Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Alan Jackson asked the question best when he sang, “Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?” That beautiful, perfect September day, where the sky was blue and clear, hardly any clouds moved overhead. Mom’s and Dad’s were happy to have such a gorgeous day on which to send their children back to school. Oh, if it only had stayed an ordinary late summer day. Instead, we now reflect on that day and ask “where were you?”

Alan Jackson, "Where were you when the world stopped turning?"

I was sitting in the reception area of my company when the first plan hit. I don’t remember what I was doing, because I had no idea that the day was less than ordinary until our young IT guy showed up late. He was never late to work. He was usually one of the first people in the office so I joked with him about oversleeping, but he wasn’t laughing said there may have been a bomb in lower Manhattan, so there was a train delay. New York City (NYC) Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) rarely ever told you why the trains were delayed and this day was no exception. Those on the train knew it was something big, because the delays were longer than normal. Folks, started passing with little information they had which wasn’t much. But they knew it was big. The last something big was the 1993 Trade Center bombing. After the ’93 bombing, native New Yorkers who lived or worked in Manhattan took anything that sounded like a bomb treat seriously. So when, young IT guy said bomb, all joking stopped. I was incredulous.

Matt’s, that was the young IT guys’ name, assertion put us all on edge and sent it to the TV in the conference room hoping for updates from the local news. CNN was only saying that it was a crash, the assumption being that it was a small Cessna that went off it’s flight path. Our TV was, an older TV with snowy picture so the senior IT guy bought or found some rabbit ears to make it work.

While they were fiddling with the TV and rabbit ears, trying to get a clearer picture, I went back to the reception area to forward the main line to the conference room. As I was doing that, they saw the second hit. A jetliner flying into the South Tower. I didn’t see it that September day and 11 years later the replay is still haunting and very difficult to watch. The taught of it brings me to tears, especially of the people trapped above the resulting fires unable to escape; the first responders who were in the buildings evacuating people who did not know the order had been given to withdraw as the buildings had become too dangerous.

I’ve resisted writing, even in my personal journals about that September day, for years. I believed that the tragedy didn’t really affect me on a personal level. The fact is we all lost something that day. Every New Yorker either lost someone or knows someone who lost someone close to them. And then there are those like me who came close to losing a person in their family and friend circle. My Mom’s older brother, worked in the North Tower. He survived the ’93 bombing and 9/11. He is a man, held in the palm of God’s hand, even though during the attack his boys didn’t know if their Daddy was safe or not. The lines were jammed so I couldn’t reach anyone for hours to verify that he made it out before the collapse. I thank God that my cousins had their father’s guidance under which to grow to adult.

For hours, I couldn’t reach an old boyfriend of mine. It didn’t matter that we were broken up at that point, he was my first love and I worried that he had perished in the disaster. I finally reached his stern Jamaican mother and she confirmed that he was alive, just stuck in the area. I thank God for his life too, that he was spared to fall in love again. So many other have stories of missing their train, or an appointment that morning kept them from a date with death. I am thankful them too, even as I mourn with those who lost loved ones.

On that gorgeous Tuesday morning, I was in my office working. Collating expenses, following up on travel requests, so some other mundane administrative tasks. That September day my world wobbled. For a millisecond or two there was no movement and on resumption of the earth’s orbit, things had changed. Life was different, for me, for New York City, for America.

Do you remember where you were that September day?

Lady Littlefoot

7 thoughts on “Where were you when the world stopped turning?

  1. Thank you all for responding and for sharing your stories. Your recollections have inspired me to write a related post. Stay tuned. If you are just reading, please do share your story with us, so we can shared the load. A burden shared is a burden bared or something like that.


  2. I liked your old background better. It was more personal.

    I was working at Bear Stearns in the MetroTech area. It was so surreal. A few admin assts and I was enjoying the view because we were on the 19th floor. That is when it happened. A plane flew into the first tower. We were dumbfounded. It looked like a small plane and on the news it was being reported as a small plane lost control and flew into the tower. Then we saw a second plane flew around the first tower and plunged into the second tower. On of my collegues fainted we couldn’t wake her up we end up calling the abulance. Another one screamed OH MY GOD WE ARE UNDER ATTACK. I was screaming myself and hysterically crying. There were screaming and running throughout the entire office. Everyone started to call their loved ones to find out their location. I overheard my boss telling his sister and nephew to stay in the towers until help arrived. They never found their bodies. My cousin colleague’s wife 8 months pregnant body was never found. And my friend stayed on the computer with a friend who couldn’t get out until the line went dead. He didn’t want to die alone. People I knew from my church was lost.

    My pastor came under attack because for months before 9 11 he was talking about personal responsibility and being on time was on the list. A friend of my told her mom that was an area she needed to work on and decided that week to go to work on time. Her body was never found. The opposite happened to another friend of mine, he was late for work that day. The list goes on for me. Seeing people jumping to their deaths. So many people coming out of the train station covered in white ash. There was chaos in the streets.

    A lot of people left work early that day because of fear of an attack. I gave blood something I never did before because of fear of needles.

    The next day hearing our airforce patroling the airspace did it for me. I was never the same. Family, friends, colleagues were never the same. Friends who stop smoking picked up the habit again. Stress levels increased so did panic attacks.

    To add insult to injury I was a student at the time and they were calling for massage therapists to go to ground zero to give chair massages to our rescue heroes. I couldn’t enlist because I was still a student. Sometimes I wonder if it was a blessing in disguise because the first responders coming down with cancer. I wonder if any of the massage therapists that participated came down with any symptoms?

    That day woke America up to the realization we are not out of reach. It gave us a taste of what other countries deal with on a regular basis.
    In addition to the most horrible way to lose our loved ones we also lost our innocence, naivety and freedom that day.

    Months after 9 11 I remember traveling on the train and the train made an abrupt stop and everyone was asking “Are you ok” Everyone was concerned about their fellow travel mate. That never happened before. That made me smile. One good thing that came out of this tragic ordeal. If you ever ride the trains in NY you know exactly what I am talking about.

  3. I was in a meeting in Knoxville, sitting across from many of the guys who would have normally been in the office that day. We had all flown in from JFK airport. It was the first day on the new project. Damien had said, out loud, while one of the executives from Knoxville was speaking, ” A plane has just hit the tower”. A moment of confusion as he explained which tower. The speaker paused for just a moment and then he began again. Then someone else spoke several minutes later. “A plane just hit the other tower”. I remember my seat in the room, I remember the color of the carpet. I remember where the executive was standing but I can’t remember his face. I remember looking at three of the guys, Fergal, Michael, Damien all sitting together, Chris to my right. We broke to find out information. I did the same as you. I called the office, I’m pretty sure Annia picked up and said that the office was still there but maybe it was you who picked up. After that there were no more calls picked up by friends in the city. I think that there was just a message instead saying that all circuits were busy instead of ringing. I called my mom in CT and my dad’s 203 phone number. Then my brother called me not knowing if I was in NYC that day. He had driven over the Tappanzee bridge and could see the smoke from the bridge. I called the parents of friends, many of whom lived outside the city. Some were able to confirm that their children, my friends, were okay. Many were worried, I promised to call if I heard anything. I called a former boyfriend because I knew that his building was adjacent to tower 2. It was days before he changed his answering machine to say that he and his girlfriend had walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and that they were okay.

    The sky was blue in Knoxville too. I still can’t look at a deep blue sky, no matter the date, without remembering. Turns out they were all okay, all except for one that I knew, he had done business with Vision. So many friends with PTSD. So many friends with anxiety and heart monitors and survivors guilt. Myself, I had a sense of somehow having cheated death, even though Martin and I had flown hours earlier.

    I remember all of those who ran up when everyone else was running down. I wear my FDNY shirt every year (bought from the FDNY store where all proceeds go to FDNY families). Just a tiny gesture of my respect.

    This morning I was driving at 8:46 when the voice on the radio and announced the minute of silence to mark the first impact. That single minute was so so long. How long was that minute on those floors? On the floors above? I can’t fathom those seconds. Friends had relayed the stories of what they witnessed from the upper floors of the buildings around the towers. I can’t imagine those minutes either. I had to pull over after the first 30 seconds but I didn’t lose it until they followed the minute up with Whitney Houston’s version of the National Anthem.

    We all lost something that day, many lost family, friends and loves. For me it was something much simpler, innocence.

  4. I like that you gave the Background info re: why new Yorkers don’t play with bomb threats.

    I was on the range that morning.

  5. I was driving to Tacoma going to a contract position and I heard it on the radio. I thought they were joking but after awhile I realized something really bad had happened. Got to work & everyone was talking about it. Our managing attorney told everyone to go home. I drove the 45 minutes back to Seattle in total shock, then I just watched the tv trying to understand but not understanding. I cried a lot that week. Sept 11th is my niece’s b-day she’s 16 today as a child she couldn’t understand why someone would do something so horrible on her birthday, she didn’t get a party that year and for a couple years afterward she was also a shamed of her birthday. But I told her it doesn’t have to do w/ you those bad ppl don’t make your special day any less special. This year is the first year I remember in a long time she celebrated her birthday on thr actual day, Seoptember 11th.

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