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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Banjo and Family Remember 9/11

Some of my family also sent me their remembrances, so I've consolidated them all here.

Banjo Remembers

I was home on 9/11 in order to change our cable TV over to a different service provider.  While waiting for someone to show up, my wife called from work to tell me that a plane had flown into a tower - she thought it was a traffic spotter plane; at the time, I understood that she was talking about an event in downtown Atlanta.  I said I didn't know if we had a TV signal yet, but would check...I remember wondering how a small plane could have flow into a tower in Atlanta, as the weather was pretty clear.

I checked the TV, and we had a signal!  Apparently, the cable company had been able to hook everything up from outside and never rang my doorbell.

I watched on NBC as Tom Brokow reported about the event of a plane flying into a tower in downtown NY.

I'm an instrumented-rated pilot, and the first thing I noticed, after realizing the tower was one in NY, not Atlanta, was that it was "severe clear" in pilot lingo.  Not much chance for a weather related visibility problem, so this was a real mystery....

I called my wife back to let her know that it wasn't Atlanta, but was in NYC, and explained my confusion about how this could happen with the weather being so clear...I was beginning to suspect the pilot had become incapacitated while flying.

While my wife was on the phone, I saw the 2nd plane banking into a left hand turn.  I thought I was seeing a replay of the original impact. I was truly stunned to realize this was a full size commercial jet aircraft, and that it was in a turn heading at the tower!  So that meant the impact had not been due to a pilot being incapacitated, so I was now doubly confused.  I watched as the plane impacted the tower and exploded through it....and I saw the first tower, and realized there were two towers involved, and this wasn't a replay, but was a new impact; two planes, two towers!!!

I thought "there's no way that second impact was a mistake", and I told my wife, who I had been giving a play-by-play, that she was to get out of the tower she was in and get home NOW, that we were under attack!  She later said she told her manager she was leaving because of the attacks on the towers, and that dumb-ass woman treated my wife like she was goofy, saying "it's just a small plane flying into a building for christ sakes", but my wife did tell her she was leaving and she was leaving now.  Bless my wife's ability to take action when it is needed and override dumb-ass corporate managers.

So my wife headed home.  I called my office to let them know what I was seeing on TV, and that I would not be coming in.  My wife showed up at our house about a half hour later.

I called our youngest daughter, who was in college at Southern Polytechnic State University, which is located near an Air Force base, and told her to get out of that area now; if we're under attack, then that base may be a target.  I told her it was OK to bring her boyfriend home too if she wanted to, as he was from out of town and no way to get back to his home.  So she headed home with him.

My oldest daughter had just started a new job as a programmer the day before, on 9/10!  She was in training when they got the word, and all training was stopped and they were told to go home, so she came home as well.

We spent the rest of that day and the next several days watching TV and feeling sick - news accounts were saying the death toll could be as high as 30,000 people!

I remember one really different thing - everyone stopped blowing their horns at other cars - for weeks!  If someone was slow ahead of you, no one honked their horn.  If they made a mistake, they were just waved on.  Jay Leno canceled his Tonight Show appearances, saying this wasn't the appropriate time to be telling jokes.

And, for a while, we were all Americans, liberal as well as conservative, with a common, unified goal - get the SOBs that had done this to us.  And I remember thinking, as a Southerner - they've killed our Yankees, and I hope we bust their ass for it.

My wife remembers 9/11

I was working that day, and in the morning happened to over hear someone in the office say they had heard on the radio that one of the towers at the World Trade Center in NY had been struck by an airplane. My husband was working from home that day, and I called to tell him what I had heard, the assumption being the plane crash
had been a terrible accident. As we were talking on the phone, he was watching TV trying to get a better feel for what had actually happened, when suddenly a second plane crashed into the other tower.

At this point my husband realized there had been no mistake; these were deliberate, intentional acts, and our country was under attack. By whom or what, no one yet knew, and the sense of urgency in my husband's voice telling me to come home, made me feel uneasy. When I told my manager I was leaving to go home, she wasn't very understanding, and I got the distinct impression she thought I was "over reacting". She would soon learn otherwise.

Driving home, I don't remember there being many cars on the highway. As I listened to the reports on the radio, I desperately wanted to get home where I'd feel safe. Once home, I immediately looked at the footage on  TV, and I just couldn't believe what I saw. I remember we were very concerned about the safety of our younger daughter who attended Southern Poly which is in close proximity to Dobbins Air Force Base, and we called to tell her to come home.

We watched TV for the remainder of the day and most of the night, and I remember feeling an over whelming sadness. The loss of innocent lives and the devastation left behind were incomprehensible. I couldn't understand how someone could hate America so much and cause the kind of devastation I saw. My America forever changed that day.

Heather, my oldest daughter, remembers 9/11

The second day of my brand new career started out slow and quiet.  I showed up to new cubicle around 8am wondering when my boss would be in the office and what I should do while I was waiting for him to arrive.   I'd spent the previous day going through orientation and learning where I would be sitting.  Without any work to do I began poking around on the internet for Java development sites and tried to keep myself busy doing work related reading. 
Some time around 9am my Dad called to say the news was reporting a plane had flown in to one of the world trade center towers.  I didn't even know which buildings the world trade center towers were.  We talked briefly about what might have been the cause before we hung up.  We considered common theories: a small plane pilot had somehow become confused, or maybe a pilot had experienced a medical problem.  I don't recall us considering at the time that this was a deliberate act. 

After hanging up the phone, I tried to access  The page wouldn't render for me and so I assumed that I didn't have access to view that page at the office.  I walked down to our Admin, Christine, to see if she could access that page.  She was able to pull up the page, although it was very slow to load.  While we were waiting for the page to render, I began to hear a few other people around making comments about the plane that had flown into the building.  Most of the comments were surprise about how much damage had been done to the building.  As the page finally displayed on Christine's computer, I too saw a very large area of black with thick smoke pouring out towards the top of the building.  This looked like a lot of damage to have been caused by a small plane.

Soon I heard that the television in the back break room was tuned to the news.  About 20 of us stood around in the room watching as the smoke billowed out of the building.  It was during this time that I learned where these buildings were on the New York City skyline and that I'd seen them in every episode of Friends and other television shows and movies.  As we stood watching the tv and talking among ourselves about how we hoped everyone in the building would be ok, we watched as another jet flew in to the second tower.  The conference room fell silent as the total impact washed over us.  We all knew in that instant that this was no accident.

Sometime during this I spoke with my Dad again.  He confirmed his feelings that this was indeed not an accident and that he was concerned about us in Atlanta because of the CDC being located here.  I remember that he wanted to reach my Mom who was working in a taller building in Dunwoody and tell her to go home because he was concerned that attacks may be planned elsewhere. 
A bit later I returned a call from my boss who was on his way in to the office.  He mentioned that he'd had to leave me a voice mail and thought I would be in the office already.  I told him I was in the office but many of us were watching the events unfold on the television in the break room.  He hadn't heard about what was happening in New York, so I briefly filled him in.  He seemed rather callous about the whole thing and commented that he didn't understand why that would stop people down here from working.  Later I learned that he'd not really been listening to me all that well while driving and didn't grasp the full extent of what was going on. 

I don't remember much else in detail from that day.  I remember walking to the other building on campus with other people and watching everything unfold on the televisions in the cafeteria.  I was standing in there watching when the first building collapsed.  There were a lot of gasps and cries in the small group that had gathered to watch.  I think I went on about my day as you would on your first "real" day at a new job, and checked in on the news a lot throughout the day. 

That night when I got home, my husband had the tv on and we continued to watch the coverage.  I remember seeing up close footage of debris falling from the buildings before they collapsed.  I'd earlier assumed I was seeing chairs and desks being thrown out of windows.  I learned that night that I'd in fact watched people jump to their deaths.  I cried a lot that night watching the tv coverage.  I don't remember talking much, just being stunned into a total silence.  The United States of America as I'd known them was no more.  I'd never considered the thought that any one or any group would want to hurt us.  I saw us as a nation who helped others, not as one who others hated.  An attack on the U.S. only existed in history books - Pearl Harbor happened even before my parents were born!  I had grown up taking my safety and life here for granted without realizing I was doing so. 

I know that even with all of the memorials, teachings, movies, stories, and songs about the tragic events of 9-11, my children will not really understand what it was like for all of us on that day.  I hope that they never experience a loss in their lifetime like we did that day.  But I do hope that between now and then the unity we feel as a country and the desire to help one another only grows stronger.  The lives lost on that day and in the days since should not be in vain. 

Sarah, my youngest daughter, remembers 9/11

I was a college freshmen attending Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia on September 11, 2001. I had graduated high school a little over three months prior and felt like the world was huge and I was going to make an impact. In the last few years of high school and starting college I’d begun thinking about my generation and what we were going to do, how we were going to make an impact and what our legacy was going to be. With generations previous it was the Vietnam War, Civil rights, JFK’s assassination and Watergate, those defining moments in their history and our generation didn’t seem to have much, except for the Gulf War which I vaguely remember. That all changed on 9/11/01. 

I’d been in my Calculus class and was walking back to my dorm room, chatting with a friend. I was about half-way back to the dorm when we passed another friend who told me to turn on the TV when I got back to my room, that the World Trade Center had been hit. Like most, I wasn’t really sure what that meant, how it happened, or really the magnitude. My dad was a private pilot and when anyone said plane I thought of a small plane, not a jetliner. As I continued to pass people on the sidewalk, they confirmed what my friend told me and I needed to turn on the TV. I got to the third floor of my dorm, knocked on my boyfriend’s door to get him out of bed and told him what happened as we turned on the TV. About that time the plane began to go into the second tower, as we watched in horror. I realized then that this was huge. 

Shortly after that, my dad called me to tell me he wanted me to come home and that my boyfriend could come if he would like, as he lived two hours away. My dad was concerned about my safety, as my college was within 5 miles of Dobbins Air Force Base. We knew we were under attack and didn’t know what was next and what the other targets were. At that point, what was safe? I don’t remember the drive home, couldn’t tell you if I listened to the radio, what route I took, or what time I arrived. School was about 30-45 minutes from my parents’ house. I don’t remember if my mom was home yet, but I do remember my sister being there with my dad and us sitting down to watch more of the coverage on TV. My dad began to explain to us from his air experiences, that it was intentional and not an accident and how difficult and tactful these events were. Shortly after arriving we learned that the pentagon had been hit and that a plane that authorities believed was headed for The White House was overtaken by passengers and crashed in Pennsylvania. 

It wasn’t too much longer when the towers began to collapse. I remember thinking it was odd that it surprised some that the buildings would collapse, as they had been structurally damages and that gravity was working against them. In the aftermath, I have learned how the towers were built structurally and how it was an abnormality that they collapsed. I remember watching people on the streets crossing the bridge and being in volcanic-type ash walking out of Manhattan. I was praying for those involved, the families and the city of New York. I was concerned too with my friends who graduated with me that were attending Marymount in Manhattan, thinking how horrific it was, and wondering how anyone “survives,” “moves on” and “heals” from those images in person. I since learned that one of my high school friends assisted public safety personnel by bringing water and providing lunches to those working.

I don’t remember if I ate lunch or dinner, what the conversations were, where I slept or even when I went back to school. I DO remember that my university wasn’t shut down and classes still proceeded as usual (I remember how rude I felt that was). Most importantly I remember how, for the first time in my life, I felt like our country was more united, that our differences didn’t matter, that we were more accepting of others, that we truly BELIEVED in our country. I remember knowing that I was uncertain about what came next but that our country would never be the same. As the decade comes to a close and I reflect on it, our country has spent the last decade in a war, in panic, and in a state of somewhat paranoia. As the stock market continues to be volatile and others continue to lose their jobs, I can only continue to pray that we will get back to the way things were on 9/11/01… that we could pray openly, use the word “God” in public places, be reminded that tomorrow is not promised, be considerate of our fellow man, be conscientious of others feeling, conscious of others hurts, that we must love each other and be accepting of each other. It doesn’t make things “right” it doesn’t make things go away, but it can change the future of our great nation, of our history, and how people are treated. In the aftermath, it’s many of those that I went to school with that fought and continue to fight to protect us. 

On September 12, 2003 I visited the “Field of Flags” at Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield. Each year they spread over 3,000 flags in their field to symbolize each person that died in the events in 2001. Some have names with them, others are anonymous. Items have been dropped off and if not for the passing cars, the field is silent with only the ripple of the flags in the breeze. It is a truly spiritual moment and a visual reminder of the magnitude of the “cost.” I’ve remembered with candle-lighting ceremonies at college. I hope to one day go to the memorial to pay my respects and to remember.

Looking back, I would be ok with the title of silent generation, with no true defining moment…  I’d be na├»ve if I thought there wouldn’t have been a different event, just like I am sure there will be others after.  I can only continue to hold on to my belief that everything happens for a reason, that God has a purpose for all of this, and that as we reflect on the events from 10 years ago that, perhaps we will be able to feel united again in something that is bigger than us… sometimes we need a reminder. I feel sorrow for those who lost their lives, continue to lose their lives, and those who have lost ones they love. It is a reminder to say what you want to say when you feel you need to say it, share with those you love, give freely and be conscious of how your words and actions can affect others. If we just stepped back, leaned on God, and prayed for one another, we could turn this chaos into something better and bigger than us. 

My cousin Sondra remembers 9/11
Well, on 9/11, I happened to be at Mom's Myrtle Beach condo with my Aunt. (I had brought her there from Charleston for a few days to give her an "outing" after she pulled through heart surgery and rehab.) I received a telephone call from my daughter-in-law telling me one of the Twin Towers in NY City had been hit!

My daughter-in-law said everyone in her town was vary scared, especially since we live in a town with a military base! She was going to check the kids out of school to have them with them at home as were most parents who could do so.

Anyway, I turned on the TV just in time to see the second tower hit and was terrified myself!
Of course, I was in a town with an Air force base so unrest abode there as well!

We stayed glued to the television as all of the horrors unfolded before our eyes. It indeed was a terrifying day for America as we had NEVER been attacked on our own soil before! It was a day never to be forgotten in the minds and hearts of all Americans as were the many days to follow.
We all felt so sad for the people and families who were directly effected. I hope no one EVER has to live through anything like that again!

My cousin Bill remembers 9/11

I was at the [school's] central office when the Twin Towers were hit. I was on a panel of judges for [the] County's Teacher of the Year. My committee took a break and I went into the office of a friend who had her small TV on. All of a sudden she screamed "Oh No!" and I turned to look just as the first tower was hit!

As we stood looking in amazement, the second tower was hit! By that time, her small office was packed as others joined in to watch in horror. They kept playing the scene over and over on the TV as everyone stood around in total silence not knowing what might happen next.

The scene continued to unfold as New York was in total confusion and emergency people and equipment began to react.

My committee only had two interviews remaining which we somehow managed to resume. Then the friend came in to inform us that the Pentagon had also been hit! After the Pentagon was hit, the President downed all aircraft except military for many days. Needless to say, the schools were then closed and everyone began to assemble at home with their own families to watch the remaining sad events. At home everyone was glued to the TV when the forth plane was "downed" in Pennsylvania!

My final recollection of 9/11 was that our "world" as we knew it had changed forever and America was no longer safe as we had come to know it!

My cousin Carol Lou remembers 9/11

We were living at [a] Lake [in NC], and my husband had gotten up before me. He hollered for me "come see this!" when suddenly another plane crashed into the twin towers. I called mom to tell her to turn on her TV. We were glued to it all day.

My neighbor now is the one that worked in the Pentagon. She said she had just left the area where the plane struck . She heard the plane... Sounded very close... She said the plane revved it's motor just before impact. Bodies were every where and she lost 26 of her friends that day. Not knowing what, she went back into her office and tried to work but couldn't stay but for short periods, because she couldn't breath. Pentagon being old, had asbestos and the smell of jet fuel and many other chemicals. Someone finally came around and told her to evacuate. She has major health problems as a result of 9/11.

Judy from Stedman remembers 9/11

 My mother and I decided to go on a trip to see our cousin in Syracuse,NY in 2001.  We wanted to go in September so it would be a little cooler.  Mama would not fly so we took the train.  We left the Fayetteville station at 12:00a.m.and arrived in Penn Station around 9:40 the next morning.  When we came up the stairs to the main lobby, I went to the Information Station to check on the status of our connecting train.  I noticed a crowd of people at the Hudson News Stand.  After settling Mama in a seat, I told her it looked like the World Trade Center was on fire.  The crowd was looking at a TV on top of the cash register. I went over to the area.  A man next to me told us that 2 hijacked planes had crashed into each tower.  He also told me that he worked there but had been running late that morning.  At that point, I became very uneasy!  Mama and I then went into the passenger waiting area to wait for our train.  We also heard tha the Pentagon was hit.
     Around 10:00 I bought a cinnamon bun and a drink for each of us.  It's a good thing I did because we didn't have anything to eat until the next morning.  At 10:30 a.m., just after the Towers collapsed, they announced that Penn Station was being evacuated1  Mama and I went up the stairs and realized we were at the entrance to Madison Square Gardens and the outside of the McGraw Hill Building.  We sat on a stoop at the entrance to MSG and waited for 3-4 hours.  The streets and sidewalks were full of people.  Two police officers with megaphones intermittently gave us updates.  The female officer announced that the only way off the island of Manhattan was by foo!.  Everyone with a cell phone was frantically trying to reach their friends and family, but the phones wouldn't work.  Fire engines, ambulances and police sirens were going off everywhere.  Here I was with my 81 year old mother by myself.  I was very worried and scared!
   During this ordeal, another plane went overhead and everyone just stood stockstill and looked up.  It was surreal!  I felt like I was on the movie set for Superman.  I (like everyone else) thought they were going to hit another building!
    After about 45 minutes, I noticed several peoples' phones were working.  There was a Pakistani girl sitting next to us with a cell phone.  She contacted her Mom who was visiting her.  The girl was a trader on the NY Stock Exchange.  I asked her if I could use her phone and I would pay her.  She allowed me to use it and would not take any money.  In the next hour, transportation to Long Island was resumed and she agreed to call my husband and let him call my Dad and sisters to let them know we were okay.
     I called home several times and couldn't get an answer so I called my husband's work number, left a message and then called his secretary's number.  I reached one of his fellow workers and he relayed the message to Calton that Mama and I were okay.
     While we were waiting, we also met a nice Filipino man from Connecticut.  He had a radio and kept us informed on all the news.  His first remark was, "Where's Bruce Willis when you need him?  Where's Rambo?"  He lightened the mood and I felt a little safer with a man there.
     Finally, around 2:15p.m. they announced we could re-enter Penn Station at the corner of 8th Ave and 33rd  St.  Our new friend, the Filipino,walked us to the new entrance.  He was very nice and I think God sent him to help Mama and I along. 
      We didn't wait long before they announced for us to go to Gate 6.  As Mama tried to get through the door, a throng of people going to another gate almost knocked her down.  We made our way to the train and were on our way by 3:00p.m.  Our train moved  very slowly for a long while and we wondered why.  Very soon, the conductor stated that because of the terrorist's attack, the transportation authority would not let us go over 30 mph.
     We finally arrived in Syracuse at 12:40 p.m.(7 hrs and 40 minutes late).  What a harrowing experience that was! 

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