#1532 | Sunday, August 11th 2002
I was in northern Poland, in the city of Torun, on the 11th. We were on an in-law trip in September, and although they live in the south we were on that particular day helping my sisters-in-law get established in their university town for their first year.

By the 11th the apartment was fundamentally in order but still needed lots of cleaning, so I was happily exempted and allowed to play tourist for a day. I'd never been to this city and it has a very interesting history so off I went. I also had an old friend living in Torun so I arranged to meet her later in the day. Around 2.00 p.m. (which was 8.00 a.m. New York time) I went into a net cafe just behind the city hall to clean out the e-mail accounts and touch base with friends. I finished writing to one friend in particular in the U.S. and at about 2.30 (8.30 a.m. NYC) came outside to meet my friend in front of the city hall. She told me as met a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

In the last week of August I was sent by my company on a client call to the World Trade Center, to a company on the 51st floor. I had been through the PATH train area dozens of times in the bottom going between NJ and Manhattan but this was the first time I'd been up in the towers themselves. I was amazed when we arrived there at the security measures and my security pass has a picture of me laughing because I was joking about what I thought was overbearing paranoia. Anyway, throughout the client presentation we were in their conference room and I was very distracted by what seemed like hundreds of helicopters and small planes constantly flying around the city and the building, all operated presumably by tourist agencies.

The upshot is that when my friend told me a plane had crashed into the WTC, I assumed it must have been one of these small tourist aircraft, in other words an accident. I also vaguely recalled seeing a picture from the 1940s of a bomber that had accidentally crashed into the Empire State Building, and this reinforced my belief that a terrible accident had occured, and I could only hope no one was hurt. We went on our way as historical tourists the rest of the afternoon, until about 6.00 p.m. (noon NYC time) when I showed up back at the sisters-in-law's apartment, only to learn the truth.

Their apartment is in an apartment block, and there were people walking aimlessly stunned up and down the stairwells, one young girl was wailing annoyingly, and the TV was constantly showing the images of the WTC and the Pentagon over and over. At that point the plane over Pennsylvania was still missing and everyone was still quite jumpy. I couldn't believe someone could ever conceive of such an act. At one point as we were making dinner, which meant moving between the kitchen and the living/dining room repeatedly, my wife said the towers had collapsed. I remembered the 1993 WTC bombing, and assumed she was mistaken. The TV commentators were becoming near hysterical so I thought they were just going overboard a bit, but when I came in and saw the next replay...

That night in my mind I just kept walking through that office on the 51st floor I'd visited a few weeks before, remembering every detail of all the people I was passing along the way. It was a bond trading company, and these were all young people in their early to mid-20s who were just getting started on their careers. I recall taking note of a few very attractive females, and of how casual their workstations were. I wondered how many were still alive.

A month or two later I read with great relief that everyone from that particular company had indeed escaped, and I felt quite guilty about being relieved because while they escaped some 3000 others didn't but still, somehow that personal connection had been weighing on me heavily and the good news lifted it somewhat.

By a brilliant twist of fate a friend just before this trip had bought me a traveling gift, David McCullough's biography of John Adams. To drive the images from my mind I sat up and read this book for a much-needed renewal of purpose as to why some things are indeed worth fighting for.

Poles in general were outraged by this act. The night of the 11th the walkway in front of the American Embassy in Warsaw was draped with flowers, candles and cards. Americans in general were offered condolensces on the street by Poles and angry denunciations of the terrorists, and unfortunately occasionally of the Middle East in general.

A problem I faced was that I was scheduled to return to the U.S. on Saturday, and the attacks took place on Tuesday. The U.S. shut its borders on Tuesday, re-opened them on Thursday but only briefly before shutting them down again because of some incident (at Boston airport, I think) so by Saturday things were precarious. I was flying SAS airlines through Wroclaw-Copenhagen-New York, but all the SAS people in Wroclaw could tell me was to fly to Copenhagen and hope my flight to NYC was still open. To make matters worse, I am a collector of World War helmets and had found two while in Poland, so I got shook down by a few Polish soldiers after they saw the luggage scans but when I was taken into a small room and we opened the luggage everyone laughed and we talked about helmet collecting for a bit. I flew to Copenhagen (alone because my wife had already planned to spend two more weeks with her parents) and after some particularly detailed security screening was able to board the flight and it was allowed to fly. At that point all incoming flights for the U.S. were approved on a flight-by-flight basis, so we literally had to sit and wait on the tarmac in Copenhagen and wait to see if Washington would approve our entry. They did, and we made it in good time.

By the time I arrived back in NJ, the local towns were beginning to collect the cars that had been parked at the local train stations and unclaimed after a week, meaning the owners most likely were workers in the WTC who were unaccounted for.

The first night back in the U.S. I was unable to sleep because of jetlag so I checked my e-mail and found the friend I'd been writing to when I was in Torun ahd shot back an e-mail moments after I'd logged out of the net cafe something like, "I think we're under attack!"

Tomek Jankowski | 33 | New Jersey

#1516 | Saturday, August 3rd 2002
I spent the morning of Sept. 11th cleaning the house while listening to some of my favorite CD's. Usually I have the TV on, but this day I had decided to listen to music instead. My roommate came running into our house around 11 am shouting, "There are planes flying into buildings all over the place!". She grabbed me by the hand, and led me into the living room. We turned on the TV and watched the coverage. After not being able to speak for several minutes, I ran to the phone and called my little sister, who had just found out a few days earlier that she was pregnant for the first time. I really needed to hear her voice and make sure she was ok. After talking to her, I called another sister and my mother. Nothing is more reassuring in a time like that than to hear the voice of someone dear to you. About an hour later, the phone rang. I answered with a "Hello", but there was no response on the other end. I said "Hello" again, and the person responded with, "I just wanted to hear your voice", and then they hung up. I recognized the voice as belonging to my ex-girlfriend. Our relationship had ended almost a year earlier on a bad note, after being together for 4 years. That phone call brought a feeling of warmth and security to my heart. I will remember it till the day I die.
Jeff | 33 | Indiana

#1408 | Friday, June 21st 2002
I live on the West Coast and was just getting out of the shower, when I noticed our local morning radio team (Mark & Brian) didn't sound right. They were very serious about something. I turned up the sound as they went to the ABC feed with Peter Jennings. He said two planes had hit the WTC towers and it was obviously an act of terrorism. I put on my robe and went out to the TV. My dad was in his shower and mom was still sleeping, so I kept the sound down while I gathered my breakfast and sat down in front of the TV to eat while I watched. My first thought upon seeing the burning towers was "wow, they've probably killed a couple hundred people. It's going to take a while to fix those floors up.". As I sat there watching, the strangest thing started to appear on screen. I couldn't process what I was seeing. I thought perhaps it was footage from earlier, when the planes had hit. Then I heard Peter Jennings asking what we were seeing. All of a sudden, the awful truth dawned on me - the first of the towers was collapsing. I was dumbfounded. It was something beyond possibility. A huge building like that couldn't just entirely dissappear. I began to weep and just kept saying "oh my God" over and over again. I walked to the window and looked out, trying to comprehend the number of lives that must have been lost. It was so beautiful and clear outside - but what I had just seen was so horrific. When I heard my mother stirring, I went in the bedroom and told her: "there's been a terrorist attack... and it's really bad," and began to cry. I poured out all the information I had heard - two planes, one in each tower, another plane in the Pentagon, one more crashed in Pennsylvania, one WTC tower collapsed, maybe another rogue plane out there, all planes across the nation being forced to land immediately. Mom and I stood in front of the TV and watched.

I continued to get ready for work as slowly as I could, not wanting to go. I kept checking the TV, still trying to comprehend. As a family, we stood and watched the second tower fall, numb with sadness. Dad left for work, then I got a phone call from my employer - we were shutting down for the day, since my workplace is a very well-known theme park (an all-American target). This was only the second time in the park's 45+ year history it had fully shut down for the day. Mom and I sat all day, watching the news, seeing all the footage of the planes hitting the towers over and over again.

That night was the most frightening of my life. Although all commercial air traffic was suspended, the roar of planes filled the air. I knew that every one of those aircraft were military. I barely slept. Many friends reported sleepless nights, as well.

Still today, nine months later, it affects my life and my work. Every time I travel or visit a popular event or location, I have to consider the risks. Each day at work I have my bag and ID checked constantly. The guests in our park have their bags checked before they come through the gates. We have all learned to live with the changes imposed upon us by these terrorists. Our lives and our world will never go back to the way they were before Sept. 11. We spend our time worrying about more attacks, constantly hearing warnings from the government about likely targets and dates. It is overwhelming, but we try to come to terms with it. We will be cautious, but we will continue living our lives. And we will never forget those whose lives were lost.

Cheryl | 33 | California

#1357 | Friday, May 31st 2002
On that day, I was home on the internet ordering my 12 month old daughter's Halloween costume. I completed the order and proceeded to do my everyday housework when the phone rang, it was my step-mother in tears and shock telling me to put on the tv. The first plane had hit the Trade Center and then soon after we saw the second plane hit while we were still talking to each other. We were crying and screaming. As if that wasn't enough, there were still two more planes that would come down, killing more innocent people. When I heard there were more attacks feared, I ran to our local elementary school and grabbed my 7 & 8 year old boys to take them home with me. I cried almost the whole time, trying to hide my face from them and not scare them. I really feared the end was near. I told my boys they could play inside with any toy they wanted (even the irrirtating noisy ones I would often hide!). I let them eat candy and drink soda. Then I called my husband, my mother and my closest family and friends. In a panic, I quickly told them how much I love them and hung up to sit and watch....it was all we could do. Watch in horror and wait. Today I am very tearful when it comes to reflecting back. I remember not sleeping more than 2 or 3 hours a night for a period of two months - maybe more. I still wake up. I hate it when a plane flies over me I'm filled with a fright that I've never felt before. I used to love to go to Logan Airport in Boston which is not too far from our home. I was fascinated by planes as a child and my father would take me there to see them take off and land just for the heck of it on weekends. Kind of a little field trip. Hopefully, I won't feel like this forever. God Bless all VICTIMS of this tragedy and all the SURVIVORS. AND please bless those that are living in fear and uncertainty, give them ( us ) the strength to defy the intentions of these horrible terrorists and the people who support them. May they meet their maker and suffer. These are not peaceful religious people, they are radicals that are making a warped statement of jealousy and hatred against innocent people. GOD BLESS AMERICA and if you don't like us, please do not come here as you are not welcome.

Carlene | 33 | Massachusetts

#1350 | Thursday, May 30th 2002
I was home from work that week, taking some paid time off that I needed to use or lose. My brother woke me up at 7:15 that morning, just moments after the 2nd plane hit. He told me what had happened, and I quickly turned on the TV to see what was going on. My first thought upon seeing both those towers burning was "This is no accident." A little later they announced that another plane had just hit the pentagon, and that's when I really became scared. What was happening to us? Who was doing it? What would they hit next? It was like a nightmare and it just kept getting worse. My son was home from school with a head cold that day. He sat with me, and we watched the most horrifying part of it all when that first tower fell down. The channel we were tuned in to had the camera right on tower 2 when all of a sudden mass ammounts of what looked like billowing smoke came pouring out all sides and then the building began to sink. I knew what was happening but I couldn't believe it. My son and I both gasped and and cried out. I think that was the most sickening feeling I had ever felt, knowing that everyone still left in that building wouldn't have a chance of getting out now, nor would anyone around the building who was trying to save them. We had just seen the loss of thousands of lives.

I watched the ceremony today, marking the end of the recovery effort, and it was impossible not to cry. I'll never not be touched and saddened and angry about what happened on that day. And I'll keep praying for the victims families and for justice to be served and terrorism stopped once and for all.

lisa | 33 | New Mexico

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