I struggled to think of a way to properly address today. The events of 14 years ago still leave me just as speechless today as they did then. That’s why I shared a single photo of the 9/11 Memorial on all my social media channels today.
I had planned to leave it at that since I just couldn’t find the words. However, sometimes the words find you. I found inspiration on Facebook from a few of my friends, and I had to share. With permission, here are a few of my friends’ stories.
Aimee: “This morning, as I do on every September 11, I asked the boys what today is and why it is significant. Gavin told me he has to wear red, white and blue and asked if I got today off like the 4th of July. Brendan said it was when the bad guys drove airplanes into buildings, and Declan said it was when the first responders saved as many people as they could from dying because of terrorists crashing into the twin towers and that some people were able to save the President by taking over a plane before it could crash.
No matter how they remember, I am glad they do. Our country needs to remember, and our kids who were not even born in 2001 need to take this memory to their children. As I told my boys, we remember three things: 1) those who lost their lives and the families who miss them; 2) the heroes who did all they could, many losing their own lives in the process; and 3) the bad guys–let’s not forget them because we need to remember that they are out there and that if we don’t do all we can to work toward good, the bad guys are out there waiting for a chance to do harm. We have to remember them, too, and do all we can to make sure good wins.”
Jennifer: “So it’s been 14 years and I feel ready to tell this story. Apologies in advance if this is long or too horrible to read. I won’t be offended if you don’t.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I took the PATH train into the World Trade Center on my way to work. My company was in the Woolworth building, across the street from the WTC. I never went to work early but that day I was there to catch up on some school work before the day began. We felt our building shake when the first plane hit the World Trade Center but thought nothing of it. Then we got a phone call from some colleagues who were supposed to be at the Top of the World for the Oracle conference that day, that something awful had happened. We put on CNN and were watching when the second plane hit the WTC. At that point, we knew that this was not an accident and that we were under attack. The Woolworth building is the third tallest building in NYC and we did not feel safe staying put so we all decided to leave. I called Paul who told me to stay put but, of course, I didn’t listen. That was the last he heard from me, since all cell and phone landline signals went out afterwards.
Leaving the building was total chaos, and on the street it was even worse. There were people standing in the street crying and screaming. I remember one woman in particular who was inconsolable because she calculated that the airplane was sticking out of the building near her company’s floor and she thought all of her coworkers were probably dead. I grabbed a colleague who was visiting from Japan and had no idea what was happening, and we started to walk uptown. We tried not to look back because if you did, you saw a complete horror movie. The one time we stopped, we could see people jumping from the buildings. And all of the pieces of paper and building floating down looked like confetti against that sky. Along the way, people were truly helping each other. Taxis that couldn’t move anyway pulled over and opened their doors and windows and blasted the radio so we could get updates on what was happening. We kept a man company who was very disheveled. He had escaped from one of the towers when the plane hit. He couldn’t believe that he survived the first WTC bombings and now this. He vowed never to go back again.
Finally, we made it up to NYU, where I was attending school at night. The staff let everyone in and made the computer labs and the study labs open to whomever needed them. I had lost track of all my colleagues, except the woman from Japan. By now, all cell service was gone, and we were only able to check in via email or AOL Instant Messenger to make sure everyone was safe. That was when Paul finally heard I was ok. We watched the plane hit the Pentagon on the TV at NYU and watched the buildings fall. I was so glad that I didn’t listen and left the downtown area.
A friend of mine got in touch and graciously invited us to her apartment where I stayed for a very long day until we got word that the PATH trains were running and I could go home. Those PATH train workers probably lost quite a few friends that day but they were heroes, getting the service running again so people could finally go home to their loved ones. That colleague from Japan came home with me, since we thought her hotel was probably destroyed. She had to stay for almost a week until NEC chartered a flight to bring all of its employees home.
I know people who are far better writers could express some big life lessons that came out of this experience. I never truly felt safe after that day. Things do change in a heartbeat, and everything is temporary. I am grateful that all of my friends and colleagues made it through the day, and I am grateful to have these 14 years to get over this experience. Oh, and the other lesson learned is to listen to your gut and do what makes you feel safest. And if you wear heels to work, bring sneakers to change into.”
Please share your 9/11 thoughts in the comments.