14 Years Later: 9/11 Attacks
The above is ABC News’s coverage from September 11, 2001
Memories of a day that changed the world
It was a crystal blue sky where I lived on September. 11, 2001. I had just settled down to talk with a friend on AOL Chat before I headed to class at the college I was attending at the time.
I remember what I had for breakfast—cinnamon pop tarts. Weird, huh?
It was a news alert on AOL’s news page that I first learned about a plane hitting the first tower. It was surreal. It had to be a small plane, right? I mean a commercial jetliner could not have possibly flown into the building, right?
It was only when I saw the images on the TV that it became clear to me. No small plane did that amount of damage to one of the towers of the World Trade Center.
The media was confused. And as we would learn much later, a lot confusion that day among the various agencies. We weren’t equipped to handle this sort of event.
The conversation between my friend and myself quickly turned to the events in New York and then the second one hit. Then it was clear: we were under attack.
My exact words were: “We are at war.”
I watched the news before I headed to class. I was lucky. It was a computer class. No work was done that day. All our eyes were on the latest happening back East. First the towers. Then the Pentagon. And then the small field in Pennsylvania.
It was during class that I first heard the mention of “his” name. By the end of the day, if you hadn’t heard of him before hand—you surely did by the day’s end.
On the way home class, it was all anyone would talk about on the bus. I had a mac-and-cheese for lunch. It’s weird how you remember things like that. We were also working on painting the kitchen. That worked stopped. All eyes—on the TV—watching.
I had to work. I mean, who would want to rent a movie on a day like that? Apparently, a few people wanted to get away from the news. But then the rumors started…
We’re going to bomb Iraq… we’re going to bomb this country or that country. Gas prices will jump to five dollars… fights at gas stations… people scared. Understandable. For tens of millions of Americans, the idea of being attacked on home soil was foreign. Not since Pearl Harbor had our nation been so viciously and deliberately attacked on a massive scale.
On that day—September 11, 2001—everyone became very aware.
Work was surreal, I won’t go into detail about one incident but it was the first time I wanted to toss a customer from the store and tell her never to come back. People were scared, but that’s no reason…
Dinner was Arby’s—classic roast beef, fries and a Pepsi. CNN was the channel of choice for me… I was captivated. Crews working The Pile trying to find signs of life. They found only a few people. The rest? They would be lucky to recover anything.
Then the story about the people aboard United Flight 93 and their heroism. They weren’t going to let the hijackers reach their target. Whether they forced the plane down or the hijackers did—it doesn’t matter. Those passengers knew they were going to die. They wanted a say in how that happened.
They became the first soldiers on a new war front. Their story serves a testimony that we, as a nation, will not go quietly into the night.
I went to sleep thinking—would I wake up to us having used our ultimate deadly arsenal? The threat of nuclear war was far from my mind prior to September 11, 2001. But on that day? I was unsure. Would we? Could we?
Aside from the vivid memories of my actions that day, I remember it being strangely quiet. No jets flying over. The only thing we could see was fighter jets doing their loop as they returned to CAPs over Chicago.
Days turned into weeks to months to years. The memory remains. Years later, I would take an in-depth college course over the events of 9/11.
If there is one takeaway from all of this: People imagined about such a scenario, but no one ever thought it possible. After all, passenger jets had only been hijacked or blown up in the air. They never had been used as missiles to fly into buildings.
This was a new era of war. There were no nation-states. It was individual actors that hide in the shadows.
Yes, people, dropped the ball. A lot of people failed the nation that day.
The system was blinking red. And no one noticed.