I was thinking this morning that on this day in 2001 I was working and out on a country road because a teenage girl ran off the road and hit a power pole. After I obtained all of her information we were waiting for a tow truck and her parents to arrive. The young lady's parents arrived and asked if I had heard what was going on. They proceeded to tell me about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center in NY and then the Pentagon. I dug my protable radio out of my bag and we all gathered around and listened to the news until the tow truck had the car ready to go. After the accident was cleared I went home for a quick look at the news. I was in shock. I also knew that my son had signed up for the delayed entry program for the Navy to atain his goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. The thought frightened me but I'm not one for squashing a dream. That same day all of the California Highway Patrol uniformed personnel were put on 12 hour days and days off were canceled. Things got crazy at work for a while after 9/11. With my office being so close to San Francisco many of our people were sent to the City to help with the riots. Luckily I had enough senority so I didn't have to go. Those are some of my memories. What are your memories? And yes, as some of you know my son is a Navy SEAL and he has had to do things that you never wish on anyone. He starts a new assignment in November teaching Special WarFare on the East Coast.
I was at work outside of NYC and I remember it being a beautiful day. I was leading a telephone line crew as we placed new fiber optic cables along a street. We heard on the local news pretty quickly what was happening. I was fortunate in that I didn't have any friends or family that died that day, but as I live in a NYC suburb, I know several neighbors who did lose someone, and I have several friends who were there that day, including a NYC cop who sheparded several people into a bank vault a block away when the first tower fell. It was one of those days where you remember exactly were you were, as you rightly pointed out.
I was in college; my morning routine was watching CNN as I got ready, so I was of course astonished by what I watched. My first class that day was 10am, in the University of Pittsburgh's 42-story-tall Cathedral of Learning. A Russian language seminar of around 12 students. Most came to class, some were just finding out before class, some were too stunned to participate. Around 10:30, as it became known there was a hijacked plane somewhere around Pittsburgh, the university through it would probably be a good idea to evacuate one of the tallest buildings in Pittsburgh -- 93 had already crashed by then, but there were lots of unknowns. Several of us continued class on the lawn outside, then classes were cancelled for the rest of the day, leaving us nothing to do other than watch coverage.
I remember the day very very well. It changed our life forever and we will never forget.
We lived in Battery Park City at that time, not more than 1,000 yards away from the South Tower of the former World Trade Center.
I was at work on the opposite side of downtown, my wife was home. At work we heard the loud “boom” when the first plane hit. We had TV screens around our office and followed the news that a small Cessna apparently lost control and hit one of the towers. My wife called me, shaken and concerned, I gave her the news and kind of convinced her that everything will be just fine. Within minutes, tons of papers started to fly past our office windows on the 35th floor and we started to get worried. Meanwhile pictures on TV showed the tower burning and contradicting reports about the cause started to appear. That was the time we received the order to evacuate the building. It is a fairly long way from the 35th floor to the ground level, not being used to walk so many stairs at once, I felt every muscle in my legs. When we exited the office building, the street was packed with people as far as the eye could see. I then spontaneously decided to run home to my wife, all the way around lower Manhattan, which took me about 25 minutes.
When I exited the elevator in our building, my wife just got out of our apartment. We went back in, so that I could change clothes (suit and tie was definitely not the best outfit for a long run!). While I changed my clothes, the first tower collapsed. Our building was shaking, people outside were running away towards Battery Park (our living room windows were facing south, so we could see them).
That was the moment we lost electricity. We quickly took the stairs to the ground floor (we lived on the 21st floor) where we stayed in the gym facing the Hudson River with about 15 people, mostly women with their babies. It had large windows, we figured if needed, we could smash them, cross the promenade and jump into the water (although chances of surviving a swim in the cold Hudson River are not the best either). I made another trip to our apartment because we forgot to close one of our windows and made two additional trips to help some women with their baby stroller down the stairs.
It was pitch black outside from the dust. When the dust settled a little bit we figured it might be save to leave our building. Before we even could open the door, the second tower collapsed. A tremendous wall of dust started to roll towards us and within seconds it was pitch black again. Now we started to get concerned about oxygen. Dust was slowly making its way underneath the doors, must have been the pressure. We took towels from the gym, made them wet in the bathroom and held them in front of our faces. It felt somehow more comfortable to breathe.
After about 30 minutes of desperation, the first firemen with masks were visible outside our building. They were evacuating the entire area. Boats were lined up along the promenade, they were supposed to get us to a safe place. Unfortunately, the folks on the boat where demanding that women and children have to go first, although they could not tell us where exactly they were going.
I did not want to be separated from my wife, so we decided to walk further south. Everything around us was covered with thick dust, breathing was not exactly very comfortable. We ended up close to Pier A where we waited for another good 30 minutes until we were finally rescued and brought to the New Jersey side. Once there, nothing was open (everybody was evacuated) except one small hotel that actually provided sandwiches to those who got stranded. We spent the rest of the day watching the fire and the area we lived in. It was unreal that we could not go back.
They finally reopened the subway from New Jersey into Midtown Manhattan at around 11pm. As we had nowhere to sleep, chances were better to get a hotel room in NYC. We ended up walking on 6th Avenue (no cars, nearly no people) all the way up to 53rd Street. We just tried to avoid potential targets such as Grand Central Station or the Empire State Building, as there were rumors that further attacks were possible.
We stayed in the hotel for 16 days. The first time we could get back to our apartment was after 10 days. We had to register with the National Guard and were escorted to our building. We got 30 minutes to clean our fridge and freezer (they feared contamination in all buildings) and to pack some personal belongings. That included walking up to the 21st floor with a flashlight as power was still gone.
The scene in our community was the absolute nightmare. Dust about one foot high, damaged cars everywhere from people who wanted to escape but could not see anything, piles of cars, vans and whatever piled on the streets as they had to clear the highway that runs to the former World Trade Center (it was rush hour, there were a lot of cars) and the worst, damaged buildings from flying debris. Sadly they found human remains spread out over several buildings of our community, we were warned upfront by the National Guard.
It took us one year until we were able to talk freely about our experiences without breaking into tears. It changed our values and brought me and my wife so much closer together than ever before (and we were always close). We now embrace every single day as much as we can.
Thank you very much for sharing your story. I can't even find words to express how your remarkable account of your 9/11 experience has touched me. It's one thing to hear news stories, but whenever I hear it straight from the source, it really stirs my emotions. That horrific tragedy has gave us all another reason to really appeciate every minute of every day. Best regards to you and your family.
Thanks Jeff for starting this thread. Another reason I love this community. My rather mundane memory compared to you guys is still etched forever in my mind. I was dressing for work when I turned on the TV and immediately had to sit down in disbelief, before starting to contact my family. Thanks for sharing your memories in memorial of this awful day, especially to Liketraveling for leading us so eloquently through your experience. We'll never forget
Liketraveling, that’s an amazing story. I cannot even imagine going through that. What I had to deal with at work was a cake walk compared to what you went through.
I still struggled for years after 9/11 with my son deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq several times. When my phone rang (a couple times on different occasions) at 3 and 3:30 in the morning my heart raced even before I answered the phone. The first time this happened was when the Chinook was shot down in Iraq killing all onboard, including friends of my son from Team 10 (this was for the rescue of the SEALs that the movie Lone Survivor was based on). This call was from the mother of one of my son’s SEAL friends and she wanted to let me know my son was safe. The second was when there was an IED that exploded killing three SEALs in a Humvee. My son called to let me know he was ok (physically). He was sitting in the right front seat of that humvee and three of the four in the back were killed and the driver (my son’s best friend) ended up losing most of his left leg. That conversation started off with, “ Dad, i’m Alright. I wanted to let you know before you hear it in the news. We had 3 KIA today. They were in my Humvee and K**** was injured.” I’ll leave it at that because the rest is not appropriate to write here. After I got off the phone I cried for what seemed like forever. Needless to say I called in sick that day. I was a mess, I couldn’t begin to do my job. Today, I’m just so thankful that my son is not deploying to that area. He just promoted to Master Chief and accepted a two year (with optional third year) instructor position. That means no deployments for 2-3 years. Yeah!! 9/11 will continue to create memories as our country continues to deal with the terrorism issues. I can only hope that my son doesn’t have to attend any more funerals of his friends, he has already lost too many. He has already pounded too many Tridents into the wooden coffins of his friends. Yes, that’s real.
I am glad your son is deployed stateside for the next few years, and that the next generation of Seals will have the opportunity to learn from his experiences. Saying thank you for your service seems so blase', but I mean it. Please thank your son for his service.
I just wrote a story recently about seeing the 911 memorial and how I would never forget where I was on 9/11/2001. My story is pretty mundane - I was getting ready to bring my baby daughter to daycare when I saw the news of the first plane hit . By the time I arrived at the daycare, it was clear the this was not an accident and we all stood and watched in disbelief as the towers came crashing down.
Thanks everyone for sharing your stories, I read every single one. Living in the midwest, I don't hear many stories from those who were close to the area and directly impacted. So sorry you had to experience that.
And, yes, thank you to your son, gefe57!