#504 | Tuesday, December 18th 2001
My name is Josh and I live in California. On September 11, 2001, I woke up, not knowing I left my radio on and fell asleep to it, and the DJ kept saying for like 8 times or so "I can not believe that this is happening in our country." Then he finally said that the WTC and the Pentagon were hit then I went to turn on my tv, and that is when the other tower got hit. A lot of my teachers were surprised that students came to school.
I almost lost 2 friends that worked at the WTC because after the first 6 months to 1 year, he started coming to work like 15 minutes late everyday. My 2 friends got to work RIGHT when the towers were falling down because they were wondering why everyone was running and trying to get to anything that could have remote covering.

That is my story about where I was and my thoughts on September 11, 2001.

Josh Goldman | 19 | California

#478 | Friday, December 14th 2001
Over the years, those of us in the U.S.A. who weren't alive during the major wars, Holocaust or other such events have really only been exposed to evil...having seen it on the television, read about it in the newspapers, some perhaps even knew people who committed horrible crimes. Some may have been closer to life in other countries, like those in the middle east, where terror is not uncommon (though it certainly is on this scale). But for most of us, evil as we’ve known it wasn’t anything more than the murderers, rapists and serial killers that we’ve heard about in the media. As heinous and horrible as those stories are, you don't have to go far to see that it is a severe chemical imbalance of the brain or some hideous upbringing that breeds the criminals in our prison system. Don't get me wrong--I can neither stomach or abide such crimes, nor understand how someone could do such things, but I’ve now come to realize a whole new meaning to evil. It wasn't until September 11, 2001 that I truly learned what "evil" is.

On 9/11 I was at the World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA on a business trip doing a product launch and other activities at a high-technology conference. Right around 8:48am (EST), two minutes after the 1st plane struck, I was walking through the large exhibit hall towards my company’s booth. Strolling through I overheard a gentleman at another firm telling a colleague of his that a plane had just struck the WTC – he was on the cell phone with a friend of his in NYC. I was thinking, “my god…what a terrible thing.” I recalled the disaster when a plane hit the Empire State Building. I began to feel remorse for the few people who would likely die and the magnitudes of financial problems that would come up when a small plane hits the WTC. But that was it…not to discount how terrible such an event would be (or was for the Empire State Building), but it never once – not even for a split second – occurred to me that it might be a plane larger than a 2 seater Cessna. I instinctively and without thinking just assumed it was John Doe private pilot learning to fly, challenging his skills by trying to fly between the buildings or something. I thought it was quite tragic, but I just didn’t even comprehend it could possibly be something worse. I kept walking…and got to my booth. Several minutes later I began to look around the floor at the hundred or so people who had completely stopped milling about as they began to overhear word of what had happened, which was spreading very quickly. I recall thinking about how these strangers’ faces started to look as if the world was about to stop turning. Seconds later…panic. People all over the room could be seen breaking down, panicking, and frantically trying to reach loved ones on their cell phones. The look of frustration as lines couldn’t get through, people couldn’t be reached, and people’s worst possible fears came to fruition. Little did I know how right my sense was that the world was about to stop turning, and even littler did I know that people’s worst possible fears couldn’t possibly stretch the imagination far enough to envision would eventually come. I decided to go find a television set to watch the news.

Found one upstairs…where I stood at the front of a crowd of at least 150 people looking on at a large big screen TV broadcasting the events at the World Trade Center, live. By now a fair number of minutes had past, and the news cameras were fixated on the fire near the top of the first tower to be struck. The cameras started picking up that very distinct sound of a jet engine flying overhead…and then panned to the left to follow the final route of the 2nd plane, straight into the 2nd tower. It was horribly devastating. The explosion. The people running down the street. The thoughts of the 50,000 people who work in those towers every day. Those who would be trapped above the wreckage. One of the many news scenes indelibly etched in my mind… the sight of people jumping out of the windows at the top floors to their deaths below. Their lack of any remaining hope for survival, trapped above an inferno of 1,600 degrees and no way out but to give up and jump. Once again I instinctively assumed this was it…clearly a terrorist attack, but for the life of me I never would’ve expected two more planes Washington-bound, nor even the collapse of the Twin Towers. But collapse they did. We all stood in front of this TV as the first building came crashing down …and I will never, ever forget the looks of people’s faces as it happened. It was a stone-cold look of indescribable fear, terror and complete, utter disbelief. To this day it brings chills down my spine when I bring up the image in my mind of those people…devastated people, who were breaking down everywhere. Their frantic phone calls continuing. The complete strangers hugging each other and weeping into each other’s shoulders. The woman in hysterical, uncontrollable emotional pain as she didn’t know where her son was – who worked in the first tower. And then later, all over again as the 2nd tower collapsed, the events now twice as unreal. Almost immediately after the 2nd tower came down, one of my colleagues who was previously caught up taking care of crisis management stuff, joined the crowd at that point, apparently unaware that either tower had collapsed. She took one look around and then at me (I was free-flowing tears and covering my mouth with my hand at that moment), and said, “I take it I missed something else…” I turned, and stuttered uncontrollably. I’ve always been very glib and able to come up with words for anything, but I was both speechless and without any ability to describe it. After a moment I managed to get out, “You just wouldn’t believe it…they’re gone. The towers are gone.” Another moment I will never forget is her look at me like I was some kind of idiot for thinking something like that could actually happen. And yet, mixed in there I could see a sense of what-if fear and plausibility. She returned, plainly, “What do you mean…how could they be gone?” It was too unreal…no one could believe. Not even I. I remember not being able to sleep for days. And waking from dreams where the events of 9/11 were replaying in my mind, thinking to myself, “what kind of a sick f**k am I for imagining something like that!”. Part of my brain just couldn’t believe this. I’d think I must’ve been dreaming everything, or that I had taken some current event and thrown it out of massive proportion. For weeks – even after two visits to the general ground zero area – I still couldn’t fully believe this has happened. It just didn’t seem possible.

Three weeks later I’m off on another business trip, this one to NYC for a week. Part of me wanted desperately to visit ground zero…to be better connected to this tragedy and the thousands of people who lost their lives. To be able to shake the hand of some of mankind’s finest heroes. To be able to fully appreciate the magnitude of what had happened. And part of me didn’t want to go…knowing what I would see would have an impact far greater than I anticipated. I ended up visiting the area around ground zero twice that week. Each time standing there, maybe a block and a half away, able to see everything. I’d just stand there for an hour…staring. Trying to wrap my mind around what I was looking at and what had happened. I couldn’t help but think of the 6,000 people whose bodies were completely incinerated in the fire. It was three weeks later and the rubble was still smoking…the heat still burning at 1,200 degrees. As far away as my midtown hotel in Times Square I could smell the jet fuel circulating through the air…the smell at Ground Zero so many magnitudes worse. Within a one mile radius crews were continually washing down the streets to rid them of the ash and soot everywhere you looked. The surrounding buildings at ground zero completely blacked over on their sides, windows shattered, some looking like they too were in danger of collapse. Piles of debris with signs indicating possible human remains might be within. There was the jewelry store maybe a block and a half down the walkway leading up to the tower bases…COMPLETELY covered inside with soot. Everywhere you looked. Inside glass cabinets. The walls and floors and ceiling. It was a horrible, horrible site. I’ve been asked quite a few times how I’d describe what I saw at Ground Zero…and the honest truth is that I can’t think of any words in the English language that would begin to even remotely describe – accurately – what I saw. “Unimaginable” doesn’t even the stretch the mind and range of possibilities far enough. I just can’t…I stood there and stared and sobbed and prayed, trying to imagine how someone could enact such an unspeakable disaster. How mankind could be so evil to its own, to anybody. As a marketer, I tend to be very enthusiastic about the things I promote, visions that I sell to people, and have always maintained absolute convictions in those visions…but for the life of me I couldn’t imagine anything so important to be worth the deaths of (at the time presumed) nearly 6,000 innocent people irrelevant to whatever cause the terrorists had in mind. That kind of conviction…that you use as an excuse to enact one of the worst crimes in the history of the human race…is just plain unreal.

My life has changed forever, and I will never forget where I was, the brave men and women who are piecing our world back together, and the thousands of people lost to this tragedy. I went to church for the first time in over 15 years in October, hoping to find peace, understanding. I plan to go back. I’ve had a newfound sense of purpose in this world, and a conviction to make sure I never slow in helping to better the lives of others around me. And for the first time in my life I realized what the price of freedom can be…and that I would happily join our military and risk my life so that others in the future – our children, and their children and other future generations – may also live in a world where they are free to live, think and be whomever and whatever they set out to be. I remember thinking when Kabul was taken over weeks later how sorry I felt for Afghani citizens’ form of celebration…shaving their beards, donning jeans, and playing music in the streets…things I never before even thought of as freedoms…only as basic necessities and things we do as human beings.

I’ve become more confident that as we come out of this unspeakable tragedy, we’ll be able to once again move forward. My hopes and prayers are with every soul on earth as we battle terror – no one can hide from it, no country can single-handedly defeat it, and I hope that together we can find a way to end it. I’m confident we will, no matter how long it takes. And in the end, as difficult as it will be, it’ll be worth while – people can live free from tyranny and free from terror once again. Peace on Earth I’ve always thought is a bit too unrealistic, but at least without terror we can be on our way to such a vision.

God bless mankind. And most of all, my best wishes, condolences and prayers to those who were most directly impacted by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 – the families of the victims. I know that doesn’t say or mean much and I wouldn’t possible presume to know or understand your pain. But I do wish there was a way I could let you know in words the true depth of my thoughts and prayers for you and your loved ones.

Dan | 23 | California

#472 | Wednesday, December 12th 2001
On 9-11, I was asleep when my mother came in and told me that America was "at war." I just told her (because I was just 3/4th asleep) "that's great." When I went into the living room and saw what was going on, I just couldn't believe it. When the media was showing the different angle shots of the plane going into the south Tower, I just couldn't believe that some people are that mean. And when I saw the Towers go down, I felt sorry for the families of all the people in the buildings and on the planes and went down in the attacks. I'm glad to hear that the U.S. military is so close for getting the coward that is responsible for the attacks. My heart goes out to the families of all the victims at the WTC, Pentagon, and on the planes. May God have mercy on the souls who is responsible for the attacks especially Osama bin Laden.
Stephanie H. | 18 | California

#464 | Tuesday, December 11th 2001
It is exactly 3 months since these horrible attacks on America, and I remember exactly what I was doing. I was sleeping, when my husband woke me up and mumbling turned on the T.V.
We sat and watched in disbelief one tower in flames. Many questions were running in our heads. A few minutes later we saw the second plane crashing into the second tower. That’s when I was feeling scared and vulnerable. My husband went to work. I had the day off. So I sat glued to the TV and watched all the events unfold. Not wanting to be alone, I went to my mom’s house. There we watched the Spanish news and we saw some pictures and videos of some people desperately hanging outside their windows trying to breath fresh air and some of them jumping off the towers. I would never forget those images and the awful feelings I was experiencing. The rest of that week I sat pretty much glued to the TV. I didn’t want to miss anything. Even at work we had one of the TV’s on in a patients room to watch CNN. I do have to say that after one week, my husband and I tried to go on in our daily lives, we weren’t going to let the terrorist instill fear in us.
Even though the events of 9-11 destroyed our innocence I am glad to see that this country pulled together and became united. :-)

Martie Tapley | 30 | California

#449 | Monday, December 10th 2001
I had flown out to California from Connecticut on Sept 1. (Amazing how much safer flying felt then.) I had just moved into my new apartment on Monday Sept 10, and still did not have phone service or worse yet internet access. Tuesday, Sept 11, I left my apartment in the morning and heard someone's TV blaring out a window about some airplane crashing in Pennsylvannia. I didn't take much notice. "Just another plane crash" I thought. I went on with doing shopping that morning. Absolute no sign in the store I visited that anything in the world had changed (this was a "99 cents only" store). I returned after shopping, had some lunch, then ventured out onto the Caltech campus (I was starting my first year of grad school there) to do some more errands. The first building I passed by said "Campus Evacuated", another said "Campus Closed". I was confused. Had a fire occurred? Had some kind of crime occurred? I was more confused because I saw other people (probably other grad students) walking through campus like nothing was wrong. I asked one person on the street if they knew what the signs were about, they didn't know. So I headed back to my apartment, and along the way I passed by the apartment's recreation center which had a TV with CNN. I peaked in to see what the news was and was horrified to learn what was occuring. This moment was not until about 1:00pm Pacific time zone. I was completely shocked. I watched replays of the plane crash on CNN, and over time more and more footage was available to CNN of the planes crashing from different angles. It was so terrible. I luckily found a phone and used a calling card to dial home to reach some relatives and make sure everyone was okay in Connecticut (which they were). I watched the news for hours there in the recreational center, with a short break for dinner. This was a day I will never forget. I found it tough to not have internet access, since instant messaging and e-mail made it easy for me to normally contact my friends. The next day I used Yahoo Web Mail from a Caltech library computer to e-mail some immediate friends and family to let them know I was ok. I was somewhat shocked that my choice to fly to California early (much earlier than I needed to before starting grad school) had been a better choice than I could possibly have realized. My condolences go to the families and close friends of the victims.
Michael Newman | 22 | California

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