember nothing out of the ordinary happened during school that day. Except a lot of kids parents were picking them up. Apparently my dad had wanted to get me but called the school and they told him not to.

    Both my parents worked in the city. My mom worked in Midtown, I had no idea what that meant or how this would affect her. My dad worked a block away from the towers. He would’ve been on the subway train that ran underneath the towers when the first one collapsed.

    Apparently the teachers asked if any of our parents worked in the city, I’m sure I had somewhat of an idea that they did but I didn’t raise my hand.

    When school got out my friends and I stood around making jokes about it “catching” on fire. We thought it was funny, like maybe all of the papers from the stock exchange caught fire. That’s all we knew, that the world trade center was where the stock exchange was, and there was a fire.

    My nanny, Anne, picked me up after school and on our way to my father’s house we stopped. On a few of the hilly roads on the way home we could see the city perfectly, about 10 other cars stopped and got out to look too. We saw billowly clouds of smoke. I didn’t understand. All of the radios we had saved were playing the same announcements.

    I got home. Thank God my dad had decided to play golf. I remember watching the collapses over and over again on the television.

    My mother was still in the city. No one could get in touch with her because the phone lines were pretty much gone or all tied up. She had gotten to a friends house and stayed the night.

    I don’t know when I realized what really happened and what it meant. But I do now, and it scares me. It shocked me into premature adulthood.

  • Anxious Annie

    2011/09/11 at 12:07 pm

    Great post – I too remember sitting, staring, being glued to the horrific news.

    Off topic – but I love the font used in the Sept masthead for the word “trouble.” Any chance you could tell me the name of that font????

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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