World Trade Center: My experience

For my generation, it was our Pearl Harbor. Our D-Day. Our “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”

The morning of September 11, 2001, I was a senior in high school on the West Coast just waking up when I heard the news.

As the morning wore on, it hit me really hard and I found myself sobbing. My mom was supposed to be in Boston that week for work, but had rearranged her plans to go the following week so she wouldn’t have to miss my brother’s birthday on 9/15. She would have flown into the same airport as the terrorists, and she would have been stranded for a week when all air activity was suspended following the attacks.

My friend’s aunt actually worked in one of the towers. Her aunt called her family when the first plane hit, to let them know it had hit the other tower and that she was okay. The line went dead while they were still talking, and they never heard from her again.

I actually visited the World Trade Center site in October 2002, just a year after the attacks. The place was a pile of rubble and dirt.

One of my first assignments as a reporter–my first job out of college–I was supposed to attend a 9/11 memorial event and interview a dad who was commemorating his daughter, who had died on one of the planes that hit the tower. She was 22 and had just graduated Boston College. She had stayed in Boston for the summer to complete an internship.

Doing this interview really hit close to home, as I had attended school in Boston and often flew home by myself. I can’t imagine being on a plane home that was hijacked and coming to the realization that I would never see my family again.


When Eric and I visited in May, the site was one of the first places we wanted to see.

The most powerful room in the World Trade Center museum was the room filled with the photos and fliers of families looking for their loved ones. I remember seeing all these posters on TV, but there was still a sense of distance from the actual photos themselves.

Standing in that room, surrounded by fliers of “Have you seen this person?” and photos…well, I still tear up at the thought of it. The photo of the father with four kids at the beach. The photo of the mom holding a newborn. The pregnant woman. It is awful to see such a loss of life.

wtc firefighter

The museum was filled with artifacts, including a window frame from one of the planes and this fireman’s coat and helmet that was found in the wreckage.

With Eric’s job as an EMT and aspiring firefighter, this particular artifact hit a little too close to home. I have always told Eric not to be a hero. While the idea of Eric losing his life on the job has occurred to me in glimpses, it is something I try to never think about. All I can do is make sure I always kiss him goodbye before he leaves for work.

I still can’t really have a full-on discussion about that day without feeling my throat tighten up.

Eric and I were there the week that they were putting the spire on top of the new World Trade Center. Overall, it was really amazing to have this experience and I think the museum did a good job of honoring the lives lost.

For me, I know I will never forget.

What was your 9/11 experience?

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14 thoughts on “World Trade Center: My experience

  1. March 10, 2014 at 6:31 pm

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  2. July 21, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I haven’t visited the memorial yet, and I’m not sure I will. My Dad was in the air when this happened, and he was on one of the last planes to be cleared to land. I was heading to work and driving past the State Department when the government was let out early. DC was frenetic that month, but I know that our city fared so much better than NYC. I don’t think I could’ve interviewed the girl from BC. That would have hit too close to home. Heartfelt post, and my heart got heavy when I read the part about Eric saving lives. So many heroes were lost that day.

  3. June 29, 2013 at 6:56 am

    I was 2nd year high school at that time and I remember when our teacher broke the news to everyone. We immediately watch the live coverage of what was happening. That was really tragic and we offered a prayer to everyone that were affected.

  4. June 25, 2013 at 7:15 am

    You post gave me goosebumps. I am from New York (we left when I was 7) and the majority of my family still lives there. The day the towers went down was one of the worst days I can remember. We didn’t hear from some family members for days and that was pure torture. I’ve been to the memorial and I too was really happy with the way everything has been done. It is a beautiful tribute.

  5. June 24, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Ugh, such a crazy ugly day. I’ll never forget watching it live on television. It was so surreal.

  6. June 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    My experience was similar to yours. I heard it on the radio as I was waking up in the Bay Area. I told my mom a plane hit buildings in New York and they thought some were headed for DC / the Washington monument. It was surreal as I had just been there a year or two before and been to the top of the tower. I also remember freaking out because a friend had just joined the army and left for bootcamp and I was sure he was going to be sent off and the rest of my friends would be drafted. Thankfully, he was not quickly sent off (as my mom pointed out, he still needed training) and he came home safely after his 4 years of service.

    I can’t imagine how I would feel seeing that fire jacket and helmet though. Whoa.

  7. Linsey Wigmore
    June 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I’m from the uk and I joined in with the world grieving this terrible tragedy. It was mid afternoon in the uk and I turned the tv on in my parents house just as reports were coming in of the first plane. My parents were in the next room and I remember calling to them that there had been a plane crash in New York. Then in stunned silence I watched the second plane hit. I can vividly remember a split second of confusion followed by the dawning realisation of what was happening . I actually remember thinking another crash? Before it hit me. We sat for hours watching the news coverage and perhaps my most vivid memory of that day is of my dad the most manly of men sitting in front of the tv with tears rolling down his cheeks. Xx

  8. June 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I was 11 years old. I lived in a military area, so a couple of kids got checked out early. I didn’t know what was going on. When I got home, my mom was watching the news. I couldn’t believe it, and neither could she. It was very surreal.

  9. June 24, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    I just woke up and was eating breakfast and I always watched the today show. I couldn’t finish my breakfast as the news unfolded (by that time the towers had fallen-I lived in Seattle) but they replayed it but I thought it was happening live). I was shocked and bewildered. I called work and they said it was closed for the day. I went for a walk at a local park and everyone just looked at each other strangely. Then I went to a memorial that night and it was the saddest day ever. I had friends who were stuck overseas for awhile because of it. I had also visited WTC just one year before and though about how grand the lobby seemed. I just visited the memorial last year and the museum wasn’t done yet. I’m glad you got to see it!

  10. June 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I was in 3rd period biology-10th grade. I didn’t understand what had really happened when the principal came over the loudspeaker. I’d love to go to the WTC museum–we were there last summer and the memorial was open. That by itself was emotional, especially the names with “and unborn child” engraved underneath. I get teary just typing that.

  11. June 24, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Wow. I bet being there was emotional. I remember when I went to the Oklahoma City Bombing site just a few years after it had happened (I don’t think they had built the memorial yet), it hit me hard. I can only imagine that the 9/11 memorial is equally if not more impactful.

    I saw the 2nd plane hit live on the Today show. I was getting ready for school and my mom was helping me do my hair. This was right around the time that I met my now husband and I was dressing cute that day to impress him. Instead, the whole day was strange and we didn’t end up talking to each other at all. My volleyball game that night was cancelled. I remember just walking around in a haze.

  12. June 24, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Something like that hits close to home period because it was so tragic and just so awful. But when your husband is going into that line of work; well that can be very scary. I can’t believe it was that long ago. So many people continue to live on without their loved ones and it’s just so very sad.

  13. June 24, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Basically this disaster changed the face of history and ended up resulting in so many lives, both in the States and overseas being lost. Still doesnt feel like it happened 13 years ago now. Thanks for sharing

  14. June 24, 2013 at 5:13 am

    I was a freshman in college who had just moved from the west coast to the north east, so it hit way too close to home. The attacks happened after I got back from my earliest morning class when I was writing a quick paper on the Taliban before my noon class. It was all surreal.

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