September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack/Personal experiences

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Personal Experiences for the day September 11, 2001

Add a personal experience

Try to be specific and personal. If everyone sticks to precisely what they know to have happened in their small slice of the world, then we can piece together some sort of image of the day. For this page, try to avoid discussing in generalities or about the scope of the world at large. Stick to your patch of grass for that day, or for those days, and try to help assemble a mosaic of time.

See also In Memoriam if you have any personal memories or tributes to individual victims.

Bellevue, Washington. It was very early in the morning over here. I had just woken up when my telephone rung. I answered it and it was my step-sister, Erin, who is serving in the Airforce stationed in Saacramento, California. As she told me the horrific news, I couldn't believe it. She said she may have to go over to New York, and she wanted to tell her dad, but he wasn't there. When I hung up, I ran to the television.

I turned it on to see the horrific scene of the first plane crashing into one of the towers. Ignoring that I had school in a few hours, I sat down and watched the news. At that time, they said anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 people may have been in the towers. Of course, this number decreased as time went by. Then I saw the second plane hit, nearly live. I couldn't believe it.

When I got to school, all the students were speaking about the terrorist attack. Teachers were forced to discipline because it gfot so out of hand. Feelings of fright and vulnerability could be felt everywhere. Our principal made an announcement, and right after that, we did our pledge of allegiance--it was the first time I had ever done the Pledge of Allegiance. Before, I had never said it because I didn't believe what it said, but I felt like I had to say it, for America.

I lost my grandpa, Evan Zulch, added to the casualty list here.

Breukelen, Holland, I was working at the time, having fun. My friend walked in and told me two plaines had crashed and WTC had collapsed. I thought she was joking, but she wasn't. I went home at 18.00 (our time) afraid to watch television, afraid to find out that it was all true. 3 hours later I still couldn't believe that it was true. I couldn't sleep that night, I kept thinking about my family, who live in the USA. The following morning I remembered a poem, I don't know who is the author but I know it can give some of you the comfort they need.

memories keep those we love
close to us forever
although words seem to say so little
I hope they help in some small way
to ease the sense of loss
that you're experiencing today
hold fast to your memories
to all of the cherished moments of the past
to the blessings and the laughter
the joys and the celebrations
the sorrow and the tears
they all add up to a treasure of fond yesterdays
that you shared and spent together
and they keep the one you loved
close to you in spirit and thought
the special moments
and memories in your life
will never change.
They will always be in your heart
today and forever more...

my thoughts are with you... kim de jong

September 11th was a day of surreal chaos. It's funny the ways in which these things hit you. I wasn't struck by the magnitude of what had happened until I walked out of the battlefield wasteland that used to be the financial district and saw a makeshift blood donation center in a park. A few ambulances and gurneys. People lined up. Other people holding up handwritten signs for AB-, O+ and such. Beyond that some construction workers gather supplies, presumably for the rescue efforts. There were tables set up with fresh water and snacks for people who needed them. I saw a table in front of a fire station with a phone sitting on it and sign saying, "Need to make a phone call?" Finally I come to the police barricade set up to hold back the throngs of gawkers trying to get a closer look. It was at this point that I started wandering the streets of NYC struck by the reality that 10,000 people probably just died, close enough for me to watch it happen. Wandering the streets covered in dust, catching snatches of conversation about the fucking Arabs, noticing people looking at my dust-covered clothes.

At one point earlier in the day, I broke down crying thinking about my friend Jas. Jas works in one of the builings directly adjacent the WTC, and the very real possiblity existed that he might be dead. Jas might be dead! The thought of that was more than I could bear. (I just heard word from him about and hour ago. Thank God.)

It was another banal day at work yesterday morning. I came in about 8:35am, five minutes late again. Had a voice mail waiting for me from my boss from last night. Something that needed doing first thing in the morning. She wouldn't be coming in until later. Check my email. More drama from an exgirlfriend I thought would be a good idea to get back in touch with. Settle down to get started working. Someone comes running down the hall blabbering something about the World Trade Center and an airplane. Typical over-reaction, it's probably nothing. Regardless, I wander over the window to see what's going on and see a gaping hole in the side of the building belching flames and smoke. All I can think about is the movie Brazil. Almost all of the debris fluttering around my office building is paper, files dislodged because of the explosion. When I see the second plane buzz by my office, bank around, and smash into the other tower in a huge explosion, I feel like I'm watching a movie. Everything was in slow-motion, huge fireball, very spectacular. Watching the events on TV, complete with comentary, then seeing the actual thing out the window somehow adds to the unreality of it all.

The other people in my office are milling about confused. Should we stay and get back to work? Should we go home? I think most of the people feel the same way about it as I do, most of them prefering to watch the events on TV rather than out the window. It feels so far away even though it's so close. Sarah is fighting to hold back tears fucking terrified and babbling about how we need to get the hell out of here. I put a hand on her shoulder and tell her to go home; it's ridiculous for us to stay here. She stands transfixed by the news reports, hugging herself, holding back tears.

I go back to my desk wondering what to do. It's announced that the office is closed and we should go home. I call my dad to tell him I'm okay. I figure the worst is over. The attack is done. I'm safe. I'll wait until the chaos of people trying to get home dies down before I try to get out of there, so I talk to my dad a bit, respond to some emails from people asking if I'm alright, try to get a hold of people who might be worried about me.

Eventually, I go downstairs and outside, start smoking a cigarette. There's still a lot of people milling about in front of the building. I try to call some friends on my cell phone. All circuits are busy at this time. I'm pondering the mob in front of me when everyone starts running. No one knows where to run to. Everyone is just following everyone else. I hear people talk about how the tower has collapsed as they scurry by, and I feel a twinge of real fear thinking that the skyscraper has actually fallen over. It's tall enough that it would have fallen very close where I was. I'm not sure what to do seeing the futility of just blindly running. When I see the cloud the dust billowing towards me, I hurriedly make my way back inside.

Back in my office on the 38th floor, it's dark as night outside. The dust obscurs everything. We are all asked to gather in the 37th floor conference center. I talk to someone covered in debris. He was caught in the dust cloud trying to walk home and forced to come back to the office. Other people are relating their stories of coming out of the commuter train station in the basement of the WTC when the first plane hit. Slow trudging up the escalator turned into frantic running as rescue worker yell at people to get the hell out of there. Others are trying to figure out how to get home to New Jersey or upstate New York as much of the city's public transit and roads are shut down.

We all sit in a conference room drinking coffee and munching pastries. CNN is continually blaring on the projector TV giving constant commentary on what's happening right outside. I start crying thinking about Jas. All I want is to be among friends, drinking a beer, ignoring the reality I'm caught in, but I'm stuck in this building until the smoke clears enough outside for me to be able to breathe. I'm reminded of Burning Man, and I wish that I had the mask and goggles that were a constant accessorie out in the desert. I just want to get the fuck out of there.

People are lined up to use the phone. All circuits are busy at this time. When It's my turn, I pull out my palm pilot and try to call everyone I know. Reaching people in Idaho, Oregon, California is no problem. Reaching people in NYC is nearly impossible, but I manage to get through to a few. Everyone is relieved to know I'm still alive.

Milling about the office waiting for the dust to settle. I manage to sneak onto a computer for a bit and reply to emails from people asking if I'm okay. Everyone is eerily calm. Reality hasn't really sunk in. People are more concerned with how they're going to get home.

By 2pm the air is fairly clear, even though smoke is still rising from where the WTC once stood. I'm one of the last people to leave the office. Outside, I smoke a cigarette then tie a t-shirt from my gym bag around my face. None of the buildings where I am are damaged, but everything is covered with dust and debris. Very few people are out on the street. The entire landscape is transformed.

Walking out of the the disaster area police usher me away from the location of primary destruction, but I manage to catch a glimpse of a pile of rubble obscurred by smoke and fire. I'm in a slight state of shock. I'm just walking without any definite destination in mind.

After the blood donation center, after the police barricade, back in the "normal" world, I find myself a couple blocks from Deborah's apartment. It takes about five or six tries, but I finally get through to her on my cell and invite myself over. Once there, she's throwing things into a bag on her way out of Manhattan. She's spending the night at a friend's in Brooklyn. He freaked her out with thoughts of continued terrorist attacks, anthrax, nerve gas, and insisted that she spend the night with him, away from the epicenter of these phantom attacks. She's in a panic, the valium she took just muddying her mind and not calming her nerves. I calm her down and walk her to one of the few subway lines that are running. She promises to take me out for drinks tomorrow night.

I go to Edward's next, not wanting to take the long journey home. He has spent all day watching the news, popping valium, and drinking beer. I join him in the valium and beer and ask that the TV be turned off. I'm sick of thinking about what's happened today. We watch Golden Girls instead.

It's about 8pm and people are finally starting to be able to get through to me on my cell phone. My roommate calls and is glad to know I'm not hurt. She tells me I've got a ton of messages and my boss called to say there would be no work tomorrow. no shit A few other people call. Erin is on her way to Canada with her boyfriend and Tae is spending the night in a hotel in Manhattan. The city is still mostly closed off.

Edward lives on 10th street and the city has been closed south of 14th. We go out looking for some food and McDonald's is about the only thing open. There's line going out the door and down the block. We manage to find a bougie little bistro selling over-priced hamburgers. I enjoy my first meal since breakfast.

I spent last night on Edward's couch being too exhausted to want to try to get home. I got up late this morning to coffee, more news of what's happening, and more emails from people wondering how I'm doing. Part of me is happy about not having to go to work today. Edward's boyfriend had to go in. He works in mid-town. The reality of what happened still hasn't fully sunk in. Stuff like this happens every day in Beirut, right?

It's strange not seeing the twin towers rising above the NYC skyline anymore.

From my point of view:
I was feeling more upset than I had realized, and after spending the day picking through my feelings I went home to my uptown apartment feeling much better. Once there, I got a love letter from Katya, and that made me feel much better. So, I climbed up to the roof of the apartment to write sonnets and read Rilke, dressed appropriately. After a while I called Katya, using my new ultra-swank headset / microphone, so I could leave my hands free and chat about nothing and everything for hours on end. And, of course, standing on the rooftops I felt that I was compelled to shout out "She Loves me!!!" at the top of my lungs -- when one is presented with the opportunity to shout it from the rooftops, one really must, I feel.

From the Neighbors' point of view:
The day after the WTC tragedy, where more people were killed in an instant than I can even imagine, they see a guy dressed all in black climb up to the top of the roof. He sits for a while, writing a long note, and then gets up. He starts pacing back and forth right on the edge of the roof. He is talking to himself with great animation, and at one point even starts screaming...

From my point of view:
So I look over the edge of the roof during the phone conversation, and notice a cop car... turns out all the cops are staring at me... I smile and wave to show them that I'm not tresspassing, and the cop shouts back "Just stay right there!" Then I turn around, and notice two of the nicest, least-threatening policemen I've met slowly walking towards me, at which point I realize what happened and become quite embarrassed. All told, in addition to the four cops on the street (to catch me in their arms?) there were eight policemen and women on the roof with me! I apologized profusely, and they were really good about the whole thing. One of them said that it "broke up the day" and gave them a chance to chat to each other... I guess it must've been a bit of a relief for them to get a call that wasn't a life or death situation at all. The head cop had to keep repeating himself to the dispatcher, "There is no EDP on 78th st. That's a negative -- no EDP". Whatever an EDP was, I'm glad I wasn't one. Wheeee!
(ed: reveals EDP to stand for Emotionally Disturbed Person)
Note: I posted this with the author's full permission.

  • Name: Fritz Swanson
  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Experience:

I teach at the University of Michigan, and my days at work are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. My first class is at 9 am. So, my alarm is always set to 7:30am every morning so that I can get used to the fall routine of getting up early. It's a radio alarm which I have set to NPR and I wake up every morning to Morning Edition and listen to what is happening. It's a GE alarm clock, and I don't know about other clocks because this one is old an dthe only alarm clock I have ever had, and the reason I say all of this is to say that it only plays the radio for one hour. I guess that is so that it will turn off after you have left. GE figures you will wake up when the radio comes on, and before the hour is over you will be out the door. GE market research must have determined that most people set their alarm to, like, forty-five minutes before they have to leave or something.

Anyway, what this means is that on Tuesday the alarm turned the radio on at 7:30am. But I didn't have anything to teach, and my girlfriend doesn't need to be to work until eleven, so we just rested in bed listening to NPR. Now, right now, I don't know what was on. I don't remember anything about the program. I just remember being in bed with my girlfriend, waking up slowly to the sound of Todd Mundt and the other NPR people and just sort of relishing how relaxing the day seemed already. I had almost no grading to do and nothing scheduled at all. So I just laid in bed for an entire hour until the radio turned itself off. The radio figured I should be at work by now and I didn't feel like arguing.

So I got up. It was 8:30 am and I got. Normally when I get up I go to watch the weather channel, but because I had listened to so much radio, all of it so wonderfully calming, and because I had no where to be that day, I didn't turn on the TV. I just picked up the new issue of WIRED magazine and started to read an article about Programmable Matter. There was stuff about quantum wells and semiconductors and all kinds of sci-fi possibilities for matter that could change its actual elemental make up. Gold to lead. Alchemy. Transmutation.

And then my friend David Nelson called. Sara answered the phone and she said, quickly, "Dave says that the internet is down and that we need to turn on the TV."

So I did. And there was a shot on CNN of two smokestacks, one of them smoking and the other not. And I had no clue what I was looking at. It was a moment where the perspective was all shot and it was unclear how big anything was supposed to be. Out of the right side of the frame came an airplane, and it seemed like it must have been a model, because of its apparent size as related to the smokestacks. And then the plane hit the second smokestack, which, at that moment, became the WTC. I could see that it was a pair of buildings and the second one was detonating, and then I could hear what Aaron Brown was reporting.

And at first I laughed. And I thought, this is like some movie. And now, days later, I realize what I meant in my mind when I thought, This is like a movie.

What I meant, what I think every one means when they think, this is like a movie is this: They mean that this is NOTHING like a movie because it is happening.

And everything was sort of out of whack.

The phone rang very early in our apartment in San Francisco. I wondered who it was. Jeremy went to answer it. When he came back he was very quiet. "Who was it?" I asked.

"Bryan," he said. "Terrorists have flown planes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. The Pentagon's on fire, and the towers have collapsed."

"You're joking," I said, but he wasn't.

Durban. South Africa. A colleague rushed into my office to tell me that a plane had just crashed into one of the WTC towers. She was quite excited because she had just returned from New York two weeks previously and had stood atop the one on a lovely summer's day. I went to the net immediately but could not access CNN. I tried the BBC instead. No luck. Eventually a lonely pic of the tower with a hole in it presented itself on It looked almost like a model someone had dummied up with a shoebox. I phoned a friend who didn't know and minutes later he got back to me to say that he had heard on the radio that another plane had ploughed into the second tower. I didn't believe him and tried to access a second time. This time it took even longer to get a hit. But when I saw it I believed...and rushed through to our company pub to take it all in on CNN. People just sat there though watching a surreal Schwarzennegger movie...and believing no doubt that they would wake up and it would all be over. An hour later the name Bin Laden was first mentioned... Chris Rea.

New York, New York.

I live in a co-op on West 103rd St. and Riverside Dr. I woke up late on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 unexplainably tired. I left my building at 8:50 a.m. or so and took the Number 1 subway at the West 103rd Station. Everything seemed normal when I got off at the West 50th St. station; I really do not remember the details because there was nothing exceptional about the morning commute.

I went up to the 4th floor of my firm’s building on Ave. of the Americas. As I was entering through the glass doors to the office, I heard someone ask someone else, “Did you hear about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center?”
One of them laughed; I thought they were kidding and as I headed to my office I said to myself, “It is disgusting to make jokes like that, they are creating bad karma for themselves.

I turned on my computer and got ready to start my day, when my officemate, a lawyer on exchange from our London office, asked me, “Did you hear about the accident?”
It was then that I knew something was wrong and that this was no joke. He was watching the news report from the BBC on livestream video on his computer. And then I saw the images and could not believe my eyes. We watched it all happen on the Internet, from the second crash to the collapse of the first tower.

I immediately became concerned about my boyfriend, who works on Fulton St. I called his office repeatedly but there was no answer, not even the voice mail picked up.

There were no security announcements in my building, which is quite tall, so I decided that the best thing to do was to leave and head down to the East Village, where my boyfriend lives, hoping that he would have evacuated the area in time. I met a friend at the corner of Ave. of the Americas and West 52nd St. and we made our way down Park Ave.

There were thousands of people leaving their buildings. Everybody looked concerned. Tears formed in my eyes every time I thought of my boyfriend. I tried using my cell phone repeatedly but it was not working. It must have taken me an hour or so to make my way down to St. Mark’s Pl. I entered my boyfriend’s apartment and I found him there, watching the news on TV. I cannot describe the sense of relief I felt upon seeing him.

The following days were gut wrenching as the images played over and over on TV and as the pictures in the newspapers showed the extent of the destruction. There is one image I cannot erase from my mind: The New York Times ran a picture of the big gaping hole in one of the towers, and if you look carefully there seems to be a man standing by a window. Even if it was an illusion, this is what I saw in that picture and the thought of him dying, whoever he was, still makes me want to cry.

It has been more than one week now after the attack and we try to return to normal. But it will never be normal again. Everywhere I walk I see flyers of people who disappeared in the rubble. I feel like I am living in a different world now.

S., Maine

This is my experience of that day, at least some of it.

I had just biked over to the gym here and when I walked in I heard people saying that "they" had bombed the WTC and then the Pentagon. What?? That's crazy! We all crowded into the maintenance closet where we watched a b&w tv. I had an overwhenlming compulsion to call my husband at work - the company should go on high security (as if my thoughts on that were necessary), and my Mom. We had just been in NYC that weekend to see the Wayne Thiebaud exhibit. We had not been there for twenty years or so. As we were leaving on the train I pointed out the WTC to my husband and mentioned the 1993 attack.

As I wandered about the gym, I remembered that my friend's husband flies for American out of Boston. I tried calling her. No answer. Got home and tried again. And, again. The video of the building collapsing made we want to throw up, or faint. I told my husband I needed him to come home. I called my friend and she answered the phone cheerily. They were in the yard working and had no idea what had happened, no idea why their crazy friend was hysterical on the phone - hysterical with relief. It's not any better that it was not my friend's husband, it is still too awful for thought much less for words. My relief was that my friend would not have the pain of her family coming apart.

I got a shower, my husband came home. I stopped being hysterical, although I was still crying and sick at heart. I keep watching the tv trying to actually believe this has happened. Removing those buildings from the skyline of NYC that lives in my head is like removing some vital part of language from my vocabulary.

My day had pretty much started out the same on September11, 2001. I got up and took my shower and left for school. I went to English first period and turned in my research paper on the British poet Robert Browning and had class as usual. As I came out of first period(about 9:30am central time) one of my friends came up to me and had this blank expression on her face and all she could say was "Can you believe this!!" I had no idea what so was talking about so she finally told me that two planes had just crashed into the World Trade Centers and one had already callapsed and that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. To tell the truth I never really worried about what was in New York because I live way down here in Alexander City, Alabama. So I didn't really know how big the trade centers were and how devastating this terrorists attack was; on the other hand I did know what the Pentagon was so that got me worried. See my father works in Washington D.C. and he often works in government buildings. Luckily this day he was working at one of the CIA buildings.As we came into Second Period the whole class was in front of the television watching the other trade tower fall. I was speechless as I watched these people run for their lives. It was worse than any movie because this was real people and it was here in America "the beautiful",my home. We spent the whole class period just watching these videos of the planes crashing into the towers and people jumping out of windows. No one knew exactly what to say or even think about the whole situation. I know alot of us were thinking that all we want to do is graduate high school before all our friends end up being drafted, this is our senior year, what we have been waiting for. I get out of school at 11:30AM and as I came out my boyfriend was waiting for me out by my car(he's 19 and was supposed to be at the community college).He was feeling the exact same way I was feeling, confused and a little scared of what else was going to happen. We went on to my house and just hung out together with my family. Then when 7:30PM came we all sat down together as a family and watched President address our nation. Bush did excellent and it touched my heart especially when he quoted scripture from the bible. I was glued to the tv for a couple more days and I still can sit there and listen to it for hours but sometimes you just have to get away.

from an alabamian

I am a lawyer in Massachusetts. On Tuesday September 11, 2001 at about 8:30AM I arrived at a local courthouse to deal with several pending cases. A court officer came up to me in the hallway and told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center; I assumed it was a small plane that had perhaps gone off-course. I retreated to the court officer's lobby where I saw on TV the damage wrought by two commercial jets. At that point it was apparent that the attacks were intentional; we also then learned that both planes had been hijacked from Boston. I stared in disbelief at the burning buildings. Shortly after this, we learned of the Pentagon and Pennsylvania hijackings. We watched as the buildings collapsed, not believing what we were seeing. All courts in Massachusetts were then ordered closed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. I went home and contacted family members in New York and Florida.

In May of 2001 I took my wife to the top of Tower 2 for a drink at club called "The Greatest Bar On Earth". We each had a glass of Veuve Cliquot champagne and watched the sunset. The view was astounding. If you told me then what would happen to those buildings and those people I would have laughed in your face.

Perth, Western Australia

I was just drifting off to sleep at about 9PM when I heard my mother, who had been listening to the radio, come storming down the hallway and flicking through the channels on the TV. Curious, I dragged myself out of bed, and came into the lounge room. Mum had found CNN being relayed through the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), who had suspended regular programming.

I could see an image of the World Trade Center with smoke billowing from both of the twin towers. Soon, they flicked to images of the Pentagon on fire. My whole family sat on the couch, glued to our TV screens. The images seemed impossible, less real than the movie Independence Day. We were terribly shocked, even more so because our Prime Minister, John Howard, the leader of Australia, was in Washington at the time, and none of our TV news networks knew if he was alright. It turned out he was fine, but he was close enough to see the plane slam into the Pentagon from a window. We sat, watching the unfolding tragedy, for hours.

The world will never be the same again.

God Bless Australia, and God Bless America.

Chicago, IL

I had a job interview--I had been part of the dot-bomb world, terrified of not getting a job--and I was driving on I-290 on my way to Westmont when Noah Adams broke into a fluff piece on NPR about young teachers in Chicago. A plane had hit the World Trade Center, he said, but it wasn't clear why. Maybe the navigation system broke? Maybe it was a commuter plane? Maybe a private one? maybe... maybe...

I arrived at the company building for my interview, got out. I was early, so I wandered into the cafe. A second plane had hit. It wasn't an accident, it was on purpose. I sat there for 20 minutes, just watching, in shock. I took out my cell phone, to try to reach my brother, but I couldn't get through. So without anything better to do, and because operating on autopilot was easier than figuring out how I felt, I went into my interview.

I didn't get the job.

By the time I came out, the towers had collapsed, the pentagon had been hit, and a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.

It's odd how a futile hour and a half, with people I'll never see again, changed the world.

That night, I was sitting at home, after having been glued to the TV all day, when I saw it for the first time. The camera panned across people hanging out the windows above the fires, before the buildings collapsed. Tons of them. You could pick out the colors of the suits they wore. They were at the windows, just standing there, wind whipping the skirts and the hair and the ties. And then one fell. And another. And another. Like popcorn beginning to pop. Now, a month later, those are the images that won't leave my head.

New York, NY

I was at the World Trade Centre (I work at the World Financial Centre building, across the highway from the WTC) on Tuesday morning.

I walked out of the WTC just minutes (probably 8 minutes) after the plane slammed into the first tower.

As I got out of the PATH train (which runs through the bowels of the WTC) I could smell something burning. There is a restaurant at the same level and I thought they must have had a minor accident. Sure enough, the fire alarm lights were blinking. People usually ignore these lights as these are a frequent occurrence. Of course, people at the restaurant were ignoring the alarm.

I took the escalator that takes me to street level. As we approached that level, I suddenly saw people on the escalator above me running away; there was a great deal of commotion and shouting. I thought it must be a hostage situation and dashed toward the exit I usually take. I saw a man being supported by a policeman. It looked like he was bleeding. I assumed he had been shot and took off like a mad man. I slowed down when I realised that all the shops around me were closed -- and the scene outside the glass door some 50 feet before me was a little murky. There appeared to be some smoke outside. I wasn't sure what was happening.

I walked to the exit and stepped out. It looked like a scene from a war movie. The street looked like a war zone. I immediately drew parallels to Beirut. Then another thing struck me -- the smell of burning had not gone away at all! How could a restaurant fire deep down smell all the way up here? I wondered. Then I saw the debris all around me -- some of it was still burning. I chanced to look up -- then the horror of it dawned on me. The WTC was burning! I whipped out my cell phone and tried to call my wife. No signal. Obviously everyone around me was using up the cell sites -- not enough network bandwidth to get my call through.

Usually I turn right and go to my office. But the way towards my office appeared to be impassable. There was just too much debris there. So I crossed the road in front of me and then turned right to my office. Still no go. There was a police officer blocking my path. I stopped. But several others pushed through. He told me the only way was to go one block and then try to turn right. I did just that. That road had debris. I was pushing along when I saw -- right in front of me -- a huge hunk of what appeared to be freshly hewn beef sitting on the windshield of a car. I was shocked! What kind of person would store freshly cut meat -- even temporarily when taking it out of a truck and putting it into cold storage -- on the hood of a car? Just then a couple of people put a sheet of white cloth on that. Then I heard some women screaming and pointing to something below. I looked down, and a scant six inches from my foot I saw a foot.

I managed to cross the highway that separates my office from the WTC. I struggled up a small embankment and watched as people poured out of my office building. I still did not know that a plane had crashed into the WTC. Then I heard someone say so. I just did not believe him. I thought to myself, this is a small fire -- these people should be able to contain it quite easily. Why would my building be in danger? I walked up to the security staff at my building and asked them if they were planning to evacuate the building. They said 'Not yet, but it could be any moment.' Decision time. Should I go up or go home? I decided foolhardily to go up. Since I work on the sixth floor -- any emergency exit would not be quite as painful as, say, an exit from the 38th floor (which is where I used to work). I pressed on up, took the first elevator.

Just as I got off the elevator, I saw a couple of people rushing out of an adjacent office, saying they had just seen a second plane hitting 'our' building. Oh no! All I wanted to do at that time was call my wife and tell her I was coming home. I opened my office -- which I share with three others -- dialed home, only to find that I could not get through. I dialled again. In the meantime I heard the people on my floor rushing to the emergency door. I managed to get through to my wife and told her the WTC was burning, that there had been another plane crash and that I was trying to return home. Then I left.

I was the last person on my floor to leave. As I wended my way down the stairs I was struck by how calm people were. This New York resilience is something I saw time and time again today. We left the building and I got out -- now I realised the second plane had slammed into the other WTC tower. Someone standing by said to me he had seen the plane coming from near the Statue of Liberty and slamming into the tower.

I kept turning back to see what was happening. I saw at least three or four people jumping from what must have been the 40th or 50th floor of the WTC tower. They were flying out only to slam into concrete -- which I fortunately did not witness. They were obviously jumping from the fire and willing to take a chance with the jump. I was horrified. I looked at the pavement below me and saw many, many empty high heeled shoes. Did they come from the explosion? Not possible because they were all in pairs and undamaged. Then I got it -- this must have been people watching while the second plane crashed into the building.

By now I was numb. It was almost 9:15 am. Or 9.20 am. I wasn't looking at my watch. I saw a few people with digital cameras taking videos and pictures of the building going up in flames. I kept walking until I reached a subway station I knew existed. I got into the subway numb with shock and escaped from the area.

I got off the subway at 14th street and 4th Avenue and trudged all the way up to 33rd street and 8th Avenue. A mighty long walk, considering that each street takes about a minute at a brisk pace and each Avenue takes about 4 minutes. I reached Penn station at around 10 am. I got into what would be the exit train for me, the 10:43 am going home. Unfortunately they evacuated Penn station so I had to wait outside for about four hours before ultimately reaching home by the same train around 3:30 pm.

I am glad to be alive. I hope and pray the thousands of souls that died there today go to heaven in peace. It was never their fault. It never is.

  • Name: Mike A.(Filipino)
  • Age: 13
  • Date: Nov. 17, 2001
  • Location: Quezon City, Philippines
  • Reaction: WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENIN!!!???

It was Tuesday Evening here in our country, and I had just finished my hw. in school. Time for me to relax so I went to my chair, got the remote and started clicking on the channels. Suddenly, I saw on CNN,that both Twin towers are on fire!!! The first thing that came into my mind was just an accident from above maybe an electrical current got short and caused fire or the stove was left and began burning all the things nearby or a computer exploded or whatever minor accidents. But when I thought about it, I realized if it's that minor, why would it be featured in CNN , an international news channel, or why is the fire so big? And the reporter just said that two hijacked planes crashed on the towers. I called my mom, my brothers and sisters to check out the news. My mother even questioned me if that's a movie or a spoof! We could NOT believe what just had happened and we just sat together watching on the news with horror in our eyes. 20 minutes later, our uncle called who was a steward for the Philippine Airlines who just got back from a flight in US, and told us that our father WORKED there! ( on the 21st floor in the north tower ). I know it may sound strange knowing only where our father works but to straighten things up, we just knew it because he was got a work job in NY since moving from LA, he lives in NJ together with my other relatives and goes to NY to work. Anyway, to get back on our unforgettable to what seems to be a horror movie, we all knew that our father migrated to the US and worked there, and 1 of a hundred filipinos working in the towers itself! Our eyes were full of confusion, grief horror, hearts sank deeply on the ground trying to build a grave out of our blood, and asked ourselves, "of all the things that could be done, WHY THIS?" We all waited for the telephone to ring, hoping our father will call uninjured. And an hour later, one of the towers collapsed! I can't believe it! And I was really expecting a great loss of life there!!! Even though I am about 12,343,213 miles from there, I can feel the horror! And later BOTH TOWERS COLLAPSED!!! Our father still in our minds and hoping he's still alive. It was 11.00pm here in the Philippines when both towers collapsed. I can't believe it, it was really true, it says on the tv LIVE! I didn't want to sleep that terrible night, but my body cant handle it and I prayed and I prayed wishing my father'll still be alive and I suddenly slept on the chair. I woke up at 5:00 am in the morning our time to prepare for school, and at last my mother talked to my father and he said he was safe. All those anxieties are finally gone but I thought about the people still waiting for their loved ones . I felt very sorry for them and the Sept. 11, incident will forever be sealed in my mind.

Papa, if you are reading this right now, I just want to tell you that I love you and I dont want to lose you!...

Matthew Farley was the partner in charge of the New York branch of Philadelphia's Drinker Biddle & Reath on September 11. Mr. Farley used a BlackBerry device, and excerpts from his e-mail on that fateful day were published in the November 2, 2001 edition of The American Lawyer. The story is archived on the Web at

September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack - Full Timeline
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See also: World Trade Center -- Pentagon -- New York City -- Washington, D.C. -- AA Flight 11 -- UA Flight 75 -- AA Flight 77 -- UA Flight 93 -- U.S. Department of Defense -- terrorism -- domestic terrorism -- Osama bin Laden -- Taliban -- Islamism -- Afghanistan -- collective trauma -- September 11

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