#537 | Wednesday, December 19th 2001
i was in my office and the time is 7 pm

we got the immediate news from reuters

since we do online trading in

commodities.it is a disaster.

Rajesh padmanaban | 23 | India

#520 | Tuesday, December 18th 2001
The morning of September 11th, 2001 began much like any other Tuesday morning for me. As a Catholic school teacher, I started the day wondering, "How are my students today?" "Are we having any assemblies that I forgot about?" "Will the kids like the lesson I've planned?" Normal Tuesday morning musings for me.
Little did I know what was happening that very morning. A bit more than halfway through my first English class of the day, my 8th grade students were happily involved in a group project that was going quite well. It seemed to be a good day.

That's when the PA system came on, and we all listened quietly as the principal delivered a confusing message about two plane crashes and the World Trade Center and asked us to say a prayer for the victims. Thinking nothing more than, "How sad, two plane crashes in one day," and "What's the World Trade Center got to do with that?" My students and I said a heartfelt prayer and then continued working.

Then the parents began to show up. I wondered what could have happened, realizing now that a hallway full of parents didn't show up to pull their kids out of school for no good reason. Then a copier repairman asked me if I'd heard the news. I said no, I hadn't; I'd been teaching all morning. That's when he filled me in on what had been happening that morning: four planes had been hijacked; two had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City; one had gone down into the Pentagon.

No wonder the principal had chosen to leave out some of that information in her address over the PA system. In a K-8 school, maybe the older students would understand, but the younger ones, if they even knew what the word "hijack" meant, would be terrified. The way I now was.

The announcement came around 11:00: Those students who went home for lunch were to stay there. The rest would be dismissed at noon.

The inevitable questions followed: "Why?" "What happened?" "Is this about those planes?" "Are we at war?" "Is this going to happen again?" I had no answers to give them then. I still don't have all the answers.

It was a surreal car ride home. Even the traffic, though heavy, was eerily quiet. No honking, no revving of engines, no big rush. Just an odd sort of uneasy peace as everyone drove home on that bright sunny September day, tuned in to KYW and any other stations that were broadcasting the news. I listened as an alarmed-sounding newscaster described scenes of utter devastation in New York City. Even though I hadn't seen a thing yet, the simple description of the chaos and the unnerved sound of the newscaster's voice brought tears to my eyes.

It was close to 1:00 by the time I got home and dropped my schoolbag on the kitchen floor. I asked my father and brother if they'd heard anything about what happened. Of course they had; even as the words left my lips I knew that it was a stupid question. The whole nation now knew what had happened here on the East Coast. Most of the world probably knew by now. I looked at the television screen as a news station cut to a view of New York City's skyline and only one thought flashed through my mind, silencing all of the others: "Where are the Twin Towers?"

The Twin Towers, of course, were gone by that time, as was a good portion of the Pentagon, in the worst terrorist attack our country has ever seen. Since then, I've watched helplessly as families wandered the streets of New York, begging anyone who knew the whereabouts of their loved ones to please call them. I've watched police officers and firefighters cry as they look at the mountains of rubble before them, knowing that thousands of innocent people had lost their lives in those buildings.

But I've watched America unite like never before. I've watched Congress stand together to sing "God Bless America." I've watched blood donors line up for hours to give. I've seen more American flags flying at homes, businesses, and schools than ever before.

And I think we've all realized something. We're a bit less quick to honk our horns if the person in front of us drives a little too slowly. We're more likely to look people in the eye when we talk to them. We finish projects we've been putting off for months. We say "I love you" a little more often.

Maybe that's all we really need to be happy. A little bit more tolerance. A little bit more patience. A little bit more love. The realization that we need to stop looking for something that could be right under our noses.

So that's the thought I leave you with now. Try to do something nice for someone today. Call a family member, reconcile with an old friend, tell someone how much they mean to you, because the sad fact of the matter is we don't know when it'll be too late to do the things we keep putting off until "tomorrow".

God Bless America.
God bless the victims and their families. May they find comfort in the fact that our thoughts and prayers are with each and every one of them.

Freda | 23 | Pennsylvania

#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

#471 | Wednesday, December 12th 2001
I was at work, in Manchester, England, at my job as a games programmer - in the early stages of a Gameboy Advance game.

We'd just got back from the pub after lunch, and someone sent an email round saying a plane had hit the WTC. I didn't think much of it - assuming it must be a relatively minor accident involving a light aircraft.

Then came the second email. The second plane had hit. Soon most of the 120ish employees were crowded around the rec room TV, watching CNN (via Sky Digital) as the news unfolded. All sorts of rumours about other planes, the white house etc...

Not long before the first tower fell, I remember someone making the sarcastic comment 'Couldn't happen to a nicer country'. He was soon shut up, along with the rest of us, some who had compared the many replays of the impact to special effects from a 'Die Hard' movie

I saw both towers fall on live TV. And was scared.

Not so much of the terrorists themselves, but the fact that they might cause Bush to press his red button, and trigger an all-out nuclear war.

Dave | 23 | United Kingdom

#466 | Wednesday, December 12th 2001
I had called my mother to see if she'd like to spend the day shopping. She told me to turn on the news. We both watched as Tower One burned, I remember crying for the injured and we discussed how such a thing was possible. The second plane hit and I heard "terrorist attack" come over the tv. Fear and anger rushed through every part of my body, and I felt lost. The news stations were saying other planes were still not accounted for, and they showed some of the most gruesome live coverage I've ever seen. The media covered everything from people jumping from the towers, bleeding on the ground and a cloud of dust consuming New York. I watched as the news unfolded, and as the terror came closer to home. I'm 30 minutes from Stoystown and 2 hours from Arlington. I continued to watch the news for the first week, but then I had to stop because my panic attacks (I suffered from prior) had gotten worse and I was afraid to even go outside. I've been to DC one time since and it's not the same. Planes flying in low over Dulles and BWI made me shake with fear. I certainly don't feel war is the answer but I am very proud of the people in our country who've come together to assist with this tragedy. Maybe one day I (and so many others) will regain a sense of security that we've lost in the horror of 9-11.
Les | 23 | Maryland

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