#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

#1521 | Monday, August 5th 2002
I was on the 3rd floor of the State Federal building in albany Ny. 13 minutes before the first plane hit the WTC I swore in to be a member of the United States Air Force. I have yet to regret my descision
Daniel Wildoner | 20 | New Jersey

#1493 | Tuesday, July 23rd 2002
Ten months later, and still can't seem to "go on" in the same way I did before 9/11/01. For many in the New York and New Jersey area, this event will always be personal as well as a global event. For many of us, friends and loved ones were lost on that day. For many of us, more than one... in fact many.

So, even ten months later, I fear being misunderstood when reflecting on the events with people who live far away. Long distance friends view these events as events from history (to quote a 6th grade teacher of mine "the story of Man = history"), but for myself and many others they are personal history. As a teacher.

I was in New Jersey, at mass with my 5th grade class, when the silence was broken by a stream of cell phones ringing in church, people rushing toward the rear exit doors, doors slamming and the sound of their screams from outside. The impending feeling of doom entered my soul at that moment. Having to keep a state of calm amongst our students, teachers ushered the children back to class as mass ended and we received the news through hand-covered whispers from one teacher to another in the halls. I wanted to just fall down to my knees and wail.

I knew my husband was safe,instantly my thoughts went to the friends and colleagues we left behind in the towers and financial center. Just a year ago, I left 4 WTC and before that, my husband took a job in Midtown. As it turns out, our friends from the CEC at 4WTC who went onto growing firms at 1 WTC and 2 WTC were trapped from floors 72-106. Dread filled me and has still not left. Knowing what the aftermath of a bombing was like, having been in the concourse in 1994 when the WTC was first attacked, I started to relive the smells, heat, ashened air, sudden darkness, running, pushing of bodies, screams and chaos that followed that attack. Only, when I saw the first images on TV, I knew this was worse than anything I could imagine. The day was filled with attempts to contact anyone I could from the towers and financial center. All lines were dead. My husband received the last call one of his friends was able to make before his death. It was on a cell, from Tower 1 and he described how the floors around them had collapsed and the smoke and fire was going to kill them. He told him they were under the desks now because the halls were collapsing and then the words my husband is unable to stop hearing in his head "we're all going to burn to death, we're gonna die here". He has since not been able to tell any of this man's relatives that HE was the last one to speak to him, since his call was so filled with suffering and fear. I pray for him daily. None of our other friends who perished were able to MAKE a last phone call, so we will never know just how they died. In the months following Sept. 11th, the days were filled with phone calls, desparate attempts to find out if ANYONE had seen our friends after the planes hit,no success. The days and months were filled with attending memorials and masses for our lost friends, the few and the many. No one could seem to make any sense of this massive loss of young vibrant, successful, ambitious, God loving people we loved. Weeks would go by with no news and then months later we would hear of recovered tissue remains being confirmed as belonging to a friend we honored months before. Again the questions arose to all friends and family of exactly HOW he died. Did he jump, burn, suffocate, get blown apart, fall to his death with the force of explosion? All gory, all possible ways your peer left this earth. Vanished from his tiny children's lives. From his young wife's bed at night, from his parents arms. So young, you don't expect to have the bulk of your young friends taken from life in one instant at the age of 35. Those whose tissue remains were being recovered months later were believed to have been the ones who jumped or fell before the towers collapsed. Imagine being the young wife or child of this man to recieve this news and have to go through the steps to authorize it's disposal or burial after going through a memorial with no remains months earlier, trying to go on with your life to keep your children safe and calm. Nothing can describe having to say goodbye to the "missing". Parents of abducted and murdered children may know this feeling. You can't. These events have been compared to Pearl Harbor. Yes the massive death and sneak attack is a corrolation, but nothing else. These people didn't go to work that morning knowing there was a risk of being killed at work. They were not military, fighting a war against an enemy. They kissed their kids goodbye and took the train to work. They just finished their morning coffee or closed the door to the conference roon when death appeared at the door. I sound angry, I try not to be. I am a christian and a forgiver. I am just sad. Today, almost a year later, I still cry in the car, and hate to look up at planes flying across the sky.

We know peace because of our faith, but we have constant sorrow and unanswered questions, since the DOERS will never be brought to justice. What is the appropriate punishment for those who anhialate so many innocent civilians? Is there one WE could live with? None that I know. Hope is our only destiny now, hope that the WORLD has learned from these events and that LOVE will come back into our GLOBAL society. That people will STOP thinking only about themselved and be more self-LESS. The more I ponder what I could do to honor the memory of my friends the more it points to DOING, sharing of myself and my time and daily tolerance of ALL other human life.

Can you do that for them? It's not hard at all.

Those towers were a part of my life. They were erected during my early school years, an architectural success that I watched emerge from a muddy waters edge to a center of commerce which became my life as an adult. I was in awe of them always and regarded them like you would artifacts to be revered and preserved. I never dreamed as a child that I would come to work within their steel walls someday. You see, I spent most of my career in Futures working Downtown NYC until just last year. My husband and I worked together at 4 WTC for a time and I worked at 1 WTC for a time. Our adult lives revolved around the Commodities exchange business and clients within the downtown area for the last 10 years. We met and spent our first dates eating hotdogs outside the WTC, shopping the Concourse and commuting through the WTC daily whether we worked there or not.

God bless the thousands who perished that day and the millions who were left behind to mourn them. Let us carry the torch for them to the end of OUR lives, finish what they started, continue our society in a peaceful manner, with respect and love for human life. Please don't let this be over like a sad movie that you can walk out of and say "so sad for them". We are THEM, let us not forget, WE got the GIFT of life that day when the terrorists CHOSE NOT to crash into the building WE were in. Remember it could have been any of us. All of us.

Peace. Love.

Mama Seeweedz | 37 | New Jersey

#1447 | Sunday, July 7th 2002
It was during first period that I left the classroom on an errand and I just started to wander the hallway. I looked out the window to see an explosion in one of the Twin Towers. After a friend told me he felt something shake the class ended and we entered second period where the principal told us about what just happened in New York and Washington that morning. Every class we went to, we were able to see the smoke. It was around lunchtime when things went insane. People were being picked up by their parents. Normally it takes my mother 30 minutes to get to my school, but because of the large amounts of police and emergency services, it took her an hour. I was at home around 1:30 to 2:00 and then I watched my sister go as she along with all nurses were summoned to the hospitals. I turned on the television to watch the coverage for several more hours.
G | 16 | New Jersey

#1349 | Thursday, May 30th 2002
September 11th started out as any other say would start out.I walked my way to school and so on.I went through first period just feeling all gloomy.Than I went to my second period class.My teacher was teaching like usual.Then a knock came on the classroom door.A fellow teacher had walked in the classroom.He whispered something to my teacher and I remember my teacher was looking directly at me.When the teacher told her what happened I just tears roll down her eyes.She was just in shock.That's when I heard that an airplane hit the World Trade Center.I was like oh my god, because my aunt worked like blocks away.Through out the day people were getting called down to the office.I passed the office and say kids crying learning that their parents and friends had died.The day went on with rumors of 4 more planes flying.So I came home and saw the news.I saw these graphic pictures and footage of planes hitting the buildings and people jumping out of the World Trade Center.I was horrified that day and did not move from the TV until 3 a.m. the next day.September 11th lies in my mind and heart and always will cause it's the footprint in time..the day the earth shook..and the imprint in my mind.
Sean Kelly | 15 | New Jersey

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