#298 | Wednesday, November 28th 2001
At work, in New Jersey, about five miles from where the towers are. We had heard from our techs who were down there when it happened, luckily for them they had seen enough after the first crash and headed back into the holland as quick as possible. The first picture in my head was of a small plane, some sort of amateur mess-up. Our TV at work was bunk, we had no cable and all the channels were out after the initial attack. My internet connection was all jammed up. When we heard of the second plane over the radio I didn't know how to react. I went outside to see if i could see the smoke, i could but that was about all i could see. I'll probably never feel like that again. This emotional place where i wanted to do whatever i could but the realization at the same time that there was nothing i could do. Everyone left work by 10am. I drove up to carlstadt where i could get a clear view of the skyline....it was just smoke. It was the most beatiful day of the year too. The kind of day that happens maybe 10 days out of the year here. Crystal clear, no humidity, so blue. I thought about all my friends that live downtown and if they were okay. I thought about my grandmother who lives on 23rd st. I thought about what the skyline would look like after the smoke cleared. I turned off the tv after a while and went back out for a drive, all this nervous energy had built up. I thought about the reaction, radio personalities were already asking for the heads to roll. I thought about the changes that were on the way. How this could be a positive thing, making people more spiritual and less hateful, resentful, just more open....anger is a reaction but how can we reconcile what happened with anger?

Later on that night i went to a friends house to just sit and talk about what happened and hear about their stories and thoughts. It felt good to just let loose some steam with people my age. (22)

Three months later, it seems that its just business as usual in america, which is the real tragedy to me. There is such an opportunity to change the way
we live because of this loss. The media is confusing us and sending smoke screens to people. The frivolous things that were so abundent before 9.11 are creeping their way back into the conscious of america. I don't have the answers but a spiritual awakening seems in order. a change of approach seems right somehow.

Someday we'll all be free

that kid chris | 22 | New Jersey

#241 | Wednesday, November 7th 2001
ok i'm the youngest person here writing something but that's ok. I didn't find out about theese terrosrists until LAST period in school. I had had 2 go get a worksheet for social studies & i missed what my teacher said but when i came back she told me personally. She didn't tell me much but tears came 2 my eyes. I'm glad my teachers didn't tell us because we would all be scared 2 death! I remember in math (2nd period) a school secratary came in and asked 2 talk 2 her in the hall. Like most kids the whole class started 2 talk when our math teacher came in we all shushed up. She just continued on w/ math.
I remember when i got home my mom told me that my aunt wuz on a plane but it wasn't a targeted 1. When we got inside our house my sister wuz there & so wuz my dad. MY sister home???? She's in high school & plays soccer so it wuz REALLY rare 2 c her home before me. The TV wuz off and my sister asked me dad if she could turn it back on. My dad didn't say anything. I told them that i already knew & they turned it back on. The pictures were sad. My sister started 2 cry when she saw the people jumping out of the buildings.
my b-day wuz on Oct.24th. What did i want most of all? For terrorism & Bin laden 2 go away!
Right now, my sister & mom r downstairs and it feels good 2 hear their voices! YIKES! i think i made this a little 2 long! SORRY!

Alexandra | 12 | New Jersey

#236 | Sunday, November 4th 2001
When my supervisor called me over to talk, I thought I was about to get in trouble. It was my second day on the job as a student teacher, and I had been sitting at a table coloring little rectangles while talking to the children. I thought I was about to be told not to color with them, not to get involved in their conversations too much, not to take up room at the table. Instead, she pulled out a pad and scribbled, "Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center. The nation is under attack." I looked at her, and she looked at me. Our school is on the upper west side of NYC, nowhere near downtown. I envisioned planes flying overhead, coming to attack the rest of the city. We didn't know they had been commercial flights. At that point, we didn't know anything. Then I said, "My dad was supposed to go there for a meeting this morning." I had to wait almost two hours before I could call home, since we didn't tell the kids right away. Parents showed up at the usual time to gather their children, and we started getting calls that the afternoon session was going to be very small. I called my house and got my mother, tearful, explaining that my dad had been in the shower getting ready for his appointment and heard the news on the shower radio. They had then looked out our bedroom window (we live across the river) and saw the second plane hit. We made plans for me to stay with family in the city, since it was obvious I wasn't getting back across the river that day. Meanwhile, a few children trickled in, talking about it, so we spent two very solemn hours until their parents arrived to claim them, too. It was from the children that we learned about the plane that had crashed in Pennsylvania. We had no news, so we had no idea what was happening... When I got to my cousin's house at 4 pm that afternoon, I saw what downtown had looked like for the first time.
Lisa | 24 | New Jersey

#229 | Thursday, November 1st 2001
I was preoccupied about as I stepped onto Church Street. I looked at my watch. It was 8:47AM and I was thinking about the day ahead. I was 17 minutes late for work. I saw one of my coworkers just ahead of me about to cross Church Street in front of the World Trade Center. I was about to call to her when a deafening roar made everyone in the plaza look up.

We stood in shock as the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, 1WTC. Then there was a thunderous concussion and fire ball and everyone was screaming and running from falling glass, metal and debris. And the burning bodies and parts of bodies though we didn't realize what they were at that moment.

The force of the impact was tremendous. Some of the debris rocketed clear through the tower hitting the buildings across Liberty Street two blocks south. We huddled with a mass of people under the overhang of 4 World Trade Center as burning paper, insulation and pulverized glass swirled around us like confetti.

At first we weren't sure if it was a plane because it came so suddenly out of the north over the Bank of New York building. We thought it was a missile. We'd gotten less than a block away when we saw the second plane banking in from the south like a jet fighter heading toward 2 WTC.

It crash into the south tower sending out a fireball that looked even bigger than the first. This one propelled glass and metal into the screaming crowds below. Police cars and fire trucks all along Liberty Street were burning and exploding. Thousands of people tried desperately to get away. Not everyone did. Firemen and police rushed in to help the injured. I saw firefighters pouring out of the Liberty street station pulling on their jackets as they ran towards the Trade Center across the street.

Thousands of pigeons took to the air moments before the second plane impacted. They must have been spooked by the fire in 1WTC or by the noise of the second jet. These birds were flashed burned in flight by the fireball and hundreds of smoking birds fell all around us. It rained dead pigeons.

The Twin Towers cast a shadow over the width of Manhattan. I think every one of us was thinking the same thing. How far and how fast do you have to run to get away from them if they topple? Hundreds of thousands of people live, work and visit that area. The narrow twisted streets are already jammed with people and emergency vehicles. Where do you go?

Too many images of horror to comprehend or describe. People leaping hundreds of feet to their death choosing to die that way instead of burning. The feelings of helplessness. It's much bigger than anyone can think about. Much bigger than any one of us. It just didn't seem like it could be real. But the firefighters were real. They guided us to safety and then... they went back in!

I saw not one act of heroism but dozens. The courage of the New York Fire Department, of the Police and even ordinary people that day defies description. Unbelievable courage. It makes my heart sick to hear that many of those brave people I saw just this morning won't be going home. I want those heroes to be remember. The men and women of New York Fire Department, Police Department and the Port Authority workers who defied the overwhelming odds against them trying to save as many as they could. They shouldn't go unremarked. They were our finest and they shined like stars in that moment.

I was stuck in a group of several hundred people one block from the Trade Center when building 2 collapsed. We tried running till the choking wall of debris overwhelmed us. I took a running dive between two parked cars to shield myself and landed on top of someone already there. Over the roar of the building falling I could hear chunks of concrete and metal ricochet off the street hitting cars and breaking windows all around.

I've experienced mortal fear. Near misses and car accidents narrowly avoided. Moments of panic. But not like this. In those minutes I was sure I was going to die. Absolutely sure.

But again there were the firefighters and police leading us to safety.

I heard later that the collapse registered a 2.6 on seismographs hundreds of miles away. I don't doubt it. It was a sound that filled the world.

I couldn't see a thing. Maybe I was in shock. I don't know. My head hurt. I put my hand up to my forehead and it came away sticky with blood.

Somewhere in there I lost a shoe. I don't remember much about the minutes afterward except that each breath hurt. I found my way out by sound and touch. Except for some coughing and a few distant sirens there was nothing. No sounds near by except my own raspy breathing and something that sounded like crickets. I never found out what that sound was. I made it to City Hall Park somehow and began the long walk away from the area. I got out before the second building collapsed.

New Yorkers are famous for their cynicism but I saw many acts of kindness and compassion. People who's lives intersected for only moments but I won't forget any of them.

- The bloody bike messenger still wearing his satchel helping an elderly woman covered in ash find her way back home.

- The teenage girl with purple hair who helped a woman carry her small child many blocks to safety.

- The half dozen people acting as a self appointed escort to a wheelchair bound man helping to lift him over the rubble.

Total strangers helping each other. All of us trying to make sense of this overwhelming tragedy.

I was walking with a young Hispanic man named Rafael who worked in 2WTC. We'd never met before and we were both covered head to foot it that awful gray soot. We looked like identical ghosts. Rafael told me that he didn't think anyone in his office had made it out. "They were too high up", he told me, his voice cracking with emotion.

We walked together for a few hours making our way uptown talking in little bits about what we'd seen. A group of us formed by ones and two's. It was unspoken but we somehow decided to throw our lots together. Store owners along the walk handed us towels and water and sat injured people down in the shade to minister to them.

An exodus of thousands moved out of lower Manhattan. Some left on foot over the Brooklyn Bridge while the rest just headed north away from the devastation. There was no public transport. All of the roads were blocked by emergency vehicles screaming south, some going the wrong way down one way boulevards. All of the other bridges and tunnels out of Manhattan were sealed. There were few working telephone lines out of the city and cell phones were just about useless. We still had no idea what truly had happened - especially those of us who had narrowly escaped the building collapse. Every few blocks we'd stop by a truck or a taxi cab that had a radio on.

Terrorists had struck in Washington too. Some reports said that there were 3 planes hijacked. Other reports put the number at 5.

Rafael gave me his new sneakers out his gym bag when he saw that my feet were bleeding. "Lucky thing we both have big feet," he said. Those of us with cell phones would try and if we got through we would ask the person at the other end to pass along messages to the other peoples families. I will probably never see any of them again but that day everyone in that city of millions became a family. It was astonishing and it is what I hope to carry forward from that day after the horror fades. I hope that's what carries us all forward through the dark days ahead. I hope that's what will unite us all. I hope people will not forget.

Rafael and I parted at 34th Street when I turned west to try the ferry and Rafael walked north to try to get to his family uptown. I hope that he did and that they are all safe. I'll probably never know.

Thousands and thousands of New Jersey bound commuters waited in lines along the Westside Highway to be taken off Manhattan. A flotilla of boats waited in turns to transport us across the Hudson. Ships from NY Waterways, Circle Line Tours and even US Coast Guard vessels were taking people across. We passed the injured and disabled to the front of the line to go first. Nobody complained. Everyone cooperated.

It was 4:00 PM when I arrived at Hoboken Station. Seven and a half hours had passed since the first plane hit.

Triage. People in Tyvek haz-mat suits hang cards around our necks, marking off body parts on a butchers chart. Red, green or yellow cards. I get a green bordered card which meant that I got to go home. Red cards did not. The US National Guard and the Hoboken Fire Department used high pressure hoses and decontamination showers to clean us up. We joke with the Firemen about getting our fully clothed unplanned baths. They probably heard the same lame jokes several hundred times before the day ended. Thousands of people crowd the street next to the station. Most overwhelmed with grief and confused in what was a bustling commuter station only a few hours earlier. Nightmare. I just can't convey the scale adequately. Just not real. Behind us across the river a mushroom cloud towered miles over our heads.

Sitting in a train half empty on the ride home I'm thinking that this could not have happened. There is no conversation. The conductor takes one look at my face and doesn't ask for my ticket. A simple thing like that brought the gravity home to me. I don't know how I feel yet. I ache all over. We pass by station after station and see local volunteers waiting with blankets and coffee for people who never arrive.

I get off at my stop and look at the cars still in the parking lot. I wondered who wouldn't be coming back for them. If I'd been on time for work I might not be getting into my car to go home to my family. Many of the people I know or maybe had seen just that morning wouldn't be going home ever. People who's only fault was going to work that day. I'm heartbroken for them all. Every one of them and their loved ones who would go on waiting.

I don't want to think about it. I don't want to but I do. I know that I can't remember what I was so worried before 8:45AM this morning. It was probably trivial but I want that time back with all of my heart.

Joe Hanley | 40 | New Jersey

#211 | Sunday, October 21st 2001
I was at work the morning of the attacks. I work in a big manufacturing plant, and I remember hearing from my boss about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. The first thing I thought of was a bomber plane of some sort had once crashed into the Empire State building and the building was fine. I remember thinking this was probably just some moron in a small plane who had mechanical difficulty and crashed. Being in work I tried to get on the internet (CNN's site and Yahoo)using my friend's computer, and the thing kept kicking us off. Next thing I new another building was hit. A little while later the Pentagon got hit. A few ladies at work were crying, mumbling about all kinds of planes crashing everywhere. When my first break came someone half-heartedly suggested I grab a hardhat on the way to my car. By the time I turned on the tv at home, the first Trade Center building was collapsing. I have been pissed ever since. I'm not sure people understand. Blacks, whites, Muslims, Jews, gay, straight, pacifist, and so on. None of those titles means a damn thing anymore. Osama bin Laden and his Afghani / Saudi friends see only one thing: Americans, and he wants to kill us all. He will not take my freedom from me. Ever.
Scott | 31 | New Jersey

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