#444 | Monday, December 10th 2001
I live in Massachusetts but at the time I was visiting a friend in Las Vegas. I recall that I was in the shower when I heard the phone ring. I jumped out of the tub and grabbed a towel, threw it around me and ran to the kitchen to scramble with the phone. My girlfriend, who was working at the time, called to tell me about two plane crashes that hit in New York killing many. The information was a bit sketchy since she had just heard about it herself and I was half awake. She suggested that I turn on a radio so I popped the power switch on the radio in the kitchen to tune into the disaster that had seemingly just occured. I don't recall the exact time but it was apparently long after (about an hour later) the actual impact time. I guess I was sleeping in bed at the actual time of impact, blissfully ignorant of the deaths of many people and of an incident that would rock the foundation of the world and the peace that we all have taken for granted. It was only a few minutes later before I felt compelled to see the details on TV. I turned on the tube to see the disasterous images which further confirmed my feelings that we were at war and that something had happened which was significant and profoundly wrong.
Eric S. Cook | 35 | Nevada

#414 | Sunday, December 9th 2001
I remember the alarm saying it's 9:00 AM and I got up to start my day as usual working as a customer rep for Cingular Wireless. I started looking at the tv and it was on HBO they were running cartoons and I just stared as my sleepiness dissipated. After my shower i got dressed and headed for the car at about 9:35 to be in for my 10-7 shift I had been working the 5pm-2am slot but had started my new shift that Monday it was now Tuesday. Before getting into my car my Mother who lives next door mentioned that apparently the World Trade Center had been bombed once again. I thought "Huh! not again" and told here I'd check it out when I got to work and was on my way. It was a beautiful drive to work that day since it was a beautiful day unlike I've seen in a while. When I got to work I found myself in an enviorment of total confusion and awe. everybody was at their terminal quietly reading the Internet and there was hardly any calls coming in. When I asked what had happened I was amazed to find the situation more grave than I could have imagined. A fellow employee told me that apparently two planes had struck the Twin Towers and a third was just launched against the Pentagon. I got nervous since I considered this could be a terrorist attack and imagined some Cessna aircraft being used. Also, I thought what a desperate and stupid thing to do and that such an act could have no real consequences. Boy, was I wrong. All the news sites Yahoo, CNN, USA Today and others were all offline seeing as they were apparently posting more breaking news and the first headline I read didn't even have any pictures. At about 11am I saw the first headline with a picture of World Trade 1 smoking. A radio at low volume some girls had been listening to was on when I heard that both Twin Towers had collapsed. At that moment my heart sunk and I couldn't believe it. It was like someone playing a cruel joke. I was pretty much up to speed by the time I got home and turned on the news where I saw the incredible footage. It was in the least a very strange day.
Mitchel Sardinas | 35 | Puerto Rico

#400 | Sunday, December 9th 2001
I was deployed in a submarine operating in the Western Pacific on 11 Sep 2001. Our time zone was 12 hours ahead of EDT. We received not a single piece of information from Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii) or Commander, Submarine Task Group SEVEN (COMSUBGRUSEVEN, Yokosuka, Japan) prior to what transpired below.

At approximately 2330 (11:30AM EDT) we received a peculiar message regarding an increase in Force Protection Condition (FPCON) Charlie due to "airline crashes" and "terrorist activities," or something close to that. Nothing more specific was included in this highly unusual message. I made note of this, then proceeded to the mess decks for midrats (reheated meat loaf, sandwhich meats, and other assorted leftovers). I discussed the FPCON message with some of the other crew, and specifically asked how this FPCON would affect our upcoming port call to a Southeast Asian country. They discussed the level of security that would be implemented, but seemed to believe that liberty could still be enjoyed by the crew.

After completing the meal, I returned to Radio at 2355 (11:55AM EDT) and came across the next message which set FPCON Delta, the highest FPCON level. Now really intrigued and having access to an HF receiver (the submarine was operating at periscope depth), I searched and found Voice of America (VOA) on one of its SE Asian frequencies (9760 kHz, I believe). At the top of the hour (0001, or 12:01PM EDT), the first news broke through my headphones, and I froze, hardly believing what I was hearing. I patched the audio to a DAT recorder and began recording the news. Simultaneously, I scribbled feverishly the incredible details being broadcast from New York City, Washington, D.C., and later Pennsylvania.

After getting a fair amount of REPEATED details, I called the Officer of the Deck and told him what I had heard, requesting the presence of the Command Duty Officer (the Executive Officer). The XO came into Radio a few moments later -- with a look strongly suggesting I'd better have a good reason for pulling a prank on him. I simply showed him my spiral notebook, which he perused for a few seconds, and briefed him on everything I knew. His face briefly turned white, then red. He looked at me; I nodded to assure him that the details were true. I then passed my headphones to him so he could verify the veracity of this too-hard-to-believe story. Once again, his complexion changed colors as the reality sunk in.

After another minute or two, he turned to the Radioman of the Watch (RMOW) and asked if we had received any more information from COMSUBPAC or COMSUBGRUSEVEN. The answer was negative. The XO looked at me and rhetorically asked why no one had bothered to inform the afloat submarines. We discussed whether to inform the Commanding Officer (CO), who had retired to his stateroom a couple hours earlier after a busy day. The decision was made not to bother him, as we had no marching orders from our chain of command (FPCONs don't affect an underway submarine, as there's little chance a terrorist could board a mobile, underwater platform).

Over the next several hours, we monitored various news sources, primarily VOA and BBC. It wasn't until 18 hours after our initial VOA intercept that official details started to roll down the chain of command. But the CO didn't wait until then before informing the entire crew via the 1MC (public address) what had transpired. By then, we had transcripts of President George Bush's speeches to the U.S. and the world. So, at 0600 (6:00PM EDT), the CO delivered the President's fiery quotes in such a manner as to immediately incite the crew to avenge the horrible acts that had befallen our citizens. However, a few crew members either had family in the affected cities or grew up there. More than a few tears fell that next morning.

And to add to the misery, advancement exams were being administered that morning. As the results from those exams have just been released this week, and I am no longer deployed in that submarine, I am unaware how those events may have affected the Sailors who participated in that exam cycle.

Over the next two weeks, we continued to monitor various news reports and provide e-mail updates to the entire crew via the ship's LAN. Of course, the XO had to proof the e-mails to ensure we weren't releasing potentially "explosive" information (less we accidentally release the name of a Sailor's kin or friend before being officially informed by the Red Cross). Copies of the e-mailed reports could be found in every work center, on the mess decks, posted in the Mid-Level passageway, and even in the heads (restrooms, for the uninitiated). Anytime I walked out of Radio, I was quickly bombarded with questions regarding the latest details.

We stopped monitoring the airwaves after two weeks, as we couldn't take it anymore. To be completely bombarded with this tragedy and have no way to release the anger or frustration was not healthy. And by this time, our chain of command had finally gotten around to providing its deployed submarines with regular (every 12 hours, or so) updates.

Although we were immersed in the gory details of 11 Sep broadcast over the airwaves, no one was really prepared to see the first video images when we hit our first port on 28 Sep. I rushed to the nearest television and finally saw a replay of one of the airliners crashing into the World Trade Center. I felt the emotion building up as I then watched a replay of a tribute to the victims during a Major League Baseball game. And then it finally hit me, and I had to turn off the TV.

I didn't watch any more news until I returned home a few days later. A friend of mine had made a copy of a network news broadcast during the first weekend after the tragic events. I replayed that tape many times, still thinking how unreal the shots were...

I would like to finish the story by letting the readers know that the thoughts of every Sailor on that submarine was with every victim, survivor, and United States citizen during those terrible days. And they were ready to fire their weapons in anger...when tasked...

Robert Burns | 35 | Hawaii

#368 | Saturday, December 8th 2001
I was working at home when the phone rang, and a woman who was calling about some puppies I was giving away asked me what I thought about the Towers being hit. I didn't know anything about it, and immediately flipped on the T.V. and watched the images of the the planes as they hit the Towers, and then learned of the Pentagon. My first reaction was utter disbelief. How could this happen? My second was tears, buckets. All I could think of were the thousands of people whose lives had just been inexplicably shattered. Why would someone do this? The people on the planes, the people in the buildings, the fireman and rescue workers, the families and friends, the people of NY and Washington whose way of living was totally disrupted, businesses, anything and everything about our world had been changed, and those directly involved devastated. Then I called my mom,family, and friends. I continue to cry when I think of that day, and probably will forever, but the renewed surge of patriotism in this country gives me hope. There is still a whole lot to be thankful for.
Susanne | 35 | United States

#342 | Saturday, December 8th 2001
The morning of September 11th, I was home with my little girl. Living on the 13th floor in a building just 6 blocks north of the tragic events. I had just taken Jay-Jay the Jet Plane down from the shelf, as his show was on and I was making him fly around the room for the baby. When the first plane passed my window, it sounded like a missle flying by. The sound was so intense, it shook everything in the apartment..even the coffee shook out of my cup. Our eyes widened, as even a two-year-old can understand that what just happened was not quite right. I immediately ran to my kitchen window, just as the first explosion took place. Fear ran through my blood, and I immediately knew we were under attack. Thinking, that was it, I grabbed my digital camera because I could not believe my eyes. After a few shots, I went for the Camcorder because this was a most unbelieveable thing I was seeing. About 3 minutes into me recording the event that took place, another explosion happened and the force of it hit me right in the face and pushed my camera away from view. The heat was like opening a broiling ovens door and I am 6 blocks away! I turned around and saw the baby standing there watching me, watching this, and I finally came to my senses. I started to break down a bit so I ran and put on the news to see what exactly was going on...two planes hit the WTC!! To this day, saying those 5 words sends a flood of emotions through me. The symbol of our powerful city burning was a very scary sight... I tried calling people to talk to...I called my son's school. I told them in a very calm manner that I didn't know if the school bus was going to be able to bring him home because of what was unfolding, and that I would wait it out and call them back. Obviously, I wasn't thinking straight. Once I reached my husband he told me to grab the baby and get out of the building! I ran out of the house to find hundreds and hundreds of people standing around staring up in disbelief. I had the baby in my arms, nothing else. A police woman came up to me, of all the people out there, and she told me "Go as far uptown as you can, this is not over" She was definitely one of God's messengers. As I started heading uptown, I was warning others to start moving because this wasn't over, some starting going north, others were attracted to it like fireflys to the light. I got so far as Canal Street and I couldn't walk anymore. My back was starting to hurt, and my arms were tired from holding the baby, but I wouldn't let her go. In a desperate attempt to reach my son all the way on the upper east side, I started begging people driving in their cars to please give me a ride uptown. I was actually refused a number of times before one good samaritan could see my plight and let me share his cabride with him. He said as long as I didn't mind him smoking, I could share the ride. He,too, was headed uptown to pick up his kids from a yeshiva. I believe his name was Jeff, the kindest man and I hope he receives ten times the kindness he gave me that day. As we rode, his hands trembled, and it took him several tries to light his cigarettes. As we rode we could hear the live updates taking place "...ladies and gentlemen...the twin towers are...no more" I was devastated. How in the world could this be happening? Why was this happening? I knew immediately in my heart from the very beginning that we were being attacked and who was responsible for it. I said so on my video tape, so I guess I wasn't so surprised that were actually being attacked, just surprised at the enormity of the attacks. When he reached his destination, he turned to me and gave me $20 to pay for the cab. That act of kindness in such a time is the most unforgettable moment of this all. A glimmer of good in a mass of horror. I finally reached uptown, and discharged my son from school. My son was confused about why I was taking him out of school...I told him I just wanted to have a special lunch with him at Mickey D's. Meanwhile, I could see the billows of thick, dark smoke rising from downtown. Uptown felt like a different world, safe. People were oblivious to the tragic events taking place, the massive deaths that occured just downtown. Miraculously, I received a cell phone call. My girlfriend was wondering what was happening, as she was worried about her husband who worked downtown. She said the last she heard from him was that he had to run as the towers came crumbling down. Knowing I had calling capabilities, I called my husbands cell phone. He happened to be on his mothers home phone in Brooklyn talking to his mother who happened to be just across town from where I was! I hailed a cab and picked her up and we asked the cab to get us out of Manhattan. He didn't think it was possible, but I told him to go ahead and try. He was able to get us into Queens, where we met my husband who drove us to my mother-in-laws, where we stood for a month. The very next day though, I needed to go back in to see what happened, was my home ok? I took a train into the Lower East Side and walked over. And the closer I got, the whiter the ground got, the more littered with various personal effects it got, the more grave it got. I started crying, then sobbing. Thoughts of all my neighbors, known and unknown, who were affected by this, especially those working in the building, the fear they must have felt, those clinging to the windows saying their prayers, those who thought they were going to make it out as they calmly went down the stairwell, those families at home with the babies left with nannies, the loss was too great for me to handle. I had to pass army personnel, I felt so small walking passed these towering men. But I also felt so damned proud to be American--always have been--but even more so then. When I reached my building there was no electricity, and I didn't carry a flashlight. I had to find my way thru the pitch dark of the windowless stairwells to find my apartment. At one point I forgot where I was, I lost count and I became so frightened. I started crying and then I started feeling my way around, feeling the shape of and hearing the sounds of various doorbells...until I finally reached mine. I fumbled with the keys, and when I opened the door and the flood of light hit me, I finally felt like everything was going to be okay again, in time....since the event, it is my experience that we, as New Yorkers have changed, we now reach out to each other more comfortably, share a passing smile...and I have experienced the goodness of Americans as a whole, with all of the volunteer workers that came forward. Amazing. GOD BLESS AMERICA! I AM SO VERY PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!!!!!!
Angela | 35 | New York

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