Forbidden Thoughts. Five Years Later.

One year after September 11th, 2001, Salon published a rather controversial article called Forbidden Thoughts and Forbidden Letters where people anonymously wrote in and shared their thoughts no matter how bad they seemed. Some thoughts seemed so very harsh, others were disturbingly callous, and still others were bizarrely comical. That publication has stuck with me to this day. I remember reading through some of the letters and realizing that my own thoughts, as irrational as they might have seemed at the time, couldn’t have been all that bad. A few people felt that some of the victims deserved to die. Some worried only about the rescue dogs. I found the paper and ash floating up Broadway beautiful.

So, I guess that’s my question, you may answer it if you wish. Please change your name if you do. Anonymity is fine. What did you think when you heard the news? Where were you at the time? Did you have a thought that made you cringe?

_ Anything goes today, my friends. Anything._

37 Comments

  1. What sticks with me was the feeling of a sort of thrill—not about the destruction, but about the sense that for a few hours reality seemed to be upended. We didn’t know what was going on. It seemed to be dreadful, yes, but it also seemed extraordinary. Assumptions were nullified. That excited me.

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  2. I actually thought, “This is great. I don’t have to go to to work tomorrrow.” It was like a snow day, a paid snow day.

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  3. We were in Brooklyn watching it on tv. All I wanted was my husband to lean over and say Happy Birthday just once before it got too out of control. Then I felt really guilty for being so selfish as we watched the smoke and debris fly through the beautiful blue sky.

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  4. I have no fear of putting my name down…
    That said, I was in Wash. DC at work. I was pregnant with my first daughter at the time. I was shocked and horrified by what happened and remember seeing streams of people making their way out of DC anyway they could. I have to admit I was also sort of excited, by that I guess my adrenaline (sp?) was taking over, because there were rumors of more planes come to crash into DC. Soon after I was having to deal with labor contractions, so my mind was distracted with telling my body that I didn’t want to give birth that day….
    Ugh. It is crazy to think that all that happened only 5 years ago.

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  5. (I had seen the first and left my apartment in a fog. My cat needed food. I was off work that day, prepping for a vacation.) I just kept thinking, how could the planes make such a mistake? It must have been a military jet. How did they get into our airspace?

    I wasn’t able cry until I saw a man on his bike get hit by an SUV, right as I rushed out my coffee shop where we stood and watched the shopkeepers little tv, and saw the 2nd plane hit. The driver kept going and I forgived him or her for being in shock too. The man on the bike didn’t look at his bloody arms and legs. He straightened his helmet, winced, and said, “I need to get home”. Crying felt ridiculous and I immediately stopped again.

    I was thinking, “That wasn’t an accident. Why don’t fighter pilots shoot them out of the sky?”

    My dad was a fighter pilot – A-6’s, the Intruder. I used to dress up in his heavy jump suit when I was a little girl. He wanted me to be a fighter pilot too. I felt like, by not being “at the ready” I was guitly of not protecting others. I wished I could have died fighting, if it meant I could have saved these people.

    I was glad my dad didn’t work at the pentagon anymore, that he was retired and not going to be sent to war again. Actually calling my father didn’t immediately occur to me.

    I wanted my family back, physically, with me. My imaginary family that I hadn’t had since age 5. I wanted us all to live in the big house that existed only in my head and to not feel alone anymore. That, or I wanted to die with my city. I was the only one in my family who had not left D.C. I had stayed and waited, as if they would move back one day.

    I took a bath instead of a shower so I could still hear the news or the phone. I hadn’t gotten through on the phone to anyone. The first call I got was my friend Alex two blocks away. The soft, “hey baby, you ok?” never sounded so fucking good in my life. I wanted to be protected. To not have to be by myself anymore.

    I was worried about my brother, family, and friends in NYC but so much happier to talk to them in those panicked moments than people calling from safe quiet places. I thought that everyone in areas that did not have planes crashing into them-or aiming for them in that moment-had no idea what it felt like. Not that I really knew what I felt like at the time either. They just didn’t seem to get it.

    I was thinking about if I should try to get to MD or VA from DC, knowing the roads would be a mess. MD and boyfriend, or VA and aunt and family. I couldn’t decide. I felt like I belonged in DC, right next to the chronic bomb threats of the Hinckley Hilton I lived next to. It was the first apartment I’d ever felt safe in. I was hurt that my mother didn’t seem more worried about me. I left a voicemail message for her right before the DC-bound plane crashed in PA, convinced it would crash somewhere near me. I was pissed off they screen all their home calls and don’t leave their cell phones on.

    I was pissed off my parents made me fly by myself all the time as a kid, for visitation.

    I was glad my middle brother wasn’t in the army anymore, but he had an office very close to the trade center. I couldn’t get him on the phone. My relieve at hearing his voice as we both watched the news was replaced with the falling feeling of watching the 2nd tower go. I had been thinking, at least we still have one.

    I was worried about my aunt in the same area, but glad most of my family had already left ny or wasn’t in the city.

    I was terrified my oldest brother in the reserves would be called. He was. He is back from Iraq now.

    For those first few days it felt like for the first time everyone was truly kind and selfless. I liked that everyone suddenly had gentle smiles and didn’t hesitate to talk to one another. They held doors and didn’t sigh if you wanted to pay with change.

    Sept 12, I was supposed to head to London and Paris for a vacation with my mom, since she never gets to travel and hadn’t been to France in forever. I’d never been to either. I wanted to do something nice for her. I wanted her to forgive me for getting a divorce, to understand that I was broken. It felt like every place in the world was farther away than it had ever been. My father in California, my mother in Florida, my brother in NY, my friends 2 blocks, or 3 miles away. I missed everyone, and everything, and wanted it all back to normal. I still wanted to take my mother to Paris, and to help her understand me again. I was disheartened that any self-interested conversations like that would dwarf in the grand scheme of things.

    Also, I hoped that since I worked a few blocks from the white house, and among and inside places percieved as targets, I would never have to go into work again.

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  6. Mia, where exactly did you live in DC? I worked in the building just next to the Hinkley Hilton. I lived about three blocks away and my sister lived across the street from the Hilton too….
    Just curious.

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  7. I lived at 19th and Florida. The front door of my bldg was across from the garage-entrance of the Hilton.

    I can’t imagine being pregnant in those moments. I feel afraid for women jostled in the subways, let alone… you’re very brave.

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  8. I was working and living in Toronto. We had no access to TV or radios or the public. Someone did phone one of the staff and passed on the info but I thought they were just exaggerating. It wasn’t until I got home and saw it on the news that I fully grasped what was going on… It scared me deeply even though I was nowhere near it… I think I was just numb and too in shock to know what to think….

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  9. 1909 19th St. guess i don’t have to hide an address I don’t live at anymore. heh

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  10. Too funny. I worked for AED in that big building that used to house that neato film house that is now defunt. I lived on Belmont Rd. Btw Columbia and 18th street. My sister lived in that big apartment building just across the Hilton on Connecticut Ave.

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  11. I remember thinking that I had only a very few days left to live.

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  12. My best friend lives in NYC, so I was mostly just panicking trying to reach her.

    But at the time, I worked in the travel industry, and remember arguing with one of my employees who didn’t understand why we decided to pull all our ads.

    We just sat in the cafeteria watching TV, stunned, but then quickly had to figure out how to get all our stranded passengers home since air travel was halted.

    And then we all worried about losing our jobs, which many people did because everyone was afraid to travel.

    It was just so surreal, I remember having the very naive wish that everything would just go back to the way it was.

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  13. first thought was total and utter disbelief. silent, paralyzing, shock.
    i mean, this was a plot in some trashy airport thriller (written by an ex-port authority cop) id read a few years back. (nelson demille’s, the lions game). truly unimaginable to me, that someone would actually ever try it.
    could not get my head round it.
    ‘who did what?’
    second was, sadly, you reap what you sow. (dont know if thats the right one, i never read the bible).
    lastly, those poor people.
    when i tried to make sense of it later, a book i was reading provided a little insight. i was stunned by how brutal and clever and patient those men (the hijackers) were. and a quote from a book about vietnam summed it up. some guy said that what we were fighting against just wasnt as important to us as what they were fighting for. im not saying that justifies anything like this. or anything that we’ve done to others all over the world. it just illustrated to me how the standard(not quality) of living in america is unrivaled and how that affects everything that we do.

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  14. I teetered between a state of rage and unbelievable sadness. For example, one night I worked the door at Galapagos collecting 10 bucks as a donation and entrance fee to see live music. All the money was going to be donated to the rescue efforts. Two girls walked in and got pissy about the cover. They simply refused to pay. I said they had to. They finally did so. About 10 minutes later they came back with the manager (also a friend of mine) and said that I was being nasty and they wanted a receipt so they could write it off.

    I went absolutely pathetically apeshit on them both. I was literally yelling at them, “how dare you! It’s 10 dollars! HOW DARE YOU PEOPLE! This is HUGE! People are dead and you are worried about 10 bucks?!”

    Apeshit. It almost came to blows.

    Needless to say, after they got their receipts, and I settled down, I felt stupid.

    When I got home that night I cried myself to sleep.

    I think I tried to block that memory out.

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  15. i had just left NYC the week before. moved to michigan and had no TV. my mom called and woke me up with the news so i just turned on the radio. i had a hard time imagining what was happening and then hurried off to my first day of classes. it was almost as if nothing had happened and for a few hours i thought maybe i had misunderstood the phone call and the radio. so i went to one of the big box stores out in the suburbs and shopped for a TV. there were walls of broadcast images and it all just hit me, right in the chest. i got out of there with my new appliance, went home and watched news coverage for the next 10 hours. not the best idea i’ve ever had, but all i could think about was how i wasn’t there. i had missed it. i felt like a coward for having left even though safety didn’t have anything to do with my decision. i just wanted to go back to school and now i’d never be able to relate the same to my friends back in new york. i just wanted to be there.

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  16. Mihow, I will never forget that day, or how I felt. I was at work with your dad when we heard the news. I don’t think I have ever been that scared, or felt so helpless in my life. SCBob and I sat and watched the story unfold. And, we waited….and we worried. I will never be able to erase the memories of seeing those towers on television, and I will never forget the look on your father’s face when his phone rang – and it was the news that you kids were all okay. I was 4 months pregnant – and I knew that my son’s world would be a very different place than I had thought it would be. My initial reaction? I wanted someone to pay dearly for destroying so many lives. Turn the entire middle east into a parking lot? Well…I do remember someone wanting to do that…and I remember agreeing with him!

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  17. I didn’t understand what was happening. I was in Union Square and heard someone say that a plane had hit the WTC and I thought of little personal or tourist planes and how those pilots always seem to have mishaps. Then the second one hit and it was clear that this was big. I thought, “This is BIG.”

    I realized it was an attack, but didn’t quite get the picture together of HOW it happened. I didn’t know if the planes were stolen (because they’re often left unlocked in the Target parking lot, after all) or if it was a tech attack (somehow hacking the planes themselves). People on the street were saying there were more coming and everyone was looking up at every shadow and cloud. It reminded me of a story I read by one of the lesser-known beat writers who described certain folks in the 50s and 60s not wanting to walk across a 4-way intersection because the ”+” shape would make a natural target for a nuke – ignoring that nukes aren’t rocks and you’re dead no matter if they hit you in the head or 5 miles away. That same ‘what are you people thinking? just go wherever you’re going’ feeling hit me.

    I remember thinking that there’s no way this was ALL that was coming. It’s before the enormity of the situation hit me (much later, after the fall). I thought it was actually fairly limited in scope compared to what I perceived as high ambition. If you’re gonna get your hands on four airliners, you’re certainly going to have bombs in subways and dirty bombs, right?

    When the towers fell, I thought it was a fluke. Something unplanned and unexpected.

    Keep in mind that until that point, it looked like only the tip-tops of the buildings were in trouble. The rest, from Union Square, seemed fine.

    I was calling my sister and my 6 roommates to check in and see where everyone was and how they were doing. My sister was watching TV. She was filling me in on theories. She told me when the first building started to collapse as I turned a corner in Chelsea. My nephew was 5 days old, sitting in her lap.

    I immediately planned my exodus back to Athens, GA. I went to work, and a few days later quit my job and started planning a shift back into restaurant work and college town living.

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  18. “I remember thinking that there’s no way this was ALL that was coming.”

    Amen. In fact, I didn’t stop thinking that there was more until much, much later. I want to say at least a year. I was pretty sure there would be more bombs on cars, subways, malls, coffee shops, etc. I went around thinking that it was only a matter of time before more and more people began to die. I thought that life as we’d known it all along was changed forever.

    Surely it wasn’t over. And then one day, much, much later I just stopped thinking that it wasn’t ever going to end…

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  19. A month after quitting my job, I had a going-away party and met Michele. I stuck around for an extra year and we went to DC. I changed probably 60% of who I was after that day, and this anniversary has served to show me a short period of time in which a lot has happened. It’s also given me perspective to see the parts of myself that I greatly dislike and has inspired me to do a bit of reform. I suppose I just did that thing michele called out last week – taking a big event and spinning it personal… Let’s add that to my reformation schedule!

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  20. My ex-husband and I had decided to divorce, and I was two days away from flying to Boston to interview and start my relocation. I had quit working at the law firm I had been with forever, and was temping that week at a small law office in downtown Detroit just to make a little extra cash for the move.

    I was running late that morning, so I didn’t have the news on as I normally did while I got ready for work. I left my apartment and raced off in my car. I turned the radio on and the morning show DJs were playing audio from the Today Show from when the first plane hit. I just remember thinking how surreal, how horrible – at that point they weren’t sure yet if it was an accident or not. I stopped to put gas in my car, and as I stood there at the pump, I heard the guys inside the gas station yelling that a second plane had hit. I remember feeling scared and confused and just… numb. I drove the rest of the way to work, not really sure what else to do.

    When I got to the office, the mood was very somber. People were huddled around desks, listening to radios, trying to get any info they could. Someone finally turned on the television in one of the conference rooms, and people filed in to watch. The attorney I was working for at the time, the managing partner at the firm, was a real dick about it all. He came in at around 10:30 and immediately started berating people for not being at their desks working. He said to us, “this doesn’t affect any of you.” Obviously, it didn’t affect any of us in that office DIRECTLY, but still… having empathy for people who are going through something unimaginably horrible is part of being human, and nobody really knew what else was going to happen that day, or where. I will admit that as the morning went on and he got more and more pissed off at not being able to reach any of his clients in NYC for the phone conferences he had scheduled (oh, the inconvenience!), I sort of wished he would bust a vein or something.

    I emailed my ex, my mom and brother in Alabama, and some friends in Boston, New York and elsewhere to make sure they were all safe. I had a friend who worked at West Point at the time, and at the time she was still on active reserve from the U.S. Army. She was able to give me a lot of info as it came in. I ended up working half a day and then heading home. I called my grandma and talked with her for a long time, and then called my parents to check in.

    My ex’s law school classes were cancelled that night, so he came home with stuff for drinks and we just basically sat on the couch and watched things play out on the television and drank vodka tonics and smoked way too many cigarettes and talked a lot. It was a weird time – on top of all this horrible stuff that was happening to our country, our marriage was over, and we knew it, and that wasn’t going to change. But we were sort of able to talk about a lot of stuff and remember the good times we had had over the 8 years we were together, and I guess in a way we got some sort of closure that night. Oddly enough, the only time either of us had been to New York City was to attend CMJ (him in ’91, me in ’92). The convention had been held in the Trade Center those years, and we had each stayed in the Vista Hotel while there. It was strange to know that the place was just gone.

    Before I went to bed, I checked in again with my friend in West Point, and as it turns out, she had gone for a walk in the evening to blow off some steam, and discovered three tiny kittens abandoned behind her garage. She took them in and got her vet to make a house call to check them out. One was very sick and didn’t make it, but I would end up driving through West Point when I finally made it out to Boston a month later to pick up the two little ones who did, and as sad as I always feel when this anniversary rolls around, I also feel immensely and especially grateful for my kitties on this day. I feel lucky to be someone who can associate something good with this day.

    I met a guy who lived in Brooklyn while I was living in Boston, and we started dating in April of 2003. I moved to the city a year later, and he and I got married this past January. He had moved here in 2002, so he was also not here when the attacks took place. We love this city a great deal, but one thing I think we have both become acutely aware of is that we will never, ever truly understand what it was like for those of you who were actually here that day.

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  21. I suppose I just did that thing michele called out last week – taking a big event and spinning it personal… Let’s add that to my reformation schedule!

    Now, now, with something like this, something this huge there is no way it can’t be spun to be personal. I mean, it IS and always will be personal. 9/11 was one of the most intimate moments of my life. I never once knew myself quite the same way. I never once looked at myself as harshly as I did after that.

    I think 9/11 should be personal. I think that’s one of the things that will make us all better people. I wish people held onto the feeling they were left with after everything took place. I know that the city hadn’t ever been so sweet and easy going. Even today there is something in the air once more. People aren’t as pushy and rushed. Perhaps we need a moment of silence every day. Who knows.

    I think trying to reform this particular personal experience will end up taking away from the joy and peace out there. Make it personal. Sing it, people. :]

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  22. Someone I work with recently asked me what it sounded like. And for the life of me, I simply can’t remember sound. I remember seeing it all happen, I even remember the smell but I can’t remember any sound. Isn’t that odd? I am certain it was loud, but for some reason I remember only silence. I wish I had a better idea of the way it all sounded. Apparently I blocked that bit out. I have no idea why.

    I only remember the sound that came later when we were being circled by fighter jets. I remember that really well.

    But I can’t remember what it sounded like when it fell. I don’t remember screams either. I wish I could.

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  23. that’s my most vivid memory too, the sound of planes flying lower than they ought to be and not knowing if they were friend or foe

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  24. I was working in downtown Pittsburgh. My husband and I had just bought a house 2 months before. We were thinking of buying a new car to handle our longer commute. I was listening to Howard Stern and was engrossed in what his crew was talking about. My husband called me & said a plane had crashed into the WTC. I didn’t believe it until the radio confirmed it. I started spreading the news in the office. When the 2nd plane hit my first thought was, “There go our civil liberties.”

    The city started to shut down around 11am after there were reports of a plane heading towards the city(before we knew what really happened to Flight 93.) My husband and I arranged to meet on a street corne. Everyone on the street was quiet & in shock. I saw a Sikh gentleman walking in the opposite direction of everyone else & I wanted to yell, “Be careful. Don’t you understand what’s happening?” I was pretty sure some people would see his headwear & not know or care that he wasn’t an Arab Muslim that day.

    The traffic coming from my husband’s building was becoming a trickle. I just wanted to see him again & get the hell out of there. Where was he??? Finally I saw him walking towards me. He had been stuck in an elevator for 20 minutes. Relief flooded over me.

    On the way home I remember thinking about what a beautiful day it was. No clouds. Beautiful blue sky. Perfect temperature. It was a perfect day to get out of work early, but I could only sit on the couch and watch the footage of those buildings all day long. I thought about our jobs & our house. Should we buy a new car? What about the baby we were trying to have now? Was it a good idea? What would the world be like for a new child?

    Later, I remember feeling selfish & stupid for thinking about all those things because I was still alive and anyone I knew in New York was OK. How silly we all were for thinking we were in danger in Pittsburgh, like we are even on any terrorist’s map.

    It was erriely quiet that week without any planes flying over our house on the way to the airport. For the next 6 months, maybe longer, more planes flew over our house to avoid the off-limits air space of the nuclear plant in the county. Every plane was a reminder of what had changed in the world.

    We bought an American flag for the house, which I wouldn’t have thought about before. I was proud to sing the national anthem at sporting events, which I never was before. For a while I looked people in the eye on the walk from the car to work. The people who died in the WTC were just like us: office workers who were happy or bored or stressed, ambitious or lazy, executives to janitors. Were any of them listening to the radio that morning? Had any of them bought a house recently? I felt worst for the widows who were pregnant. To have a baby, a part of the man you love, without him being there……I could only imagine.

    Five years later it’s all still so fresh & sad. I now have 2 kids and the same house & job, except I telecommute now. Someday I’ll tell the kids about what happened to the world that day. Today, I just hugged them & held them close. I’m not sure if I’ve heard a airplane all day.

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  25. pgh girl, you just reminded me of the fact that no commercial jets flew for days following. It was eerily silent. There were no jet streams or sky zippers (as I call them.)

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  26. The first plane flew over my head as I was walking to work, from the East Village to Midtown. I remember taking my earphones off and looking around, thinking it was a little plane that was just flying too low. When I got to work a few minutes later and someone told me what had happened, my whole body started shaking. It wasn’t until after the second plane hit and my boss said “terrorists” that my mind started to get it, too. But I kept thinking, wow, this is going to be some complicated rescue effort, to get all those people off the top floors.

    I had a TV on my desk (I worked at a TV magazine) and sat there all day, still shaking, thinking maybe I should go home, maybe I should go outside to actually see this with my own eyes, but I was too scared. I truly thought all the buildings were going to start coming down like dominoes. My friends all over the country had been sent home from work, but I just sat there, shaking and going into the bathroom and dry heaving.

    Around lunchtime I suddenly realized that the Empire State Building was right outside my window, and at that moment a fighter jet flew over. That was the first time I almost peed in my pants out of pure fear. The second time was later that night, when my roommate and I heard on the news that a van with explosives had been stopped on the GW Bridge. I ran through many scenarios in my head for how people could possibly escape after all the bridges were blown up and there was no way. I just kept calling people all night because I thought that was going to be it.

    What I will always remember from that day is how when I finally left work, I could hear my footsteps, and I was wearing sneakers. Everywhere I went, even my own neighborhood, looked completely different. I couldn’t believe it was the same city I had walked through just that morning.

    I left New York two years ago and have missed it every day, but not quite so much as I have today.

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  27. Alison, i hear ya about missing new york. I left here out of haste and fear and anxiety. I literally felt like I had abandoned it at a time where I really shouldn’t have. I said there would be no way I would leave it right after it happened, that I would be here for good or at least until it was “fixed” as if it needed me! and not that I needed it in order to heal. So I packed up and left.

    Not a day went by that I didn’t think about the life I had left here, the city I left behind. I suppose one of the reasons we came back here is because I felt a certain part of me wasn’t finished, yet.

    While I have fights with this city every now and again, I also can’t imagine my life without it but I know that we won’t be here forever. It’s not that we’re no strong enough, it’s that we’re not rich enough. :]

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  28. I remember exactly where I was when the first plane hit, I was in my bathroom getting ready for work (I could see the tv). I remember thinking that it had to have been an accident, felt bad, kept getting ready for work. Then the second plane hit, that was no accident, something is going on. Dropped the kids off at daycare, listened to the radio the whole time. When I got to work everybody was walking around like zombies and crying. I live in Washington State…I always say that you didn’t have to live there to feel the affect it had. I think the only selfish thought I had was that I thanked GOD that I didn’t live there and nobody I knew lived there. I felt deeply for the people in and around and families of people in and around the Twin Towers. I still due.

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  29. I didn’t leave New York until the end of 2004, so it wasn’t 9/11-related. I was (am) finished with New York, as much as anyone can be. I’m glad now that I don’t feel as on edge as I sometimes did in New York, but then I hate myself for that. It’s not fair that I’m here and my friends in New York are still waiting for that other shoe to drop every single day.

    I don’t think you can really feel the effect of it if you weren’t there. I went home to Pennsylvania the weekend after, only two hours away, and I was absolutely floored when I heard people carrying on “normal” conversations. I could barely even speak four days later, couldn’t even stand to be in my own skin, and I had been relatively safe in Midtown, watching it on TV.

    The one absolutely ridiculous thought I remember having that Tuesday morning was hoping that Century 21 would survive because I wanted this winter coat I had seen there. I was also so angry at the beautiful weather the next two days. When it rained on Friday I was relieved because it felt like the weather was finally appropriate.

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  30. I was in NYC on my way to work when the planes struck. I remember vascillating between fear and excitement.

    Everyone was walking around uptown on their phones or with a friend talking about the event – it was the only time that I have ever been a witness to something that absolutely everyone you passed on the street was talking about. That was kind of special.

    We went out for lunch that day… I still feel guilty about that.

    Alison, now I remember feeling that about the rain on Friday too. Thanks for that memory.

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  31. I was working in the burbs of Philadelphia when a truly stupid and annoying coworker shouted out ‘a plane hit the World Trade Center!’
    I assumed she was mistaken or just being idiotic, because she was always yelling shit out.
    Next I figured it was an accident, like so many thought. A few of us went to our conference room where there was a TV and turned it on.
    We saw the second plane hit, live.
    My entire body felt like a cannon ball had hit me. Total shock and deep pain. As the news unravelled and we found out about the Pentagon and then flight 93, I started panicking. I thought, ‘Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles…every city is going to be hit!’
    I assumed that the plane that went down in Pennsylvania must have been headed to Philly.
    Then the towers started collapsing, and I thought I would shatter. My mind couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing.
    I don’t recall having any thoughts to feel guilty about. When we went back to our desks, nobody worked. I began calling friends in New York to make sure they were okay, but of course couldn’t get through. We were sent home when the boss realized everyone was in shock. I couldn’t wait to see my family. My daughter’s daycare closed early and I went to get her and hug her. I didn’t want her to watch too much on TV (she was only 5 and a half), but she asked questions and I answered honestly.
    In the days and weeks following I watched so much footage. I cried more than I think I’ve ever cried over anything before. Seeing the rescue workers so determined, climbing over the rubble and removing debris with buckets broke my heart—how could they ever find anyone alive after such destruction, I thought.
    I watched the film from the French documentary-makers when it aired, and the sound of the bodies hitting the ground outside the lobby as they filmed the firemen will haunt me forever.

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  32. i was with my grandfather, a world war II veteran. and my family. granpap decided to take his entire semi-extended family(his treat) to a vacation spot of the girls choosing. they picked hawaii. after 13 days of pure paradise, the 14 of us all were scheduled to fly home on sept 11. the day before my grandfather and i toured the Pearl Harbor Memorial and he told me a story of how he and my grandmother were in Maine on the morning of the japanese attack. he chuckled when he said “i guess i was lucky to be about as far away from the action on that day.” that night i packed my bags around midnight and went to bed. around a quarter to 4 in the morning my room’s phone rang and i thought it was morning and the wake-up call was ringing but it wasn’t, it was my cousin’s friend calling from Pa. that’s when i got the news and i turned on the tv and found out about what was going on. all i could do was watch it unfold on tv until the sun came up. disbelief followed by much undirected anger followed but it was a beautiful day and we were forced to stay. it ended up being three extra days stuck in hawaii. pissed off in paradise is no way to be when you’re marooned on an island i kept thinking! but i also couldn’t stop thinking about those poor people and the fear they were living/dying in. that day changed everyone…..for better or worse it has at least opened a new set of eyes for me.

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  33. I told Tobyjoe last night how much these stories have meant to me. I teared up several times yesterday when I read them. I want to thank you all for that.

    Greg, I had no idea you were in Hawaii at the time. No idea at all.

    It was weird after I left the downtown area and could no longer get firsthand accounts of what might be happening. Our TV antennas came down with the towers so TV was out of the question. All the news I received was the little bit from the only station which did still come in (I think it was channel 10. But I am not sure) and my friends and family and the Internet. My TV was literally static for days following. I remember when 11 finally came back on the air and I was able to watch Friends at night again. (I use to watch it every night before going to bed at 11.) I was so happy when they got 11 back up again. How pathetic is that? A bit of normalcy again, I suppose.

    We ended up spending a lot of time at Union Square. It helped to be around other people.

    I spent many days on the roof of my apartment after that watching the bottom of Manhattan burn.

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  34. I was horrified and in disbelief, but a part of me was in awe at knowing that history was unfolding before my eyes. I remember wondering if the hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls would be a target, as a disruption in power supply from the would undoubtedly cascade down across the northeast (can you imagine the terror if that had happened, too?).

    JFK was assassinated before I was born, and while I vividly remember the shooting of Reagan and the Challenger explosion, I knew that this event dwarfed them—those other news events bening profoundly banal. 9/11 is on the scale of Pearl Harbor and Gettysburg in the national consciousness.

    However, I remember also thinking that it wasn’t so long ago that some right-wing nutjobs blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City. Terrorism was not new to us, and the threat does not come entirely from the east.

    Finally, and I’m most embarrassed to say this, there was a moment when I actually thought GWB was responding to the crisis in a way that Gore never could have managed. I sensed and believed his outrage and resolution. It comforted and empowered me.

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  35. I had just come from NY a couple weeks prior. Someone told me at work that helicopters had hit the buildings. And I remember sort of giggling becuase the person I was with in NY at the time, was showing me the towers, and I had mentioned, do helicopters ever hit them?

    I didn’t think the person at work was serious until I noticed I could not get anywhere on the internet. I remember driving home shortly after that and seeing the gigantic gas lines, people swarming stores for supplies, and acting like complete lunatic assholes. And then once watching the news and seeing what was going on, being very disappointed that the people around me would react in such a barbaric way, without even knowing was was really going on…and how doomed we were. Those were my thoughts for that day…it took a long time after that for the actual event to fully set in.

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  36. September 11th was Emileigh’s very first day of pre-school and something like my fourth official day back to working outside my house after Ted left. When my internet job came to a close, I had to find something else to pay the bills, so I took a job as a ‘nanny’ for a family with three kids. Unfortunately, I immediately disliked two of the kids. The father was hiding his DUI from the neighborhood; I quickly lost respect for the wife. It was far from my dream job.
    When the first plane hit the tower, I was waiting for the bridge to go down in Belmar. I heard it on the radio, but wasn’t all that concerned. Reasoning that a small plane wouldn’t cause much damage to such a large building, I honestly thought everything would be alright… that the media was somehow overreacting.

    The family was watching television when I arrived. They were very upset. Though he never seemed to work, the husband was in journalism somehow and was alarmed with information. The wife had stayed home for a morning appointment, which she canceled once she heard the news. There was no reason to stay, but I was welcome to stick around to watch the tragedy with them. I declined. I remember being secretly happy to have an unexpected day off.

    I picked up Emileigh and took her to the boardwalk pavilion. My daughter splashed in the baby pool; behind her I could see enormous dark clouds of smoke across the ocean. By then both towers were burning.

    It was a perfect September beach day.

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  37. I like how you offered for people to post anonymously, but most didn’t.

    And thank you to all who told your stories. I appreciate them because I was not living in the U.S. during 9/11/01, and therefore didn’t have the same experience as those of you who were here for it. I was in Bulgaria, halfway through my two years of Peace Corps service. It was 5:30 p.m. in Bulgaria when my boyfriend (now husband) called from the Bulgarian village he was living in to tell me the news.

    I immediately turned on my tv, which got only about 2.5 channels. Bulgarian TV was broadcasting CNN live, with a Bulgarian translating live. It was so annoying, because just as I was getting some of the English, the Bulgarian announcer would talk over it.

    Later in the evening, a fellow American returned from Sofia. He had cable, so I went upstairs to his apt. and we watched and watched. He called his family members to make sure everyone was OK. I had already emailed with my family, none of whom lived anywhere near the attacks.

    The next day on my way to school to plan English classes with my colleagues, I ran into one of the town’s veterinarians, a friend of mine. He asked how I was and I just started crying and crying. To most Bulgarians, the attacks seemed like a movie (at least that’s the impression I got) but these were MY PEOPLE.

    I remember being angry at Bush for talking about revenge when what our nation really needed to do was grieve. Just let us grieve.

    The weekend following the attacks, a Peace Corps colleague married a Bulgarian woman. Peace Corps volunteers from all over Bulgaria traveled to be at the wedding. It was great to be together at such a happy gathering. We drank lots of the local brandy and danced Bulgarian hora.

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