Where I Was on 9/11

Where I Was on 9/11“Love is an abstract noun, something nebulous. And yet love turns out to be the only part of us that is solid, as the world turns upside down and the screen goes black.” ~Martin Amis

I was supposed to go to a women’s prayer meeting that morning at the YMCA. I had been up late studying so I had decided to play hooky from the prayer meeting and sleep in a little before going to class instead.

I was 22 and in my next-to-last semester of college. I was still living at home, in what I now can see was a protective, safe, idealistic bubble.

My mom came in my room a little while after I had called to tell them I wouldn’t be coming to the prayer meeting, and it annoyed me. I had just dropped back off to sleep. She was watching the news and something strange had happened. What everyone thought to be a small airplane had just “accidentally” crashed into the World Trade Center in NYC. Initially I brushed her off, rolled back over, and went back to sleep…not thinking too much about it. I was young and clueless and had virtually no life experience and had never even been to New York City. I wasn’t even entirely sure which building the World Trade Center was. I was sure my mom was overreacting and it was nothing. So I went back to sleep.

About 20 minutes later, my mom burst into my room. It was so sudden and urgent, I shot straight up in bed, sleep forgotten. I knew something was really wrong.

“Another plane just hit the other tower of the World Trade Center. We’re under attack.”

At 22, I didn’t really know what that meant…or at least I didn’t fully grasp it. All I knew at that moment was that the prayer meeting I had planned to skip was right where I needed to be.

I jumped out of bed and rushed through my getting ready rituals to make it to the YMCA, showing up to the meeting about a half hour late. I’ll never forget walking into the Y to that day and being hit by a wall of silence. No one was working out. No children were laughing and playing. No basketballs were bouncing. Everyone was huddled around every TV in the building, staring at the screen in shock. No one was saying a word.

We watched in horror that day as the first tower fell, and then the second. Still no one spoke. Tears ran down silent faces. People hugged without words. And in the YMCA that day, strangers became not just friends…but family. Walls between us all dropped. Our differences failed to matter. Our prayer group was there to pray, some people were there to work out, some to work…but instead, we stood silently, shoulder to shoulder, watching the world that we knew crumble around us all. And we held each other up.

In the midst of it all, a young lady who worked at the Y came into the room where our prayer group was huddled. She looked completely bereft, and you could see her pain and fear went beyond the common grief we were all experiencing. She began to tell us her story in a shaking voice. Her dad worked at the Pentagon, and she had been on the phone with him when the plane hit. Their call had gotten disconnected and she hadn’t been able to get back in touch with him. All the way in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, here stood someone directly and possibly forever impacted by the horrors of that day.

Our prayer group immediately circled around the young lady and began to pray for her. We began to ask God to cover her father and get him out of the building safely. To give his young daughter comfort. To bind all the wounds of the injured and to be with the families of the fallen and to help the rest of us know how to minister to those directly impacted by the attacks.

When we all left the Y that day, both of the World Trade Center towers were in rubble. And the young lady still hadn’t heard from her dad at the Pentagon. I remember walking out into the beautiful sunshine and seeing the gigantic American flag above the YMCA waving in the breeze so beautiful, so proud, so hopeful. And though my childhood and my safe protective bubble had been badly bruised and my heart broken, that flag reminded me that in the midst of the greatest loss lies the potential for the greatest miracles. That hope is never lost. That hate never gets the last word.

A week later, after the smoke had cleared, the panic had calmed, and the loss to our country had begun to sink in…I stopped by the YMCA to check on the young lady whose dad had been in the Pentagon. She wasn’t there that day, but her co-worker told me that her dad had gotten out of the building safely and uninjured. And for the first time in a week, I smiled.

9/11. Never forget.

Where were you that day?

13 Responses to “ Where I Was on 9/11 ”

  1. September 11, 2013

    Mandy, I just love your blog! It’s one of my very favorite reads. I don’t think any of us will ever forget, will we? I was a senior in high school back in Kentucky and one of our teachers came rushing into our 1st period class to tell us to turn on the TV and we saw the second plane come crashing in. Now that I’m older and having lived in the NYC area after college I had an ex-fiance that was from NYC. He and his family knew so many people in those buildings and all the stories were just incredible, especially of the exodus out of the city. It was such a tragic and senseless loss of life that day. I was a Tri-Delt at the University of Kentucky and there many sisters that died that day too. I like to think that there were lots of angels in NY, PA and DC that day too that we couldn’t see.

  2. Jennifer
    September 11, 2013

    How is it I can’t remember what I did two days ago, but this day is etched in my brain? I remember where my dad was and where I was. The tragedy of the day, maybe! Watching the scenes play out over and over again on the news, perhaps! It is so hard to forget something so horrific. Thank you for sharing your story!!

  3. Lindsay
    September 11, 2013

    I live in Middletown, NJ about 45minutes to an hour outside of NYC..on a map it is that tip that sticks out where NYC is just across the water in plain sight. I was on my second day of my freshman year of high school in math class when the principal came over the loud speaker to announce for the teachers to turn on the televisions. Being young and naïve I thought nothing of it other then yes I hate math and we now get to watch t.v. As the teacher turned on the t.v. the entire school went silent as we sat in shock watching the towers burn and crumble to the ground, then shortly after panic set in for all the people who had family and friends who working in the city. Sadly 37 people in my town of Middletown, NJ lost their lives that day. Reading your blog gave me the chills as I remember back to that day 12 years ago when I was young and didn’t fully understand what was happening or really even know what the World Trade Center was ( I was sheltered in my own bubble considering I live in close proximity). This day always gives me a heavy heart as I reflect back to that day and what happened to our people and our country, and I am grateful that no one close to me was there or worked in the towers and this day has made me more proud to be an American than ever before. God Bless the USA.. 9/11/01 always in our hearts, never forgotten <3

  4. Milagros Denizard
    September 11, 2013

    wow truly touching love your blog

  5. Deborah Stagg
    September 15, 2013

    I knew when you said that your group huddled around that young girl and prayed for her dad, that he would be ok. The power of prayer is so powerful and it was your hope for the future. The Bible says “if two or more pray in my name it will be done” and obviously it was. You echoed the whole country in how you described what you felt and how you were permanently changed. I remember watching tv for days to see them find survivors but they never did. but later I heard about the group in the stairwell that survived and the man who rode the collapsing building down and lived. Those stories are about God’s miracles but I didn’t see those on the news during that time. I had hope then but as days went by with no survivors I was so depressed. The horror of that day haunts me when I remember what happened in an effort to honor those lost. I won’t forget but it will always be hard when I remember.

  6. Suzanne
    September 11, 2014

    I live in Nashville, TN now, but I was living and working at the Jersey Shore in 2001, finishing up a summer job after the rest of my family had returned home to MA…. I was a receptionist at a real estate office about 2 hours south of NYC… After the first plane hit, one of the agents came out front to let us know what had happened…. There was a TV in the back room, so we took turns leaving the front desk to walk back and follow the news updates… And we were constantly refreshing our computers…. We have several family friends who work in the financial sector in NYC as well as lots of friends in MA, so I got on the phone to call my mom to find out if she’d talked to her friends yet… She was just waking up and hadn’t turned on the TV yet… My dad was traveling internationally that week, so she immediately hung up to contact him…. At our office, the phones rang off the hook all day normally… The phone rang less and less as the day progressed… Our usual greeting when we answered the phone lines was, “It’s a great day at ——, how may I direct your call?” It definitely seemed awkward to be saying that… And after an agent from another office called and responded with, “ok, we all know it’s not a great day anywhere today…”, we requested of the owner/manager to change the greeting for the day and just say, “thank you for calling —–, how may I direct your call?” and he agreed that was a good idea… A few of our regular callers commented throughout the day that they were glad we’d changed it… Within a matter of minutes of the 2nd tower being hit, there were fighter jets flying overhead along the coast and by the end of the day, the horizon over the ocean was lined with military ships guarding the coastline…. Very eerie…. I happened to be living by myself during that time, so I returned home at the end of the day to an empty house… And empty house that had front windows without curtains facing the ocean… So it was on one hand eerie to look out at the dark sky and ocean with the lights of all the ships… But also reassuring…. I sat in front of the TV watching news and crying for a couple hours… Made a few phone calls… And finally had to turn off the news and put in a FRIENDS VHS until I went to bed…. Definitely a tough time to live alone and just be alone… Was grateful I had to go to work the next day so I could be around other people…. When all things had settled down, we learned that all of our family and friends were safe except one… One of my high school friends lost her husband… He was on one of the planes that took off from Boston Logan that morning…. 🙁

  7. Patricia
    September 11, 2014

    I remember as though it was yesterday. My elderly mother was living alone and I came to her apartment to check on her well being. She asked me to take the day off from work to keep her company, which I was happy to do and we were watching Good Morning America. When the first plane hit everyone thought it was pilot error or something but when the second one did, we knew we were under attack. The TV was on for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon as all the horror played out live. It was like watching a disaster movie, only it was really happening. We will never be the same.

  8. Tammi D'Antoni
    September 11, 2014

    Where was I on 9/11? I live in Staten Island, NY. My boyfriend of 2 years was a FDNY part of elite RESCUE 5 (There is one Rescue company in each of the 5 NY boroughs) We had attended a wedding on 9/9 for close friends, he switched his tour with another fireman to be off Sunday & work Monday into Tuesday am instead. I drove my 7 year old son to school, and remember so vividly what a beautiful morning it was, the sun was shining bright and a brisk chill in the air… I actually passed the firehouse on way home but they were out on a run at a local hospital for a gas leak. When I returned home, I had forgotten that I had a school meeting at 10 am so I would go into work afterwards. I left him a voice mail on his cell to say we would meet for coffee before he went to his 2nd job as a carpenter once he left the firehouse.. the timing should have been just right.
    When I came home I was dusting, I had the radio on listening to a NYC station & suddenly it went off – then came back on a few minutes later & they said a plane had hit the Trade Center where their antenna is. Immediately I turned on the news, and started VHS taping it, so he could watch this from the outside in. (He was a buff, he truly loved his job).
    I then called the firehouse (he was a true fireman, cell was in his locker) they were still out on that hospital call for a gas leak. I was getting worried about my girl friends who worked in the trade center – one for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor and another on the 38th floor. I received a call from my cousin who was a FDNY radio dispatcher in SI & told me that Rescue 5 was directed directly into Manhattan to cover Rescue 1 and Rescue 1 was then going to the WTC. He then called back to say they were in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel heading to the WTC. At this point we all still assumed it was an accident. I thought ok, first let me go up to school to get my son out & I called my job to say I wasn’t coming in until I heard from him. As I arrived, there was a line of parents (This was a K-12th grade school) By the time it was my turn to say my son’s name… I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t say my own son’s NAME. Something hit my heart so bad I can’t explain it. The tears were rolling down my face, I was a mute. A teacher recognized me and got my son Anthony for me… Still I was speechless. As I got in the car the radio was on live news coverage and I heard the South Tower had just collapsed. I still didn’t know where he actually was. I just know that my soul was hurting. I was glued to the TV, I was in touch with his family who wanted me to stay home close to the phone in case he was able to make a quick call. He was working I thought, helping people. His priority & I understood that. By 3pm I couldn’t sit still, I drove to the nearby Rescue 5 firehouse and they had it all blocked off with a FF outside directing traffic. I asked if they were ok.. he said who is your husband, I said the name & his reply was I quote -“Yes, they are working & accounted for” So, I go home & call his mom & sister & tell them the message. As the hours passed, no one heard from him at all. At midnight, his sister received a call that he was officially, one of the missing. That night I went to the Alba House to pray for his safety and so many thousands of others. There were many confusing accounts, who thought they may have seen him or others, etc. I went to his moms house, at 11 am the FDNY chaplain arrived… To see him walking towards US… beyond devastating. They had no new updates. The crossover period the morning before had men from shift that had ended and new shift coming on… 11 men were missing form RESCUE 5. We were the only couple not married. Nothing of him was ever recovered. NOTHING. IT BLOWS MY MIND. You don’t see it, you don’t want to believe it. I lived with so much guilt that he switched his tour for me, for my friend’s wedding. He wouldn’t have been at the firehouse to jump on that truck right away…
    Ironically, when we met on a blind date I learned that his helmut # is 12211 My son Anthony’s Birthday is 12/21. I always played the daily lotto numbers including 911 since my son was christened on that day back in 1994. He always played 911 simply because he was a fireman. We played that number every single day. WHO KNEW. FATE definitely played a role here… My son & I were truly blessed to have had been loved by such a genuine man… He was supposed to be in our lives – 2 years just wasn’t enough when you are planning on a lifetime together. I pissed him off from time to time… and he did the same. We were a normal couple loving & growing… but we never doubted our love deep for each other like no other. We took a break for a few weeks in July 2001 when he had been off from work, yet was so super twisted at a prank they pulled on him in the firehouse. He kept solely to himself, wasn’t in touch with me, his family, friends… Yet once we started speaking and made amends… he couldn’t explain it. I was later told that his soul was somewhat preparing him for what was to come… Strange I know, but makes sense. This coming from John Edward – who I have been reading his books and been a fan forever. I was lucky enough to be read 2x on the show… Nothing short of AMAZING. I am so thankful that we made up and had the best month and weekend leading up to that fateful day. We had a beautiful memorial for him 10/30/01. Seas of FDNY blue.. so much love was there for him… He truly was one of a kind. Hesitating to have a “real funeral” we were waiting to see if anything was recovered… we had an official FDNY funeral, small and intimate with close family, friends and Rescue 5. Every single day is 9/11 for me. He was my soulmate and yes, we would have our own family today if America wasn’t attacked.
    THAT fateful day 9/11/01 – I finally reached my friends who I was so worried about who worked in the WTC. Helen decided to take off for her wedding anniversary – but lost EVERYONE she has worked with, sat next to, ate lunch with and became family with for 14 years. Heart wrenching to say the least.
    Connie – she walked down many flights of stairs and was numb & stunned. She injured her knee, was just frozen in time at the bodies thumping on the ground all around her. An acquaintance of hers took her hand and would not leave her behind. I thank god for him, her angel who truly saved her that day. She is traumatized still, but is here with a beautiful family and her life was spared.
    In the end, I know Nicky helped many people that day. All gave some & some gave all. Uniform or not they were all in it together. I know if he were here today, he loved his job and would run in all over again. #Selfless Connie swears al she saw were FDNY assisting so many people out that morning. As the day unfolded, not even believing what was happening. Hearing the names of friends and neighbors & those of family members of friends who were not home yet and hadn’t been heard from. Tears of joy for those who made it home… And tears of sorrow for those who didn’t.
    There is not a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t pray for those who didn’t. Never ever forget…. 9/11/01

    I know he is my angel and watches over me. My son is now turning 21 in December – I know Nicky would be so proud.
    I married in 2006, have 2 beautiful little boys now 6 & 7 years old but have been on my own over 4 1/2 years. It wasn’t a healthy relationship and want only the best hub for my boys. They are my priority. Nicky was definitely a soul mate for me& I will always feel so lucky to have been loved by such an amazing man. “Now & Forever” by Carol King sums it up. If you have a chance – listen to it. Sending kisses to heaven today <3 Miss you more than words Nicky Love <3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVgOMfmuWw8

  9. kelley
    September 11, 2014

    I was living in venezuela where I was on a six month missions trip. I had been out handing out flyers for our english school when one of the other missionaries came running out of the school to tell us what was going on. They had all tried to reach family in the states to find out what was going on…but all lines were down..so I called my family in canada and talked to my mom to get the details. In shock I passed on the information to my fellow missionaries. I flew back to canada a month after that dreadful day…as my plane took off from our stop in Newark…my heart sank as for the first time I saw the new york skyline without the twin towers…and the reality of what had happened just a month earlier began to sink in. And I realized I was returning to a very different north america then I had left just 6 months earlier.

  10. Judy's
    September 11, 2014

    I live on the west coast, and I had my alarm set for a early shift, and it was tuned to KDOV radio! when I first woke I beleive it was. Perry Atkinson announcing that a plane had hit the World Trade Center… I dozed a little it, think H is does a plane hit this huge building???? Half awake half asleep Dozing to the snooze alarm, when all he sudden it was an bounced that the other tower had been struck as well… Was this a nightmare….. Yes a nightmare in the making. I ran into the living room and tuned the local television station that was streaming live footage… It seemed so impossible… But people could still escape. The building other portions right… I mean. These buildings are built to with stand all sorts of things.
    as the story developed… Those of us working got bits and pieces of information from passersby as different employees came and went on break … It was sullen, everyone in shock… disbelief.. As each new attack was announced and as the twin towers crumbled…

    It became knowledge that is was possibly the work of Osama Bin Ladin…. Until a few months before this I had no idea who this might be…… But , god had sent me an angel…. In the form of a neighbor…. Who came along at just the right time to help me with a problem that needed solving…. In the course of this new friendship, nightly walks were part of our routine. Dan was extremely knowledgable about. World events , and since we shared a love for The Lord …. Conversations On many subjects flowed as we took out 3 mile nightly walk…. And Bin Ladin was mentioned several times… Who would have known that this man from the Far East would hold so much power over the United States…. ( I was just trying to exercise off a few pounds)

    as the war in the Middle East continues, we lost one family member in the war against BIn Laden when a helicopter crash took the team that had ended his terror. ( my nieces stepson gave his all for our freedom.)

    thank you for letting me share As Alan Jackson up t it Where I was when the world stopped turning.

  11. Rene
    September 13, 2014

    Mandy, thank you for your blog. One quick note: I am from Murfreesboro and still have family that lives there and I visit a few times a year. I had been living in Atlanta a little over a year on 9/11 and a coworker told me that a plane had hit the first tower and I didn’t believe her. I went into my office and turned on the radio and listened in shock. I worked at a law firm in Midtown Atlanta and one of the attorneys had a TV that he moved into the library and all day we kept on going back and forth to the library to see what was happening. I remember seeing the first tower fall and just could not believe it. Our office didn’t close early that day (and from seeing the jam packed streets, I was OK with staying at work), but by the time I got off it was eerie because everything was closed, including a shopping mall I had to go past to get home and there was no traffic on the roads. I didn’t know anyone that died, but it was definitely a loss of innocence that day.

  12. Blanka
    September 14, 2014

    I live in Croatia. WHEN that happend people around the world be in shock. God Bless people around the world.

  13. Daphne
    September 11, 2016

    I will never forget. I was at home with my new baby girl on maternity leave when my husband called from the military base to wake me up and turn on the tv. I witnessed the second plane hit live on television. It was terrifying and I knew at that moment my husband would be sent somewhere. Sure enough he was sent out with the next month in the first of several trips he spent in the Middle East. It was the scariest time of my life and while he was gone I had to stop watching the news. Even though we are no longer married, I still cannot watch the news remembering all we went through. God bless all the first responders and soldiers. ❤️

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