Skip to comments.What were you doing on 9/11/01?
Posted on 09/10/2003 9:55:09 AM PDT by knighthawk
On September 11, I was tired after spending a day working on the outskirts of the Holy City of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. On the one-hour drive back to the western compound outside Jeddah that I called home for the 20 months I spent in Saudi, I was listening to the only English-speaking radio station available, the American Forces Radio Network. The first broadcasts came through just as I left Mecca.
By the time I reached Jeddah, speculation was growing as to likely suspects. My route home took me past the offices of the Saudi Bin Laden Group. I began to feel alienated, driving through a surreal landscape. In need of company, I diverted to my office. It was hushed, my Middle Eastern and Western colleagues grouped around internet terminals, desperate for information. Westerners were warned not to leave the building, to keep a low profile in public places.
Saudi was never quite the same for me after 9/11 attitudes changed, work became uncomfortable so in the end I left in November 2001. Martin Moore Perth, WA
I gave birth to my second son at 3.11pm our time on September 11.
He was restless that night, crying and causing such a ruckus a sympathetic midwife finally whisked him away to the nursery so I could get some sleep.
When I went to collect him in the wee hours of the morning, I was surprised to find the nurses clustered around a small television set showing burning buildings and scenes of panic even as they tried to soothe cantankerous newborns. At first I thought they were watching a movie, but then someone told me planes had hit the twin towers. My first thought was, "Hang on, I'm not hearing this right. They've given me too much gas during labour."
I spent the rest of my hospital stay mesmerised by the September 11 TV coverage, ignoring the education channel with its segments on breastfeeding, settling and postnatal depression.
The "baby blues" hit hard as I was staring out over the Brisbane skyline at dusk, cuddling my four-day-old, streaming tears. I thought, "I finally have my two beautiful boys and now the world is going to end." I suspect a lot of mothers (and fathers) felt that way. Denise Cullen Kenmore, Brisbane
I'm a geologist and was exploring North Pole, about 80km southwest of Marble Bar in Western Australia's Pilbara. Radio reception is poor, the signal being affected by the steep, hilly country and heat atmospherics. Nonetheless, I usually tune the vehicle radio to Aunty's regional network, if only to provide a voice in that wilderness. Even above the static, I could make out the anguish and excitement in the broken voices of the news announcers "terror", "casualties", "New York", "special report", "aircraft". Something terrible had happened. So for the next bulletin I made my way to the peak of a prominent hill and heard the reports about as alone as one can be, looking out at a vast expanse of sweet f--- all (beautiful country). Jeremy Peters Newman, Western Australia
My husband Sukhdev and I, together with our host Noreen Horan, a New Yorker who works at the UN, were on our way to visit the Statue of Liberty when our train driver announced we were stopping at 42nd Street, the stop before the World Trade Centre, due to a "pipe explosion". At the station before, a passenger had got on and said he saw a plane hit the World Trade Centre and that he couldn't believe his eyes. We all got off the train.
It had yet to dawn on us at this point that this was an act of terrorism. As the street became more crowded my husband, who wears a turban (as we're Sikhs), started feeling uncomfortable with the large number of people gathering around us.
Some in the crowd were informed by mobile phone that it was a suspected terrorist attack and we heard that Washington had been hit, too.
It was only when we got back to the hosts' home that we realised the extent of what had happened. Then, all my husband and I wanted to do was to hug our two beloved children, our son Kirath, then almost 6, and our daughter Akaalsimran, then 3. We had left them behind with my parents in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My husband and I had gone to the US for our 10th wedding anniversary.
Unfortunately, we couldn't even get in touch with our families in Malaysia as the phone lines were so busy that day. The feeling of shock soon took over. We seemed to suddenly feel American in those few hours and felt really angry towards the terrorists. We felt a strong feeling of solidarity and an overwhelming sense of protectiveness for this nation.
It suddenly felt as if my husband and I were living in the age when Sikhs were persecuted during the Moghul empire in India for their identity.
Wearing a turban in accordance with the Sikh faith, in the days soon after September 11 was an added struggle for my husband and me.
Our flight out of the US was from Chicago and we finally got home to our children about two weeks later. It was the longest two weeks of our lives. There were moments when we feared for our lives. We realise now what mistaken identity really means. We realise now what freedom really means and, most important, we know what love truly means. We feel that we were given a chance to relive our way of life. Gurmeet Kaur Quakers Hill, Sydney
I was working at a goldmine in east Indonesia, north of Ambon, located in no-man's-land in the middle of a religious war in the Maluku Islands. We were celebrating someone's birthday that night as we saw it unfold on the CNN network. Shock and disbelief were our first thoughts, then we realised that no place is safe from madmen driven by twisted beliefs. Especially since we were living in an area where a civil war had developed for political ends, but had been fuelled by religious intolerance. We thought our friends and families back in Australia were safe, but then we realised that there are madmen everywhere and no place is totally safe. Grant Harding Ardross, WA
My husband; Sukhdev and I together with our hosts Noreen Horan, a New Yorker who works at the United Nations, were on the subway on our way to visit the Statute of Liberty when our train driver announced that we were stopping at 42nd Street, the stop before the World Trade Centre; due to a "pipe explosion".
At the station before, a passenger had got on and informed my husband that he saw a plane hit the the World Trade Centre and that "he couldn't believe his eyes". At that point, we didn't believe him! We all got off the train and couldn't believe seeing the World Trade Centre buildings on fire. At that time, both buildings had just been hit & the fire appeared to be small.
As tourists, we didn't have access to mobile phones and just stood watching, thinking that a tourists plane had hit the towers by mistake as lots of tourists planes fly over the city for a US$100 ride. Meanwhile, people start appearing from offices around us and we hear whispers of a plane crash. Police cars arrive by the dozens and soon, dozens of ambulances and fire-engines drive past us.
It has yet at this point of time,(soon after 9am) to dawn on us that this was an act of terrorism. We thus, continue watching the fire which still appears to be under control. We soon start seeing what appears to paper flying down towards us. As the street gets more crowded, my husband who wears a turban (as we're Sikhs) starts feeling uncomfortable with the large crowd gathering around us.
Meanwhile, people around us, through their mobile phones get informed of a suspected terrorists attack, and we hear that Washington had been hit too. Our hosts suggests we head home, which was 2 stations away, so as to find out what was happening. As we walk back towards the subway station, we see the smoke thicken and more "things" falling out of the building. With my camcorder, I taped the buildings on fire. My husband and I together with our hosts just couldn't believe what we were seeing that morning. Just the day before, at that same moment of time, we were all up on the observation decks taking in the sights of New York. It was only when we got back to the home of our hosts that we realised the extent of what had happened. This sent shivers down our backs which we feel right to this day whenever anyone mentions Sept 11.
Then, all my husband and I wanted to do was to hug our beloved children, Kirath our son who was then almost 6 and our daughter Akaalsimran who was then 3. We had left them behind with my parents in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My husband and I had gone to the US to have a holiday on the ococcasion of our 10th wedding anniversary.
Unfortunately, we couldn't even get in touch with our families in Malaysia as the phone lines were so busy that day. The feeling of shock soon took over. This led us to being moody in the confined space we had. Suddenly, we just wanted to go "home" to be with our kids. We became very anxious by the hour as the airports got closed as now, we knew that there was no way out. Our plans for the next few weeks didn't seem important anymore.
We seem to suddenly feel American in those few hours & felt really angry towards the teterrorists who were being accused with the acts committed. We felt a strong feeling of solidarity with this country and its people and an overwhelmingly sense of protectiveness for this nation.
Never did we imagine that our assumption of freedom could in a moment be lost. We were suddenly confined in our hosts apartment with the unfolding of racial tensions that soon started. It suddenly felt as if my husband and I were living in the age when Sikhs were persecuted during the Moghul empire in India for their identity. Wearing a turban in accordance to the Sikh faith, in the days soon after 9/11, was an added struggle for my husband and I.
Our flight out of the USA was from Chicago and we finally got home to our kids about two weeks later. It sure was the longest two weeks of our lives. There were moments in that time when we feared for our lives. We realise now what "mistaken identity" really means. We realise now, what "freedom" really means and most importantly, we know what "love" truly means.
We can never thank God enough for returning us safely to our children and for letting us be there for them. We get shivers down our spine each time someone mentions 9/11 as we were tourists on the World Trade Centre, just the morning before.
I see a change from people around me in not taking things around them for granted. Unfortunately, there's much more to be done around the world to ensure real peace among nations and people.
My husband and I feel that we were given a chance to re-live our way of life. We understand what 'life is so unpredictable' means and we sympathise with the families of the victims of 9/11, for the very sad loss that they've suffered. I especially feel for the babies born who never got to see their dads and who will be reminded throughout their living years of that horrific day. Gurmeet Kaur Quakers Hill, NSW A little before 11pm I climb into bed and receive a few minutes later a text message on my mobile "fire @ World Trade Centre" or something of that nature. Reaching across to the radio I eventually locate an AM station with coverage. About the same I hear the cause of the fire, a wayward Boeing, my mate again sends a text message confirming the report.
Getting out of bed I tune the television to CNN certain that they will be covering the story. Sadly, not long afterwards the second aircraft arrives. At this stage somebody has called and I remark that air traffic control is having a bad day a comment I now regret. From that point on the sequence of events is unclear in my mind.
Television reports advise that another aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, yet one more into the Pennsylvania countryside and what first appeared to be a dreadful coincidence begins to take shape. The question I asked myself then is "where will this stop?". Twelve months on with Australian troops in Afghanistan, and apparently about to enter Iraq I find myself asking the same question. Troy R Williams Upper Ferntree Gully, VIC My bus was just pulling up at the corner of 5th Avenue and 51st streets in Manhattan. Everyone was in their own little world thinking of the day ahead at work it was just after 9am. As the door of the bus opened, a guy put his head in the front door and said a plane had flown into the WTC.
I quickly made my way into the office to find a TV. A crowd was already gathered transfixed by the surreal site of the both towers alight.
After several minutes of mute shock, I made my way onto the HR floor where I worked the main training room video projector had been turned to CNN and the room was full of colleagues in various states of disbelief, tears and horror. Several knew people in the building or had kids in nearby schools.
Then terror absolute and complete as the third plane hit the Pentagon and it was clear this was an all out attack. Panic as people were wondering which was the next target to be hit and how many more to come.
In the next few hours, there was a real feeling of imminent war. Manhattan resembled a bad 1950's Japanese horror flick with the citizenry all evacuating. I came out of our office onto 6th avenue and headed north with 3 million other people, as all the roads and tunnels into the south end of the island were closed.
We walked, drove, ran. I kept looking back over my shoulder and all I could see was the pall of black smoke over the southern end of Manhattan.
I went to the nearest blood donating centre along with hundreds of others only to be turned away. As I listened to my walkman on the trip home, the vitriol and hatred that spewed forth was frightening as the population lashed out wanting to kill someone.
It felt as if the world was on the verge of war. Nearing home I worried about my 10 month old son, and realised that I had to get bottled water for his formula. I ran to the local market where locals were panic buying. I managed to scrounge 12 bottles of water from the back of top shelf, as in the rush everything else was gone.
I retreated home to hear innumerable calls from Australia everyone we knew were checking we were OK.
The next day was another beautiful sunny day, and we decided to go to Central Park rather than stay inside and mope. The park was full of people, flying kites, sunbaking. It almost could have been any other day excepting a few small cluee that something terrible was wrong. In the sky the only sound was of the fighter jets patrolling the skies. A flag stood at half mast, talk was subdued and 5th Ave was already littered with dirt apparently trucked out the night before.
In the coming days people began to return to work. The only way to fight back was to live. Everyone in Manhattan had a story and by now thousands have been told. For me it made me want to stay in that city forever that would be the ultimate defiance. Part of me will always be a New Yawker. I love that. Not because of Sept 11 but in spite of it. John Ubert Melbourne, Vic
On 9/11 I was coming towards the end of a working holiday in Europe. I was managing a project for British Airways at Heathrow Airport.
I was in my car, driving from my own office building at Heathrow, to see my in another section of the airport. I heard the news on the radio while on my way. At first I thought it was some terrible accident, but by the time the news of the second hit had been announced, I realised something was dreadfully wrong.
When I reached my client it was panic stations. Over 20 large jets on their way to New York had been recalled and all were returning freight to a warehouse which would barely be able to take it.
Needless to say, no one was really interested in our routine meeting. I returned to my own office to see what I could do to help. It was alongside one of Heathrow's twin runways where we had a constant view, from nine floors up, of planes landing alongside us at a rate of more than one per minute.
We spent a nervous few hours, very aware that our building was a prime target for any incoming aircraft.
On the human side, one member of my team had flown to the USA via New York for a two-week holiday only hours before, and it was some time before we heard he was safe and well. My wife begged me to leave early as she was concerned about further attacks on Heathrow. I didn't it was a long working day, and one I won't easily forget. Kevin Ramsey Marino SA
On September 11th I was at home in a blind panic. My wife had been sent to New York by her company (IBM) to network with colleagues she otherwise only knew via e-mail or phone. I'd neglected to ask for the itinerary assuming she would call after settling into her hotel, and hadn't heard from her. IBM Aus. was closed for the night and I had no means of establishing where she was and if she was safe. All I knew was she was somewhere in New York, and New York was under attack.
For hours I sat in horror watching the scenes unfolding wondering if I'd ever see her again.
Later in the morning she managed to get an international line and it was only then I learned she was actually 40 minutes away from the Towers and (as it turned out) in no immediate danger though of course we had no way of knowing that then. It was a week before she came home.
I remember the hours I sat and waited for news and the stress and pain it caused. We were lucky, she came home. Many thousands didn't and for those families I feel deeply. Chris Lewis Rouse Hill, NSW
I was working at Holborn in London and it must have been about lunchtime. A friend working around the corner at Chancery Lane sent an email with a sketchy message and two photos of the first plane in the WTC. Internet sites became jammed as everyone tried to get the most up-to-date news.
I was typing on messenger to my sister in Australia when I received the first pictures, and told her to turn on the TV. She woke up the family to go sit in front of CNN all night. My company sent out an email message advising people to double up on computers to watch the news, and said that they'd turn on the Plasma screens with CNN/SKY news so we could all watch what was happening.
Within an hour, nearly the entire building was deserted, in another hour, unable to concentrate I went to visit my friend down the road and console each other. The streets of London were nearly empty at 3pm (UK time) many people feared that we'd be the next target. Canary Wharf (the two tallest office buildings in London) had been evacuated hours earlier.
Catching the tube home was odd. Normally you travel with a slight fear of bombs and you normally avoid eye contact but that day, connecting with the shocked and sad eyes of fellow commuters was reassuring.
Two days earlier I'd booked my return flight to Australia via Dubai, and now my dad was on the phone urging me to come home ASAP. Now all I felt was the fear of flying in the skies, not being able to visit the Middle East and the possibility of never making it home to see my family again. Michelle Anthony Southport, Qld
September 11 2001 was day 11 of a 30-day tour I was escorting through Southern Africa with a group of ten Australian tourists. We had spent the day on safari through the Etosha National Park in Namibia, near the border with Angola, and returned to the luxury of the Ongava Lodge for dinner and sleep. We were about to sit down for dinner, when the Lodge manager called us over to the bar where he announced that he had just heard from his 2-way radio of the terrorist attack on New York. There being no television or radio, we spent the next two days in complete ignorance of the full facts, and it was not until we reached the Namibian capital, Windhoek, that we were made aware of the true scale of the occurance. Martin Wright Truro, SA
My wife and I woke up at 5am on the morning of 12/9/01 and heard the news on 2UE. My first reaction was disbelief and then counted to 10, assessing the gravity of the situation. Visual images of the WTC, its enormity and what it stands for highlighted for me one question; how can this happen? At that point I announced the news to Sophia and she answered it with a question; Why? We immediately ran to the TV and sat there for 2 hours, viewing harrowing images, many angles of the planes penetrating the WTC towers, mesmerised and yet could not help to think that we are indeed helpless and vulnerable to any terrorist attack.
At one stage I wished for it to be a scene out of an upcoming movie, a theme similar to "War of the Worlds". It was not to be. Aristo Ioannidis South Coogee, NSW
We were camped on the beach at Homer in Alaska and the cleaner at the ablutions block told me that planes had hit the towers and that both towers were down. I thought what kind of a fool do you think I am, but nevertheless turned on the radio when I got back to the car and learned the awful truth. All I could think of was who could have done such a wanton act of human destruction. The immensity and insensibility of the act was so overpowering that in the two hours or so it took to drive back to Anchorage my companion and I barely exchanged a word, just listening to the radio broadcast. We were both lost in our own thoughts, and I kept thinking about that time less than a year before that when I had toured the top of one of the towers with a dear friend, marvelling at the sights of New York spread out below, and in the distant, a small speck which was the Statue of Liberty, that great symbol of freedom, a view which could never be again, and of all those innocent people, it just wasn't 'fair'. But mostly I thought - why? And I wished I could have done something. Tim Nieuwendijk Orange, NSW
I was approaching the border of China and Mongolia on the train. When we arrived at the border at around midnight, customs officials tried very hard to let us know what had happened, using mime and broken english. We did not sleep very well the rest of that night, not knowing whether they were talking about a Cessna or a 767.
It was not until we reached Ulaan Baatar late the next day that we found out what had happened. We felt a mixture of shock and also relief that most people had escaped the buildings - we had anticipated the worst, tens of thousands dead. Andrew Borchardt Cairns QLD On September 11, I spent the day picking mushrooms in a beautiful forest whilst holidaying in a remote village in Poland. It was approximately 6pm when my sister called from Sydney to inform me of what had happened in NY. I had access to one local channel on television but as I could not understand the Polish language, I was only able to view the bleak images. I had over a week of news that I could not understand fully before I could get to an Internet cafe for news in English and to watch CNN. It was so surreal, I couldn't believe it. I wanted to come back home to Australia immediately so I could feel safe again. C. Gajda Sydney NSW
I heard the initial reports of Sept 11 on ABC Radio National just after eleven pm, so I took myself off to bed.
In the words of American songwriter Bob Dylan: 'seems like every time you turn around, there's another hard luck story that your going to hear and I never did plan to go anyway,' to New York City Bay.
Please understand, 24 thousand people died of preventable deaths that day, and every day since, due mainly to American foreign policy and American corporate greed.
Do American's really expect me to morn people who had everything, and forget people who had nothing? In the words of another American songwriter Lou Reed: "You reap just what you sow." Guy William Manley Old Adaminaby, NSW I woke up to the ring of my telephone - it was 5:30 am and I was not happy. The kids were at their Dad's - I could finally sleep in. The voice on the other end was my childhood friend. His first words were "Are you ok?" - my first words were - "not really it is 5:30 in the morning Steve". Steve was shocked that I had not heard the news - he had just lived through a day of shock and horror - I on the other hand had slept through it. Steve began by telling me that 2 jets had flown into the twin towers, one into the pentagon and one down near Pittsburgh. I thought he was leading me down one of his paths of black humour - then his voice started to shake, then there were tears. Panic swept through me, born and raised in Pennsylvania - New York was like a second home to me - I have many friends and some family members there. For some reason I believed Steve was speaking of fighter jets, I was trying to calculate the damage based on that fact. As he continued to speak the realisation that these were passenger jets full of people - mothers, fathers, children, grandparents - hit me, and I don't think I have fully come to terms with it yet. I haven't been home yet - I plan on flying home in June 2003. It still doesn't seem real to me, how can this have happened? Being so far away from home and the new reality that exists there has left me with strange feelings of guilt, sorrow and anger. I will never forget the voice of my friend on that morning, as I will never forget the images of that day. Alphia Garrety South Penrith, NSW
I had left New York city 2 days before the World Trade Centre was attacked. I was in Boston on a tour and when I heard the news. The television and radio stations were covering a terrifying moment in history that it all seemed surreal. I will never forget the images of people jumping to their death in desperation the horrific sound of the collapse instilled by an eerie quietness of a city in shock. The attacks to me were so shocking that I felt that humanity had been let down. That feeling of being so hurt that there are actually no words that can describe the pain and sorrow that I felt and still feel today. There is not a single day that I do not stop to think about the attacks, the people who lost a loved one or how the world to some degree lost its innocence. That day I will never forget as it has indented on my soul for life.
I went down to ground zero and it was almost like time had stopped. Even a week after the attacks the air was still thick with fumes and heat, the streets and cars were covered with a film of white dust and all I could feel was the heart wrenching feeling of devastation. Demmin Smith Essendon North, VIC After an incredibly busy day, I had fallen asleep with the tv on. I awoke and reached for the remote to turn it off when I looked up to see this amazingly graphic scene and honestly thought it was a movie and wondered why people would make such a shocking film. It took a matter of seconds before i realised that this was live television and this was happening now.
I am not able to relate my feelings at that moment as it is still a complete haze.The horror of watching something that you thought could never possibly happen and to know that there is nothing you can do is indescribable. My heart goes out to all the people who in one way or another were touched by this atrocious act of terrorism. From that day to this, my priorities in life have changed considerably. We no longer live in a world that was thought of as a safe haven. Being a mother of 2 children, I went straight into my children's room's and kissed them and even though they were asleep, whispered to them how much I loved them and continue to do this every day of my life. Vicki Furlong Gymea Bay, NSW We were on holiday, staying with cousins in LA on Sept 11 expecting to return to Sydney on the 12th. Breakfasting, watching the news on TV showing the aftermath of the first plane crash. As we ate watching in horror as the second plane crashed into the second tower. Having cousins in New York, the phone rang, they were OK.
The buildings collapsed, we all sat in shock.
Our most enduring memory, more video became available of the second plane crashing, the noise of two jet engines screaming at full power is a nightmare.
Finally departing LA on the 17th after much rebooking and frustration at not being able to return to our daughters, we spoke daily ensuring all was OK, Fortunately we did not have any family in the death toll but our cousins who worked in NY knew many that did not survive.
The flight from LA was very sombre, exchanged stories with other travellers who were just dumped and left stranded mid holiday, many in Canada. We were fortunate that we were staying with family, providing support at this tragedy that hit the world and NY in particular. Nick Goodwin Burwood, NSW I had flown from Brisbane to California one week before Sept 11th to start my new life. I was out with a work-mate shopping for a bike. I was too scared to drive on the "other" side of the road. A bike seemed safe. We saw it on a TV in a shop a couple of hours after the World Trade Center was hit. Wasn't this kind of thing normal in the US, my brain asked? Aren't Americans always the target of terrorists? Not until that night, watching the constant TV coverage, did the enormity hit me. The sheer scale of the planning involved. The horrific toll in human lives. That nothing like this had ever happened on American soil. Was I in danger? I was so far from everyone I loved and who loved me. I was alone in a country that had affected so much hatred in a group of people that they were willing to die to get their message across. I contacted home, assured everyone I was OK. I was OK. I have a unique perspective. An outsider who got to witness history like an insider. To see it bring out the best and the worst of America. Adversity does that. Suzie Reichman Riverside, California, USA (formerly Brisbane, QLD)
Disbelief. It's the only word that springs to mind when I think back to that night in front of the tv here in Adelaide. Never before has something so far away had such an immediate impact on me. "Mum, Dad, wake up!", that's all I could say. For the next six hours I flicked from channel to channel wondering where it was going to end. After three hours of broken sleep it was off to uni where, understandably, normal classes were put on hold to discuss the events in New York.
Now, 12 months down the track, the word disbelief, for me, has been replaced by a new word, perspective. Such a tragedy provides us with yet another reminder of how important it is to love your loved ones and treat every day as a gift. I certainly will. Sam McMillan Adelaide, SA I first heard of the terrorist attacks while conversing with friends on the Internet. I checked for the story on the Australian and other online news sites and saw pictures of two towers, one devastated by fire but the other standing untouched. I must have been somewhat desensitised by stories of terrorism at that time as I shortly after went to bed to let the drama unfold without even turning on the TV to see the latest news. When I awoke in the morning the towers no longer stood.
Beyond my initial feelings of solidarity and sorrow for the people of America (as if a close cousin had been harmed) I now find my feelings on the matter more complex and less consistent with popular sentiment. I still deplore the loss of life but I also feel sadness that in rage even the most democratic can sideline their values and institutions in the pursuit of vengeance. At a practical level September 11 has impacted my life considerably. I write this to you as an unemployed man - the result of corporate downsizing directly related to a loss of investor confidence post-September 11. Michael Studman Newtown, NSW Our first holiday together put us at Port Arthur Tasmania, our second we flew into Fiji the day of the coup and our third holiday we flew out of Brisbane on the morning of September 11th in denial horror and disbelief.
Can I ever believe again we will be free to travel in this world, happy relaxed and at peace? Dare we go again this October? Dare we relax again? Does three times prove it. Was this really coincidence or is this the world we now live in we are just another couple trying to maintain calm and pretend all is well in a world where it will never be the same again. Roslyn Grassick Brisbane, QLD
Cairns, 12 September 2001 at about 2am:
I don't switch on the light, I know every step to the bathroom. As I am going past my little radio, I turn it on - weird, something I normally never do. I hear this incredible almost cryptic announcement, that one tower of the World Trade Centre had been hit, am I dreaming? Is this some thriller? And a second plane - maybe 10,000 casualties. I switch on the light, keep listening. Is this real? I am awake. How is Jeannie, my lady friend living in Queens, well away from the WTC, but often she has to go into Manhattan. A few weeks before, we have been on top there, some great videos shots. My first somewhat rational reaction: "the world will never be the same again".
Now, is Jeannie ok? On the radio they give a Canberra number for anybody having loved ones in New York. I ring it, but of course don't get through. Am I kidding myself? How can they know anything? The radio announces that phonelines to NY are basically out. No call from her. I go online, but no email either. She would call, I know it. Now I start phoning. A recorded message keeps saying, that the whole NY area is congested - no hope? One hour later, keep going and after almost 2 hours, a miracle: the phone is ringing on the other end, and she answers! As they say, the rest is history. Erich Kes Machans Beach, QLD I woke at 5.45 am, not to 774 ABC Melbourne host Lynne Haultain reading that day's newspaper headlines, but to music. As a former breakfast radio producer I immediately knew something was wrong.
In radio, schedules and certainty are everything.
The track ended and my brain sought to make sense of Lynne's news. The World Trade Centre towers in New York had been hit by aircraft, another had hit the Pentagon and one more, believed to be heading for The White House, had crashed into a field in Pittsburgh.
Stunned, I scrambled from bed and watched the opening titles of Channel Seven's breakfast news program 'Sunrise' - which reduced me to tears. My partner joined me on the sofa and we sat dumbfounded that anyone could plan such hideous attacks on fellow human beings.
For me, that's when the story began. As the National Communications Manager for Australian Red Cross I coordinated our public response, briefing media, directing unsolicited donations from generous Australians keen to help the victims and assisting the Blood Service in advising collection centres had been over run by blood donors wishing to assist.
Yet it was a day later when I learned one of our dedicated volunteers, and former staff member, Mrs Yvonne Kennedy had been aboard American Airlines flight 77 when it crashed in to the Pentagon.
Suddenly the story had just become bigger. Andrew Heslop National Communications Manager Australian Red Cross Carlton VIC My mum and I were on holidays in Quebec City, Canada at the time of the attacks. We were getting ready for a days sightseeing, with the NBC's Today Show playing on the television in the background.
I was in the bathroom when my mum called to me to come and look at the TV, just after the first plane hit. I thought it was a horrible accident. Then we watched as the second plane hit not long after.
We were both in shock. We sat glued to the television for hours that morning, until it all became too much. We went downstairs to the lobby, which was filled with American tourists, anxious to know what was happening and trying to make plans to get home. Walking around the Old Town, streets that had been filled with people the day before were now eerily quiet. We were due to fly home on September 15. I couldn't wait to see family and friends, but at the same time I was dreading that flight home. Danielle Kohek Keilor, VIC Election day, September 11 2001, New York City. I was a campaign worker in the democratic primary in the first city of the worlds premier democracy. While driving up West St. the night before I skirted the World Trade Complex, 7 buildings on 16 Acres. As an Aussie in New York I still marvelled at their magnificence, particularly the Centrepiece WTC 1 and 2 , the South and North Towers, Manhattans front teeth.
Handing out literature at the 7th Avenue Subway in Park Slope we noticed a whiff of smoke across the sky and a whiff of rumour on the Street. We took up a vantage point on Bergen St to see but not comprehend smoke billowing not from one, but both towers. The south tower had just been hit. Red fire belching black, bleeding burning ooze down its side. We, nor anyone else really knew what was going on.
Like so many New Yorkers, we were unable to make sense of this momentous event and tried to continue as normal. Speculation mounted, the Pentagon was hit, the Towers fell, and talk turned to war. One person only, maybe in all of NYC, a drunk black Vietnam Vet, unaware of the details railed against the USA and professed not to give a f--- about this country that sent him to kill Vietnamese for the white man.
I spent the next few hours ferrying evacuees to their homes in Brooklyn. At about 2pm at Sheeps Head Bay it began to snow. Flurries of the cremated remains of 3000 bodies and the offices of 50 thousand people covered the landscape in a dirty white. In a surreal atmosphere of damnation emergency vehicles, sirens and F16s at strafing height did not dissipate for 48 hours. After 2 weeks of collective therapy the stronger New Yorkers began to do some normal things, but normal now means something else in New York City. Paul King Toowoomba, QLD
My plane was just landing in London at the same time as the Sept 11 attacks. I knew there was something up a soon as I came through customs and there was a lot of security running around Heathrow Airport. There was a large crowd gathered around some TV screens. It was unusual because everyone was so quiet. I looked over someone's shoulder and stood in stunned silence with everyone else as we witnessed the first tower collapsing. I was horrified, it was like the whole world was falling apart. An American standing not far from me broke the silence with her tears and I saw what were obviously complete strangers trying to comfort her. At the moment I think we all knew that the world had changed forever. That this was an attack on all of us and that the world had become a much more dangerous place. I thought of the people on the plane, many of whom, like me, would probably have been going home to visit their families. I thought of the people in the towers who like me were just there doing their jobs, thinking about what jobs they had to get through that day, grabbing the first cup of coffee to fend off the 'Mondayitis', asking polite questions of colleagues about their weekend. And then in the next moment they were scrambling down fire escapes running in terror for their lives.
I had the tube journey to my brother's place in North London ahead. I don't know how I got onto the tube but I remember the sickening silence and the look of shock on people's faces. People that had the stomach to talk were talking in hushed tones. And there was fear. Genuine fear, it was almost tangible. No-one wanted to be on public transport in crowds of people. It wasn't safe, who knew what lunatic was going to get on at the next station. London was next, it had to be. With hindsight our fears were irrational but they were real. It was the longest journey of my life. My one consolation was that if this was the beginning of the end, at least I would be with my family. When I got to my brother's place my father and brother were there. Both ashen faced and both watching the live news feed on TV. We hugged each other, something that we never do, and we all sat together and watched the news. There really wasn't much to say. It wasn't the homecoming I had anticipated but anything else would have been disrespectful. Weeks later I would join the lines outside the American Embassy to sign the Book of Condolences. It was a small tribute but I had to do something to express the grief I shared with so many others. I wrote that we were no longer Americans or Australians or Brits. We were cousins, family, and I mourned those who had lost their lives in Sept 11th as I would if it had been my family. I wrote that their sacrifice would never be forgotten and that if their deaths counted for anything is was that they had forged a new humanity. One that didn't recognise geographic lines or borders but did require compassion and understanding and working towards shared goals. Sept 11th had made us all realise that everything we hold dear was no longer safe and that it wasn't just soldiers that were in the front line anymore. Darren Glendinning Annandale, NSW From an American living in Perth: Sitting on the sofa reading a book, waiting for West Wing to start. Had the TV on mute, but would glance up occasionally to see if my show had started. Saw previews of West Wing. Looks like a good one - fire in a hi-rise. Hang on, those aren't previews, that's the World Trade Center. Turned up the volume and watched in horror. (Thought, my kids are in the US - are they safe?) Ran upstairs to wake my husband: "You better come see this - our country has just been attacked!" Sally McDonald Subiaco, WA
That morning I was riding a bus down Lexington Avenue, having come to live in Manhattan nine months earlier. Word passed around that a plane had flown into the WTC, then that there was a second plane; it was terrorism. Plumes of black smoke rose in the brilliant blue sky. When I reached my destination I heard the Pentagon had been bombed. It felt like reality had twisted into some uncanny nightmare. I was shaking so hard I had trouble dialing my husbands number. It felt like the end of the world. The towers fell as I waited for him to meet me on Madison Avenue.
Cell phone rumour spread; there were more hijacked planes up there. US fighter jets circled, but on the ground, standing in the shadow of the Empire State Building, they sounded like more flying bombs, and I thought I was going to die without ever seeing Australia again.
Finally, we got back uptown. People were rushing home, doing wartime stockpiling in supermarkets on the way. Then the city shut down. There was an unforgettable smell. Phone lines were out. We were trapped on an eerie Manhattan. We watched TV in shock and cried. Meera Atkinson New York, USA
On 09/11/01 we where on holidays in Germany. It was around 11am, my husband and I where in my Mum's kitchen, the TV is running there every morning, all of a sudden the program stopped and they showed pictures a plane hitting tower one. First we thought it's something out of an action movie, maybe a new movie review, but it hit us pretty soon that this was for real. We kept watching and the second plane hit, it was really freaky, they where reporting and showing how the firemen went in trying to save people, but my husband was shouting, 'oh no don't go in this will collapse, how can they let people go in there?'. Ziggy used to work in steel and knows when heat generates it will melt, and this towers where build in steel. He couldn't believe it that people went in. And collapse it did. I don't think we ever forget what we where doing when this happened. Angelika Pyka Westbury, TAS
The events of 9/11 highlighted how small the world really is and the surreal nature of the tragedy. As an American born - Sarasota, Florida raised, Australian citizen, it was dream-like to watch, live, the planes hit the world Trade Centre while sitting on the sofa in my lounge room in Brisbane, Australia. During the attack I phoned my Dad in Sarasota Florida and he mentioned President Bush was currently visiting Sarasota. At that point the television crossed live to my old school in Sarasota - Booker Elementary. Having lived here for more than 12 years it was eerie that I could watch it all live and see President Bush in my hometown, at my old school, from the comforts of my living room.
It was also a huge relief to hear my brother was not on the American Airlines flight. As an American Airlines flight attendant it was one of the routes he had flown. Libby Burke Ashgrove QLD Last September 11 I was working afternoon shift. When I get home from work I usually have a coffee and check my email before going to bed. This particular night for whatever reason I turned on the television, and stood there mesmerised as the second plane hit the South Tower. I thought to myself, "This looks like a pretty good movie." It wasn't until I started 'channel hopping' that I realised I wasn't watching a movie. I was sickened, shocked and then afraid for the future. I wept. Not only for the people who died as a direct result of the attack, but also for their families/loved ones. I didn't make it to bed until the late hours of the morning. Peter Spierings Corio, VIC
I was working at a gold mine in East Indonesia, north of Ambon, located in no mans land in the middle of a religious war in the Maluku Islands. We were celebrating sosomeone'sirthday that night as we saw it unfold on the CNN network. Shock and disbelief were our first thoughts then we realised that no place is safe from madmen driven by twisted beliefs. Especially since we were living in an area where a civil war had developed for political ends, but had been fuelled by religious intolerance. We thought our friends and families back in Australia were safe, but then we realised that there are madmen everywhere and no place is totally safe. Grant Harding Ardross, WA
A music student at the time, my classmates and I had just finished a performance for family and friends at an intimate gathering in suburban Melbourne.
Recounting the night's events a short time after, a classmate burst backstage, telephone in hand, with the shocking message that two planes had collided with the World Trade Centre, and that a third had just struck the Pentagon.
Initial scepticism was met with silent disbelief as the graphic reality of the situation unfolded before our eyes. The horror unfolded in real-time on a projection television casting it's life sized images onto a previously empty wall.
The entire venue, moments earlier consumed with strains of music and applause, held a collective breath as the looped footage showed time and again the crippling impacts and their horrifying aftermath - the broken, flaming towers and workers leaping to their death. Shortly after the South Tower collapsed, emphasising for the first time the sheer gravity of the attack, I turned to a lecturer standing beside me who had considerable experience living and studying in Islamic regions of sub-Saharan Africa.
Prompted by the speculation of CNN commentators, I asked him which state he believed would face retribution as a result of this crime.
Pale and visibly shocked, he was only able to shake his head incredulously in response. Dylan Wiadrowski Mooroopna, VIC I was asleep in our 3 year old daughters bed . My husband came and sat on the bed and woke me which I thought was odd as Im not a happy person if awakened ahead of time. It was really quite early for me 6.30am. He looked totally stunned, hanging his head as he said something like " Americas been attacked".
He never exaggerates so I sat up quickly and asked him to repeat himself. I thought that maybe this was his idea of a joke . Only he was quite serious. Then I just felt totally shocked. Numb. I raced downstairs and for the next couple of hours just flicked between channels in disbelief. Our eldest daughter was 11 at the time and she says now she couldnt understand why we were like zombies and nothing she or her sisters said or asked seemed to be heard by us. I was simply immersed in the enormity of it all. The scenes were like a Hollywood movie. The World Trade Centre towers looked surreal - like toys crumbling. All those people inside. The unthinkable had happened - tragedy had become the worst form of reality television only it was really our worst nightmare. I had to walk away from it in the end. A sort of sensory overload. Sarah Blow Hawthorn, VIC
Spent the rest of the day trying to get news about two of my other brother, sister, and sister-in-law who all worked downtown. My sister-in-law worked in WTC7 and I didn't find out she was OK until the afternoon.
I expected to find out some friends died, but I was lucky. All my close friends got out of the area OK. One friend got a nasty hole in his back from debris in the collapse, but he's fine.
I found out later that a few former coworkers of mine were killed. I worked with them at Marsh & McLennan in midtown. After I left the company, they moved the department to the WTC, up around the 90th floor. I don't know how they died, I just hope it was quick. And I definitely hope they didn't have to jump.
We turned on a TV, and saw the second plane hit.
And when the towers collapsed, I just sat there, unable to move or talk, thinking about all of the people in the buildings, as well as my fellow firefighters going in to rescue people who just died...all in one instant.
(I am a paid on-call Firefighter)
I felt like Obi-Wan when Alderrann (sp) was destroyed.
It felt like there was a "major disturbance in the force, voices crying out all at once, then nothing."
It still staggers my mind to think about that day
After much effort, she made it out of her building & walked the 40 blocks north to my office -- but not before looking out her office window to see people jumping.
I had also spent some of that time darting between Union Square & an electronics store across the street to watch the TVs. When the 1st tower fell, people started freaking out in the store which I'll never forget (among everything else that day)
We turned on the TV in time to see the second plane hitting the second tower. I said to Kem, "This means war." She agreed.
I had promised her not to bring a laptop on our honeymoon, and not to touch the Internet that week. Instead, with her permission, I got on the Net and got involved, writing and posting an article on "The Law of War." It was almost a week before we could get out of Las Vegas and come home. (Suffice to say, I now owe my wife a real honeymoon, a debt I will pay.)
I've read many stories of the reactions of ordinary people to the news by radio of reports from Pearl Harbor on 7 December. This event was very much the same, except it was even more horrible because we could actually see it, in real time. Most Americans had, I think, much the same reaction then as now -- that our nation was now committed to war, with an unknown duration, and unknown time, but a known outcome -- the defeat of our enemies.
The meeting was cancelled because the California personnel were all at their emergency stations. One of the Washington delegates was falling apart because he had just lost friends in the WTC collapse. I spent the day watching CNN in my motel room.
But thanks to Amtrak, I wasn't stranded in the Bay Area for a week. The next evening, I took the Coast Starlight back to Seattle. We were 10 hours late due to terror scares and dispatching problems with the Union Pacific, but after a few drinks in the Pacific Parlor Car (a renovated 1955 Santa Fe bar car), I didn't care.