Home » 9/11: 10 years later » Question of the Week » What are your memories of Sept. 11, 2001?
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The first thing I knew of what was happening was the look on my husband’s face while he sat on the couch watching the news. It was a look I’d never seen on him before. I sat next to him, both of us thinking what a terrible accident it was, a plane running into one of the towers. Then we saw that second plane enter the view and slam right into the second tower. My world view changed in that moment. Whatever was left of any innocence I’d brought into adulthood, marriage, parenthood… It died in that moment. As the scene unfolded, people jumping from the towers, then each of the towers collapsing, I wept. Then we learned of the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. I remember wondering when and if the horror would stop. The human, national and global toll on lives and psyches was staggering. I think I’ll never fully recover.
As was my habit before work, I was doing stretching exercises in front of the early morning news and thinking about our son’s wedding coming up Sep. 16. When I saw it, naive as I am, I couldn’t believe a pilot wouldn’t see a huge building. Then I thought of my friend, an ex-pat Tahoe resident who worked there (because of the bomber years earlier I couldn’t see her office when I visited New York). Of course by then I couldn’t reach her, the phones were jammed and when I did she told me New Yorkers knew exactly what had happened! Fortunately she was mid-town working with a group of people. Later in the day I realized our flight to Washington state had been cancelled so we drove up a day early for the wedding. It was eerie with no planes and thousands of travelers with little American flags on their cars. It was like the JFK assassination – I remember exactly what I was doing and how stunned I felt. Not then and not now do I believe that you attack an entire country for the actions of a group of people not acting at their government’s direction.
I was just opening up my computer for the morning and noticed a news flash about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. My first thought was a private plane. Then the second news flash said a second plane had hit the buildings. I turned on the news and saw, over and over, the planes (the really big planes) hitting the towers. I knew it was no mistake. I sat glued to the news for over an hour. I didn’t want to go to work. I just wanted it to be a bad dream. Then the Pentagon was hit and the last plane went down in PA. I knew then that nothing in this country would ever be the same.
The show of patriotism immediately after this disaster was comforting. Unfortunately the flags are not so visible, the partiotism not so outspoken as it was ten years ago. Let’s get out our flags and let the terrorists know we are here and we are proud. I know my flag gets a lot of time out on my front porch.
On 9/11 I was on active duty with the Nevada Army National Guard as a CH-47D Chinook helicopter pilot. I had been in the Guard since 1977. In September 2001 our Medivac unit was training at Ft. Polk LA prior to a deployment to the Balkans. I had just finished delivering some gear to them and was flying back to Reno. We were spending the night in El Paso Texas on 9/10, planning to finish our flight home the next day. Early on the morning of 9/11 I was getting ready to get going, when my flight engineer came in to my room and said, “sir, you need to see this”. We went into his room where he had the TV on and we watched the events in New York unfold. It soon became apparent that we were not going to be flying back to Reno that day. I got the rest of the crew together and briefed them on the situation. Because things were so confused, throughout the country, and we didn’t know how far this terrorism had spread, I told the crew that we would only go out in civilian clothes, no military uniforms, when we left the hotel. I also contacted the El Paso Police Department and asked them to have their bomb sniffing dogs check out our helicopter, parked at the El Paso Airport. Some of what I did was probably based on paranoia, but some was just to be able to do something. We all felt so helpless and powerless. All aircraft in the country were grounded until 9/13, when they decided to release only military aircraft to return to home station. We were under strict control and supervision of flight service, and had to remain in constant radio contact with them throughout the flight. The flight back to Reno was the strangest flight I have ever had. There was nobody in the air that day with the exception of a few military flights. Air Traffic Control was completely silent except when responding to our required calls. As a crew, we were uncharacteristically quiet, each lost in our own thoughts of the events of the past few days. The world had changed for all of us that day, especially those of us in the military.
I am now retired and I am participating in the 9/11 project this coming Sunday at the Lake Tahoe Community College. Our presentation is a reminder of what happened that day and how it impacted those who witnessed the events of 9/11. For me it has brought back the flood of memories from my own experience. An interesting, additional connection for me, was that 9/12/2001, was the thirty-first anniversary of being shot down and wounded in Viet Nam.
Please keep the victims and survivors of 9/11 in your thoughts and prayers.
Was on my computer early emailing my niece in NY (Brooklyn) and heard the news in the background. Called and reached her roommate who said she’d gone to vote (and this was inbetween the 2 plane crashes). Luckily reached her a 2nd time @9:30. After that it was a long time before other relative could call her. She said that ashes of papers were dropping in her yard. She’s back in CA now about to go to law school. I went to the bank and got money in case it all went to hell.