Where I was that day

On September 11, 2001, I had just gotten back from overseas. I’d been in Israel, a business trip. While there, I picked up some kind of nasty bug that kept me very close to home — and a bathroom — and so, I was at home when the phone rang. Sandy and I were in my bedroom, sorting through some clothing. It was Owen — her husband, my son — on the phone.

“Turn on the television,” Owen said.

“What channel?” I asked.

“Any channel,” he said. “Do it now.”

I did. “The World Trade Center is on fire,” I said.

“A plane hit it,” he said. And as I watched, another plane hit the other tower and the world spun round and nothing was the same after that.

HittingTheTowerSandy and I just watched, silently. Owen was watching at work, on the other end of the phone line. Then, a tower was gone.

“Oh my God,” I whispered. “The tower is gone. Gone.”

Then, the other tower fell.

Nothing remained but a cloud of dust and a giant pile of toxic rubble. Information started to come in. One of my co-workers was supposed to be on one of the planes that had hit a tower. I called, but Herb said he had changed his mind at the last minute. He had felt he didn’t want to go on that flight. He’d take a different flight, later in the day.

“God whispered in your ear,” I said, as did everyone else that day. “God whispered and you listened.”

Close as we were to Boston, everyone was calling friends, family, trying to find out who was where, who was not, if anyone knew something. We watched television, we waited. Garry got home from Channel 7. He said the newsroom had been a very strange place that day. Very strange. Never stranger.

We knew the world had changed. We didn’t know how much. We didn’t know it would be forever.


12 years later, we know. It will never be the same. So many differences, some subtle, most not-so-subtle. It was the end of our belief in our invulnerability, though surely Pearl Harbor should have done that years before … but that was a “real” war, somehow different. This was an enemy we didn’t know we had, didn’t know was out to get us. Didn’t recognize the hatred behind the rhetoric, a hatred so blinding it would exempt no one from the fire.

It’s 9/11 again. A good time to remember who lived, who died, and how the world has changed.

Categories: American history, city, Events, Government, History, Media, Patriotism, Politics

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. I was on my way to work and had started to listen to the radio, but turned it off. Only once I reached work did they corral us in the meeting room (only one with a TV) and we were all silently aghast and dismayed. The whole day and following weeks had a very different feel company-wide.


  2. I learned about the attack as I walked on campus at the high school where I taught English literature and one class of high school journalism. Classroom doors were open. Students were crying. Teachers looked stunned. As I walked by one room after another, the TVs were on in each classroom watching the events unfold as they were happening. One teacher came out of his room and filled me in. My first thought was that we were going to be in another war and our leaders would probably mess it up like they did Vietnam where I fought as a U.S. Marine in 1966.

    The rest of the day, instead of teaching English literature in my classroom, we discussed what was happening and what it might mean. I’m sure that was going on in almost every classroom across America.

    Next came the Afghan War soon followed by the Iraq War—both bungled by our elected leaders who failed to achieve the original objective of ridding the world of the people and the organization behind 9/11. Sure, we eventually got the mastermind behind the attack but the organization seems to defy destruction and has proven to be flexible and adaptive like a deadly virus.


    • Sometimes it seems like it’s violence and war and assassinations the are the milestones in our history. For me, the original and one I can’t forget was the Kennedy Assassination, the original end of innocence. I guess this was end of innocence Act II. Not much innocence left any more.

      On Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 11:07 AM, SERENDIPITY


      • Throughout history there are interludes of peace and prosperity to be found nestled between the endless wars and suffering from natural disasters, droughts, famines, and plague. And historians seem to focus only on the bad and seldom on the good. The bright spots are usually found during times such as the Western Renaissance and the earlier Renaissance in the Middle East that took place during the Dark Ages in Europe after the Western Roman Empire Collapsed. In China, those bright spots would have been during the high points of Han Tang and Sung Dynasties. In fact, during the Tang Dynasty, one of the emperors was a woman [the only one in China’s history] and during her time she ushered in an era of feminism where women had more freedom than at any time during the history of Imperial China. Then during the Sung Dynasty, women lost that freedom in addition to the introduction of foot-binding—-a horrible agonizing practice considered to enhance beauty.

        But there is a bright light that comes out of those period of horrible suffering. The survives are smarter. In fact, I read a book on this topic written by K.D. Koratsky: Living With Evolution or Dying Without It: A Guide to Understanding Humanity’s Past, Present and Future

        The book is heavily academic and I think it was written at a uniersity graduate level but he did his homework and knows what he is talking about.

        For example, the highest average IQ in the world may be found among Eastern European Jews who survived the horrors of Hitler’s Holocaust. The Chinese are in second place. It seems that long periods of peace and prosperity without challenges leads to a decline in IQ. So the old adage about “Survival of the Fittest” may be true but more complex than we thought.


        If what Koratsky writes is true, it may mean the survival of the human species is linked to surviving the bad times and adapting or perish from this earth as so many species have. If you cannot adapt to changes in your environment you go extinct.


        • We history buffs are incomprehensible to other people. Last night my husband asked me a question about what I was reading (a post about life during the 5th century in England) and I watched his eyes glaze over when my answer exceeded his actual interest. I love your answer. It’s the kind of thing I write. Chinese history is incredibly deep an complex. China is/was huge and life in one area for one group could be entirely different from that of another group living not far away. When reading Asian history, there’s a “what is truth” issue because everything is true — and untrue — depending on time and place, economic level, etc. Foot binding was a problem ONLY of the rich. Poor people worried about feeding themselves and girls were lucky to not be disposed of as newborns. When I was about 8, I read a book called “Lin Foo and Lin Ching, A Boy and Girl of China.” It was written for kids, but it got me interested in Chinese history. Hard to find English language histories of Asia make sense to westerners.

          My family’s entire European branch, from Russia through Poland disappeared during the Holocast, at least 50 known relatives. Maybe somewhere someone survived, but as far as I know, the American branch of the family is what is left. I lived in Israel and could find no trace of anyone there and they have pretty good databases. Hitler accomplished his goals and more.

          I have always objected to defining history as “big events that happened involving famous people (kings mainly)” — war and other disasters. It may — or may not — raise IQs, or at least improve the survival skills of forced to live through it. Maybe. I would need some quantifiable evidence before I’d sign on to that. Jews have always had the highest percentage of both genius and mental retardation. It comes from being separated from the general population and marrying cousins until both the best and the worst of the gene pool is made dominant.

          Historically, I’m particularly partial to the 14th century where the Plague was not merely a disaster but the defining event that forced western civilization to make massive infrastructure, cultural, and governmental changes. In many ways, the plague years were the precipitating event for the rennaisance. I doubt there would have been a rennaisance without the plague … and the crusades … and the split Papacy … and the brigand armies … and and and. But I’m running on. The subject is rich. And there’s so much of it!!


  3. We are a family of iron workers also. They have four year college degrees but have all worked the steel from age 16 until college graduation.
    Seeing those iron workers walk into that disaster daily shook all of us.
    That vision was replaced when ironworkers signed that last beam on the new tower.
    The son that did not know Shock & Awe knew about 9/11 but few of the details. He is my youngest and did miss most of the details.
    He told me that he thinks 9/11 will be forgotten if it’s not taught in schools.


  4. I try to move quickly through today, I still cry, feel pain when images of the Towers are shown.
    Last year I went online to show my youngest son what Shock and Awe was. How did I have a child that did not know?
    With all of our combined advances we have not changed since the Crusades.


  5. I didn’t have a work experience reference — as I usually do — for that day. In the TV newsroom with seasoned veterans and those newer to the job — we were all speechless with unbelieving eyes watching the images flash across the banks of TV monitors. Even when given our assignments to cover the story, we moved out slowly as if we were sleep walking. Instinct took over as we covered the story that first day and in the days and weeks to follow. International journalists tried to gently point out that now we knew how the rest of the world felt. It may be trite to say now — but it was a loss of innocence for many Americans.


  6. I was staying with friends outside London. My friend and her husband had turned on the TV to watch a video and came across the newscast of the Twin Towers being hit. The husband came upstairs to get me, and at first I thought he was kidding (he was a jokester). When I came downstairs and started seeing the footage, that’s when it got real. I was truly shocked to see the Towers collapse and protested to my friends, “I can’t believe they collapsed! I’ve been there — these are huge buildings!”

    And the Pentagon attack was equally scary. A little too close to home.


    • I think all over the world, people said “This must be a joke.” There was such an unreality about it… and it just seemed … impossible. My initital reaction was less fear than disbelief. The fear came later.


  7. I was working in Ireland at the time and I remember I was sitting out on the wall in the car park with others during a coffee break when we heard. We didn’t know what the “Twin Towers” were but we were all shocked, especially as it was a civilian target.



  1. Where Were You When Our World Changed? | cathykilpatrickleadership

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