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rfrobison
09-05-2011, 11:42 PM
With the 10th anniversary of the event fast approaching, I thought I'd kick off a discussion of people's memories, experiences, and thoughts a decade on.

I'm more interested in people's personal thoughts than political or policy debates on the significance of 9/11 and how the U.S. or the world should handle the aftermath, but I leave it open-ended.

The thing that sticks with me the most: I think the attack started around 7:30 p.m. Japan time. My wife and I had come back from dinner and I turned on the TV just in time to watch the second plane hit. At that point it was clear it wasn't an accident.

I think about an our or so later Queen Elizabeth II had an honor guard in front of Buckingham Palace play "The Star Spangled Banner." I started to cry.

I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Britain and the queen for that.

Don Zeko
09-06-2011, 12:05 AM
I was a freshman in high school when it happened. I didn't know anything had happened until about mid-morning, when people were trading rumors at the beginning of my french class. When the teacher came in she turned on the TV in time for us to see the towers fall.

It's funny, but I watched it with a strange sense of detachment. At the time it elicited about as much of an emotional reaction from me as some scene in a Jerry Bruckheimer (http://www.theonion.com/articles/american-life-turns-into-bad-jerry-bruckheimer-mov,220/) movie. It wasn't until later, when I approached the events from a different direction and with more context, that it became traumatic.

Sulla the Dictator
09-06-2011, 01:06 AM
I had strange hours back then, I believe I was about 22, almost done with college, and I was celebrating by playing Cossacks online. I got up and was headed to bed, because it was early morning. I turned on the news which I watched as I waited to fall asleep, and saw the smoke rising from the first tower. Because I was so tired, I thought it was an industrial accident at some smokestack back East. After a few minutes I realized it was the WTC and couldn't sleep. I was watching as the second plane hit.

I remember a numbness and a growing anger. I didn't have any tears until I realized that the shapes falling from the building were people. I couldn't stop switching stations, hoping for any news at all. I hoped that the casualties were in the dozens. I got on my computer and searched for the passenger content of the planes they were saying were used. And then the towers fell. I remember listening to a former CNN personality say how many people were usually in the towers, and that if we cut that number in half for evacuations, it still might be the bloodiest day in American history. I remember thinking to myself, as the smoke and dust enveloped central New York, that people were going to suffocate in that cloud. That tens of thousands of people were dying before my eyes.

In that single moment I realized the world had forever changed. The end of the Cold War had given us a grand holiday which we naively believed would last forever. I was on the phone with a friend of mine, who was weeping into the phone. And I remember a cold rage in that period when I believe so many were dead. At that moment, there was no violence against these enemies that I would condemn, and no price in collateral damage that was too high. To paraphrase Tacitus, I wanted to create a desert in whatever place authored this attack and call it peace.

To my (relative) relief, the casualties from the buildings were a lot fewer than earlier suggested. But I didn't sleep for 3 days. It is the most vivid memory I have of a national event.

miceelf
09-06-2011, 06:52 AM
I was a post-doc at a hospital. My boss had just flown in earlier that morning from Britain. My now wife, who at the time was the cute girl in the lab who I was pursuing, (and happened to be incredibly afraid of flying) had flown out the night before to interview for med school. Her interviews were all that day.

All of us in the lab- nurses, admins, post-docs, docs, all crowded into a hospital room, watching the news and what was happening. It was all shock.

My first thought, as selfish as it was, was "I hope that Cherie doesn't see this until after her interview is over."

She was stranded in another city for more than a week, and we spent pretty much all the time on the phone, me doing my best to calm her down. It was then that we got a lot more serious about each other.

Ocean
09-06-2011, 07:40 AM
I was a freshman in high school when it happened. I didn't know anything had happened until about mid-morning, when people were trading rumors at the beginning of my french class. When the teacher came in she turned on the TV in time for us to see the towers fall.

It's funny, but I watched it with a strange sense of detachment. At the time it elicited about as much of an emotional reaction from me as some scene in a Jerry Bruckheimer (http://www.theonion.com/articles/american-life-turns-into-bad-jerry-bruckheimer-mov,220/) movie. It wasn't until later, when I approached the events from a different direction and with more context, that it became traumatic.

That delayed reaction is a somewhat underreported but common event to all kinds of traumatic events which are processed later when additional information becomes available or when a different maturational stage is reached.

Ocean
09-06-2011, 07:40 AM
She was stranded in another city for more than a week, and we spent pretty much all the time on the phone, me doing my best to calm her down. It was then that we got a lot more serious about each other.

That's a nice love story. At least some good can come out of a tragedy.

Ocean
09-06-2011, 07:52 AM
I had recently moved to the Seattle area from NJ. I had returned to NJ for work purposes about two weeks before 9/11 and stayed with a friend in NY city. I had commuted through the towers during that brief visit, as I said about two weeks before the attack.

The day of the attack, I was back in my home in Washington state. My ex-husband called me early in the morning because on his way to work he was listening to the news in the car and heard what had happened. I turned on the TV and couldn't stop watching the tragedy. That morning I had some people coming to take some measurements to replace flooring. When they came I opened the door for them, told them what to do and went back to the family room to watch the news. They came back to ask me something and I asked them if they knew what was going on. They said they didn't. I told them. They looked at each other and almost shrugged their shoulders. I was shocked by their indifference. I guess they didn't grasp the magnitude of the event.

When my children found out, I wondered how much they would be able to understand since they were very young. My youngest, who was barely four years old at the time, kept drawing buildings with planes crashing into them and the smoke for weeks. That's one of the ways kids deal with stressful events.

rfrobison
09-06-2011, 10:41 AM
Addendum: It seems my memory of the playing of U.S. national anthem is faulty. I just checked a report (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1340465/Palace-breaks-with-tradition-in-musical-tribute.html) from Britain's Telegraph newspaper. It seems the musical tribute wasn't played until the day of Sept. 13, U.K. time, which would have made it the evening of Sept. 12 in New York, I suppose.

When I think about it, this makes sense. Had the tribute actually taken place an hour after the terrorists struck, that would have made it late in the evening of Sept. 11 or early in the morning Sept. 12, U.K. time, which wouldn't make sense.

Interesting how our recollection of events becomes compressed and distorted, even for an event that I'm sure seems perfectly etched in our memories.

Wonderment
09-06-2011, 08:30 PM
In late August 2001 we returned from a year's sabbatical in Spain. By 9/11/ I was just getting reconnected to life in the USA. Then, ka-boom.

I woke up in California that morning and read on the Internet about the attacks. I was horrified, of course, and knew immediately that there would be hell to pay globally.

I am grateful that I did not own a television at the time. I think I got a less distorted and manipulated understanding of events from radio and newspapers.

I went to teach my classes at a alternative educational community, where there were no TVs either. I was never more appreciative of a group of people who are dedicated to nonviolence, global and self-awareness. There were no flags (there has never been a flag on that campus in 40 years), no nationalistic hymns, no political speeches, no denunciation of enemies, and definitely no military recruiting ever.

We just gathered -- faculty and staff -- in a circle and took turns expressing thoughts and feelings about what was going on. It was very helpful -- a good reality check -- to process the events as calmly as possible, in a contemplative environment with a diverse group of colleagues and teenage students.

Many of the teachers, parents and students at the school had family and friends in NYC. Some, it later turned out, had direct connections to people who died.

Having grown up in a community with many Holocaust survivors, I'm sensitive to the suffering of families and friends of murder victims. I wish I could have done more to help.

The peace community, like the war community, quickly got involved in organizing. Peacefultomorrows.org was among survivor groups who got out front and tried to prevent the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

My own kids were around 13 at the time. One of my daughters grew up to have two separate relationships with guys in the military. As a result, she has literally dozens of friends who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, most of whom returned with PTSD.