#474 | Thursday, December 13th, 2001
It was my roommate who woke me up and broke the news to me; I remember walking out of my bedroom and staring at the television in shock. I couldn't believe this had happened; nobody had launched an attack like this on the American mainland in a long time, if ever. I quickly dressed and watched numbly until it was time to go to work; I was worried about my sister, who goes to school in NYC, and my aunt who works for the DOD (I would later find out much to my relief that my sister's classes didn't start until the next day, so she was still at home in the Bronx rather than at school in Manhatten; my aunt was about 5 miles from the Pentagon teaching when it happened).
At work, a makeshift antenna had been strung from the television in the conference room allowing us to get reception of the local news; for the next few days, techs such as myself would sit in the conference room to watch the news, while barely keeping an eye on the incoming calls using laptops. When it came time for my class, a political science one, the entire class period was taken up with sharing the "latest word" and discussing what happened.
I've never been much of a newshound, but my eyes were glued to CNN for the rest of that week. If anything could get apathetic Americans to sit up and follow news and world politics, this was it. I just pray that this does not lead into World War 3...
Adam Durham | 20 | Texas

#475 | Thursday, December 13th, 2001
I was sitting at work, listening to the radio, when the first newsbits came. At first, the newsman said that a small plane hit one of the WTC buildings. They went to a commercial, and when they came back, we were informed that while the cameras were on the first attack, a second plane hit. I remember thinking at first that something went wrong with navigational systems and air traffic controllers, like some horrible virus. Then they broke in to say that a plane hit the Pentagon. I live in Baltimore, so that immediately hit too close for my comfort. Then there were reports of planes going down just north of us, in Pennsylvania. I started to be afraid. I didn't really know what to think. My office was going crazy. I tried to be the cooler head. I calmed people down and tried to talk sense to them. Eventually, my company told us that we could go home. I picked up my mother from work and drove her home, and then went home to my wife. I sat and watched CNN until I couldn't stand seeing the second plane crash another moment. I felt like I was going to vomit. I held my feelings together for a few days. I remember watching wrestling on TV that thursday. They started out by saying that we would not give in. We would not just roll over and play dead. They spoke the words that we have to live by. Then a singer performed our national anthem. And there I was...sitting in my living room with my dog, and I just started to cry. I cried for about an hour that night.

Several days later, I heard an airplane fly over our neighborhood, in the middle of the night. I jumped up out of a deep sleep, and ran to the window. I don't know what I would have done if it had been coming down, but I had to see. I had to be able to reassure my family that everything was ok. Now, 2 months later, I have the same nightmare every night. I am at the ocean or on a cruise ship, or something like that. I can look out my window and see the water. I see a plane blow up and fall into the water. Even though I wake up in a cold sweat, I know that it is only a dream.

I am relieved to say that I did not personally know anyone who was killed in these attacks. Nor do I know anyone who was related to one of the victims. It doesn't change the fact that this was horrible.

These people were living their lives. We should do no less. This simple act will not only honor their memory, but it will ensure that their unwitting sacrifice will not be in vain.

God Bless America!
Charles Ackerman | 27 | Maryland

#476 | Thursday, December 13th, 2001
I was at work. At around 9:15am, my mother phoned me very upset, she told me that the World Trade Center had been hit by 2 planes. My whole chest felt as if it had caved in. One of my closest and dearest friends worked for Cantor-Fitzgerald. He had been there during the 1993 bombing. He was there on Sept 11th as well, just returned from vacation the week before as a matter of fact. I was planning on calling him during lunch to see how it had gone. His marriage was not going well at all, and I was hoping he had had a good time, made some progress...I could barely speak when I heard the news.

I snapped on all the radios in the office. Everyone gathered around as we listened to what was happening. I work for a construction company, so a lot of the guys were trying to make light of it. But when the third plane hit the Pentagon...all nervous humor ended abruptly.

I tried calling my friend, Steve, on his cell...of course I could not get through. I needed to know something. I could not call his wife, she did not know of our friendship. We had been friends for over 20 years and he didn't think she would understand, so his wish was not to tell her (yes, I disagreed), but it was his way of protecting our relationship...we were very close and had survived a lifetime of changes. But because of his choice here, I had no one to call. Then out of nowhere, I remembered the address where he grew up. His mother still lived there. I quickly dialed information, got her number and called her immediately.

She knew right away who I was, and though I hadn't seen her in 18 years, it was like we just spoke yesterday. She had heard nothing. I asked if I could call her later and if she would let me know if she hears anything...I gave her my number and I let her go in case someone was trying to call her.

Then, glued to the radio, it was announced that the towers were collapsing. That was it, I crumbled, knowing there was no way in hell anyone could survive that. I didn't have to see it on the television...I knew...it was done and Steve was gone. He was on the 103rd floor. Back in 1993, he told me it took him 3 hours to get out of that building. The girls in the office came running in, knowing I had a close friend that worked there. They just kept holding me and stuffing tissues in my hand. It was awful. I was not comfortable there, I didn't know my co-workers very well.

My boss, another long-time friend of mine wasn't in the office. She called in, a few minutes later in a panic, just finding out herself. She knew Steve as well. I had taken her to his house years ago when we were in college together. She was a wreck.

We left work early and I went home to watch the whole thing on the news. I just couldn't believe my eyes...the devastation, the immense loss...the absolute terror all those thousands of people must have felt. So many. I just sat there numb, not really believing what I was seeing...it was like a movie, so surreal. Seeing this in this country was something I never thought would happen. Each replay of the attack felt like I was being shot in the heart.

I checked in with Steve's mother every day. On Thursday, 2 days after the attack...I cracked, I wasn't ready to mourn, I wasn't ready to let go of hope yet. I couldn't fight it anymore. This man who had been an intregal part of more than half my life was gone...this man I cherished more than I even knew, was gone. I crashed heavily. I almost couldn't bear the pain. And even then, I would continuously check the survivor sites, to see if he would pop up. And out of nowhere, there was his name...loud and clear on a site people were using without confirmation...like someone saw him wandering around and submitted his name to say he was okay.

I was completely ELATED. I immediately phoned his mother...no one answered. Naturally, I felt they had heard and were off to NYC to get him. So, I waited, and watched the news...hearing more and more how Cantor-Fitzgerald was the hardest hit, how some of the survivor sites could not be trusted. I began to get nervous. I tried calling her again and a friend of hers answered, they had heard nothing...and saw his name as well on the list. My heart plunged again. I was done...and exhausted. From that point on, I was leveled out. I couldn't rock n roll like that anymore.

For the next few weeks, I mourned my dear friend slowly, little by little...lighting candles for him, talking to him at night before bed...remembering all he meant to me, writing, drawing...working the pain away. I spoke to his mother, who is a Saint, she validated me...listened and shared with me. My admiration of her goes beyond words. My heart goes out to his daughter, she will never know the pure soul of her father...his laugh, or his smile...the things that made him bigger than life, though I'm sure he passed them on to her.

I attended his memorial service. There were at least 1000 people there that he had touched in his life. And I was there knowing that there were hundreds of services going on for all of the people lost that day...so many souls taken in an instant. So many people mourning the loss, frightened about the future, furious over the cowardice and selfishness of the perpetrators of this vicious crime on humanity.

I will never forget that day...I feel it all the time, every time I see a photo of the Twin Towers, every time I think of him, see his phone number and email address that I can't seem to erase or delete, every time I see a Motorcross race on television, every time I think of my last moment with him. We hugged for a very long time...saying nothing...just holding eachother, knowing we'd be there for one another during the rough times and the good times till we grew old. We knew that, probably more than most married people know that...it was a unique relationship very few men and women have, though probably should. It was the purest I had ever known and probably will never have again.

He told me once the next lifetime would be ours...and that we won't pass it by again. I wonder about this often, and feel that when I face my own death, it will give me comfort to know he will be there for me, as he always had been throughout my life...and me for him. He has always been my Light.

Peace, Steve ~ I Love you, all ways.
Danielle | 36 | New Jersey

#477 | Thursday, December 13th, 2001
My name is Rich Wiet and I live in Elgin, Ill. I work in Addison Ill. for UPS as a PC technician. We had just started our day like we always do, listening to the radio. We first heard that a small plane had crashed into the WTC and we didn't think much of it. Of course, events unfolded rather quickly after that. Since we were technician, we had all kinds of access to the Internet. Work kind of stopped that day, and my friend Ken and myself pretty much surfed the web looking for info while we kept the News Radio station on. I remember commenting on how slow Internet connections were getting. This could only mean a huge increase in traffic. My boss knew what we were doing but he just closed his office door. I imagine he was doing what we were doing. We noticed a lot of false information coming out of our various sources. News travels fast, but not always accurately. After work I went home and watched CNN until I couldn't stay up any longer. I felt very depressed for days, for a lot of reasons I won't get into here. I was outraged, and saddened. I hope we can get the world we were in back or win this damn thing against Terrorism and get on with life. On our side we let Terrorists get away with far too much for far too long. On their side, I understand that your way of life may not be the best, and there is nothing wrong with wanting more, but, historically, Terrorism has never really worked. It just produces a lot of dead human beings.
Rich Wiet | 42 | Illinois

#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

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