#291 | Monday, November 26th, 2001
I was out sick from work that day. My wife came in from taking the kids to school and told me that a plane had hit the WTC... we turned the TV on and I watched it non-stop that whole day.

When I started watching the 2nd tower hadn't yet been hit, so I saw the 2nd plane hit in real time. It was amazing and almost incomprehensible to see such incredible things happening and to know they were real and happening right then to real people.

Then hearing of the country-wide grounding of all air traffic, the Pentagon attacks and that there might be more planes up with hijackers just kept things in a state of uncertainty, yet feeling that this was really happening to *all* of us together.

My longer-term reaction would take some more time and thought... I am generally proud of how most people in the USA and the world seem to be rising against this type of action and standing together. The incredible responses from even small children or traditional enemies have brought me to tears many times, particularly things like jews standing 'watch' around mosques and walking muslims home to make sure no-one hassles them.

I hope we get the *right* people who did this, but it's important to me that we don't harm other innocents in the process.

We also have to be careful in what liberties we give up for increased security or an increased perception of security. Many of the proposals I've seen seem to be mostly law enforcement long-time wishlist items that wouldn't really affect this situation, but are being proposed under the catch-all anti-terrorist umbrella to take advantage of people's fear and desire to do something to protect themselves...
jeff wilkinson | 36 | Maryland

#292 | Monday, November 26th, 2001
I work directly across the street from the South Tower of the WTC. On the morning of the attacks I was 2 blocks north of the WTC.

This is what I remember. Getting off the A train at Chambers Street, feeling guilty for running late. I had been busy taking care of things at the house, picking up dry cleaning, washing the dishes, and as usual I let it encroach on the time I needed to leave to get ready for work. I was reading as I walked up the stairs to the level with the token booth, a collection of John Cheever stories. I put the book away as I merged into the crowd heading downhill to the Trade Center Mall. As I walked I noticed that everyone was being turned back, that no one was allowed to head toward the mall. There were no cops or transit workers that far up that were telling people what was going on, and I heard someone say “there was a terrorist attack.” Someone asked me what was going on as we headed calmly to the stairs to the street and I said “I just heard it was a terrorist attack, but you know that’s probably a rumor – you know how easy rumors start.” No one in the subway station seemed very worried; just another day in New York, maybe there was a police action in the Mall or a bomb scare. As I was pushed up to the street with the rest of the crowd, people started to yell, “oh my God, the Trade Center!” I looked up and saw smoke billowing out of the North Tower. The smoke was dense and grey and well-shaped, almost like smoke in a movie. And in the smoke were white sheets of paper, suspended in the plumes of smoke, floating calmly like birds. I walked to the corner and looked up closer at the tower and saw that the floor where the explosion had been was on fire. In my mind I was already mitigating the number of deaths, thinking just the people who had been in very close proximity to the explosion would be effected. I thought about what I knew of the first attack and remember that almost miraculously only a few people had died. In my mind I was assessing the damage and thinking that maybe 20 or so unlucky people had been killed. I pictured the rest of the people heading down the stairs, scared but calm, prepared by the first attack and all the stories we’ve all heard to get out of the building.

I tried my cell phone. I knew that by now this would be on the news. I wanted to call my girlfriend or someone at work and tell them I was alright. I dialed her pager a couple of times and realized my service was out. I looked up at the smoking Tower and realized the antennas must have been affected. I decided to walk to work, to use the phone there and find out what was going on and make sure everyone was ok. People around me were stopping and staring. I heard someone say that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I didn’t know if I should believe them, and immediately pictured a small two-person plane veering inexplicably off course.

As I headed down the block, a loud explosion sounded overhead. I know now it was the second plane hitting the South Tower. I’ve heard other people say that it was the loudest explosion they’d ever heard. To me it sounded almost muffled, it sounded far away. I knew it was a big explosion by the quality of the sound, but my first emotion wasn’t panic or fear, it was sadness. I thought it was a secondary explosion triggered by the first incident. Before I could synthesize this thought much further, I realized debris was flying down at me through the air. Everyone started to run and scream. I was on a side street and I was one of only a few people who had been standing on that particular side walk. I ran toward the corner, thinking I should get into the Hallmark store on Church Street. I saw big chunks of glass flying down at me, and the streets were covered in glass and pieces of building. My mind couldn’t put together how this far away explosion could have caused all this debris to rain down around us. Finally I made my way to the corner, ran past the Hallmark and into a building lobby. Maybe a minute had passed since I had heard the explosion.

The lobby of the building I had run into was sloped down; it felt like I had run into a bunker. It was cool and dark and filled with people just like me, looking for a safe place to hide from whatever was happening on the streets outside. I found a place to lean against next to a woman who was mopping her forehead with a tissue and breathing heavily. I asked her if she was ok, and she said yes, that she had been hit in the back with a piece of building, but that she felt ok. She had left her inhaler at home that morning though and was having a hard time catching her breath. On the other side of me was a hysterical woman with a cane and a heavy Staten Island accent, telling no one in particular that “God had been with her” and that she nearly been hit by a building, and was this lobby safe? Was it safe to stay here? I tried to calm her down, concerned that she would get other people more upset. She slowly calmed down. People all around us were trying their cell phones over and over again. We heard rumors that two planes had hit the Towers. I didn’t know if I should believe them. People were incredibly calm, helping one another, trying to figure out what to do. Finally a cop came and told us we should all leave the building, that the area was being evacuated, that we should walk north. We were all scared to leave; we’d heard rumors that there had been bombs throughout downtown.

I walked out onto the street. People were walking north, stopping and looking overhead, stunned. Some people had disposable cameras and were taking pictures of the smoking towers. I just wanted to get to a phone to call my family and let them know I was ok. The feeling of walking north with the crowd, all of us deeply in shock was beyond words. I walked by what I now know was the engine to one of the planes, sitting in the middle of Church Street, cordoned off by yellow police tape. In one of the stores nearby I saw a small group of injured people who had been hit by the debris and were getting medical attention. I walked by the Federal Building and felt a wave of fear; I just wanted to get somewhere populated by anonymous businesses and shorter buildings. Every pay phone had a huge line since no cell phones were working. The further north I walked the more people were gathered around cars with their radios turned on, listening to the news, stunned. That’s how I hear the Pentagon had been hit. Everything I did felt insubstantial, meaningless, possibly dangerous. I can’t explain it. It felt ridiculous to be wandering the streets as NY and DC were being attacked. But there was nothing else I could do.

I finally found an available payphone in Soho. I started to call work, somehow thinking that they would still be there. I realize now that it was completely illogical of me to think my coworkers would still be at work after two terrorist attacks right outside our windows. I then realized I could call my girlfriend’s mother collect, yet as I was dialing I saw people running and screaming. I dropped the phone and started to run, sure that another attack was occurring. As I rounded the corner I realized that people were running to see the South Tower collapse. The South Tower is directly across the street from my office. My mind went blank. I didn’t feel sorrow or horror. I just felt totally shut down. I kept walking North. I found a payphone with a line of 10 people and decided that I had to stand and wait to call someone. As I was waiting in line I saw the North Tower collapse. People stood on the street crying. Others just stood there looking blank and helpless. People didn’t know what to do. They wanted to talk to each other, but no one knew what to say. I finally got my girlfriend’s mother on the phone, told her I was ok and asked her to call my family and my girlfriend and let them know I was ok. I walked to a friend’s apartment in Chelsea, and spent a few hours there watching the news and trying to figure out how to get back home to Brooklyn.

That afternoon I decided to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. From my friend’s house that is about a 2 hour walk. I headed south and east, knowing that much of lower Manhattan was closed. I was directed through many detours in the confusing streets of Chinatown by various cops, and finally walked over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn. It was an eerie walk; the skyline was filled with smoke, people stood on the bridge quietly taking pictures. The whole way across I was petrified the bridge would be bombed, even though logically I knew that was unlikely.

When I got into my neighborhood everything was covered in ash and the air smelled horrible. My apartment was covered with a film of ash, and even though it was warm out I had to shut the windows to close out the terrible smell. I checked my machine and found 16 messages from worried family and friends. It was only then that I started to realize how terrible this all was. I started making phone calls, and it felt like days before I called everyone back. My girlfriend is a health care professional and had expected to be held at her hospital for a day or two to take care of the victims; sadly after her 8 hour shift she was sent home, there was nothing left to do.

We only had one station of TV for a week or two, and we sat glued to it every chance we could. I started to feel like I couldn’t go outside. I wouldn’t sit with my back to a window due to an irrational fear that a bomb would hit outside the window and injure me. Every plane overhead put me on edge. My family was terrified for me; I spoke to them many times a day, all of us crying, our nerves raw. I found out that all my coworkers were ok, but that they had escaped our building only 15 minutes before the collapse and had seen terrible things that none of them will talk about. An acquaintance lost her husband who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. She has two young girls.

Two and a half months later it still feels too soon to really analyze how these attacks have affected my life. I’m not sure yet how it has changed us as a city, but I do know I’ve never felt as proud of New Yorkers as I have in these terrible weeks. We are still here, living our lives despite the very real fear of future attacks. We look out for one another. We joke and kid and try our hardest to find our way back to the normal happy chaos of NY life. Yet there is not a day that goes by that I don’t replay that morning in my head. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of all the lives that were lost.
J. Arseneault | 31 | New York

#293 | Monday, November 26th, 2001
September 11th will be hard to ever forget. I was at my desk at work. I don't remember what I was doing, but I had Howard Stern's show in the background on the radio. I wasn't paying close attention to it, but at the same time, that I heard him speaking about a plane having hit one of the towers, one of my co-workers rang me on the phone. She said "did you hear what just happened?" She knows that I'm originally from NY and a "New Yorker remains a New Yorker" whereever they go so she thought of phoning me. I tried to sign on to the news sites on the internet and everything was down. At around that time, I heard Howard mention a second plane hitting the towers. Then I called my husband who was still home since he goes to work later in the day. Speaking with him was even more scarier than all I had just heard. He was sobbing on the phone (this from a man I have never seen cry), describing how he had woken up and turned the tv on in time to see the second plane hit and both towers engulfed in flames. I wanted to sob too but being at work I had to hold back my feelings. I didn't have a tv in my office but kept up with the news over the radio until finally the last tower fell. Tears streamed down my cheeks when I realized that the city skyline I had known all of my life was now gone forever. My boss and a few others came out of their offices, everyone with teary eyes. We went down the hall to another office that had television and watched some of the coverage. I finished my day of work at 5 and stopped at my church for their 5:30 mass. It felt like at least I was doing something to help, if only through my prayers. That night I was transfixed in front of the tv, watching that sad night in our history unfold, and knowing that nothing ever will be the same again.
Marlen LaBianco | 39 | Florida

#294 | Monday, November 26th, 2001
We were on vacation in California. We happened to turn on the radio to get a weather report in the morning - hadn't bothered to listen to the news for more than a week. The tower had been hit and as we listened the second tower was hit. Then the road curved down into a valley and we couldn't receive radio any more.

We discussed the disaster and expected consequences, and agreed to go on with the mountain adventure. We parents dropped our 20 year old off for a week of solo backpacking, then drove back out, to where we could hear the news (towers collapsing), and on all day, so we would be in position to do our backpacking and meet the 20 year old.

I was glad to be up the trail, watching the stars come out, and sleeping in the open air.

We passed a week in isolation, realizing that there were no jets flying overhead for several days. As we hiked out to the car, we met clean people coming up the trail and realized that travel and life was getting back to normal. The reunion with the succesful solo hiker was sweet.

I'm just as glad to have missed the inexorable news reports of the first few days. In the two months since, I have completed training as a First Aid instructor and contributed generously to political office campaigns of a couple of people I know and trust.
Anne | 48 | California

#295 | Tuesday, November 27th, 2001
Sept 11 th , A day that changed the world.I am a resident of UK, Whilst it happened in your country, the shockwaves were felt around the world and no more so than here in England. I had been working the night before and woke, putting the Tv on. The sight that filled my screen will live with me for ever.I dont think i moved from that seat for the next 5 or 6 hours.
My heart goes out to the families of those that lost relatives and loved ones on that day.
My pride at the bravery of those rescue workers who went into the towers to help people knowing that they would most proberly never get out is immense.
Standing side by side with America as we have on so many times in the past, we feel your sorrow and grief.
God bless you all
Darryl Burgess | 44 | United Kingdom

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