The same pictures come to mind every year on this day (September 11). Millions of Americans with a shared experience. Early in our days we heard or saw the events unfold in New York City and Washington DC. To say it is a formative event in our nation’s history could be right but I think so much of the personal impacts.
Since I started this blog last fall, I haven’t shared my personal account of 9/11 broadly but as I sit in the quiet of the morning, it is all I can think about suddenly.
As I’ve mentioned before, I lived in the New York met or area for a number of years. I have to say, moving to Mississippi from New York was an experience. And the fact I had done that raised a lot of eyebrows in the small towns I began calling home (one I lived in, one I worked in).
I had made return visits to New York including the 2000 World Series affectionally known as the Subway Series. Granted I couldn’t afford game tickets, but I just felt the need to be among the electricity in the city that never sleeps when such a frenzy of baseball excitement was happening.
The morning of the attack on New York, I was headed to work – it was a 30 minute drive in my Jeep and early September was the sort of time where all cares could be blown away by putting the top down and a light jacket on. I got to the office a bit late and everyone had been looking for me. I hadn’t heard my mobile phone ring thanks to the wind and the music pumping. Looking back, I am so glad I didn’t.
But upon my arrival at the office, a colleague asked if I had heard about what was happening in New York. My expression made it clear I had not and I tried to process the story of a plane crashing into a building. We went to a TV and shared the horror of others. I could have spent day and night there.
One of my major thoughts was how I had been to lower Manhattan recently with the company president, CEO and CFO for an investor event. We had held it in the Marriott World Trade Center but I walked a mere two-three blocks to a friends apartment and had the most stellar view I could think of – looking one way, the splendor of the World Trade Center and the other the light from the Statue of Liberty. I had been jealous of the opportunity the friend had as I enjoyed it, now I was scared to death for him.
I watched for a while and saw more unfold, the second plane and the towers as they crashed. I decided I couldn’t watch TV any longer and went to my office in shock. Somehow I thought I would find news of friends – sent emails to all in New York City saying my thoughts and prayers are with them and I hope to hear from them soon. I then started sending messages to friends outside Manhattan asking that we help keep others up-to-date.
I was so incredibly lucky to be shaken out of this zombie-like state. There was a group of farmers from South Texas who had come all the way to Mississippi for a field day. I was supposed to host them for their tours! I had to get right on that. Having something that required me to focus on something else was critical, even if at the time I may not have been quite as on top of things as normal.
Of course, nothing was normal that day. All the farmers had called family & loved ones to assure them they were fine. They were looking for news from family and friends who lived or had traveled to New York or Washington DC that fated 9/11. But they all wanted to go to the field too knowing the news would come as available so that’s what we did. And as we came in from the field after a couple of hours, we caught up on the latest news with everyone. And began to wonder how these guys could get home. It seemed everything unfolding was impacting my small part of the world. I could only imagine what it was like in the area I had once called home.
Our salesmen had rented vans to get to Scott from the airport. After a lot of discussion, it was decided the group would fill up gas tanks and start driving home. They figured it would get worse before it got better and we were going to have a lot of trouble getting 20 seats on a plane. These guys would rather stick together driving than having folks separate.
By the time they left, several tear-filled phone calls telling folks someone was fine had come through. I had lots of emails and a few phone calls myself. It took far too long to get the news and so many people were worried…. but the relief was unimaginable once the list had been accounted for and folks were okay.
It took a while before someone mentioned they really like the picture of the Twin Towers in my office. I had forgotten exactly how much NY was part of my space, and while it hurt to look at the photo and realize the world was changed forever, I needed to do that. It was the least I could do considering what friends in NY had to face.
My friend who lived so nearby ended up unable to return home for a long time. And when he did, the view was so incredibly different, but the resilience he showed was similar to that shown by so many Americans in the weeks, months and years since. Probably the best example of resiliency is that as I finished up this blog post, my niece learned a friend was now engaged – the proposal came through a newspaper ad this morning!
I remember the day really well too. Folks from my parent’s generation will always remember what they were doing when JFK died. I will remember 9/11.
I was a sophomore at South Dakota State University. I was returning from a 8am class and had stopped at the dinning hall to grab some breakfast. As I made my way to the dorm, I noticed we were in yet another “fire” drill. The fire alarms were faulty that year and we had one almost every week. As I was sitting outside the dorm waiting to be let in. I friend of mine said that NY had been bombed. What? Who? No one knew the answers and I was thinking subway scare and nothing too big.
When I got to my room and turned on the TV the details came flooding in. I was in shock at first (like the rest of the world). Then a little memory I had about my high school snapped me back to reality and I had heavy, sinking fear. You see, in my hometown there is a FAA communication center. They control all the flights for the midwest region. The center is located right next to the high school. A joke in school was that if the world was going to end, that center would be bombed first and we won’t have to go to school. The reality of it is, it is on the top 10 places to be bombed in the US.
Since my brothers were still in school, I quickly called home, but as you may guess cell phones were not working that day. I sat in fear all day, waiting to hear something and to make sure no other locations were at risk.
My heart goes out to all those affected by this event. Our lives will never be the same.
Thanks for sharing Emily. It took me a while to worry about Memphis but with FedEx world headquarters and it being an airline hub, there were plenty of worries like that. I still remember how quickly prayers and well wishes flooded in via email, with friends in Greece, Turkey, Holland, South Africa, Malaysia, India, China, Australia, Brazil and far more expressing their concern for me, my loved ones, the country and in fact, the world. With the connectivity we have online now, I’m thinking Facebook & Twitter would both collapse. Hug your little ones an extra time today for me in hopes they don’t have to experience anything like it.
The Wife of a Dairyman says
I believe it’s important to remember and remind ourselves of how we felt and what happened on the tragic day of 9-11. I also payed tribute with my blog post today….https://tinyurl.com/2cuz9ep
Janice, thank you for sharing your remembrance…
David Doerfert says
Thank you Janice. And our thoughts and prayers continue.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Janice. I do remember exactly what l I did that day. I also remember in the coming weeks, my husband and I had many discussions on if we really wanted to start a family anytime soon with everything going on. Thankfully we decided we did and our oldest was born in October of 2002.
Aimee @ everydayepistle.com says
Janice, I’m glad to read your account. We all have one and I believe it is so important to tell the stories–whether we were in NY or DC or Shanksville at the time, or watching it unfold in our homes across the country. What you wrote about how it impacted your little part of the world was true for every one of us. Imperative we not forget and tell the stories to future American generations.
Thanks Aimee. I had photos in my office that included shots of the NY skyline then and I’ve moved them several times since. I had thought I may replace the photos in the frames but it never has felt right, so even today, when I look up from my desk I see the World Trade Towers from the base of the Statue of Liberty as well as a unique shot of the statue from the same vantage point.