where were you on 9/11?

I was at my kitchen table, drinking coffee.

The TV was on while I was reading and I was writing my to-do list. I had tons of errands to run, on the way back from the gym and was also meeting a friend for lunch. The phone rings, it’s my friend ” is your news on? The WTC tower has a major fire in the top floors. It’s being shown.” So I flip channels, and realize it is a thick black smoke that is steadily growing fierce. As I watch “omg, did you see that? That’s a plane that went straight into the tower. God, all those people, why on earth would the pilot do that, it did’nt look it was out-of-control, it went straight in!”

News was unfolding and I increased the volume to hear better. I could hear the shock, surprise, and utter chaos at the newsroom and reporters. It was breaking news manna. Through the absolute intensity of what was happening in front of our eyes, the effect had not yet sunk in. The extent of destruction, and the atrocity of the event was something no one tried to comprehend then.

My first thought was to call my husband. His company was under lock down as understood and so with the network down, and the radio inaccssible, I became his team’s ears and eyes, as I translated the comments, and making sense of the feed that was happening. As I stood rooted watching gray smoke billowing and people scattering around, with sheer panic on their faces, reporters and commentators coming to make sense of what hit us, my thoughts went back and forth to the folks inside the building to the ones in the plane.

It was a horrific scene.

Breaking news swept closer home. Pentagon was hit.

That shook me out of my role as a distant spectator. As selfish as I may sound, I wanted to hold my kids and I wanted them now. A hurried bye and a take care to my husband I called the kids’ schools. Both declared that the parents were more than welcome to pick up their kids if they wanted to, but the school was continuing on, under guard.

I drove like a maniac picked my son up, drove to my daughter’s school, waited in line with the rest of the parents, showed my id to enter school to converse with the office staff. There were 2 burly officers at the entrance, and that rare sight created both a panic and a sense of security in me. Driving back, I could see scores of cars on an otherwise empty road. The panic had set in. In the meanwhile I’d called and alerted a few of our friends, checked in on my sister, and called India to tell my parents that we were okay. The phone lines were getting jammed slowly.

My daughter’s teacher’s dad worked in the 2nd tower, she was visibly shaken but had a brave face as the others around her broke down. A friend couldn’t reach her sister who worked in the building next to WTC. My neighbor’s brother was at the Pentagon. She couldn’t reach him on the phone, and I could see her pace up and down the driveway.

The weather was beautiful. Blue skies, and temperature so perfect, you could walk bare feet in the grass. I hurried my kids in as I looked up and realized that it was as deceptive as could be. The calmness that the skies portrayed was all a fat lie.

Now as I look back, and read stories about kids born during the year and posthumously, the beautiful children who have been robbed of a parent, and the different ways their life has changed forever, I feel a sadness that’s beyond what I can express. I am sure they all will move on, and find comfort in their own unique ways, but the fact still remains that a minute is all it takes to turn your world upside down.

You do what you have to do and then life goes on.

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10 Comments

  • I was studying for one of my final exams in final yr undergrad when i heard this in the news…was quite disturbed and we were trying to reach our relatives in NY to see if everyone was ok.

  • As you rightly pointed out, it only the second day of my landing at the USA. I got up in the morning to the sound of my roomies excitedly pointing at the TV – I really thought it was the trailer for some movie. Then we thought it was an accident – the newscasters themselves were not sure.

    When it sunk in, disbelief and horror was the first reaction. Then began the frantic phone calls – it was a long time before I could reach home in India – my parents were worried sick but I managed to get through message to them that Davis was okay.

    I will never forget the faces in Davis that day – we were having orientation programs that day – they did not cancel it. Instead, surprisingly, they spoke out how tolerance was important and unity in the time of crisis was even more important and how a community cannot be blamed for the actions of a few individuals.

    For quite sometime after this, everyone went out of their way to be nice to foreign students. I am grateful!

    I still have not figured out why it is that only innocent people need to suffer.

    I hogged a lot of the comment space – apologies!

  • I remember I was driving to wrok when I heard about the first plane on the radio and then the frist thougth that came to me was soem bozo of a learner pilot woudl have scraped through one of those high windows. I reached work and in the lab heard about the second one, thats it ….. I was terrrified..shocked ..tears….

  • It was my first day at work and my boss was showing me around the office and the office campus. When we reached our building a co worker told us frantically what was happening…so sad.

  • I was attending classes at the community college in Stony Brook,NY. I was just finishing up my class, walking down when one was asking another did you hear what happened in NY… The other replied what another stock market crash? The actual answer stunned us. I rushed home to switch on the TV. Glued on, calling friends in the city to hear if they were ok. Planning to go to the hospital to donate blood ( my neighbour came saying not needed as they didn’t accept blood from anyone who had travelled out of the US). Chaos ruled!!

  • Was at work in Boston. We actually watched the first one fly in, it looked really small and we all wondered how someone could miss the towers, it isn’t like one can’t see them! And then it was one after the other. Had to work to finish up stuff that day, so stayed and finished up. Driving back home through the tolls, the guys wouldn’t collect tolls, the roads were scarily quiet…like no one lived in these places! Husband was supposed to fly out of Boston airport that morning – he was scheduled for workshops in NYC. His workplace in the financial district was shut down, people evacuated from downtown, just in case.

    What I remember though is like the country became another one, a tear in the fabric that won’t ever be fixed or forgotten, as much as there is resilience and phenomenal coping. It was one of those turning points in many lives, some impacted directly but everyone felt the ripples in some which way. The vibe that was in the US before and after 9/11 is just different in a way I can’t express clearly. Like a child grew up and decided she had to become more ‘street smart’.

    • You nailed it 🙂
      It’s exactly how I feel in retrospect. US changed. It grew up and had to learn to be street smart. It’s the loss of innocence we all mourn, the ones who came in here much earlier and who continue to remain here. It’s all so incredibly sad, but change is inevitable and sometimes very sad.

      Thanks so much for coming over and commenting. No one barely does anymore, if only every hit automatically turned into a “I was here” comment. haha 🙂 Also, thanks for signing up!

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