#245 | Saturday, November 10th 2001
Like most weekdays, September 11th started with the radio alarm clock sounding off at 4:30 AM. After hitting the “snooze” several times I listened, for a while, to the 5:00 news. In the shower and out and dressed by 6:AM, I like to leave for work no later than 6:15 AM. I first heard the news at about ten past six, on the radio “… an airplane has just flown into the World Trade Center (WTC).” This news flash caught my attention. My Dad works in Manhattan. Rather than head out the back door to the garage, I went into the living room and turned on the television to the Fox News Channel. Thoughts entered my head of the B-25 “Mitchell” Bomber that had, tragically and accidentally flown into the empire state building on July 28th, 1945. What I envisioned paled, however, in comparison to what eventually filled the screen.
The radio account I had been listening to referred to a “small” airplane. When I saw the smoke and flames I knew this had been no small airplane. I went back into the bedroom, turned on the second television, woke my wife and told her to look. A plane had just crashed into the WTC. As she was rubbing the sleep from her eyes I could barely believe what I was watching. Just as the bedroom television was coming into focus I saw a plane fly into the second tower of the WTC. My first fleeting thought was “this is an instant replay.” Quickly, however, I realized the first tower was smoking and burning as I witnessed the second crash. Again the reporters said “…Small plane.” Again, I knew better. I know airplanes and I got a look at this one. What I saw was, at least the size of a Boeing 737 or A-320 Airbus, neither of which can be classified as small. Both of which are long-range, commercial passenger liners. I was horrified, but I was also behind schedule.
I left the house and was listening to the car radio when I called my Dad at his Manhattan office. He made a semi-tasteless remark about the “…worlds two biggest birthday candles” and we discussed what type of aircraft it might have been and the cause. I was still in denial, I guess, thinking “Major ATC malfunction…” when the news of the Pentagon crash came on the radio. There was no denying it; at that point, we were under attack. America, land of the free and the home of the brave, is under attack.
I was fighting back the tears as I told him “another one just crashed into the Pentagon,” and rhetorically ask my Dad, “…what is going on?” We talked for a few minutes till he got word to evacuate his building, 15 blocks up-town from what is now commonly referred to as “ground zero.” I told him I would call him when I got home from work. The last thing I remember him saying was “life as we know it in this country has just ended. We’re going to wake up in a different country tomorrow.” He could not have been more correct. Many things have, indeed, changed.
I have been driving onto this California Military Installation almost every day since 1975. Typically, there will be one or two military guards checking the cars for a valid sticker issued by the military police. These stickers expire when a person’s contract expires, and generally, suffice to get as many passengers through the checkpoint as happen to be in the vehicle. Military exercises, from time-to-time, will present a minor inconvenience. Rather than simply checking the cars, the GI’s will post a sign announcing the exercise is in progress and the level of security to which the exercise has elevated the facility. There will also be a second posting that reads “ID Check in Progress.” This is the inconvenient part. Each passenger must now show a photo ID to the guard. Sometimes the guard will be required to touch the ID. In an effort to minimize the inconvenience, the number of guards is often doubled. Today, in the wake of the 9/11 attack, I leave thirty (30) minutes earlier for work.
The delays today can be long. In addition to the six (6) to eight (8) military guards now checking ID’s, there is an armored hum-vee or tank with a 60MM machine gun and eighteen year old operators conspicuously parked near the gatehouse. Everyone, in every vehicle, must stop and show the full battle dressed guard two (2) forms of photo identification. Those who do not pass the scrutiny of the hands on ID check, are directed to pull into a previously seldom used, parking area. Six to eight additional armed guards provide special assistance for those in need of a temporary vehicle pass or directions on how to get back where they came from.
During my 35-90 minute drive to work I no longer listen to the same radio station as before September 11th. I find myself constantly switching between NPR and any other talk/news station reporting on the military action or politics of the day. Home television is likely to be on one of the news network stations these days, and the kids are sometimes sent to Mom and Dad’s room to watch a video while the sometimes-graphic news plays in the living room. Since September 11th television reports have brought about many changes in my life. I was at work when I heard the TV outside my office door report the unthinkable. One of the towers had what? I thought I heard words like “collapsed,” “gone,” “fallen.” I will never forget the thoughts I had upon hearing this. Sensationalism, exaggeration, lies, inaccuracy, disbelief, I got mad at the news reporter who was speaking. Collapse? No! I thought. They don’t mean collapse. They mean glass is falling. Gone? No! They don’t mean gone, they mean hidden behind a dust/smoke cloud. Fallen? They mean a chunk of the building has fallen. I wish these reporters could get it right, I thought.
I now know there is not a list of unthinkable happenings. Anything can happen and this truth has changed the way I live my daily life. I stop strangers at work and ask them to display their ID badge. I listen to different radio stations. I watch different TV programs. I drive different routes to work. I spend more time on the floor with my two (2) year old and my seven (7) year old, often jumping on my back. I have had long term plans to eventually move back to Canada. With each anthrax report these plans become more firm and less distant.
Yes, the events of September 11th have changed many things for me and my family. The prayers I have are that these changes will, somehow, be for the better.

Rick Woodcock, IT Manager | 43 | California

#222 | Saturday, October 27th 2001
I was getting ready for school, and my mom came into my room. She said, "Turn on the TV, now. The World Trade Center got hit by a plane!"

So, I turn on the TV. I saw smoke and fire raising from the first one hit. I was in shock, but I still had to go to school. When I got there, it started raining, and we went into the library to watch what was happening. Nearly the whole school was packed into the TV room, and we all watched as the second tower was hit.

It was truly a mortifying day.

Tabby | 13 | California

#195 | Monday, October 8th 2001
The morning of September 11th as I lay in my bed, ignoring my alarm, ready to pull the covers back over my head and get an extra 10 minutes before I went to school... I heard my mom calling through the door to my room, saying "The World Trade Center is on fire! Turn on the news! Get up, it's time for school". In my groggy, half-asleep state all that came from me was "huh?"
But the alarmed tone in my mother's voice had me wondering what was really going on. So I turned on the news and sat trying to figure out what was happening. It was about 6:00 AM Pacific Standard Time.. and the news was focused on Tower One of the World Trade Center. The news anchors were speculating about the plane crash, not sure what to make of it. Really they were just giving normal commentary you would expect to hear during one of the "Breaking News" segments. It didn't seem like it was that big of a deal. As I sat there procrastinating starting the day (really just making myself late), I continued to watch the TV and listen to what the newscasters said. All of a sudden another plane came into view. This was puzzling. The next thing I knew, it was just flying straight into Building Two. "What's going on?!"
The silence that followed was so eerie. The news anchors who always, ALWAYS have some sort of commentary just sat in shock, along with the rest of the people who saw this. What could you say? What had just happened?
I ran to my mother's room and yelled "The second tower! A plane! A plane crashed into the second tower! I SAW it! I saw it LIVE!"
This was all too much. I went about getting ready for school and my mom left for work as normal. I called my closest friend, who I also drive to school, and made sure she knew what was going on. We decided we still needed to go to school. So, as I got ready, I continued listening to the news... but there wasn't anything more exciting happening. The buildings were on fire and it seemed to be terrorists. I didn't know what that meant. It was sad, people were probably dying, but what are you gonna do?
Nothing more exciting? Well, I was wrong there. The next thing I hear coming from the TV in the other room is there is a fire in the Nation's Capital. Again, "huh?". I walk in to the nearest room with a television and hear reports that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon!
I went and called my mom on the phone, trying to frantically tell her of the new developments while keeping one ear tuned for more information. I didn't know what to do. But, my friend was waiting for me, so I decided I had to continue on to school...
I left for school 15 minutes late at around 6:45 AM Pacific Standard Time. I picked up my friend and we headed off to school. My zero period class was marching band, and when I walked in our director was just talking to us, seeing what we had heard. Luckily for me, the section I was in had their own room and we just went in there and had our own small discussion. We walked around and even joked. Saying maybe it was aliens. We were all going to die beause aliens were attacking planet Earth.
When zero period finally was over and it was time for passing... I just went straight to first. Still half in shock, I didn't feel like standing around anymore. I walked into my first period English class, and shockingly, my teacher hadn't heard anything of it. I told her what I knew.
When the bell rang and class started, the teacher repeated what I had told her so in case any one else was uniformed, they could tune in. Then kids who had been watching it in their zero-period Government classes told us the First Tower had fallen! We went on like that, discussing it and setting clear all the details. Then we were forced to put it aside and do a little vocabulary... to me it seemed like a rather odd time for vocabulary...
Next it was off to Ap Statistics.. I walked in the door and saw the news was on. I went and sat near the TV and saw the wreckage. The debris from the first tower was strewn eveywhere. When class started, our teacher was up at the white board writing a message, and the rest of the class was glued on the tv. Our teacher only said one thing to us that whole period "Read the Board" and up there he had only written which assignments to turn in. The rest of the period we sat and watched the news, kids called their parents on their cell phones, and did more discussing.
Then the time came for Economics. Again, all we did was watch the news. Watch them play things over and over again. We didn't talk about the Economic effects this attack would cause. Who could think of economics at a time like this?
Wind Ensemble was the same. We sat and watched and tried to figure out what all this meant.
Off to R.O.P.... A little bus ride to a school a few towns over... Graphic Design was waiting. Harldy Even a Mention here! Our instructor asked if everyone had heard, we had, and that was it. A Campbell's Soup ad had never seemed so irrelevant, yet so welcomed.
A whole day of confusion and play-backs of terror from all angles can be quite tiring. The chance to forget about it for 4 hours was welcomed. A bus ride back with President G. W. Bush giving a speech on the radio, left me finally finished with my school day at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.
I'm glad that I wasn't the only one affected that day, because otherwise I may not have made it home. Everyone was driving slower, and being more polite. Instead of honking or fist-shaking, people weren't upset at all by slow motorists. I was in a daze for those short 3 miles and I'm glad I made it home in one peice.
More news at home. Safe at home with my family. It was long day.

Traci | 16 | California

#190 | Saturday, October 6th 2001
I have my alarm clock set up to wake me up via the radio. I was planning to wake up around 5am to work on homework, but I decided to sleep through it. I reset for 6:20am and fell back to sleep.
I woke up to a sound byte of George W. Bush, noting a "terrorist attack on our country". Still asleep, I didn't really understand or pay attention to what was going on, but I kept an ear on the radio as I got up and got ready for school.
Soon thereafter, the radio deejays came back on the air, and explained what was going on: two airplanes had crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
I didn't get it yet.
I went downstairs for breakfast, where my mom and my sister were having cereal. I sat down at the table to eat. "Did you know the World Trade Center has been hit by a plane?" I asked. They didn't know. My mom went into the next room and turned on the television to see what was going on.
Just then, the first tower fell. It fell. I saw it live, sitting there in my den at 7 in the morning. Live broadcast.
I went upstairs to brush my teeth.
Soon my carpool driver arrived to take me to school. He's my age. I got in the car, and he asked "Have you heard?" "Yup." He had the news on. Usually he had a rock station on, but today it was the news.
On our way to school, the second tower fell. "We've just gotten news that the second tower of the World Trade Center has fallen." I whispered "Oh my God" and tears began to stream down my face. Until then, I had been thinking, 'Wow, it'll be weird now that there's only one WTC tower. I wonder what it'll look like when I go back to NYC?' And now there were none.
At school, we had an impromptu assembly, where our headmaster talked. About what, I don't remember. I was crying, worried about my friends in New York, freshman college students going to NYU and Columbia. I was also worried about possible attacks on my city of Los Angeles.
Some classes tried to put it aside. In chorus, we sang. In science, we had lectures. But in english, we had a freewrite on what we were feeling. In math, we watched the news for the entire period. And in history, we talked about the political and economical aspects of it all.
"This is the defining moment of your generation," my history teacher said. "Most goings-on in the next few decades will be an effect of what happened today. Today's newspaper will be the last 'normal' one [without Sept. 11 coverage] for a long time. This is your Pearl Harbor."
Once I was home after school, I was constantly online. It would be hours before the first newspaper had any information on what was going on, so I checked CNN.com over and over, and there was something new almost every time I checked. I felt so informed and in the know.
New York is my favorite city in the world. When I see pictures of its streets covered in soot and debris, I choke up. It looks like a third world city, not sophisticated and stylish like it usually is. And to think that innocent businessmen and women burned alive, were crushed in the falling buildings, or fell to their death from the towers ... it's a feeling I can't describe. Sorrow doesn't begin to cover it.

America was something we took for granted, but now we appreciate it as if every day were our first as an american citizen. I wear an american flag pin every day. I also get mad when I see people disrespecting the flag by wearing skirts or carrying bags that are made of an american flag pattern.
I get the most mad when people descriminate against Arab Americans or other minorities as a result of this. This is a time to band together, not fall apart. America is not just a country of white christians.
We must also accept and embrace those countries who offer their help and friendship. International amnesty is more important now than ever, for our government and for our social morale.

Even now, words escape me. It sounds trite, but words cannot express what I feel in the wake of this. Surely in 30 years, I will feel the same way, for this is a life-altering event.
My generation's grandparents had Pearl Harbor. Our parents had Vietnam.

We have this.

Helen Gruner | 15 | California

#189 | Saturday, October 6th 2001
It was a little after seven in the morning when the phone rang. I remember it only because I was jolted out of my dream-like state. I didn't make an effort to answer it since I figured my roommate would, which he did, since it only rang once. I attempted to roll over and go back to sleep, but knowing that my alarm was due to go off at any minute kept that from happening. I decided to get up, wandering around the apartment as I usually did every morning. My roommate had left, leaving no phone message, so I assumed the phone call had been a wrong number or something.

I wandered back into my bedroom and flipped on the television, again, out of habit, only instead of seeing the smiling faces of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, I saw the World Trade Center with smoke billowing out of each tower. I was in a daze, my brain still not completely awake. I tried desperately to process what I was seeing. I was transfixed by the images, even more horrified when one of the towers fell. Then I heard, although barely, since I was in such shock, the words of the newscasters. Two planes had crashed into the towers and there was word that another had crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. It was then that my heart stopped. My parents and brother were supposed to fly back from Washington D.C. that day.

My cell phone rang and I answered it with trembling hands. It was my roommate, asking me if I'd heard from my parents yet. He kept telling me to turn on the TV. I could only manage to choke out that I had. He told me over and over to call them. I hung up with him and attempted to make that call, not succeeding at first due to tied up phone lines. When I finally got through, I was instantly put through to the voicemail on my parents' cell phone. I hung up, praying. I paced the apartment, praying. I went through my daily morning routine, praying . . . until my phone finally rang. My family was safe. I cried with relief.

The rest of the day was a blur. I pass LAX every day to get to school. It was strange to see no life at all at the airport, every plane grounded. It was also strange to drive to school and see police cars as far as the eye could see. We were all on edge that day, not sure if the attack was over, not sure if we would somehow be attacked on the West Coast.

In the weeks since September 11th, life has pretty much returned to "normal," although I know that "normal" will never be what it once was. I have the utmost faith that we will pull together and get through this, but at the same time, I can't help but be afraid of what the future holds.

Sara | 21 | California

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