Wednesday, September 11, 2019

WHERE WERE YOU ON 9/11?

18 years later.

It's been 18 years since that terrible, awful, heartbreaking, earth-shattering day.  I can't remember if I've ever shared the story of where I was and what I was doing when I found out about the attacks so I thought that in honor of today, I'd tell you my story and hope you'll share some of yours as well.

On September 11, 2001, I was a sophomore in college at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA.  At that point, I was a biology major with hopes of becoming an ophthalmologist, I was super involved with my school and my sorority (Sigma Sigma Sigma), it was my first year living off-campus and I was sharing an apartment with my bestie.  Basically, I was living my best life.

That morning started off normal.  I rolled out of bed after hitting snooze a hundred times, pulled on my favorite Abercrombie jeans (low-rise, bootcut, and the perfect holes in the knees), a t-shirt and pulled my hair into a long ponytail topped with one of my trusty baseball caps.  I had a 9:30(ish?) class so I climbed into my 1996 4-door Honda Accord (teal) and headed to campus.  I had a CD playing for a while but once I reached campus I switched to the radio and that's when I started hearing the reports of 2 planes crashing into the World Trade Center and one that had just crashed into the Pentagon. 

When someone asks me "Where were you when you heard about the attacks?" I always say "At a red light in the middle of campus."

I still remember the exact place I was driving on campus when I realized how huge this all was.  But my clearest memory is of me sitting at a red light in the center of campus and calling my dad to ask about what the heck was going on.  

My dad and I talked multiple times a day back then...probably more than he wanted since it was back when "minutes" were a thing and he always wanted me to wait until after 9pm when they were unlimited.  (I was in college.  I was busy after 9pm.)  But obviously, I didn't hesitate to call him when I heard the things the radio was reporting.  I remember him telling me that a plane had crashed into the first tower and at first they weren't sure if it was an accident or on purpose.  But then a second one hit the second tower and it was very clearly an attack.  Before I'd talked to him, I'd had in my head that these were just tragic accidents with small planes.  So hearing him say that this had all been done on purpose was mind-blowing to me.  It was like time stood still when he was telling me these things.  Hearing them on the radio was one thing but having my dad confirm it was what made it real.

And again, I can still picture these few moments of me sitting in my car at the stoplight on the phone with him.  But the weird thing is that I picture it from outside of the car as if I'm standing about 10 yards away.  I can see my car sitting at the stoplight in front of the Student Union and I can see myself through the window, talking on the phone.  I have brief memories of being IN the car too but isn't it weird that I see it more from a spectator's viewpoint?

Image result for northwestern state university student union

My dad told me that he was pretty sure my classes were going to be canceled that day and to go back home so that was good enough for me.  I walked into our apartment about 10 minutes later to find my roommate and a few of our neighbors sitting on the couches staring quietly at the TV.  I think the first tower had already collapsed by the time I got home because I remember watching the second tower collapse shortly after I walked through the door.  I see the scene unfolding on our little TV inside our hand-me-down entertainment center like it was yesterday.  I still remember exactly where I was standing as I watched that second tower fall.

Image result for how many people died in 9/11

We all pretty much camped out in our living room for the morning to watch the coverage but by lunchtime, we were hungry.  All of our classes were canceled that day like my dad had predicted, but we went back up to campus to grab some food.  

On most days we bemoaned our tiny little college town but I think that was the day that we were all thankful to be just a tiny blip on a map.  It made us feel safe and that these terrorists wouldn't be coming where we were, surely.  Now if I'd been living in Dallas, Chicago, or L.A., I would have been terrified to even leave the apartment.  But again, we felt safe and far away from all of the evil.

But when we were sitting around the table with our food in the Union, word started spreading that President Bush and Air Force One had landed at the Barksdale Airforce Base in Shreveport which was just an hour down the interstate from us.  It was our closest big city and the President of the United States was there, of all places, and no one knew if he was the next target.


We all felt the impact of everything, even more, knowing that this terrifying situation was so close to us now, in some small way.  Something so big that was happening thousands of miles away from us was now being brought even closer to our tiny, safe, little town.

I'm pretty sure I called my dad again after that.

I remember my dad saying how everyone who was alive when JFK was shot remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news and how this would be the same type of thing.  And he was right.

Almost 3,000 lives were lost that day along with over 800 others that have died from cancer and disease that developed from breathing those toxins. It's just so hard to even comprehend.  Today, I'm praying for all of the survivors, first responders, and families of the victims.  My heart breaks.
#neverforget




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11 comments

  1. Laura7:39 AM

    I was also in my car on my way to a college class. I thought the radio host was pulling a prank and called home to find out what was going on. We are very close to the Oak Ridge National Labs and all sat around that day watching the news and wondering if that was a target on the list.

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  2. I was a senior in college and in my Elementary Reading class when the secretary for the building came and told us 1 building had been hit. My professor acted like nothing was happening and continued on. She then came back and said tower #2 was hit. The professor realized it was serious and stopped us all to pray. After class I remember going to my fiance (now husband) house and sitting on the couch for hours watching the news. My college was in a small Texas town (Brownwood, TX) and I wasn't afraid for myself, but my family was in Houston, TX and I was terrified for them. We still had class that day as we were elementary teacher majors, so we used it as a lesson on what we would do if we were teaching at that time and had to help our kids.

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  3. Junior in HS English class. Never, ever will I forget the vice principal rushing in to speak to the teacher, and then them turning on the TV.

    AND, I was supposed to fly to NYC Thursday the 13th for my 16th birthday with my mom. Clearly that did not happen....

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  4. Thank you for sharing this today. I was at work that day, in a gym playroom full of children, and I remember thinking what dummy crashed into a big building like the World Trade Center. I don't think I even really "got" what all was happening. My biggest memory was my boss took us all out to lunch that day and the whole restaurant got quiet when President Bush began to speak...probably at that base that was an hour from you. I can't believe it has been 18 years, seems like yesterday.

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  5. I had just started Grade 9 (Alberta, Canada). My brother and I were getting ready for school in the morning when our parents called us into their room. They had the TV on and we watched as the plane hit the 2nd tower. I was confused and thought they were just watching a movie. They explained that was live news and what was actually happening. We went to school that day, where the tv was on in the office and library so everyone could catch updates.

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  6. I work in Federal law enforcement and was in the office that morning when a co-worker yelled that a plane hit the WTC building. We turned on the TV in the conference room and watched footage of the plane hitting the 2nd tower and that image is burned into my brain. When we got the news that a 3rd plane hit the Pentagon, another co-worker couldn't get in touch with her husband who was working there, and I spent the rest of my day trying to comfort her until she was finally able to reach him. Every time I think about all of the lives that were lost and the families affected by the events of that day, I can't help but get emotional.

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  7. I was 8 years old and in 3rd grade when this happened. I can remember the day like it happened yesterday. Our neighboring teacher ran into our room, spoke to my teacher, they then turned the TV on and we all just stared. We watched the second plane hit. I remember everyone getting checked out and the horror in everyone's eyes. Such a sad day in history. For me this is my " I remember exactly where I was when this happened".

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  8. Heather12:46 PM

    I was a recent college grad working at an internship. I was walking into my skyscraper office building when I overheard someone say the towers had been hit by planes. I stood in the lobby of my office (on the top floor of the tallest building in Minneapolis) with my colleagues watching the TV news coverage. We all watched the second tower collapse. Then they closed our building since they didn't know if other cities would be targeted and sent us home. I was glued to my TV the rest of the day, filled with grief. I will never forget.

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  9. I was a first grade teacher and outside at recess with my class. The secretary came out to tell me that my husband was on the phone and that he needed to talk to me right away. She stayed outside with my class so I knew it had to be an emergency. This was back in the days when people just left their cell phones on their desk or in their handbag because texting wasn't a thing yet. He was working in Philadelphia and his building was evacuating. I had no idea what he was talking about because nobody had let us know what was going on so as not to scare the little kids (the upper grades were watching the coverage in their classrooms). Our school soon dismissed early and I spent the rest of the day staring numbly at the television. I can still remember feeling so helpless and sad for days afterward

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  10. I was at work but no work got done that day at all. We huddled around our monitors and watched live coverage. Tears flowed amid the overall shock. I still cry every year. The one thing I do remember is that my nephew, Jeff was at a conference in Las Vegas when it all happened. His wife and two little boys were back home in Dallas. Somehow he rented one of the last cars available in Las Vegas and drove non-stop to Dallas to get back to his family. It was that kind of feeling. Get home. Find the ones you love. Be grateful for the small things. There were so many that day that didn't make it home. Never Forget. #18years

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  11. I was at work but no work got done that day at all. We huddled around our monitors and watched live coverage. Tears flowed amid the overall shock. I still cry every year. The one thing I do remember is that my nephew, Jeff was at a conference in Las Vegas when it all happened. His wife and two little boys were back home in Dallas. Somehow he rented one of the last cars available in Las Vegas and drove non-stop to Dallas to get back to his family. It was that kind of feeling. Get home. Find the ones you love. Be grateful for the small things. There were so many that day that didn't make it home. Never Forget. #18years

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