#1468 | Saturday, July 13th 2002
I had just arrived at the school where I work, and was putting my lunch in the refrigerator, when my coworker came into the kitchen and said, "Did you know that a plane hit the World Trade Center?" My first thought was that it was a plane crash - the truth was much worse. We ran to the office and listened with everyone else to the news as it came over the airwaves. Rumors were flying that there was another plane hovering over Northern Virginia, where I live.

By 11 o'clock, frightened parents were coming to pick up their children, and shortly thereafter, the school was closed. I went straight home, and turned on the television, alternately angry and sad. I saw a Stealth fighter plane for the first time in my life, and watched as it flew over our apartment complex. In the eery silence of the afternoon, my sisters and I watched and prayed and hoped fervently that there was no more destruction to come.

Ironically, the woman who told me the news later became pregnant, and her child is due... September 11.

Anne | 22 | Virginia

#1341 | Wednesday, May 29th 2002
I was at work at around 8:30 on September 11th. I was leaving early that day to drive from Virginia where I live to Atlanta because I had Braves tickets for the next day. My job is collections over the phone so I call people all over the country and this one guy said a plane hit the World Trade Center. I thought it was just an accident. I had no idea at first how big it was. Then another lady told me a plane had hit the Pentagon so everyone around that time had gotten off the phone and was listening to the radio and all kinds of reports were coming in. People were telling all different stories. pretty soon my whole building was in the cafeteria glued to the television. I had recently bought the movies "Thirteen Days" about the cuban missle crisis and thats how I felt. People crying and staring in disbelief, not knowing what was coming next. Well I still went to Atlanta that day and the whole trip down there was surreal...just listening to the radio. I felt like the entire day was just some big movie, and though I wasn't directly involved with anything about September 11th, I was still greatly affected by it like every American. I just want to say I feel for everyone who lost family and friends that day. I have felt anger, sadness, asking myself why over and over....all those people who didn't have to lose their lives and did. I know that I'll never be the same.
Eugene Carrier | 23 | Virginia

#1324 | Monday, May 27th 2002
I was at my job when the attack occurred. We received a phone call from a business associate advising us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We got a television and monitored what was going on.
When the second plane struck the World Trade Center, I concluded that it was indeed a terrorist attack.
My feelings on that day were hard to describe. But, even on that day, it did not diminish my belief in the fortitude of the American People.
We are going through difficult times. But, I have no doubt we will come through them as we did our depression eras and the times of war.

Fred Atkinson | 47 | Virginia

#1264 | Thursday, May 9th 2002
I was working at the Ritz Carlton in DC as the lighting manager for the investor’s conference that was meeting there on the 10th and 11th. Coach Mike Krzyzewski had given the main address of the day on the 10th. Peter Lynch was to be the keynote speaker on the 11th. On the drive up Route 1 into town that morning, I did something I first did that morning, and have never done since... listened to Jack Diamond on 107.3. It was around 7:45 am. They were talking about what it meant to actually be a resident of the DC-metro area, what sort of things you needed to have experienced down here before you could legitimately say that you were “from” the capital region. Inbound Bladensburg Road at 7:30 am, Dupont on a summer Saturday night, and a traffic jam caused by an official caravan of limos were all things that those witty folks on 107.3 decided were all essential before one could accurately say they were a DC-ite. I was feeling a little left out, because I’d only experienced about half of the things they were talking about, even though I’d moved to the DC area well over a year before. I’d get to the rest eventually, I figured.

I got to the hotel, parked and went into the gym of the health club attached to the hotel, where the large meeting room was set up. I unpacked the gear from the day before and started setting up for the day’s events. Around 9:15, the sound guy came into the gym and came over to me. “Have you heard the latest?” I hadn’t. There was a TV tuned to CNN out in the lobby area of the health club, so I quickly ran out there and caught up. The first words I saw on the screen were “America Under Attack”. It was beyond comprehension. I didn’t learn of the attacks until it was firmly established that it was not an accident. Over the next 20 minutes, I sat by the TV and watched other people come out, and saw how my face must have looked when I first saw the scene in New York. At some point, I looked out the second-story window and wondered if I’d made the right choice to restart my career down here. I remember thinking to myself, “we’re all in the wrong city right now.” I eventually went back into the gym to finish setting up. At this point, there wasn’t any reason to cancel the conference; so on the preparations went for the keynote address. I would do some light stuff for a minute or two, then run back out to the TV. While on one of my trips out to the lobby, I was watching the TV, and the words “Fire at Pentagon” appeared in small what text at the bottom the screen. Within a minute, they had a long shot (from near the White House, is my guess) of the smoke plume rising up from the Pentagon. Very suddenly, I was aware just how dangerous a world we were all in now, right here in our home town. I quickly went outside and tried to call my mom in Pennsylvania, but found that I couldn’t get a call out. I tried her again, then my brother, then my office. After 20 or 30 attempts, I finally got through to my office... I wasn’t sure why I was calling, except to tell them that whatever timetable for the truck to come into DC to pick up the equipment after the conference was over later this afternoon went right out the window. They were all standing around radios throughout the building. While on the phone with them, I happened to look down 22nd Street, and I saw the plume from the Pentagon. It was... well, what can you say about a plume of smoke caused by a plane intentionally flown into a symbol of American might? It was there.

When I went back inside, the South Tower had fallen, and I’m not sure it even registered. Around this same time, there were reports flying around local and national news that included the phrases, “the Mall is in flames,” “explosions on Capitol Hill,” and “car bomb outside the State Department.” That last one freaked me out the most. I was 7 blocks from the State Department building. Then I started hearing reporters contradicting the earlier reports, “Aaron, I’m standing outside the Capitol building, which is being evacuated, and I can tell you that there is not a fire here on Capitol Hill right now...” things of that sort. It started getting confusing.

I went back outside, and started to see the results of DC’s ill-conceived evacuation plans. Nothing was moving. M Street was completely stopped. A couple of DC police came by on motorcycles, preferring the sidewalks to the gridlocked streets. I tried calling my mom again. Still no luck. I tried my brother again... success! Except he didn’t pick up. So I left him a message, telling him to call Mom as soon as he got the message and let her know that I was in DC and was OK, and that I would call her as soon as I could get a call out. I somehow got a call from the girl I was dating at the time. She just wanted to make sure I was okay, and to tell me she was in Bethesda and watching TV just like everyone else. The Windham across the street had completely evacuated, as there was a building behind it that might have held some significance to people with a penchant for flying planes into buildings with significance. It was about this time that I started thinking about everything... about how easy it would be for someone to drop something particularly virulent into the Potomac, or for someone to drop a few briefcases around town and level just about everything inside the beltway, and that’s when it hit me: Everything was changing, right now, as I – and the school kids from New Jersey who were walking around care-free with their tour group on Monday morning, and the guys in the stuffy suits who seemed a little less stuffy to me that Tuesday afternoon – as we were all watching it happen, literally, before our eyes.

Then the news started flying in like a blur. All airports shut down, all bridges into DC closed, federal buildings being evacuated left and right (hence the insane traffic jams in town), the North Tower falls, someone walked in and had just been past the State Department, where a car bomb had *not* gone off, another plane down in PA, Air Force One is a target, White House people running out of the building. And the conference, inexplicably, went on. The start of the breakfast event was pushed back to 12:30, but it went on nonetheless. The AV crew had ushered in a host of TVs all tuned to the local NewsChannel 8, who had a number of cameras on the rescue efforts ongoing at the Pentagon. Lunch was had, opinions expressed among those dining, and the sound guy gave me a headset with a feed from the TV so I could follow the news.

Peter Lynch eventually got up, gave a 20-minute statement about how to stay strong in the face of the current economic uncertainty, then stepped aside when the Bush video from Barksdale came on.

After the luncheon, the rest of the conference events were cancelled. Most of the attendees were staying in the hotel, but everyone who wasn’t staying there was being asked to leave. I packed up what equipment I could, then convinced the hotel staff to let me stay until the roads got clearer. I watched TV, slowly packed my stuff up, watched TV some more, went back outside and finally got through to Mom, who was very worried, looked down 22nd at the plume again. Then, as the traffic started clearing out, started seeing those caravans that became a common sight in the week that would follow – two motorcycles, a cruiser, several ominous-looking black cars or vans, and then a few more cycles or cruisers, all producing an astounding amount of siren noise. Then, around 4:00, even those had stopped being so frequent, and I decided it was time to leave DC.

It took an hour to get home (it normally takes about 20 minutes), after being detoured off 14th Street, then off of K Street, then off of 3rd. I eventually made it to the 9th Street tunnel and got on 395. And as I rounded the corner by the Jefferson Memorial and got onto the 14th Street Bridge, I saw the image that will always be burned into my brain.

The Pentagon is a really, really big building. The first time you see it in person up close, from Washington Boulevard, or 27, or 395, you almost miss it because you know what the Pentagon looks like... how many aerial photos had you seen of the Pentagon before the 11th? You think you know what to expect, but when you’re actually looking at it, you almost miss it because your field of focus is expecting something considerably smaller than what you encounter. As I got onto the bridge, what I saw was, in the most literal sense, awesome.

The side that was hit was the side that faces away from DC, so the fire was completely obscured to me by the rest of the building. But the unbelievable amount of smoke just pouring and pouring and pouring out of the far side and going up into the air for what seemed like thousands of feet. It was the first time I can honestly say I saw smoke billow. And here it was, almost eight hours after the fire started, still raging completely out of control.

I did get home safe, and returned calls from all of my concerned friends and family who’d left messages through the day, and just attempted to absorb everything that was going on.

Things have, despite everyone’s protestations to the contrary at the time, returned to normal around here. The roadblocks are gone for the most part (except around the Capitol and White House). I keep wondering when things actually started returning to normal, when we all sort of let our breath go after holding it, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think it was on October 19. It was the first time I heard someone blow a horn at someone else while stuck in traffic. It seems like a small thing, but it’s really important to remember that in those days right after the 11th, we all became really acutely aware of the value of the random people who provide the background to our lives, that they all had stories as boring and dramatic and important to themselves as we did, and we gave them the benefit of the doubt. For instance, I was in a minor accident on September 12. Traffic was just really screwy on that morning, and I took one of my bailout routes off the beltway on the way out to work. I’d picked up as many newspapers as I could find that morning, and I briefly glanced over at the one on top, the USA Today, when I realized that the traffic in front of me had slowed dramatically for a red light that I hadn’t seen change to yellow. So I ended up bumping the guy in front of me. We stopped, both got out of our cars, inspected for damage, saw there was none (I hit him only a little harder than you might bump a car while trying to parallel park into a too-small space), shook hands, wished each other a good day, and were back in our cars before the light turned green. On September 10, that incident would not have happened without much overwrought to-do. And there’s only a small likelihood that it would happen today. I like that things have gone back to normal, in some ways, but there were some things that came out of the 11th that were really positive, things that helped to restore my waning faith in humanity.

The end of this story has two parts. First, I think that if you saw the smoke, or passed through an intersection in DC where the National Guard had stationed themselves, or knew someone in the Pentagon, or even drove past it on 27 before the façade went back up, I think that qualifies you as a bona fide resident of the DC area. The other part is that, despite the vigorous return of the routine, I still have dreams about the towers falling, the people falling before them, and the fire, and the fear. But mostly the fear. It’s not every day, but it’s still there. And a small part of my brain gets preoccupied, as I drive past the Ritz Carlton, or National Airport, or the Pentagon, what day on the calendar will be plucked from utter obscurity and laid out to bask in complete infamy.

Jason Milner | 29 | Virginia

#1203 | Tuesday, April 23rd 2002
I'm only 13, but the Sept. 11th Attacks have affected me greatly. I can, and always will, remember where I was when I first heard about the attacks. I was in English class, and I was in the first row, seat closest to the loudspeaker. I can never write down the terror and anger that I felt when I heard that message. I was very afraid for my father's life, because he works up in D.C., just one block from Capital Hill. Therefore, I almost fell over crying that me Dad might die. Though, who am I to say that I was afraid, when people were being killed by those bloody Muslims. After the attacks, our school had a prayer service begging God to help us. I was chosen as one of the readers, and I had an almost impossible time reading all of my part. Though, I still did it. These evil men were bad, but they brought the country together as one. In conclusion, I will NEVER forget where I was the day of Sept. 11th. "So my follow Americans I say to you, let's roll". (George W. Bush, and the brave men on the flight 93.)
William McKenna | 13 | Virginia

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