#50 | Monday, September 17th 2001
I happened to be on vacation as it happened. I was waking up in my hotel room in Kaua'i, Hawaii by my frantic sister who told me the news.

My response: "Is this for real?"

Jesse Burgheimer | 22 | California

#46 | Monday, September 17th 2001
all morning i had my eyes glued on the tv ... around noon i started to feel sick, i needed to stop watching, stop listening, but as long as i was sitting there i couldn't tear myself away. someone suggested we all head out and give blood, so the office (five of us) took off around one o'clock in the afternoon to make the drive out to a blood bank. when we went past it, while looking for a place to eat, there was a line of people out the door and the parking-lot was crammed with cars.

we found a grill a few blocks down - groups of people were huddled around the restaurant, talking in low, whispered tones. finishing lunch just before two, we headed back to the blood bank. some volunteers were handing out pamphlets and saying we should expect a three to four hour wait, i checked my watch, 2:15 ... i asked for some water and took a place in line with the people from my work.

after an hour we were almost at the steps of the blood bank, a few tv vans had pulled up and were getting shots of everyone milling around in-line. a newspaper truck swung by and started giving away papers ... they already had pictures from new york. just as we were about to start up the steps, a woman came outside and told everyone that people were packed inside, and they wanted us to back up so they could give everyone more room. we backed up all the way across the parking lot, when we finally stopped moving backwards i realized we were now further away from the steps then when we had started ... my watch said 3:00

two people from the office split just after that, now it was just barbara, our manager, and nancy, one of the partners, and me. we handed the free papers around a few times and waited, the line was going even slower now, a half-hour later we were back to the spot we'd first started at, another half-hour passed and we were at the foot of the steps again.

at this point another woman from the clinic came out and said the wait would be three to four hours once we were inside the building. the steps were the wheel-chair accessable kind, that wrapped around the front of the blood bank three times, we were at the end of the first wrap. nancy, barbara, and i looked at each other ... i started thinking, "what if i wait all day and don't get to do anything" ... "what if this is just a huge waste of time" ... nancy and barbara decided they'd had enough. "we'll come back tomorrow" ... that made sense, we could show up early tomorrow and give. i took a step out of the line to follow nancy and barbara down the ramp, suddenly i could see myself at home - watching tv, wishing i had done something about this. a feeling of helplessness washed over me, i froze. i thought about all the people three thousand miles away - people trapped, fighting for their lives, holding on by a thread ... people who didn't have a choice, people who wouldn't have any more choices. i shouted at barbara and nancy, i told them id be staying, id see them tomorrow.

i let out a small sigh as i watched my co-workers leave. the line advanced another two feet up the ramp. someone had left a wallstreet journal next on the guard-rail next to me - a wallstreet journal takes hours to read, end to end. i got hooked on them taking a class on economics up at the university of washington. i snatched the paper up and tucked it under my arm. a woman came by with snacks - oreos, nuts, and handisnacks. cheese and crackers seem'd like the best way to go, but i wasn't hungry yet, so i shoved the little pastic package into a pocket.

another half an hour passed and i was inside the clinic, it was a mass of people - sitting, standing, packed in shoulder to shoulder in some places ... no one knew where to go, you simply payed attention to who was ahead of you and followed them ... an elderly man about four people ahead suddenly took off down a corridor and about twenty of us followed him. a doctor stopped us after about thirty yards, and all of us had to slowly worked our way back out to the lobby. i nudged my way around the crowd and saw the guy who was ahead of me at the information desk talking to the receptionist. i slipped though the crowded lobby and took a place behind him. i saw the girl who had been behind me, made eye contact and pointed at the receptionist, she nodded and started moving towards the desk. after a few minutes the receptionist handed him a medical form and looked up at me. name, birthday, and social security number later i was holding a donor form and shuffling off to the back of the clinic to wait in another line. my watch grinned 5:30 back at me.

whether you like it or not, by standing in line with the same people for hours you slowly start to get to know them. the gentleman ahead of me was a forty year-old european. the day's tragedy had completely crushed him. there were tvs in some parts of the waiting area, every now and then he look down from the reports, shake his head, then turn and ask me "why?" in a hurt and angered tone. i never knew how to respond to him, actually i don't think i needed to, the question was on everyone's lips.

the girl behind me was a nineteen year-old student at the san francisco city college. she was a broadcast major, "but i don't want to do the news. i want to be an on-air personality". all the schools in the city were closed today so she had gone with her housemates to give blood.

by 6:30 we were in the regular waiting room, several tvs were on and we were all watching the same reports that had been flooding in throughout the day. the same footage, over and over. everyone was quiet, focused, contemplative. the tables in the middle were stacked several feet high with magazines and newspapers, i picked up a year-old newsweek, paged though it, and made small talk with my european friend.

by 7:30 we had been herded into the donor room. about twenty tables had been setup and nurses were scurrying around tending to everyone. the smell of iodine was almost overwhelming ... a girl wearing a white tank top started to cry, a kid who had been speaking russian outside fainted. we were all moved into private rooms where a nurse gave a quick consultation and pricked our fingers. back outside we all showed off the small bandaides they gave us. while we were waiting for a table a phone started ringing behind me. around the tenth ring a nurse suddenly looked me in the eyes, "can you get that, tell them donor-collections," she asked. i walked behind a small divider, found the phone, and picked it up.

"donor-collections," i said.
"hi, i have a rare blood type and i recently took a trip to east-asia. i want to come in today and i was wondering if .."
"can you hold on for a second," i asked.
but she continued, "i just got back a month ago, but i was really wondering if i could go down and ..."
"you're going to want to speak to a nurse," a said quickly, "let me get you one."
"oh, i thought you were a nurse."

i grabbed an nurse who was walking around and told her about the call. about twenty minutes later the same phone rang again, but this time everyone in-line turned and looked at me. i gave a small grin and walked over to answer it, then found another nurse.

about ten minutes to eight i was standing at the front of the line, waiting for a table. i started hopping from foot to foot, id eaten almost nothing, except for the cheese and crackers id been saving, and had been on my feet for the last six hours ... then a nurse called me over. it took about twenty minutes to give blood. the woman who stuck me took forever numbing my arm, and trying to get the tubes sorted out. i thought i was going to put my toes through the bottom of my shoes, i was clenching them so hard.

i ended up on a table next to a rather striking indian woman. she worked at a downtown law firm, and did kick-boxing and karate in her spare time. the local news crew was still inside and decided to film people giving blood. the woman on my left was very adamant about not wanting to be taped. she told me she was going to punch the anchor man in the nose, if he came near her ... they'd given me a ball to squeeze while i was lying there, i offered to throw it at him instead.

after losing a pint of blood i lay on my back for a few minutes. a nurse brought me some water. then, after my head felt like it was the right weight again, i sat up, slowly collected my newspaper and jacket. after that i made my way to a counter where they had drinks and some food. on my way there, i ran into my european friend, they'd given him two stickers, "be nice to me i gave blood today" and "today i saved a life", on red and white hearts which he'd affixed to his shirt. he grinned at me, i grinned back, then he headed for the door.

i sat down at the counter and asked for some orange juice. a few cups and a rice crispy treat later i started feeling a lot better. after about ten minutes of orange juice and snacks, my stomach decided it was going to get a real meal, or it was going to get my liver ... so i left the counter, waved to the last of the people id spent the day in-line with, and headed out the door. i caught a cab a few minutes later and gave the address of my office. i still had to get my truck and make the trek back home. my watch said 8:30

...

for everyone who didn't have a choice.

Vladimir | 24 | California

#43 | Monday, September 17th 2001
I was still sound asleep when NYC and Washington DC were being attacked by terrorists last Tuesday morning. Oblivious to what had happened, a couple of hours after the attack, I peacefully enjoyed breakfast with my daughter, while we both watched cartoons.

All of a sudden, my boyfriend, who had been asleep, entered the room with this devastantingly sad look on his face. I knew something was wrong.

Not to scare my little one, he discretely asked me if I was aware of what had happened in NYC and Washington DC, and I told him I had no clue as to what he was talking about. He had heard the news on the radio as the alarm clock went off. That is what I call a "rude awekening."

Quietly, we both go into our room, turn on the TV and watch in horror footage of what had been recorded until that point.

I remember the golf war, the L.A. riots, the Oaklahoma bombing, and many other tragedies that we, as a nation, have had to endure. This event, however, felt a lot closer to home and its profound and devastating effects will be felt in my heart for a very long time. Honestly, I don't think the wound will ever heal.

My heart goes out to those whose friends and family have died in the tragedy. My thoughts and prayers will be with them and all other survivors who will have to live the rest of their lives with memories that should have never come into existence.

I wish we could resolve this peacefully. God bless us all.

Eliana

Eliana | 33 | California

#35 | Sunday, September 16th 2001
I was asleep. Our school has sleep-in days on Tuesday mornings, and I woke up an hour later than usual. A few minutes before I was about to leave, my mom called me from work, asking if my dad was awake yet. He was, so I told her so, and the she told me to tell him to turn on the tv, that some planes had been hijacked and attacked the World Trade Center. I had no idea what she was talking about, until I turned on the TV and saw the smoke and then saw them collapse. My dad was sitting there, just saying 'Oh my GOD.'

I kept feeling chills just watching it, and it took me a while to understand fully what had happened. I don't even remember what I was feeling until I saw one of my friends who's cousin works near the Trade Center, and I remember feeling so terribly upset. I suppose before that I was in shock.

Erika | 16 | California

#25 | Sunday, September 16th 2001
As I was on my way to school at 7:20 in the morning I first heard the news. I didn't grasp right away what was happening and thought perhaps it was a joke. Then as I flipped through other stations I began to realize it wasn't. Not very long after I heard them reporting that the second tower had fallen. I could barely hold back the tears as I realized what was going on.

As soon as I got to school I called my mother and told her to turn on the TV and then went to class in utter shock and fear. Though I live on the West coast I was still afraid. Afraid of what might happen next, if more was to come.

Jenn | 18 | California

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