Ten Years Later


On September 11th, 2001 I was a senior at the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
I had completed all the classes for my English degree and was filling time with a directed study on Britney Spears (yes, really) and a modern dance class that I attended sporadically.  I lived in a old blue house on the west side of town and spent evenings bicycling down the old two-lane high way that threaded out towards the prairie.

I heard about the planes while walking through the student center that morning and I assumed people were talking about the plot of an over-blown Nicolas Cage blockbuster.  But when I walked into my dance class and our teacher told us about what had happened, I remember thinking.  “What?  This can’t be real.   The weather is so nice today.  I’m sitting on this lovely, green campus in the middle of the country, drinking coffee out my travel mug.  In New York, people are jumping out of buildings.  This isn’t real.”

We all went home and hunkered down in front of our televisions.  I cooked apple butter with apples I’d picked earlier that week and stood over the stove, stirring and feeling guilty that this was my life.  I also felt guilty that I somehow wasn’t “upset enough” about this.  Or I wasn’t upset in the “right way.” 

I didn’t cry.  I didn’t question the innate goodness of humanity.  I felt sad and disappointed and I emailed the one friend I had who lived in New York.  I wondered about what would happen to our country and, apparently, I cooked apple butter.

What were you doing on 9.11?  How did you feel about it?  Do you ever worry that you’re not responding “correctly” to disaster?

27 Comments

Magatha-May

I still remember everything about that day. I was at the hair dressers at the time and she brought a tv into the salon so that we could watch what was happening in New York.

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Jen

I remember too. I was at school, I had just started Alevels and I was in a history lesson when it happened. My teacher was unaware but the other history teacher had heard and brought the TV in so the class could see history being made.

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ellie

I was in high school doing state tests. i remember during a passing period how quiet the hall was, and just full of whispering. Most of our teachers didn't teach that day, but just turned on the tvs and let us watch. We had one teacher that wasn't having any of that, so I remember spending that hour completely distracted by something that seemed much more important than the periodic table.

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tiffany

i was on my way into class when a friend stopped me to tell me that a plane crashed into WTC. Last thing on my mind was an attack. I was convinced the pilot had a few too many drinks! Then in class, where my teacher had the news on, we watched the 2nd plane. My heart sank & I just wanted to throw up, but I couldn't move. I was listening to fellow students being called to the office to go home, other students were just leaving & teachers weten't even trying to stop anyone. Then they said a plane hit the pentagon…i started to panic. family friends worked there & my dad popped in & out there. Then there was the field in PA, literally minutes from my dads home. I left school & ran home to wait for my dad to call. He didn't call for a week. My solace was the fact that I was seeing him & my stepmom on the news at the PA site…& my mom had kept reminding me he's uber busy, "remember the OKC bombing? Just like that." My need to help trumped my fear of blood & needles when my mom & I went to donate blood (& were turned away bc they had too much!) We spent days in church praying & gathering what we could to send to those who were in need. My dad's exhausted venting of all he had cleaned up & gone through (stories too gruesome to repeat) made me sick for weeks…hell, they still make me sick. I still cry every year for those that had to go through any pain. All I can say i've taken away from it all is a lot more love & compassion for everyone.

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Janelle

Wow, Sarah, you're feelings over the event are very similar to mine. I heard about it during the morning session of school age childcare and ran home to watch on the news. Because I had never been to New York and didn't know anyone there, it felt like a world away. I too kept thinking, I should be more emotional than this. I should be more upset, etc. I didn't cry at all until I saw footage of people jumping, and then I just cried a little. It was weird trying to handle the situation with kids afterschool that day. Some were kindergateners and the oldest were in 6th grade. They all took it differently. Our basic approach was distract and let their parents handle it at home.

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Danielle

My senior year of high school. Arlington, VA. My family moved there two weeks prior from Los Angeles for my dad to start his new job…at the Pentagon. We watched the tv in my science classroom as the towers were struck…all in disbelief. Then we heard the plane. The plane that struck the Pentagon flew right over our school. We were about a mile away from the Pentagon and you could hear the crash. When they broke news on the tv that it was the Pentagon, our school went into a panic, as many students had parents who worked there, or other government buildings, and we didn't know who would get hit next. My dad was found, unharmed, on 9/12. I will never forget.

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Alli

I was in middle school at the time and the attacks happened right at the end of one period and at the beginning of another. My town is about an hour and a half from DC. I didn't understand what the Trade Center towers were but I of course understood that someone flew planes into a united states building. I remember thinking at first that it was an accident. You know, someone crashed and it was a tragedy. It wasn't until a few hours later that we found out it was on purpose after another class. That day, all that stands out to me was that a lot of kids were getting pulled from school because parents were really worried about a bomb dropping or something (and us being in the range). In the school, it was calm but I think parents were panicking. I guess, similar to Danielle, a lot of parents worked in DC from my town.

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Steph

I was 10 and living in California at the time. New York was so far away I barely remembered it existed.
I mostly remember being woken up at 5am to watch it on the news, and I had never heard of the WTC before that day. Every adult I saw that day was visibly upset, and I had no idea what was going on.

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Karolina

I was 11 and already after school (8 hrs time difference) and watching reruns of the little house on the prairie. My dad was still at work, my mom had just returned from work and dismissed my baby brother's nanny. And then my grandparents called to tell my mom what happened and at the same moment the program was interrupted by the news. At first I didn't catch what was going on, because my brother (he was 1 at the time) started crying and I ran to make him stop. He was sitting on the floor, building towers out of wooden blocks and (I'm not making this up) he was crashing them with a toy plane and a toy fire tender… I played with him, all the time hearing my mom saying "Oh, God…Oh, god…". I was absolutely shocked and afraid, even though it happened so far away (I'm Polish).

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Alli

I was a senior in high school, sitting in first period government class. Our teacher heard about the first plane hitting, and he immediately turned on CNN. We all watched together as the second plane smashed into the other tower.

I too, had a sense that this wasn't real, that it was some kind of movie. And all I remember in the coming weeks was getting annoyed at the hyper-patriotism that resulted – it annoyed me that it took a huge tragedy to remind people that they love their country. I don't think I was very sensitive to the upset that some people felt – I was 18 and still feeling invincible, and New York just seemed so far removed from Iowa.

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Emmi

It happened in my first full week of college. I didn't have class until 11am that morning, and my Dad called to tell me about it when it happened and in my sleepiness I hung up on him, not really hearing what he said. It wasn't until I was about to go to class when I realized they were all canceled, and I went to go find my new friends in the dorm. The ones who had active military family members were particularly freaked out.

My college was just north of Boston, and the mood in the area was palpably sad and quiet, because two of the planes had come from Boston.

I remember the first plane I saw flying over me after the air ban ended, I happened to have a camera with me and I snapped a photo of it. It made a normal airplane-flying noise, but hearing and seeing it made me uneasy.

Two years later, I got a job on the top floor (30th) of one of the buildings in the Prudential complex in Boston. My mother cried every day for a week, begging me not to work there.

It's weird looking back on how that awful day altered us, even if it was just a little.

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Jessica

I remember everything, too. I think it's the moment that anyone will be able to say, 30 years on, where they were when they heard. Like people in my parents generation remembering where they were when Kennedy was shot.

I had just started a new job and was sweating through casework with an experienced caseworker on rules, law, proper ethics, everything basically. At coffee break a co-worker came and said that she had received a phone call from her son on that two planes had crashed into the WTC in New York. What? Now, what did you say?
I was just breaking up with a boyfriend of long and HE was in new york. Around wall street. Chaos set in as I was in Sweden. Fortunately the phone grid hadn't crashed just yet and I got hold of him. Then we went into the night as a changed world. And I can't say I've been all that impressed with the new order we've got.

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Melissa

I was also in high school. They had the news reports playing on our closed circuit televisions. I don't remember much exactly but I imagine that not a lot of work was done that day.

My friends were more concerned about it than I was. Everyone's biggest worry was whether or not it was the beginning of WW3. It was probably some anxiety leftover from Y2K when everyone thought the world was going to end.

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Christine

I can remember 9/11 very well, even if it is one third of my lifetime ago, and even if it happend nearly half a world away from my "safe" german home. I was in my first year at university, and had found a nice 20h/week office job near the university of Dortmund. In september 2001, I had to fill in for a colleague in our base office in Essen. It was at the reception in the 13th floor of an office building. Not very high in comparison to the WTC, but quite high for german buildings.
At one point of the day, my boss called me. He was in his sixties, and sometimes he was a little bit weird, as you would a Professor in his age to be. He had some organisational questions, and then he said "Did you hear? The Palestinians attacked the World Trade Center!"
This was the first I heard of the events, and it started as it went on: Lots of rumours and not at all enough facts.
I tried to get some infos through the internet, but the main news pages could not be reached due to the heavy traffic.
Together with my colleagues, I stood in front of the TV, and I really had to fight back the tears. In the evening, I catched some news in TVs in the station. And the next TV pictures I saw were 2 weeks later at my friend's home, because I didn't have a TV or internet in my home.

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Caitlin

I was a senior in High School in Upstate New York and My day was just starting. It was just after homeroom that I went to my current events class (that always had CNN playing on the TV in the back). I watched the 2nd plane hit and watched the towers fall. As the rest of the day carried on, the whole school felt silent. You could tell most people were totally freaked out. Eventually we just gave up on class and all huddled around a TV for the remainder of the day. I was horribly concerned, but I don't think I cried at all. There was rumor going around that they weren't informing the Middle Schoolers (which was attached to our building) about it at all, which kinda made me mad. It was just a lot of shock and a lot of quiet that day.
A memory I will always have is being out on the field at gym class (which was 1st thing in the morning before homeroom) and hearing a plane go overhead and thinking…"Wow…that's unusually low for a passenger plane." Later that night I found out we were pretty much under the flight path from the Boston planes…
eerie.

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Amy

I was a sophomore in high school, & homeschooled, but I belonged to a co-op that I took several classes through. It was the first day of my American history class. We had all been going around the room sharing a bit about ourselves. The kid who had just spoke told us about his interest in firearms. Another teacher poked her head into the room, and we all started wondering if someone was getting in trouble (she didn't get along with most of us). Then our teacher told us what had happened. I was in shock. My dad took the PATH train into the WTC everyday and worked in a nearby building. It just so happened that he hadn't gone in that day. When I got home, I found my older sister sitting on the couch watching the news. It was the first time I actually saw the images of the towers & I just couldn't believe the dust, the fire, the fear. The entire day the phone lines were out, and my other siblings (away at college) couldn't get through to even find out if our dad was okay. Because we lived in a small town in NJ where the majority of workers commuted into the city, 9/11 was not a one-day event. Two people from my street alone died in the Towers- one of them had gone to high school with my sister. The next few weeks were filled with memorial services & solemnity. Somehow we got on with things, but my one sister was seriously considering postponing her wedding (in the beginning of October) because she wasn't sure if she was going to be able to cope. The building my dad worked in was the closest to Ground Zero that wasn't condemned, and everyday he saw it during the ferry ride and from his building. His first day back, there were empty spots on the trading floor where those who hadn't survived used to stand. He worked in the Towers during the '93 bombing, so I think that may have also impacted his reaction to the whole thing. Even though it's ten years later and he wasn't even in the city when it happened, my dad still gets shook up around the beginning of September.

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Abby

I was 20 and at a pretty painful point in the journey of becoming who it is I am today. I had just been diagnosed with Lupus and had gotten married four months earlier (a decision that I knew even then, however subconsciously, would turn out to be one of my worst choices-and there was a pretty long succession of mistakes.) I was feeling sorry for myself when hearing about the second plane. I remember being jolted back to reality… someone's pain is always worse than your own. My second thought: this must be what the heartache and terror (and for some, anger and vengeance,) feels like that is experienced around the globe on a regular basis… the absence of which we had taken for granted in the US.

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Anonymous

I was in my fourth grade classroom when an older student came in and told the teacher to put on the tv. The class watched until the second tower fell. Almost immediately kids were being taken out of school. When my dad came we walked to the end of our street, to the Hudson Bay and watched across at the burning skyline. For the next week there was ash on our roof and cars that had been blown across the water.

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Lylim | Flyleaf

I was at home in Malaysia, watching the news on tv with my parents and not really comprehending what was happening at all — I was 14 and very, very caught up in my own private world and New York seemed like a place both extremely far away and not quite real.

So yes, I worry sometimes that I don't respond 'correctly' to disasters and bad news. I worry that it means I'm not compassionate enough or there's some missing gene in me or that I'm just plain selfish. But I think that a lot of it is also because of the way that news is portrayed — it's totally different when news of tragedy or disaster comes to you through a tv or laptop screen. Maybe what we need is a change in how news is portrayed — to put a more human face on it.

To this day, I cannot honestly say that what happened in New York affected me on an emotional basis even though I've learnt and read a lot more about it since then — while I feel sad for the lost lives and blighted futures and empathise with the people who lost loved ones — in the end, it is not my grief.

I know it sounds terrible, but there it is.

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Nell

I was teaching disadvantaged youth in a small town in Australia at the time – a lot of my group were quite upset so looking after them was my priority. I don't know if this sort of prevented me from 'feeling' anything much because the teens welfare was my first priority.

I do remember wondering why I didn't feel anything much. If anything I felt guilt because my life was pretty cool. I do feel as though I don't react 'the right way' .. But what is the right way?

Years later I read the stunning book Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer about a little boy whose father died in the WTC & I. Cried. My. Eyes. Out. It was like a cleansing book for all sadness not just for 9/11 but every sad event that followed.

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Camille W

I was 6. I live in New Zealand. When I was that age, I would always get up really early to watch TV. The house would be dark and quiet. That morning, Dad was in his dressing gown in front of the TV. I don't remember much else, but that was such a strange occurrence that I remember feeling confused and sad so clearly.

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chicandbonita

I think I will sadly always remember that day. I was 15 a freshman in high school in a suburb outside of Chicago and was in my first period French class. We had just started our lessons when the principal made the announcement on the intercom of the planes crashing, but that no one really knew what was going on. So for the rest of the day I had this little feeling of anxiety and I assume that the rest of the school felt something similar because everyone was eerily quiet and many students were picked up by their parents. When I got home my parents were watching the news and they filled me in on what was going on but I guess I just had this numbing feeling because nothing like this had ever happened that I had know of and I just really didn't know how to feel about the situation.

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sometimessheblogs

I was a sophomore in High school. I walked into world history class (how ironic) as my teacher was turning on the tv because "there's been a crash at the world trade center." We watched the second plane hit, and both towers fall. I remember feeling like you mention… not really all that sad just thinking "this is one of those moments I'll never forget." I got really freaked out that afternoon because my mom didn't pick me up at school like she normally did, so I walked home and walked through the door before she realized she forgot me (this was pre-cell phones for family members under the age of 16) because she'd been so caught up in the day's events. I went on with my day, went to help teach a dance class that afternoon at my studio, and the lead teacher was consoling kids and muttering under her breath about how this was going to start a war, which I was surprised to hear her say, and now I don't know why it never entered my mind. I hated hearing the next day my classmates saying things like "let's Nuke em!", the patriotism didn't bother me, it was the hateful backlash, but it was hard to convey that without sounding unpatriotic or like you were "siding with terrorists." we had many middle eastern students at my school and all I could think was "I hope we don't do the same thing to them as what we did to the Japanese after WWII" Those were the things I was concerned about… things changing and going backward, I can't say that I was all that sad or crying, and yes, I still have "odd" responses to any disaster, war, attack. I worry that if I get to emotional about it, I won't be able to live my own life.

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Sophie

The day I visited Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp near Berlin, it was one of the most beautiful mornings i've ever seen. Snow drifted down through sunlight when wind touched the trees. I had absolutely no idea what to feel and how to respond. I'll never go back to a site like that again.

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Han

I was at school. We were about a week into school after the school summer holidays – I was just starting year 11. I'd been to see my Music Teacher when the other music teacher came in and said "The Twin has fallen" I was like huh? oh well maybe they were in the middle of a conversation – it was only when I got to my Grandma's that I saw the news. I looked after my 7 yo cousin while my Mum, Aunt and Grandma were crowded round TV

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Marie

I was getting ready for class, and could hear talk about it on my radio alarm in the background but also figured they were talking about a movie or something. My roommate came out and told me to come watch TV. I stood there in total disbelief about what had happened and as I watched the second plane hit.
I didn't cry either; I just felt shocked and in total disbelief that something like that could happen.
Afterwards, especially when reading the stories of family members, I would cry. I was just so thankful that none of my family was affected.

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Amy

I was in my last semester of college, and had been in Boston 1 year. I was also working at a local new station. The first plane hit on my way from class to work. When I got to work and saw people gathered outside I first thought there was a fire alarm. It wasn't till I was inside with my colleagues when I realized they'd been standing against the glass trying to view the TVs in the lobby. I witnessed the 2nd plane hit with my coworkers. Immediately I tried calling home, which is in California. I couldn't get through, not even on my cell phone. A lot of us left early that day since our office was in Government Center, and there was concern…as I sat on the empty subway car going home, there was an eerie quietness. The only sound above the trains was the occasional announcement to watch out for suspicious packages on the trains. When I got home I turned on the TV and remained in front of it the rest of the day. I cried. A lot. I cried when I saw people jumping from the buildings; I cried when I saw the fires burning; I cried when I realized the planes had originated from Boston and were going to California, realizing I could have easily been on one of those planes. I cried for all of those who were.

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