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Where were you on 9/11? These responses are heart-wrenching

‘Those words have haunted me for the past 20 years, as I don’t know the name of the employee or whether the person survived.’

In this file photo, you see a view of the Manhattan skyline after a terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. A lone spectator watches the unfolding scene from a safe vantage point.
In this file photo, you see a view of the Manhattan skyline after a terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. A lone spectator watches the unfolding scene from a safe vantage point. (Corbis via Getty Images)

Were you in school? At work? Traveling? Out at the store? We wanted to know: Specifically, we asked about where you were when you learned of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

And boy, are these answers ever heart-wrenching.

There’s still time to drop us a response, by the way, if you feel like it might be therapeutic. Just look for the form at the bottom of this news article (linked).

We’ll drop it below, as well.

We’ll leave you with the following responses, which, at times were edited for clarity, grammar and length.


“I was flying Delta to NYC from Detroit on the morning of 9/11. On the approach to LaGuardia, my traveling companion, who had never been to the Big Apple, said, ‘Look. There’s a building on fire.’ I said, ‘That’s the World Trade Center!’ Still with no news, we landed and caught a cab for Manhattan. We had no concrete info, but knew something was not right. Arriving at the Midtown tunnel, we were turned back. By this time, the driver’s transistor radio hanging from the rear-view mirror provided enough information to know NYC just experienced a terrible disaster. We instructed the cab to take us back to the Hertz location at LaGuardia, and saw the long line of customers waiting to snag a rental. Luckily for us, I was a Hertz Gold member, which had no line at all, giving us an advantage to grab one of the remaining rental cars and trek back to Detroit. Getting out of the NYC area took a very long time to navigate. From the airport, the drive south directly along the East River in snarled traffic held us up for hours as the smoke and ash from the disaster crossed the water and filled the air.” -- Roger

“As a senior in high school, I vividly remember walking into my second-period math class and seeing chaos on the TV. I thought someone had turned on the movie ‘Independence Day.’ Later, we watched as Ashleigh Banfield reported live from Ground Zero as the second tower collapsed behind her. Our school went on lockdown because no one understood what was going on. Later that night, I sat in the hot tub outside with my mom and we talked about how eerie it was that we didn’t see any plane lights in the sky like usual.” -- Anonymous

“I worked in D.C., near the Capitol, and was on the Metro train underneath the Pentagon, headed to the airport, when the Pentagon was hit. I was 49 at the time. The train continued to Reagan Airport, where I exited and saw the thick black smoke rising from the Pentagon. It reminded me of the smoke you see when a bunch of tires are burned. The airport was being evacuated and we were put back on the train and told to get off at the Pentagon City Mall, which was across the highway from the Pentagon, which was now being evacuated. I witnessed hundreds of people in uniform and civilian clothes running from the Pentagon. Just about everyone in D.C. was also getting out of the area -- it was mass chaos. After a couple of hours, I just took my suitcase and started walking home to my place in Arlington, and was offered a ride along the way by a nurse in a pickup truck.” -- Anonymous

Smoke pours from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center after they were hit by two hijacked airliners in a terrorist attack Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. (Getty Images)

“Senior year, we were changing between first- and second-period classes. I feel like as part of the class of 2002, we have a very unique experience. We all had so many plans and were living in a completely different world of possibilities. That quickly, we became people who had signed up for the military, wondering what that meant and not being able to back out, (or) other people deciding to join the military and abandoning their plans, and the rest of us trying to figure out where we fit and what our purpose was. During first-period classes, everything was about college dorms and first loves. By second period, it was about guns and bombs and death.” -- Anonymous

“I was teaching reading at an elementary school in Stamford, Connecticut, about 30 miles northeast of NYC. My principal closed my classroom door and taped a note to the window, reading, ‘New York City is under terrorist attack. Lock your classroom door and don’t let any students leave.’ I was alone in my room without any students at the time, so I went to the office to see how I could help. I was asked to go to the media center and watch the news and then report back (cellphones and computers were not equipped for minute-by-minute news like they are now). I watched the first tower fall. I watched the second plane hit the second tower and I watched in horror as that one fell, too. I spent the rest of my day at work picking up children from their classrooms and bringing them to the office where they were being picked up by terrified parents. We didn’t call down to the classrooms as we normally would, because we were trying not to let the children know what was happening. My own son was in school with me, and I remember peeking into his classroom time and time again throughout that day, just to make sure he was OK. When I finally got home that afternoon, I could see the smoke rising from where the towers once stood. One of the most eerie things about that day was how quiet the sky was. There were no commercial planes in the sky. Living as close as we did to New York, we constantly had planes flying overhead. The sky was so silent that day, except for the flyovers of the fighter jets circling the city. I’ll never forget the silence. A month later I went into the city for dinner for my birthday. I was struck by the fact that I could still smell the towers smoldering. I’ll never forget that smell. I was lucky not to lose any family members, however, there are numerous friends of mine who did. Someone I graduated high school with died that day. All these years later, it is still difficult.” -- Becki

“I lived in Riverdale, a community next to Manhattan College, in the hills by the Hudson, overlooking Manhattan. My husband was a medical resident at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. I first saw the attack on Tower 1 on TV. I had to step outside to my balcony to make sure what I saw on TV was real. While outside, I witnessed the second tower attacked. It dawned on me that this was not an accident. My first thought was my son. He went to PS 24. I rushed to the school, literally ran there and picked him up. I also told the teachers that the towers were down. Immediately after I left, the authorities declared a state of emergency. The other kids stayed in school for hours, because movement was restricted by the Army and the school went into lockdown. My husband stayed at the hospital for days. They were expecting an influx of patients from Ground Zero. However, after awhile, they realized nobody would show up. There were thousands of casualties, but few survivors.” -- Anonymous

One of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers collapses after it was struck by a commercial airliner Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. (Getty Images)

“I was 5 years old, sitting on the couch with my mom, and I knew something was wrong, but didn’t fully understand.” -- Mary

“I was working for Morgan Stanley in their Houston office. We had a payroll issue, so I had to make a call to our Morgan Stanley office in the World Trade Center 2 building in New York. While I was on the phone with a payroll employee, the WTC 1 building was hit by the first plane. The employee exclaimed, ‘Oh my God, something happened, the building is falling apart!’ Those words have haunted me for the past 20 years, as I don’t know the name of the employee or whether the person survived.” -- Linda

“I was on a plane flying from Madrid, Spain into Newark. After about three hours, the pilot announced that the USA air traffic control system was shut down due to suspected terrorist activity. Less than an hour later, the plane turned around and flew back to Madrid. I went to a hotel and sat on the end of my bed and watched a rerun of the planes hitting the Twin Towers. It took me about an hour to get through to my wife to let her know that I was OK and still in Spain. Three days later, I landed on one of the first flights to arrive in Newark. The view of the column of smoke coming up from the wreckage is something I will never forget.” -- Anonymous

“I was working at the Wisconsin State Capital as a legislative aide. I remember driving in that morning and listening to the radio. The first plane had just struck, and it was seen as an accident. By the time I made it into the office, the confusion started. I believe I called my fiancé, who was still at home, to tell him. He turned the TV on, and suddenly, the second plane slammed into the second tower. It was mass confusion because no one really understood what was going on. As the morning went on, there was the Pentagon and the other downed plane. It was terrifying to be in a government building that day, and by about 1 p.m., the Speaker of the House shut the building down and sent whoever was there home. Here I was, 24 years old and terrified, because we didn’t know what were targets. The next few days were very surreal. Barriers were set up all around the building and only employees were allowed in. I honestly didn’t know what to tell constituents as they called in. My heart broke into a million pieces.” -- Rebecca

Smoke pours out of the World Trade Center after the Twin Towers were struck by two planes during a terrorist attack Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. (Getty Images)

“I was in NYC visiting my parents. My younger brother, Keith Roma, called to say a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, and his fire company was responding. He never made it home. They recovered his remains on Christmas Eve. We spent the day listening to the fire radio and watching the news.” -- Maureen

“I was asleep in Taylor, Michigan, when my roommate came bursting in the door screaming that we were under attack -- this was just after the first plane hit. I turned on the news and was watching coverage when the second plane hit. It was my day off, but I worked at Denny’s by Metro Airport and they called me in. Walking to work, it was the most quiet Romulus had ever been in my life. So eerie. Waiting tables that day, you could see the fear in customers’ and coworkers’ eyes. Each time a plane had to be brought in for a landing, you could see everyone stop and tense up.” -- Amanda

“I was in the fourth grade, 9 years old, in Queens. We saw the second tower fall from our school window. One by one, kids were getting taken out of school. My father worked in Manhattan at the time. All public transport was shut down, so he walked home -- it took him well over 12 hours to get home. He didn’t have a cellphone at the time, so we weren’t sure if we would ever see him again. For weeks afterward, the sky was cloudy. It was a terrifying time. I was old enough to know what was happening, but not really sure why. My uncle’s girlfriend also died that day.” -- Anonymous

“I was 21 and living in NYC. I had just moved out there. Both of my cousins and friends had left our apartment early that morning. It was around 9 a.m. and I was brushing my teeth when my phone rang. It was my uncle asking me what was going on there. I had no idea until that moment when I turned on my TV. It was so scary. I was able to get a cab and head to work to be with my friends there, since I couldn’t get ahold of my family. We all tried calling each other, but phone lines were down. Eventually, we all met back at our apartment. We all hugged, cried and thanked God that we were still alive. The city had such an eerie feeling, however, most restaurant and bars were packed with people consoling each other. On such a sad day, it was a beautiful sight. The city will never be the same. I will never be the same. We will never forget.” -- Anonymous


About the Author:

Michelle is the Managing Editor of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which writes for all of the company's news websites.