Where were you on 9/11?

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt September 11, 2014
Ground Zero. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ground Zero. Source: Wikimedia Commons

This post has been updated. 

Everyone has a “Where they were on 9/11” story. The most powerful stories are those of the people immediately affected by this tragedy, the victims, their loved ones and the first responders.

But we all remember something about that day. For me, it was oversleeping and waking up, bleary-eyed, to a world that was different than it was before I went to sleep. War, foreign policy, and terrorism were all things I’d studied in textbooks.

They would become very much a part of my world over the years after 9/11. Friends and family were shipped overseas while debates raged back home. We continue to be involved in conflicts that we entered into because of what happened that day. To this day we’re wrestling with the questions it raised.

How much of our personal privacy is our security worth?

Should we continue to get involved in foreign conflicts in defense of values that we share but aren’t necessarily shared by all?

For all of the bloodshed and money spent, have our actions post-9/11 helped to further our long term interests as a nation?

The shock of 9/11 has dulled. The shock waves continue as the consequences of our response to this event reveal themselves. Today it’s ISIS. Tomorrow it’s, God knows who.

I want to hear from you today. If you would, please share with us your story about where you were on 9/11. What do you remember? What does this event mean to you today?

You can leave your responses in the comments section or email them to us at editor@decaturish.com

Joe Seconder sent in his account of that day.

Where were you 13 years ago today? I was working in Basel, Switzerland as an IT consultant. 16 months later I kissed my wife goodbye not knowing when I would see her again as I was deployed to Kuwait as a US Army Infantry Major with my Reserve unit. I was notified just after Christmas, 2002 and given less than 2 week’s notice to leave my job, home and wife for active military duty. We spent about 5-6 weeks in Germany for training before flying to Kuwait in early February, 2003, before the Iraq invasion. I had sincerely hoped we were bluffing Sadam so that he would agree to let inspectors come in and search for WMD. Didn’t happen. Had scud missiles come toward us in the early days of the war and I sat in the Scud bunker praying that my protective (gas) mask had an airtight seal. I returned home a year later. It seemed like nothing had changed in the States with people’s day-to-day lives and it was definitely surreal. Lots more to say. But it certainly was different for the WWII vets returning, where the country rationed gasoline, raised Savings Bonds, had a draft, and nearly everyone sacrificed. A few years ago I was in Aspen, CO on the 4th of July. Listened to their lovely symphony play patriotic songs with a couple thousand people in the audience. They asked as each of the armed services song was played, that the respective veterans stand and be acknowledged. When the Army song was played, I stood up, looked around and was the YOUNGEST person standing.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Miranda R.

    My husband’s uncle worked at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of the North Tower. He was one of the group of people that made it to the conference room there where he called his wife Jill and began to relay the names and contact information of his colleagues in the room with him. Today is a hard day. Recently we went to the memorial in NYC, it is beautiful, and it hits you like a mule kicking you in the stomach. If you leave it feeling nothing, you clearly aren’t human. As I type, I am listening to the names being read at the service, today is a really hard day.

  • pbj1138@yahoo.com

    My story is a more commonplace outsider reaction.

    I was in my office, on the phone, trying to get our company’s 401k plan funding straightened out. When I heard a plane hit the WTC, I immediately thought it was a commercial passenger carrier – some colleagues insisted it had to a private plane, random thing. The spread of news and details wasn’t as instantaneous as it is now.

    I was shaken up and frightened and confused, like everyone, but continued with my work – we had a little B&W TV set up in the office & on CNN, I’m sure. It didn’t even occur to me to leave work and go get my kids (then 11 and 8) from school until after the 2d and 3d planes. I don’t think we even closed the office that day.

    I don’t remember a lot more than that – other than being on the phone with the 401k company, being very insistent and bossy and later thinking how surreal that was what I was doing (probably like a lot of people in the WTC, just doing their jobs). After that, I just remember how silent and strange it was with no planes flying overhead at all.

  • Nicki Salcedo

    I had the day off from work. I was with my sister and her two little girls. I had just walked into her house that morning when the first news reports started. We couldn’t understand. We couldn’t stop watching. Eventually, we had to stop because the news was too graphic and the girls were watching. My godmother had left New York City that morning and her airplane was grounded in Atlanta. My husband went to the airport to get her that night. Thousands of people were stranded. The highways were empty. I just remembered feeling very thankful that I was with my sister that day and with my mom and dad and godmother and husband that night. We lived in a condo off 25th street and Peachtree. I watched the skyline all night. I stopped watching regular broadcast TV in 2001. I have only seen the news online or public broadcast since then. I like to control what news I see. Ever since that day, I consciously look for good every day. This is a direct result of me fighting terror. I look for good. I find it every day. It’s just some days I have to look harder. And other days goodness walks up and taps me on the shoulder.

  • Parent in 2001

    On maternity leave, nursing my infant, watching the TV with horror as the story went on and on, first one tower collapsing, then the other, wondering what my Westchester student was hearing at school. Ms. Kuebler, the principal, handled it beautifully, contacting the parents, telling them that they blocked the students from the news so that parents could tell their children in the way they saw fit.

  • Decatur Momma

    This date always leaves me with a pit in my stomach. It’s still hard to look at the pictures without heartache. I lived and worked at ground zero. It was the only day in my life I felt that if I didn’t run I could die. I saw too many horrible things that day which are permanently engrained in my memory. Never take a moment of your life for granted.

  • william whitley

    I was a young attending anesthesiologist at Cornell, New York Hospital on 68th street. I was pulled off a heart surgery a few minutes after the second plane hit the WTC. We went into emergency shut down mode and I was initially assigned 10 medical students to act as manual ventilators for the massive influx of injured we were expecting. You could almost hear the intense buzz of stress. It was surreal. You could see the smoke plume through the windows drifting across the East River over Brooklyn.
    I was in the ER just as the first building collapsed. We only had a handful of patients but the anguish and anxiety was overwhelming. All 4 or the hospital’s EMT teams were killed instantly. The ER was in chaos. I helped intubate a lady with extensive burns and I took another lady in her 50s to the OR for open arm fractures. A younger man had basically carried her down the stairs from the 101st floor with her arm nearly torn off. She and the burn victim both survived.
    After her case we just waited. About midnight, they released us to go home. It was the quietist I ever heard the city. Spooky quiet. I was walking to the west side with a colleague across the Great Lawn in Central Park when a jet fighter buzzed the park at about 200 feet. My friend and I hit the ground. We were pretty shook up.
    From my apartment building on the Hudson river you could see the glow of the fire and smell an electrical fire from about 2 miles away.
    On Thursday I was at Stuyvescent High where there was a volunteer medical center. I got close enough to feel the heat from the smoldering ruins. There was 2 inches of soot and mud in the heavy rains. No electricity for blocks. It was hellish. Even worse, there was nothing to do. Just emergency personnel with scratches and turned ankles. I have never felt so frustrated and impotent in my medical career.

  • I was pregnant, teaching high school, and tasked with telling my students what had happened. I wrote a whole post on it last year. http://www.sallykilpatrick.com/2013/09/11/the-only-post-im-going-to-write-for-911/

  • Susie

    I was a freshman in college. I had just moved across state lines from my parents for the first time less than a month previously, and I didn’t know anyone very well. It was a Tuesday, so my classes didn’t start until 11, but around 9 I did something completely random that I usually did not do: I turned on the TV just to see what was happening. That was moments after the first tower was hit. I went up and down the hall looking for other people who weren’t in class, and we huddled together in my room trying to call our parents. We watched until 11, then we went to class. Our school had determined that we would not cancel classes because that was what the terrorists wanted, and we felt the need to be together in groups. There was serious discussion of a draft, there was speculation about who we would go to war with, never whether we would go to war.
    I only watched the news on a whim one other time in college, and that time I turned on a live feed moments before the space shuttle Columbia exploded. At that point I quit watching the news as well. I couldn’t risk it.

  • underscorex

    I was in college and working in a newsroom. Classes were cancelled at noon, so I just went in to work a couple hours early. There were so many people calling the station for information, etc. that they’d shut down the sales department and had our marketing staff answering the phones. The actual reporters were either out in the field or hunkered down in editing bays.

    Most of the calls were every single church in the market, from the big suburban megachurches to the little clapboard shacks, wanting us to tell everyone they’d be open that night. We had two crawls – open churches, closed businesses.

    And then there were the freak-outs. There’s a bomb at the mall, there’s a bomb at the new shopping center that just opened, a car bomb went off in Atlanta at the Federal Bank, a plane crashed at Camp David, my nephew works at NORAD and said there’s a missing nuclear warhead,etc. etc. etc.

    We brought in a local rabbi and a professor from the college who specialized in Islamic history and had a panel. That sounds like the setup to a joke in retrospect.

    It’s funny – as I was leaving campus, one of my professors told me that if I heard anything “they weren’t telling us” to let him know. I was a glorified intern at a small market network affiliate, but the paranoia of the years to come had already begun.

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