Most of us remember exactly where we were, and what we were doing, on the morning of 9/11/2001.
I was sitting in my office, doing paperwork, as I geared up for the upcoming, busy, holiday season. There was a lot to get sorted, since my husband and I were also just two days away from leaving on a two week vacation.
Back then, I had a pretty successful eBay business, called RoxanneShops. I had five people working for me, and was doing quite well.
I was sitting at my desk, with Howard Stern’s radio show playing in the background, when I began to sense a change in the tone of the chatter. Like most people, I didn’t realize what I was hearing, at first. Something about a plane behaving oddly?
At 8:46 a.m., I turned on the office television, just in time to watch the first plane strike the World Trade Center, in real time.
It was surreal. I watched, mouth agape, unable to process what I was seeing. After all, North America has mostly been spared acts of war and terrorism since the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. We have seen the boys and girls march off to war, even seen many of them return in body bags, but an actual physical attack on our soil? Unthinkable!
My husband was home, on sabbatical, and still sleeping, so I had no one with whom to share my shock at the attack. And I actually felt a little like I must be still abed myself, still dreaming, since what was happening was so incredibly surreal.
After the second plane struck, I had to wake my husband. I couldn’t handle this on my own. This was all so crazy, so unnatural, so out of the ordinary. Together we watched the events unfolding, in shock. The unthinkable had become not only thinkable, but a new reality.
In less than two hours, everything we thought we knew about war and terrorism had turned inside out. Because it had now happened on American soil.
I was gripped with a stomach churning fear and panic. We had no idea what horrors might still be awaiting us, and no idea how many more would die as we looked on, helpless to stop the deaths.
I remember that Howard Stern stayed on the air, long past his regular end time. I think we all sensed that this was a historic moment of time, and that what we felt and did in those moments needed to be memorialized.
Still, life was going on around us. Planes were still flying – I was going to have to steel myself to get on one in two days time, with this new fear added to my usual fear of flying. (And, bless their western hearts, the staff and crew on Westjet‘s flight to Alberta kept us all laughing and sane through that journey.)
All over North America, people were rising to the occasion, showing their true, and often heroic, colours. Firemen, completing a long shift and headed for bed, instead got back on the trucks and sped to the World Trade Center – and that is why there were so many first responders that perished that day.
The musical, Come From Away, tells the true story of the week following the attacks, and of how the 7,000 stranded travelers who had been on 38 planes that landed unexpected in Gander, Newfoundland, were housed and fed by the Gander residents in a wonderful show of Canadian human kindness.
There were many other heroes made that day, and many stories have been written. We all struggle to fully understand what circumstances came together to cause this horrible loss of lives, and, even worse, the depths of the sadness felt by those that were left behind, their loved ones vanished in a moment.
There are days you wish you could unlive, moments you wish you could unsee. When I started writing this, this morning, the memories came to me so bright, so clear.
May we never have to see another day like it. May we never forget the day that it was.
From CNN: September 11, 2001 timeline
– 8:46 a.m. ET – American Airlines Flight 11 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
– 9:03 a.m. ET – United Airlines Flight 175 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
– 9:37 a.m. ET – American Airlines Flight 77 (traveling from Dulles, Virginia, to Los Angeles) strikes the Pentagon Building in Washington.
– 9:59 a.m. ET – South tower of WTC collapses in approximately 10 seconds.
– 10:03 a.m. ET – United Airlines Flight 93 (traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco) crashes in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
– 10:28 a.m. ET – North tower of WTC collapses. The time between the first attack and the collapse of both World Trade Center towers is 102 minutes.