Do You Remember Where You Were? And How You Felt?

Tell Your Friends

I know I’ve talked in the past about feeling old, but let’s face it; I’m only 35.  I was born in June of 1978.

I wasn’t around when Kennedy was shot (Nov 22, 1963), or the day that Elvis died (Aug 16, 1977), and I was just sheltered enough to have found out about the Challenger Shuttle’s explosion (Jan 28, 1986) on Punky Brewster, when they had “a very special episode.”

These events exist in our nation’s collective subconscious.  They united us.  My mother can tell you where she was for any of these three events.

For me, it was Sept 11, 2001.

I was working my first real job, in Lewiston, ME at St. Mary’s Hospital.  Beth was teaching in Kennebunk (her first real gig, too).  I had just stepped out of a private treatment room and into the shared gym space, which was oddly empty for that time of morning.  As my patient left, I wandered over to the radio, which appeared to be playing news radio.  We usually listed to classic rock in the gym.  As I got closer, and the words being spoken began to sink into my mind, I stopped in my tracks.  Was this real?  Could this sort of thing really be happening?

I ran to the front to see if anyone else had heard.  They were all next door, in the Sleep Studies clinic, where they had a television.  Everyone else was crowded around the set in stunned disbelief.  We saw the second plane hit without initially realizing it was live – we thought it was a replay.  Obviously, our PT schedules were out the window.  Most of our patients had cancelled for the day by then.  Would we be called into action?  We were just a rag-tag bunch of PTs and OTs, but we worked as ancillary staff in a hospital.  We could certainly move patients and wheel gurneys if need be.  How widespread would this be?  Were we safe in Lewiston, ME?  Beth was, as mentioned before, an hour and a half south, but both of our families were still two and a half hours north.  How could I get her and get north if the interstate was blocked?

We had been married only three months, and didn’t have an emergency “end of times” plan for evacuation.  We do now.  If we’re separated when the zombie apocalypse begins, we each know where to head to meet the other.  I can thank September 11th for that.  Needless to say, I didn’t get called into action in Lewiston.  Beth says a school administrator stopped by her room, told her there had been a terrorist attack, and she was not to mention it to the kids yet, and DON’T TURN ON YOUR TV for any reason!  No other information.

In the days that followed, participated in the national ‘remembrance day’, sitting on the curb outside of our apartment, holding our candles, meeting the people we’d lived next to for years.  The sense of community and shared anguish and disbelief was tangible.  In Biddeford, where we lived at the time, anonymity was the rule, not the exception.  As we watched the televised concerts for New York and America, we cried along with the families of the fallen heroes.  It’s all anyone talked about for weeks.  We donated to the Red Cross, we bought the CDs from the concerts; and we gave up some civil liberties in the name of safety.  If I do the math correctly, we also took our first steps towards parenthood in those first few post-11 weeks.  There was just such a primal need to hold everything (and everyone, for that matter) as close as possible.

I don’t remember ever being as scared not only for myself, but for my loved ones scattered all over the state.  We were barely married and didn’t even have kids yet.  Now, after twelve years together and a brood of children, still nothing makes me feel more content than knowing my babies are tucked into their beds, safe and sound upstairs, while the Mrs. and I snuggle on the couch and watch TV.  I know I can’t hold that tightly forever, so I appreciate it now.

As we rapidly approach the twelve-year anniversary of this tragedy, I couldn’t help but reflect, and wonder where you were.  Leave me a comment and let me know.  sept-11-flag



Permanent link to this article:


Skip to comment form

  1. I was 15. When I woke up, my mom was in the living room, on the couch, watching the news and discussing the tragedy with my grandmother. I walked into the living room as the second plane hit and heard my mom gasp and her eyes tear up; she then shouted into the receiver at my grandmother that a second plane had hit.

    I still don’t understand why she didn’t keep me home from school that day. I went. My first class was English, with my favorite teacher who is still a friend to this day. He turned on the news and said, “Today, we are watching this screen. Get out your journals and write. Write about everything. Write what you’re thinking, write what you’re feeling. You’re living history.”

    1. What an awesome teacher!

  2. Oh man, I just posted a comment I the wrong spot! I ended up sharing the article and my comment on FB. Sorry about that!

    1. No worries!

  3. I was in my apartment, working on a project for an art course. My roommate told me what was going on (i’m not a media junkie and I prefer to work in peace), but I didn’t really get it at the time. It wasn’t until later in the day that I realized what a big deal it was. My youngest was due 9-11-11, but was born 9-1. I had hoped to have him on his due date to bring joy to that day for my family.

    1. I have twin nieces born on Sept 11th. I associate the day with them first, tragedy second.

  4. I was home, sick in the bed, clueless to what was going on around me. My husband was military at the time and I recall being very saddened and afraid.
    Relaxed Thairapy

  5. I was in 6th grade and we all got crammed into classrooms and crowded around a tv. Everyone was freaking out and I could not hear what was going on. I could only tell that it was bad. When I got home my grandparents called me into their room and asked if I knew what had happened. I didn’t so they explained. I remember that I didn’t understand how people could be so bad or mean hearted. I was 11.

  6. I was working as administration at a school. I was in a meeting when the person I was meeting with told me. I don’t deal with shock right away, it takes a bit to sink in, but when it did,as you said, I was incredulous. We had to stay at work and support the students, some of whom had family in NYC, when all we wanted to do was go home. Once I went home, I couldn’t watch TV. Today that same footage brings me to tears. I remember how quiet it was. The regular air traffic we would hear and were used to, just wasn’t there. It was eerie.

  7. That morning I got up and was in a good mood because it was my birthday. I got ready and drove to a college class I was in and as I reached the main road I heard the radio broadcast come on. I really thought at first it must be a made up report because it was so unreal. As I got to class everyone was crowded around a tv and very silent. As we watched the reports unfold we prayed silently for the people involved and our country as a whole. None of us could ever be quite the same.

  8. I was in my final year at TCU as a Social Work student and I was on my way to my first day at my internship. It was a neighborhood agency with a food and clothing bank that could also assist with some bills like electric and water or any other family issues. I imagine that my experience there would have been so different had 9/11 not happened. I spent that year meeting people who lost their jobs as the economy got nervous and businesses shut down or did lay offs and this was all the way in TX. I have 1 son now and another on the way. We will be discussing an “end of times” plan soon thanks to you. That is a great idea. Nothing is better than knowing your family is safe in their beds every night.

  9. I was in the 8th grade working on an art project when I heard. We were allowed to watch tv for awhile and I remember feeling really confused and not knowing what this would mean for me, my family, our country. Now that I’m a parent, it seems even scarier. Having an “end of times” plan is a great idea.

  10. It’s hard to believe it was so long ago ago. I was in college. I just got back to my dorm room from my first class to meet my suite mate to go to Astronomy. She was watching the TV in tears. I couldn’t even process what I was seeing. Then the 2nd plane hit. It was so surreal. Classes were canceled the rest of the day, and we were advised to leave the campus if we could because a building on campus not far from my dorm “might be on the hit list.” It was all so scary.

    1. Wow! That sounds super scary. Which college were you at that a nearby building “might” be a target?

  11. Thanks for sharing this! I was in New York for the first time a few months after this happened and know that it is a very important thing to remember. It’s a good idea to have an escape plan and a place to meet up. I’ll have to implement that in our family.

  12. I was in bed. My father called me to get me out of bed, because a crash. I turned on the television, and stood there in disbelief as I watched. My heart still goes out to these families.

  13. I remember where I was, I was waiting for the school bus. Yup I was in gr. 10 at the time. Hard day for everyone.

  14. I was in my local bank in Germany, trying to get some money out of the ATM and right next to it there was a TV, I think I stood there for half an hour before I headed back home and did not turn of the TV for I think a week….
    I just could not believe it! So many innocent lives…..
    I still can not wrap my mind around the cruelty of that day, the footage I have seen over and over again with the sounds recorded for eternity, should be a constant reminder for the values we set for our lives and which path to go we choose.
    I am praying for continued comfort for everyone affected!

    1. I agree. Also quite impressed you’re writing from Germany! The image of the falling people who opted to jump rather than burn to death haunts me every time I think of it.

  15. Being in another part of the world, we saw it in the news hours after. Watching it on the news was very surreal. We thought about all those affected by it. Prayers were sent from our side of the world!

    Being able to visit Ground Zero in 2008 gave me goosebumps but also the chance to remember all those who were there. You are a very resilient nation. Prayers for all!

  16. I was 16, pregnant and in Math class when the first plane struck. This year my 11 year old and my 9 year old sat with the laptop and watched the footage together on the floor and i think, like me, they grew up in seeing that, they grew up in those few moments of utter shock and widespread fear. They weren’t even alive yet back then but now they understand our fight for freedom, our strict rules on travel that were previously a pain to them, they grew up this year in seeing those minutes and I am so grateful that their level of comprehension gave them an “aha” moment about the “why’s” in life. How things aren’t always fair or even something that can be understood. Unlike other moments in history, like Elvis dying, this is something that generations will continue to fear, to learn from and to change for the better as a result.

    1. Very well put. Thanks for the comment.

  17. I remember like it was yesterday. I was walking through my college campus wondering where everyone was. I am not big on technology and went through all four years of college without a cellphone. I didn’t get the memo. Classes were cancelled. I rushed home to find the aftermath on TV…a real-life move happening spontaneously before my eyes.

  18. I was in grade 6 and the teacher rolled a tv into the room and we watched the news all day. Thinking back I don’t think that we should have watched it at all, but I think that the teacher just wanted to stay on top of what was going on.

  19. I was a senior in high school. Before my first class was over, the principal announced that everyone needed to stay in their classrooms rather than changing to second period. We turned on the news and watched it until the school set an early release time of noon. It was scary, and at 17 years old, I remember it took hours for the reality of it to sink in with me.

  20. I know this subject is so hard for the American people but you wrote about it from the standpoint of a lesson learned. I think that we all should be as diligent to prepare ourselves from whatever could be in store for us.

    • Wanda Bourgeois on September 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm
    • Reply

    I was working in a nursing home making rounds with the physician we entered a patient room saw the smoke wondered what was on TV then saw plane 2 hit, we did truncated rounds that day taking time to watch the news. Working in a nursing home I saw how this affected our veterans especially those who had been in combat. Even the veterans with some dementia trying to find where they should report ready to help. Some of those with PTSD getting increased and or new symptoms. Some previously undiagnosed with PTSD showing symptoms, my step father was one of those and he continued with symptoms for 10+ years until his death. I do remember that the country banded together in ways not seen in my generation.

    1. Wanda, I never thought about that side of things. I bet those old soldiers came right out of retirement, at least in their own minds. God bless their sacrifices, and willingness to jump back into the frey.

  21. I was at the vet with a sick cat. The vet had been called in for emergency surgery. I waited by myself in the waiting room hearing things off the TV in the back… I could not understand what was going on. I did not find out until after lunch. Then I could hardly believe it was real.

  22. I was working in Century City, CA in a high-rise. We were notified to get out of the building because of the potential threats. As we were leaving someone turned on the conference room television just in time for us to see the second plane crash into the building. I really thought it was a new action movie until I started reading the news ticker at the bottom. Every emotion a person could have ran through my body and all I wanted to do was go and pick up my oldest son from school (he was 5 years old) and just hold him close to me to make sure he wasn’t scared. I grabbed my purse, got in my car, picked him up and went home. My offices were closed for the next two weeks and I stayed at home with my son watching the entire story unfold. It was devistating to know so many innocent lives were lost behind the actions of a group of people. I pray for them and their families all the time.

    1. Not having kids yet, I knew my wife was capable of handling herself. As a Dad now, I can imagine how extra-scary it must have been to be in charge of a little one’s safety. Did your son have lots of questions? How did you answer them?

    • Shawn Denson on September 12, 2013 at 10:39 pm
    • Reply

    I was actually asleep when the events themselves happened. I had been out of town for work, and had gotten home very late that night, around 3 am or so. I had the day off from work, and I slept in until almost noon. When I woke up, I just watched the news coverage, in total shock. And I guess something in me clicked too on parenthood, or perhaps it was the need for something and someone warm to hold onto in those dark and grim days, because my daughter Lillian was due in July of 2002, but came along early in June. You do the math.

    1. Jake was due on July 4th, but came on June 27. Same calculator. 😉

  23. I was reflecting on 9-11 the other day and was thinking that my children will not have first hand experience of that day. I think it will be hard to portray the raw emotion everyone felt that day. The thing I remember most? It was us, Americans, supporting one another and grieving together.

    1. We’ve shared some of what happened with the kids, but they’re too young to understand most of it.

      1. I agree that it a tough subject. My oldest is seven and we haven’t talked about what happened. We want to keep his innocence for as long as possible. He will know soon enough there are truly evil people in this world.

  24. I was lying on my living room floor with my 1 year old daughter crawling around me. We were watching the Today show when the news broke. We got in the car and went to my parents house (wanted to be close to as many loved one’s as possible) and called all of my out of state friends and family to make sure everyone was safe.

  25. The world has so much pain and hurt that is shared across boarders. Here in New Zealand we mourned your loss and grieved with you. I still can’t believe it is 12 years already.

  26. I was managing a Subway at the time and I had just gotten engaged two days earlier. I remember being at work cutting green peppers when I heard. I had been so happy and in lala land and then that brought me back to reality. It was such a heartbreaking unreal event.

    • Pam Russo on September 11, 2013 at 8:27 pm
    • Reply

    September 11, 2001 was scary day for sure. I was at work in the call center of The Staten Island Savings Bank in Staten Island, NY when my supervisor came in and said a plane just crashed into the twin towers. At first we thought it was a horrific accident. We turned on the tv in our small employee lounge just in time to witness the second plane hit the towers. We were all in disbelief and shock. By the time we heard about the crash in Pennsylvania and the attack on the Pentagon, they had closed the bank and sent all of us home. The whole family was meeting at my moms. We wanted to be together because we didnt know what was coming next. I drove home like a zombie, picked up my dog and met up with my family. By the time I got there, the children had been picked up from school and the whole family watched news coverage for the rest of the day. Never Forget!

    1. Wow! I felt pretty safe overall in Maine. Nothing ever happens here. Being in NY must have been intense!

  27. I was working at the tallest building in Baltimore, and I remember that we were all scared that a plane might fly into our building (early in the day we didn’t know how many planes were out there). Our boss let us all go home, so I hurried to my apartment and tried to contact my husband, who was, at that time, a Marine. The phone to their office was busy, but he did come home about an hour later, after they were all sent home. A few days later, he had to go help with the cleanup at the Pentagon. Such a sad, sad day.

  28. Thank you for your sacrifice to all of the men and women that lost their loved ones on 911.. We will never forget your families.

    I remember I was a freshman in college… that particular day I was in the lobby when the news came on. I remember on of the students in the dorm lost both of her parents that worked in the world trade center.

    Freedom is not free… Hooah to all the men and women that served or still serves in the United States Military!

    From a Veteran Soldier!

    1. My heart goes out to all of our men and women who volunteer to protect our freedom! A big Hooah to all those firefighter and police heroes who ran TOWARD that hell, when instinct MUST tell you to run the other way.

  29. I was working. I watched it on TV and remembered the helplessness I faced. Our family is now prepared in the event of an emergency of this magnitude again. Heartbreaking tragedy, however 4 years ago my son was born a Sept 11th baby so now the day brings joy with it!

  30. Thanks for stopping by my blog and reading my story. What a poignant day it was all of us, and I shall never forget it. It was the beginning of the end of my marriage though I didn’t realize it at the time. My ex-husband thought the Muslims were justified in what they did, and I was trying to keep a class of children calm. The internet was jammed for a couple hours, and I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I hope we never forget!

  31. I was in high school, but I had stayed home sick that day. I had woken up early and turned the tv on but then fell back to sleep, I was in and out of being awake so was hearing the news without realizing it. I thought I was having a nightmare. Until I woke up and realized is was a dream, it was the news. I stayed glued to the TV for the rest of the day. It was not anything I could wrap my head around at that age.

    • Debbie Bouchard on September 10, 2013 at 5:40 pm
    • Reply

    On 9/11 I was working at Opal Myrick Elementary School. I had been in the copy room and on my way to the library. Barbara Daigle had just come into the building after being in Medway Middle School for music class down there. On her way to Opal she had her radio on in the car and it was reported that a plane has crashed into one of the towers in NY. Commented also was what a bright sunny clear day it was in NY …. I recall thinking how sad and that it had to have been mechanical issues. Not long after, I was in my kindergarten room and it was told to us that a second plane had deliberate hit the second tower and that another plane had hit the pentagon and also a plane crash in Pennsylvania … the feeling, a sick feeling I might add, that came over the adults it that building is a feeling I will never forget.

    • Jan on September 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm
    • Reply

    I was working 11p to 11a passing medications in a boarding home, Wisdom House, to be exact. A resident, who has since passed, came out into the hall and said “Jan, it’s WWII all over again.” Her face was pale and serious. I went into her room and saw, in horror, the 2nd plane hit. I grabbed the remote and switched channels, my mind refusing to believe it was real, it was some bad Arnold movie, right? Non. It was real. I went home that day late and didn’t sleep a wink. I was online and watching the news. My boyfriend at the time shrugged it off. It had a profound effect on me this event that didn’t happen to me. Many a things changed in my life after that, all for the better and all at my hand. Wonderful post, Ryan. 🙂

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so ‘not in control’ of my life.
      The vulnerability is what effected me most.

    • Becky on September 10, 2013 at 7:34 am
    • Reply

    Basic Training. We were locked down for several days. And I mean, we didn’t leave the barracks except to congregate in the giant laundry rooms to eat MRE’s and PB & fluff sandwiches, locked down. I volunteered for a detail to clean and wax the floor of the Drill Sergeants day room/lounge, just to so something other than sit in the barracks. There was a big flat screen TV in there that would have normally been an absolute no-go for us to have on. But one of the DS’s came in, turned it on and said “Leave this on. You guys need to watch this.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge

%d bloggers like this: