The United States of America being attacked on September 11, 2001, resulting in thousands of innocent Americans dying, brought heartbreaking grief to our nation. The events were stunning. The images were shocking. The day was stupefying. The reality was surreal.
At the same time, the selflessness, bravery, and strength displayed by Americans, at a time of overwhelming crisis, reflected to the world the incredible character of our people and fortitude of our cultural identity.
As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the American heroes lost on September 11, Americans recall the powerful memories, forever etched in their minds, of where they were and how they felt when they first heard the news of commercial airliners, being used as weapons, crashing into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
* “I was only nine years old. I remember I had stayed home from school that day. When I walked into the living room the news was on, and the first plane had already hit. At first I thought it was a just a movie. When I asked what it was, my grandma explained to me it was all real. I don't remember how I felt when the second plane hit and the towers fell, but I do remember looking to my left and seeing the strongest woman I know in tears." Colin Lundgren, U.S. Army Specialist, Joliet, IL
* “There are few days I can remember with such clarity. I was working for my brother at his office. One of the guys called in to say “If you have a TV, turn it on now.” I ran to the closet and pulled out the little portable TV with a manual antenna. I couldn’t believe what we were watching. Then, we saw the second plane heading to the towers. My immediate reaction was this is ‘a real war of the worlds’ - like a second Pearl Harbor.” Jayne Platt, Aviation Industry, Providence, RI
* “I was just 20 minutes from the Pentagon. I was still at home and had not gone to work yet when I heard the news. I was really shocked. That evening, I drove by the Pentagon to see first hand. It was sickening to see the destruction.” Bruce Boyd, Business Owner, Springfield, VA
* “I was in my car on Route 1 passing by Logan Airport. I started to cry, and I was shaking. As I pulled the car over, I was thinking about how G-d had spared me for some reason, but others had tragically lost their lives. You see, the night before, my client called to cancel our plans to meet in NYC at the WTC for a board meeting. I was supposed to be on the flight out of Boston.” Lisa-Marie Cashman, Media Correspondent, Boston, MA
* “It was the first day of the new school year for the 3 year old preschool class I assistant taught. A friend called to tell us what was going on. It was surreal. We weren't sure what it really meant or what to do. The children played peacefully and nothing seemed different, but I had a feeling much was about to change. As parents came to pick up their children, we looked at each other with bewilderment and wondered what exactly was happening.” Tami Torango Booth, Teacher, South Lyon, MI
* “Upon hearing the news of the first plane crash, my initial hope was that someone had accidentally flown a plane into the building. I recalled a similar event after the first WTC explosion, when an explosion in New York a few weeks later turned out not to be terrorism. When the second plane crashed into the WTC, my heart hoped that an errant news team had flown too close. My head said that it was an attack and the prior one was terrorism as well.
I was at the FBI Academy in my office located on the first floor of the classroom building and always had many students walking by. I sat my TV in the hall so all could watch as events unfolded. On several occasions, there were five or more rows standing in front of the TV. All were mostly speechless throughout the day.
One staff member came into my office white-faced. Her husband worked at the Pentagon and had just called to say he was alive, and the smoke filled building was being evacuated. By the time she came into my office, the news began reporting that a third plane had flown into the Pentagon. Fortunately, her husband escaped unscathed.” Kate Killman, Retired FBI, Bumpass, VA
* “I was in my office in Des Plaines, Illinois, just a mile or two from O’Hare Airport. It was eerie, because normally there are planes flying over 24/7, but it got quiet. You could almost hear a pin drop. Then there were patrol cars on every corner. A few of our technicians were working downtown but could not get back to the suburbs, because mass transit was shut down.” Nick Voss, Business Owner, Phoenix, AZ
* “In my office on 26th Street in Manhattan, our conference room had a view of the WTC, looking downtown. I looked up and saw one building with smoke coming out. Then the other was hit. I left the office within five minutes and headed to Penn Station to catch any train headed to Pennsylvania or points south. The NJT train was packed with standing room only. I was in the last car looking out of the rear window. Penn Station NY (and all of NY) was closed after I boarded. No other train followed us out of the NY tunnels and all the way to Trenton, NJ.” Scott Yaw, Executive, Philadelphia, PA
* “My father was at Dallas/Fort Worth airport about to fly to San Antonio for possible entrance into an experimental cancer treatment program. He called me and said the entire airport had shut down. He asked me to turn on the TV and find out what was going on. I saw the second plane fly into the second tower as they were realizing we were under terrorist attack. I called my dad to tell him. He, a man dying of cancer, responded, ‘And we think we have problems.’
I got my three kids out of school. We came back to the house and watched it all unfold. My dad drove to San Antonio for the appointment and drove back late that night. He had been turned down for the experimental cancer treatment. He passed 6 months later.” Colleen Sullivan Simrell, Business Owner, Cumming, GA
* “I was living in California. I was getting ready for work when my sister called me. She was hysterical and demanding to know where I was. You see, I was supposed to be in New York that week just north of Manhattan. My sister was frantic at her home in the Midwest thinking I was in New York. She told me what was going on, and I turned on the TV. I was stunned at what I was seeing and hearing. Stunned is the only word I can use to describe my thoughts in those first few minutes of realization.
After the attack, I had to get home, meaning Tucson. I had a need for the safety of my home and the closeness of my family. The one feeling that stays with me to this day is the day after the attack I was driving from California to Tucson, because, remember, there was no airline service for several days. As I drove through the desert that trip, the feeling of complete despair for our country overwhelmed me as I listened to the radio and the patriotic songs that were playing for the entire trip. I can still ‘feel’ that feeling today when I think of that trip.” Beverly Faull, Business Owner, Tucson, AZ
* “I was nearly killed in the Pentagon attack. I don’t remember much about that day…..” Bob Schneider, International Business Operations Consultant, Washington D.C.
* “I had family in for a long weekend, and Tuesday was my first day back at work. I heard on the radio on my way to work that a plane had run into the WTC with the announcer speculated that it was a small plane and it must have been an incompetent pilot. At my desk, I heard on the radio that another plane had hit the second tower. Some of my staff tuned in an old TV set and watched the coverage.
My wife called me crying and said she heard our country was at war. We had a son in the Navy, stationed in Connecticut, with an office in the Pentagon in D.C. I closed the office upon hearing a plane had hit the Pentagon. I remember walking into the training lab in front of the 24 students in the class and getting choked up noting we were not able to reach my son.
It was a very intense and painful day, and my heart broke for those that lost loved ones. I was also very proud of our police and firemen who stood their ground under horrible circumstances.” Carl DeMusz, Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland, OH
* “I was getting ready for my second day of a new job and feeding my toddler breakfast when the morning news show made the announcement of the attack. I watched in utter horror half ignoring my hungry child. My job was at the International Building in downtown Minneapolis. It was evacuated in case attacks were planned for other large buildings across the nation. Being a new mom, I felt a complete sense of horror over how quickly "life as we know it" can be taken away from us. Now a mom of three children, I am grateful for those who fight for us to be free. I'm grateful for those who have lost their lives, so we can live the lives we do.” Cami Zimmer, Political Strategist/Business Owner, Minneapolis, MN
* “I was in my high school computer lab when I heard of the attacks. The first thing that struck my mind was the level of denial in many of my classmates. Many were downplaying what was happening saying things like ‘It has to be a practical joke.’ or ‘They meant to target globalization and business, not the US.’ The one thing no one at that moment wanted to consider was we were indeed attacked by people that wanted to kill Americans." Angel Guma, U.S. Army Specialist, Stationed in Afghanistan
* “My first reaction was ‘Oh my God!’ Then I cried. I worked in the exact area and used to take the path to the WTC. I just didn't happen to be there that day. I thought of the homeless man I used to give money to when I had time to go into the book store.” Sue Allen, Photographer/Business Owner, New York City, NY
* “On the way to work I heard about the "accident" of the first plane hitting the building. I honestly didn't think much about it. But as I was parking my car, I heard about the second plane hitting the other building and I immediately knew it wasn't an accident. Something was wrong. At work, the news of the second plane hitting the second building had people scrambling to find a TV. I saw a reporter talking about the WTC but was in DC and had the Pentagon in the background reporting an explosion behind them. They didn't say it, but I had a strong feeling it was another plane.
I continued to finish up the payroll, so everyone would be paid on Friday. I then left to pick up my daughter from daycare and heard about the plane crash in Shanksville. I remember crying on the turnpike. I was crying for all the Americans that were in danger. At home, I was glued to the TV and every now and then, my daughter would come over and hug me. She saw me crying but didn't know why. I tried to tell her what was going on, but she didn't understand. Now 10 years later, she understands what happened but not why it happened.” Raeann Hofkin, CPP, Philadelphia, PA
* “I was in San Jose when I saw the news report of the first plane crashing into the WTC. I never imagined it was anything other than a terrible accident. When I saw the footage of the second plane crashing into the Twin Towers, I knew it was clearly an attack. I was overwhelmed with both anger and sadness that an act of this magnitude could occur on American soil.” Leon M. Strausser, Jr., U.S. Air Force Retired, Senior Master Sergeant, Salt Lake City, UT
* “I was traveling on business in San Francisco and was participating in a conference call with a company in the Midwest. I had the TV on to a morning news show and muted. During my conference call, I asked if the Sears Tower was on fire. Then they said it was the WTC. We wrapped up our call, and I saw the second plane hit the second tower live. It was surreal. Most people in California weren’t up yet and didn’t know.” Lesley Lane Woodring, Data Information Executive, Scottsdale, AZ
* “I was over the Atlantic ocean flying back from a 20th Anniversary trip to Paris, France. I had to spend a few days in St Johns, Newfoundland and fly across the Atlantic twice in twenty hours to finally get back into the U.S. at midnight on Friday/Saturday. KLM was awesome!” Darrell Galloway, Chairman at GAGOP 11th District, Atlanta, GA
* “It started off as any ordinary day. I began work at my desk at 7:30 in the morning with CNN running on a big screen in the background. I saw the ‘Breaking News’ banner flashing, and the announcer was excitedly reading impromptu copy. He described accompanying video of a horrendous scene of a plane crashing into the North Tower of the WTC.
I was mesmerized that morning in front of the TV as the live accounts of a second plane careening into the South Tower went by in a flash. I was absolutely captivated as I watched additional reports of two following plane strikes, first at the Pentagon and then in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. America had been changed forever.
Like most viewers, I made little sense of the first crash of the American Airlines jet into the WTC’s North Tower. Once the United Airlines flight crashed into the South Tower, however, it was readily apparent to me that the U.S. was under siege. By the middle of that afternoon, I was prepared to accept the conclusion that America was the victim of jihad by al-Qaeda.” WB Freeman, Executive Consultant, Des Moines, IA
* “I was in bed when I turned on my radio and heard the news. I jumped up with a start hoping that it was a prank being played by the local radio. I turned on the TV and froze on my couch when I saw the first visual.” Ajay Kaul Sr. IT Manager, San Diego, CA
* “I had spent the night before at my mom’s house on the west coast and woke at 6:30 AM. She told me to look at the TV. Reporters were saying a commuter plane had crashed, and I realized they were not seeing the footage. The gaping smoking burning hole was nearly the width of the WTC. Then another plane hit, and I knew for sure we were being attacked. I was on the Observation Deck on 9-11-2000. What difference timing makes. God Bless us everyone.
Also, I had an uncle living in Labrador, Canada. Many U.S. bound flights landed there, and those great Canadians played the role of gracious host to stranded travelers unable to land in the U.S. for about a week. Thanks again to Canada and friends from around the world.” Jennifer Wise, Consumer Goods, Spokane WA
* “I was at work, at my desk, and my boss's wife called him to report a plane had hit the WTC. Several of us then got on the Internet and watched the situation develop. We fanned out across the building searching for various departments with televisions and watched the days events unfold in horror.” Mark Kalinowski, Hospital Safety Coordinator, Buffalo, NY
* “I was in car on my way to a meeting . My very first thought was, ‘Oh no, we are at war, and it is in our country.’ I thought someone was going to attack all the high rise buildings in the major cities. Then Pearl Harbor came into my thoughts. I was very frightened.” Barbara Bach, Senior Instructor, Dallas, TX
* “I was on my way to work sitting at a stop light ready to turn into the parking garage when I heard the report on the radio. I thought another private plane had hit accidentally. Because I worked in a government building, Capitol Police sent us home immediately. Like the rest of America, I sat in complete shock for the rest of the day watching TV, crying for the loss of life and devastation, and cursing the bastards that dared do this. I could not imagine the amount of ignorance, anger and hatred these acts took to do. My thoughts went to what a way to squander God's gift of life.” Laura Fanelli, Legislative Aide at State Senator Len Suzio, PR Executive, Hartford, CT
* “I heard about the first plane hitting on a news cast on a local sports talk show while I was on my way in to work. My co-worker who shared space in our offices had his TV on. We saw the second plane hit live. The rest of the day we all gathered around the TV and watched the events. Unbelievably to us, a Muslim doctor cheered when one of the towers fell. He was escorted off premises and lost his position within a few days.” Kurt Hehmeyer, Healthcare Technology, Cleveland, OH
* “That morning my neighbor phoned me at 7:30 AM. She was crying as she told me of the terrible attack. I remained in my chair that day and into the night staring at the television in shock. I wondered how something like this could happen here in the U.S. I never felt so helpless in my life or felt such anger. Never had I felt such grief and pain as I did for the innocent victims and the brave men and women who lost their lives attempting to save them. I cried that entire day. Reliving the memory of that day makes me cry all over again.” Randy Thomas, Sales Executive, Scottsdale, AZ
* “I was on my way to work in Los Angeles when a co-worker called me about the first attack. My heart sank, because I knew that it was not an accident. I immediately thought about how the idea for this attack came from testimony in the trial of the first WTC bomber.” James Meyers, Entertainment, Boston, MA
* “I was driving to work. I saw the first tower on fire and was transfixed in horror. As the day progressed, I found out I had lost two friends in the tragedy. Father Mike was a man who had touched my life since I was a child. He was a kind gentle and insightful man whom exuded love with each word that crossed his lips or his gentle touch on your shoulder to reassure you in some of the most difficult times. My other friend was a childhood friend whom was a mother and a kind and gentle soul. The silent night ended with a lone NYC taxi taking a woman home while I was sitting on my stoop.” Kathy Pavelec, State of NJ, Hawthorne, NJ
* “Ironically, I had a client meeting with the Aviation Department at O'Hare Airport. My partner called me to tell me to turn on a TV. The moment I turned it on, the second plane hit the second tower. My heart sank, for I knew immediately this was no accident. I was in shock. Then it turned to grief. Two years later I found out a friend from high school died in the first tower. It still hurts to see the footage and that it is taking so long to rebuild. The 10 year anniversary will be tough, but let's remember how America came together and all of the heroes that died that day.” Scott Catino, Business Owner, Chicago, IL
In the recently aired National Geographic Channel’s George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview, Former President Bush recounts his reaction to being told in a phone call from President Obama that 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden had been killed by Navy Seals.
“I was grateful. I didn’t feel any sense of happiness or jubilation. I felt a sense of gratitude that justice had been done. Eventually September 11 will be a date on the calendar like Pearl Harbor day. For those of us who lived through it, it will be a day we will never forget.”