Where Were You That Day?

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I was commuting to work on the west coast – having my own business at the time I could be late – and I heard on the news about the Twin Towers. I was thinking that this must be an anniversary of the 1993 bombing and wasn’t for 5 or 10 minutes did I realize that this was live.

Since that time, I visited Manhattan for the first time – in 2003. A friend of mine who lives outside Philadelphia had an invitation for a financial seminar to be held in one of the towers – near the top.

He decided at the last moment to skip it.

When I visited Manhattan I stayed at a little hotel in midtown run by some Catholic nuns. They all had their stories, but one mentioned being glued to the window and seeing the smoke off to the south.

Even 2 years later, some New Yorkers hated taking the subway.

During that visit, an acquaintance of mine, who lived in Manhattan, took me on a walking tour of the area. If you haven’t been to Manhattan, it is amazing how far you can go just walking. We stopped at the Fire House that was the first to respond. They were right by the famous Fulton Fish Market and I guess their firemen were first up in the Towers when they came down.

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I took a picture and then, with a fireman looking at me – not a hostile glare but silent – a glare tinged with sadness that told me without words that I couldn’t possible have known them by taking just a picture.

You could not possible imagine the hole where the WTC was – pictures never did it justice. But I’ll try & show you.

I’ll show you the church that gave the responders some rest.

That day showed me that we are not immune to evil reaching our shore. But Americans responded. I don’t know if I could be among those who stormed the cockpit of Flight 93 and saved the White House or Congress by their sacrifice.

I’d like to think so .

But unless faced with it saying you would seems to diminish the sacrifices of those who did.

Two books I have read of this day showed 2 completely different perspectives – one was from Air Traffic Control and the other profiled people trapped in those towers – those who survived and those who didn’t.

May we never forgot those who died that day…

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6 Comments

Filed under Terrorism

6 responses to “Where Were You That Day?

  1. NaCly Dog

    I was in Crystal City (CM-1) working as a patent examiner. A shaking coworker came in and told me there was smoke by the Pentagon. I went to a northern window and saw the plume of black smoke. “That’s a BIG Bravo fire.” Another coworker said the twin towers have been hit.
 Even I couldn’t quite wrap my head around enemy action for a few seconds.

    Twin sonic booms; just knew it was the alert-15 F-15s from Langley. I calmed down some of the more shaken coworkers. I told one women that the State Department was not hit when she passed on one of the many rumors. “See, look at it. No smoke.”

    Went back to work after we were told to evacuate. It didn’t make much sense for me to go into a street where all the glass would fall down on us. I got some more work done until the computers were turned off.

    Leaving the building I saw and smelled burned paper falling from the northern sky. I saw everyone on edge, and a pedestrian hit by a fleeing car. The roads filled up fast. Someone told me the towers had fallen and all I could think about was “that’s 70,000 dead”. A nuke hit. [I was so relieved that an excellent design, sound construction by good workers, responsive citizens and heroes in the building prevented more deaths.]

    I walked two miles south to where a friend (now wife) worked. I was going against the flow of evacuees from National Airport. A broad stream of refugees with wheeled luggage in tow were heading north. I thought “Like France in 1940.” I wondered if I could get back into the Navy. [No.]

    I arrived 5 minutes too late to shepherd my friend (who was stuck in traffic for six hours) and walked back to the Underground for an early lunch. I talked with two women whose husbands were in the 101st Airborne. We agreed that there was a possibility their husbands were going to be deployed soon.

    I took the Metro to West Falls Church, a bus to the Whiele Park and Ride for free, and got home in Reston 3 hours after the attack. I had to wait for my friend to get to her home before I saw any TV images, (24 years of no TV at that time).

    I notified family and friends I was safe by e-mail, and resolved to give blood the next day.

    My across-the-street neighbor Norma Khan was on the plane that hit the Pentagon, and I knew two of the Navy personnel killed. I attended the local memorial services in the Reston Community Center for Norma, and tried to comfort her orphaned 12 year old son.

    My commute took me past the Pentagon every day. One of my HOA board members had a bad neck cut from getting two people out of the Pentagon, and I noticed a few new Navy and Marine Corps Medal ribbons on other bus riders. I saw the Humvee with a SAW by the road north of the Pentagon, and reflected on the misery some poor platoon had to endure.

    9/11 changed my life.

    • Bill Brandt

      What a story.

      A story about the Pentagon that moved me was these Marines who, on their own, took the children out of the nursery and then guarded them on the lawn outside.

      One of the Lexicans on the F/B Page also worked in the Pentagon. Here is his story
      http://steeljawscribe.com/2007/09/06/reflections-pentagon-911-%E2%80%9Cadmiral-we%E2%80%99ve-taken-a-hitand-we%E2%80%99re-on-fire%E2%80%9D-part-i

      The most shocking thing to me was seeing what was the WTC 2 years later. The debris was cleared, you could see in the distance little tubes that looked like the end of a straw – subway tunnels.

      The “hole” – I guess the original earth that was excavated, had to have been 7-10 stories deep.

      A book that really moved me – well, it was the 2 that I mentioned – for very different reasons. Touching History showed how – with the head of the FAA flights on his first day – he decided to ground all civilian flights – and there was a United 767 in – I think – Newark – taxiing down the tarmac – the pilots saw the smoking towers in the distance – asked ground control what they were – and at the time – ATC didn’t know.

      The pilot, just with a gut feeling, decided to taxi back – telling the passengers there was a mechanical issue.

      There were some Arabic men all seated together, and the only bag unclaimed was full of al Queda literature.

      The Arabs melted into the departing crowd at the terminal.

      Was it another plane with a terrorist destination?

      The 102 Minutes profiled people at the WTC. Had the attack been an hour later or so many thousands more would have probably died.

      One of the ironies was the retired FBI agent who kept warning the FBI about the threat from OBL, and ran afoul of the bureaucracy. He became head of security at the WTC, and died.

      Then there was the whole floor of the brokerage firm that was in the 2nd tower – their head of security thought it best if they evacuated until the building head assured them (via loudspeakers on all the floors) that there was “nothing to worry about”.

      They all perished.

      I think how bad it had to be with the inferno to decide to jump 100 stories.

      The few people – maybe a half dozen – who survived above the crash locations defied “conventional wisdom” and threaded their way down the smashed stairwells.

      BTW when the WTC was built they relaxed the safety standards from the time the Empire State Bldg was made. At that time, they had an elevator in each corner of the building – with the WTC, to maximize space, they put all 4 shafts in the middle of the towers.

      When the planes hit, they knocked out all the shafts.

      I guess the summary for me was seeing Americans, on their own initiative, fight back – from the brave passengers on flight 93 to the base commander at Otis AFB, who decided to avoid the “chain of command” all the way to Washington to get permission to arm the planes – and just – had them armed and airborne.

    • NaCly Dog

      Bill,

      I gave a radio interview yesterday for my upcoming Constitution Bee. I mentioned that the only effective action while the planes were in the air was by self-governed citizens. Untrained, they came together as a group, planned together, and armed themselves with boiling water and other impromptu weapons. They all were fully American in the best sense of the word. Their counter-attack was close to success. The same Marine C-130 pilot that saw the Pentagon hit saw the last minutes of flight 93 as the terrorists rocked the wings to keep control. Then the terrorists flew it into the ground.

      I mentioned the FAA actions that day. Without planning one person close to the action made a good and timely decision. All the pilots, tower personnel, and air traffic controllers made it work. They did such a professional job that the decision was made not to plan for this again. The governments will rely on everyone doing it again. That is the ultimate complement, not having to plan in advance.

      The most amazing story to me was the Secret Service agent calling the BG of the DC National Guard. He had just been one of two people who bodily carried Cheney to an underground location. Then he got the general to launch an immediate CAP mission. I think the aircraft were unarmed, but they were the only ones over DC that knew about the incoming Flt 93.

    • Bill Brandt

      I think of the 2 F16 pilots launched by the BGs command they were going to ram the plane and bail out.

      You are right in re: our citizens ability to mobilize on themselves and act as a unit. We might be unique in that regard. I think of the base commander who made a possible career-ending decision and had the F15s and 16s armed.

      I know by protocol this had to go to Washington – possibly to the White House.

      Until 9/11 there were no CAPs in the continental US.

      I remember the day after the order to ground civilian traffic came. I have walked by dogs every day for over 20 years, and I knew something was different.

      Then it hit me.

      The silence.

      I remember too all the Atlantic and Pacific traffic coming in, and the mess that was created created with suddenly no place to land, and short on fuel.

      The Canadians sure stepped up to the plate.

  2. NaCly Dog

    “The Canadians sure stepped up to the plate.” Gander is the most famous airfield / community that day. 6,595 people landed there, and the hospitality was heartwarming. That’s 66% of the towns total population.

    It is a part of a larger story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Yellow_Ribbon.

  3. Pingback: 2 Dates Etched In My Memory | The Lexicans

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