#861 | Sunday, March 10th, 2002
I was sitting in my livingroom watching the Today show. The first tower had already been hit and was burning, this sort of serene lacey black smoke. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric making speculations in a seemingly unfazed manner, muttering it almost seemed, but almost instantaneously the mood changed. I had gotten my infant son latched on to my breast so he could nurse when the second plane appeared from the lower right-hand corner. I think I heard them screaming before they hit, and then silence. The impact of the plane hitting the tower seemed unreal, the shower of sparks, the black flame and then orange starbursts, it seemed like a really well-done action sequence from a film. I was in such an intimate, private moment with my baby in the livingroom of my home in Colorado and just had just witnessed the violent annihilation of hundreds of innocent lives. The incongruity of the scene could not escape my attention.

But I knew it wasn't a movie when I heard Matt Lauer groan on the television. That is a sound that for as long as I live will never forget. The guttural, grey, horrified sound of breath yanked out of person's body, without intent. Our body's manner of self-preservation, of comprehension of the incomprehensible. That sound of shared humanity and shared disbelief. I thought at first, oh the plane got lost in the smoke, how can that have happened two times in such a short period of time? Even then I knew it was improbable. But then either Couric or Lauer said, I think we can assume now that this was no accident.

My husband had just left for work. He saw the first plane's aftermath, but had left shortly before the second tower was hit. Like I did I am certain he did not comprehend the gravity of the situation. I called him incessantly on the phone, Dan there was another plane, Dan there was a plane that hit the Pentagon, Dan there was a plane...Dan the tower just collapsed...

Taking my daughter to pre-school that day, the sun was so brilliantly bright, and the mood was so bleak. Radio stations were all on newscasts and I will never forget, driving south on Lemay Ave. I passed a red sedan with a blonde woman behind the wheel, thick frizzy blonde hair. Her right hand was stuck tangled in her hair and her mouth was agape, her eyes wide. In the instant that I passed her on my way to school, she epitomized the way I was feeling but couldn't express. I don't know who she was but she is now a sister in this experience. She is a human who was rationally upset at such irrational events.

Calling Dan on the phone, his response of "Oh man", "Have they gotten the White House?"....he didn't have access to a television so he wasn't witnessing the horror as I was in living violent color. His responses were inappropriate, I felt. That evening, the sky was this gray color. We had huge grass fires in our county two summers back and the sky was this same sort of hazy grey. But there was no forest fire that day. Could it be that the fires and bloodshed and horror were to much for one state in our blessed union to handle, and God broke the bounds of weather and winds to create an atmosphere of servanthood. We must help carry the burden of these poor incapacitated cities. It was too much for Washington and Pennsylvania and NEw York to handle alone.

Dan, so excited to play softball that evening. Fuming, insisting he had to stay home and watch the news, to get a grip on what had been taking place in our nation that fateful day. "Honey, our nation is at war". Sitting on the couch yet again that evening with him at my feet, and finally his quiet response "Now I understand, I didn't know it before, but now I understand". Both of us teary-eyed at the sight of our leader telling us what we had already known and speaking words of encouragement, righteous anger and finally, hope.

God bless our nation.
Kim S. Olsen | 32 | Colorado

#862 | Sunday, March 10th, 2002
I was asleep when my mom came into my room. "Get up, Leslie is on the phone". Why in the world was my best friend Leslie calling my at 8 in the morning? "Are you watching tv? Turn on the tv,we are being attacked." she yelled into the phone. I didn't understand, what was being attacked? What was she talking about? I went into my Mom's room where she had a tv on, and I saw the smoking building. I was so confused, like everybody else was at the time I think. I couldn't figure out what was happening, what in the world was going on. My mom and I sat on her bed all morning watching the news. As the events unfolded, I bacame more and more shocked. There had to be some mistake, who or what in their right mind would dare to attack America? Things like this don't happen here. And then it hit me, Sara, another of my best friends is at NYU, where was she? Was she okay? Those hours untill I heard she was okay were horrible.When those buildings fell....I couldn't breath. I think a part of me fell apart along with them.I will never know what it feels like to have lost family on that day. But I know how my heart was crying on that day. How I was so hurt and in pain at what I was watching. I just couldn't, and still don't understand why in the world this happened. It's been 6 months now, and I am still feeling it. Maybe I don't think about it all day, every day like I did those first few weeks, but it is still with me.I can't watch a lot of new movies about war and fighting, it's too real now. It reminds me of what is going on, and I have friends in the army, it makes me think that this is what is happening to them, and I can't handle it yet. I still get that sinking feeling when I see footage on the news. But I think we need to be reminded. I think people are starting to forget what happened. Yes, we need to move on, but we can't forget. We can't let go of that feeling of loss we had. Especially in California, New York is so far away, it is easy for us to become detached from things. I hope that years from now, if someone is reading this, they can be detached from it. I hope that future generations look back and wonder what war was, and they are baffleled that things like this ever happened in the world. If in some small way my worlds can help them to see how horrible war and viloence is, even to people not directly affected, they will see how horrible it is. And hopefully, it will become a thing of the past.
Carla B. | 20 | California

#863 | Sunday, March 10th, 2002
I was in NYC with a group composed almost entirely of senior citizens, sponsored by the Tacoma (Washington) Musical Playhouse, a theater company. We were beginning a New England theater tour with three nights in NYC, with tickets for The Producers, 42nd Street and The Full Monty, and then on to several nearby states for regional theater productions. We were to leave the morning of September 13th, following a tour of the World Trade Center. On the morning of the 11th, as we were about to board our bus for a harbor tour, someone heard on the radio that a plane had hit the WTC. We all remembered the time that one of our bombers hit the Empire State Building during WW II and what a horrible accident that had been. We were sorry to hear of it happening again but headed for New York Harbor. Enroute, we passed within ½ to ¾ mile of the WTC as the 2nd plane hit. We knew immediately then that it was a terrorist attack. The sky was filling with roiling gray smoke. By the time we reached the harbor a few minutes later, we were told that all watercraft had been commandeered for evacuation and for bringing in equipment and supplies. We altered our plans then and headed north to Harlem, with a stop at Central Park for lunch. Of course, there was no place open to eat but we did find a coffee and sandwich shop busily trying to keep up with orders near the cathedral in Harlem. Leaving the park, the streets and sidewalks were clogged with people and vehicles, all heading north. All the bridges, tunnels and tracks had been closed except for outgoing traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. We spent that and the next day visiting various churches, praying. All the theaters, of course, canceled their performances. Times Square was a ghost town. All night on the 11th and all day on the 12th one could stand in the middle of the street and not see a vehicle in either direction for a mile. Only stranded tourists and a smattering of policemen were on the street. About the only things moving on the streets were emergency vehicles, with sirens blaring. It was hard to find a place to eat but there were two or three places open in the Broadway Theater District. We passed by a fire station near our hotel. Flowers and other mementoes were piling up there by early afternoon, as people began to express their grief and their thanks to emergency personnel and acknowledging the heroic actions of the firefighters and police. By the time we found St. Vincent’s Hospital, they were no longer taking blood, so there was little we could do but pray. We got out of NYC on schedule and continued our tour, coming back to Long Island a few days later. We were able to fly out of JFK on the first nonstop flight to SeaTac, as scheduled. The terminal was chaotic but none of us had any fear of flying home, though one of our number took Amtrak because of family fears for her. This is another period that shall live forever in infamy!
Bob Reilly | 66 | Washington

#864 | Sunday, March 10th, 2002
My 22 year old grandson told me what happend. I watched tv over and over and couldn't take it in. My niece had to tell me over and over what I had heard and seen for myself on the tv. I just could not process it. It took over a week before I could actually take in the enormity of the tragedy. I am on the west coast. I could not and will not ever want to see ground zero. I do not want to see photos nor hear the stories of the people who were lost.
Marianne Olguin | 61 | California

#865 | Sunday, March 10th, 2002
Living in the western US, I was still asleep when it all started. My telephone rang about 6:45 and my boyfriend said to turn on the TV. I was still half-asleep and couldn't figure out why he would call me and tell me to turn on the TV. He finally told me that terrorists had flown airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I didn't believe him. And then I thought "World Trade Center. . . didn't that get bombed a while back?"

I did turn on the TV and saw the smoke and the chaos. We talked for a while, watching the pictures and listening to the reports. Then the first tower fell - I saw it start to go and then the huge cloud of smoke and debris. At first, I thought another plane had hit or something like that - wasn't really sure what had happened. Then I realized that the tower was gone and all I could think was that I hoped everyone had gotten out. Then a few minutes later, the second tower fell. This time I knew what had happened.

By that time it was about 7:30 and I had to start getting ready for work. Even though something truly horrible had happened, life goes on and I knew there would be work to do. And I'm much better off with something to do that sitting at home, alone, watching it all on TV. The commentators had started to bug me already with their theories about who had done it and why and being so sure it was terrorists. It was too early, in my opinion, to draw any conclusions beyond the obvious facts. So I hung up the phone, turned off the TV and started getting ready for work.

About 15 minutes later, the phone rang again. It was one of my best friends. Her brother-in-law is a pilot for Northwest and her sister had called in a panic. He was flying that morning and she thought he was in the northeast. He had called the night before and she hadn't asked where he was so she really didn't know. She had called his cell phone, but there was no answer and he hadn't contacted her. I don't think we knew for sure all the airlines that were involved, but the ones we'd heard about were not Northwest. We also didn't know about the crash in Pennsylvania yet, but that was about to come out. So we talked about that for a bit and decided that he was probably OK and was busy landing his plane and would be in touch.

That scared me - I had been pretty much OK until then. I felt like all my friends and family were not in any danger, though there were a few to check on, but knowing that there was somebody flying a plane up there who hadn't been heard from was a little unnerving. I got to work and someone had brought in a little TV set and we all gathered around. But there was no new news - just a lot of re-hashing of what little was known and a lot of speculation. More information did come out through the day and it became clear that terrorists had done this.

My friend's brother-in-law was fine. He had started in Dallas that morning and was flying to Detroit. He landed his plane in Indianapolis and was stuck there for several days. All he knew before he got to his motel room was that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center and he didn't quite believe that. When he got to the motel, turned on the TV and checked his cell phone messages, he realized what had happened and started calling everyone to say he was fine.

My boss is from New York and his nephew was in the Trade Center complex in one of the other buildings. He saw people jumping and his company lost people who were in the two towers for meetings. My boss' niece was stuck in traffic in Washington, DC for several hours - they just stopped traffic and made everyone stay in their cars. She was hysterical on the phone.

The father of another friend saw it all from the roof of his apartment building in New York. Other friends in the DC area were busy finding their friends and family and explaining what had happened to their elementary school students.

I decided that there was no reason to panic. It was very important to me to keep calm and calm others down. I know that we cannot live in a culture of fear. We have to go on living our lives, crass as that may sound. If we all hunker down in our basements and never go out, the terrorists win. We cannot let the bad guys win. My boyfriend and I had considered going to DC for an event in his family in mid-October, but we didn't go. I would have gone, but he refused to fly. It turned out that the anthrax situation started that weekend right near where we would have been so it was probably best that we stayed here. I did finally fly just after Christmas and it wasn't bad at all. I still don't think that security is what it should be, but it's better than it was. I'm also not convinced that increased security will solve all the problems.

I also have spend considerable time talking with people about fear of strangers. Some of these folks were afraid of 'strangers' before. Some of them certainly are now. I firmly believe that people are inherently good. I have known many Arab/Moslem people in my life and have no fear of them at all. I have trouble understanding some of the basis for the hatred of America. Some of it I see very clearly, but to have such hatred to do something this drastic is difficult to comprehend. But then, the first revenge killing for the attacks happened in my town the weekend after when a Sikh gas station owner was gunned down by a lunatic. That's equallly difficult to comprehend.

Violence is not the solution - it just causes more violence. Fear of others is not the solution. The solution is communication and understanding by all sides. I hope that people around the world will realize this and work for peace. I'm not saying that we shouldn't fight back - there is definitely a time and a place for fighting. But it needs to be rational and based on evidence and fact, not on emotion and for revenge.

I've been pleased with President Bush's response, for the most part. Six months later, I'm a little concerned as to where we go from here. I don't think that terrorism can be wiped out, much as I hate to admit that. So I wonder what happens next. We shall see.

I also worry that we as a nation do not seem to be concerned about what we may have done to create the feelings in the rest of the world that caused the attacks. We seem to have no clue that our policies and actions can have tremendous repercussions years after the fact. I hope that we will learn about the rest of the world and try to understand why others feel the way they do - and also why we do the things we do. We can only gain from that knowledge!
Ellen | 41 | Arizona

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