Our memories of 9/11- republished on 9/11 2021

World Trade Center 9 11

We all have them, memories of the big moments in our shared lives.

I remember the moment I learned of JFK’s death.  I was  in Alaska at Ft. Greely in the midst of a course at the Northern Warfare School.

I remember 9/11.  I had been out to Clark Brother’s shooting range the day before and was cleaning pistols I had taken to the range.  I was kneeling on the floor in the family room rummaging through some cleaning kit when the TeeVee interrupted itself to say that there had been an accident in NY City in which an airplane had hit a big building.  Being old even then I thought of the accident just after WW2 in which a military plane hit the Empire State Building.  

So, I sat back on my heels to listen and very quickly there was an image of one of the two trade center towers with a big hole in it up near the top with masses of smoke billowing out of the hole.

After a few minutes I watched a jet liner come into view as it turned and rammed the second tower.  Debris spewed out the hole it made on the near side of the building from the force of the strike on the other side.

I knew then that we were at war.  This could not be an accident.

I watched the buildings burn for a while and then my house shook with a mighty ka-whump.  We are several miles from the Pentagon but the shock wave of the airliner crash into the Defense Department headquarters was still massive at that range.

We did not learn of the crash in Pennsylvania until later in the day.

I received several calls from people in the ME wanting to know what had happened.  One of them immediately guessed that it was was some sort of jihadi attack.  “Now we are really in the shit,” he said on the phone.  “If that is true, you surely are, all of you,” I replied.

A day or so later, an American billionaire whom I knew called to say that his grandson had been working in one of the towers above the level of the strike, and though badly injured had miraculously made his way down the stairs from above the strike all the way to the ground and had lived.  “Now we are all in your world” the billionaire said to me, “in your world.” pl 

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22 Responses to Our memories of 9/11- republished on 9/11 2021

  1. Decameron says:

    It broke our hearts to lose them but them didn’t go alone,
    For part of us went with them the day God called them home.

  2. I, also, was in Alexandria that day. I and a coworker from NSA were in my office overlooking the Potomac preparing for a meeting at FBI headquarters. We couldn’t get our secure comms up due to a wonky encryption device so we heard nothing of the NYC attacks before we started the drive into DC. We thought the traffic was awfully heavy as we headed up the GW Parkway. I saw some black smoke ahead and figure it might be a bad car accident. As we got closer, we realized the smoke was far more than a car fire. It was the Pentagon. We turned on the car radio and heard what was happening. Obviously there was not going to be a meeting at FBI that day. We continued on the GW Parkway to see the east side of the Pentagon. The black smoke plume from the west side was massive by this time framed by two large American flags flying in front of the building. The cell phone circuits were overloaded and unavailable. It took several hours to make it back to our Alexandria office. When I finally got in contact with SWMBO, she told me she was happy that, for once, I told her where I was going to be that day. She was glad I was not at the Pentagon that day. The roads were so jammed, I couldn’t leave for home until late evening. The two of us spent the rest of the day planning on redirecting our collection platform. We knew it was coming. GWOT was upon us.
    I knew only one person well who died that day at the Pentagon. I worked closely with Chuck Sabin of the DIA Comptroller Office in setting up my collection platform. He was the most gracious man I knew and supremely skilled in his field. Every contact with this gentleman left me feeling uplifted and satisfied, whether I got everything I wanted or not.

  3. turcopolier says:

    I don’t remember Sabin. His boss, Lou Prombain, was one of the worst assholes I ever knew in government. He knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing. I remember that at an offsite conference he started mocking the men of MACVSOG. He had been a comptroller puke in VN. I told him that he should be careful who he said that to. He looked even more pasty faced than usual after that.

  4. pl,
    Prombain was universally despised. Perhaps that’s what made Sabin such a breath of fresh air. On several occasions, I was able to change Prombain’s overly cautious and parsimonious mind with the support of Sabin.

  5. turcopolier says:

    I did some research. The bum is still alive and lives in Mclean.

  6. Serge says:

    I was in grade school eating apple jelly beans from a recent trip to disney world, it was early in the morning not too long after 9 when my mother came to dismiss me from school along with a black friend of mine. We went to my home and watched the whole thing unfold on TV. The images that burned in my mind are of the people helplessly waving from the windows, holding out their bodies and waving things, images of people covered in dust like ghosts. But I was a kid, and at one point a fly was crawling over the camera as the towers were burning in the background, and me and my black friend started laughing at the fly. His mother came in and slapped him. So we went downstairs to play videogames

  7. TV says:

    I was in my office at the (then) NASDAQ Data Center in CT. when I was paged to the computer room a little before 9, never a good sign.
    I walked into the computer room just to see the second plane hit the WTC on the big TV set in the middle of the room.
    Bedlam- would the NYSE open?
    We found out that they couldn’t, so we can’t open.
    For a computer system that’s programmed to open a market(it’s more complicated than ringing a bell) at a certain time, it’s not that simple to halt it.
    AND, as someone pointed out – dividends – at which time we had to explain stock dividends to the lawyers who ran NASDAQ at that time.
    So, we opened the market at 9:30 and then shut it down.
    In the 30 or so seconds that it was open, several trades were done and our market control people had to call those traders to cancel the trades.
    The traders were in California and said that they didn’t give a
    f**k about what happened in NY and they had to trade.
    Lesson: never let your daughter marry an equity trader.

  8. scott s. says:

    My wife was assigned to what was then PACOM J6. Her secretary always came in to work early and called her from the office. My wife was able to get out the door, into the car and into Camp Smith before they locked down all the installations (and effectively grid-locked Oahu).
    Meanwhile we had a tenant in our house in MD who was a Navy LCDR in OPNAV in the Pentagon. He had a meeting but had gone back to his office to get his wallet. That saved his life.

  9. Tpcelt says:

    It was a beautiful day in DC with hint of fall in the airI. I had decided to take a leisurely walk down 15th Street, rather than a cab, to my next appointment. Before I left, I had called a friend at another agency about this accident at the WTC & she told me that the rumor there was it probably wasn’t an accident. I thought the plane crash was tragic, but still went on my walk.
    I had to stop at the corner of 15th St. and New York Avenue. For those not familiar with D.C., it’s the intersection adjacent to the blocked street in front of the Treasury Department and, next to it, the White House. I had to stop because black SUV after black SUV came speeding out of that previously blocked street.
    While watching this, some tourists near me talked about how cool it was to see a motorcade. I shortly connected the dots and said it couldn’t be a motorcade (I’d seen and waited through quite a few of them), that it was instead an evacuation, an evacuation of the White House. I didn’t get to see their reaction because I turned on my heel, went back to my office to pick up my stuff, and started walking up to my home in Takoma Park MD (a good long walk, but a Good Samaritan after awhile gave me and an African American woman who had met up with on this long walk a ride up to the general area where our homes were. Our Good Samaritan said she’d always wanted to repay someone for somone’s kindness to her sister back when another terrorist event happened in DC back in the 60’s-70’s.
    As a side note, we had in intern then in our office from China. He left shortly after because he thought the US was too violent & he didn’t want to stay. On the other hand, he was a newlywed away from his bride…

  10. Lord Curzon says:

    London, Docklands: in an office near the top floor in a tall building that looked directly on to the HSBC building and a cluster of others, with aircraft coming in to land at the nearby Docklands airport.
    A colleague leans round his computer and announces,” A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Centre!”.
    I turned to him and said,” You’ve been reading too much Tom Clancy!”, but immediately went on to the BBC news website to confirm. A TV was switched on and we all saw the second plane go in, and we all suddenly knew everything had changed.
    Eyes went straight to the windows, to the flight path outside, almost expecting to see the next plane making its approach to Docklands Airport veer into a building.
    Then the phones went crazy.

  11. harry says:

    I was in downtown NYC (Tribecca) in a large loft building. I think Col. Lang is familiar with the building. When the first plane hit, one of my colleagues heard it fly overhead before it hit the WTC. I didn’t. He said that he thought a plane had hit. I pooh poohed the idea. Another colleague ran in from the back where we had a gym, to tell us a plane had hit. After a while i decided to take a ride down the elevator to street level to smoke a cigarette and clear my head. Ironically, in the street i saw some hassidim and muslim gentlemen debating something in an animated fashion. From Greenwich Street, i had a clear view of the remaining intact tower to the south. As i stared up at it, taking a long drag of my cigarette, the second plane hit, and an enormous mushroom cloud of flame, smoke and then paper, exploded sideways from the building.
    It occurred to me that i had just watched hundreds of people die. I threw my cigarette away, took took the elevator up to the office, and announced that i was heading home. I didn’t see the point of waiting for my colleagues to reach the same conclusion.

  12. Noel S. Cowling says:

    I was mowing the grass along the road at my farm near Hico, Texas when my neighbor lady drove by slowly and stopped. She was crying. When I asked her if I could help her, she told me about the attack. My immediate response to her was, “nothing of that magnitude could happen without inside complicity”. But, still no excuse for what we have done during these following twenty years.
    Pat Lang, I appreciate your web site and all those who contribute. Thank you. Noel S. Cowling

  13. Barbara Ann says:

    Hard to believe 20 years have passed since that day when the world changed. I too saw the second plane hit, live on the office TV. It dawned on me that America would soon be at war. It is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions that it feels that may be true again today.

  14. MidHudson Mary says:

    I was teaching at Newburgh Free Academy in Newburgh, NY. After the planes hit someone called a bomb threat in to the school. Two thousand students and staff evacuated to the lawn and street. Many had family working at the WTC and didn’t know if they were alive. The bomb threat was a hoax but I later heard that the control tower at Stewart Airport had questioned one of the planes from Boston (it was not following its proper flight path). They were told to back off. We lost many from Orange county that day. Cars left at the train and bus stations were an aching reminder.

  15. Joe100 says:

    I was sitting in a Senate hearing room across the street from the Capital, waiting for a hearing on power plant air pollution control to begin. The hearing did not begin on schedule and a few minutes later we were informed that the hearing was cancelled due to a terrorist attack in NYC.

    I was with several advocates from the midwest and southeast at this hearing. We walked back to our hotel near Dupont Circle – all the way trying to reach families by cellphone. The following several days were very strange as no aircraft were flying and access to distant travel was mostly not available. I finally got on Amtrak to Boston, I think four days after the attack and our group from Minnesota eventually rented a car to get home, giving up on air travel. I may be alive today based on the courage of the passengers who took down the fourth aircraft that was intended to hit the Capital.

    And I don’t think it was too long after the WTC attack I was back in DC and there was a random sniper at large in the metro area. This was also pretty scary as it took some time to track the sniper down and as I recall he had shot people on several different sections of the DC metro area, including some near where I usually stayed.

  16. Fred says:

    Why hasn’t Biden made a public statement? He had plenty of time for George Floyd’s funeral in Houston but he can’t be bothered with this event? Perhaps too many people would remind him of how he betrayed our nation just days ago by abandoning Americans in Afghanistan.

  17. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    We’d slept in a bit later than usual that morning at our home in the Minneapolis suburbs and I was in the shower when my wife shouted to me to quick come out and watch something on TV. Our younger daughter K had called saying her “A” Avenue bus had stopped in the middle of the block on East Broadway when the driver saw a plane hit 2 WTC straight ahead to the southwest. They were between ¼ and ½ mile away. A few minutes later, while SWMBO and I were watching on TV and K was watching from the middle of the street where all traffic had stopped, we saw the second plane hit building #1, which is where she worked.
    K lived with her sister in an apartment in the lower east side, and our son J had been in NYC visiting his sisters over the previous weekend. When he got to LGA Monday evening, 9/10, he learned his flight had been canceled and he’d been rebooked on a flight leaving at 7:00 am Tuesday. So he went back to their apartment and the three of them stayed up late talking, which she says is the reason she missed her usual bus that morning and caught the one ten minutes later. If she hadn’t missed it it’s likely she’d have been either in the lobby or on an elevator and could have been a victim of the deluge of flaming jet fuel that came down the shafts and killed people in that lobby.
    J caught his 7:00 am plane, and as his scheduled arrival time approached SWMBO was uneasy about me meeting him at MSP as prearranged because of all the rumors getting traction on the media. The Mall of America, which I’d have to pass near coming and going, was one such mentioned possible target. I went anyway, since I didn’t want to leave him stranded there. As I was walking into the terminal after parking the car my cell phone rang and it was J saying his plane had been diverted to Green Bay, with no more being said than “because of the national emergency.” “What the hell is going on?” were his next words.
    Our family was very fortunate that day. Not only did our daughter dodge what could easily have been a fatal bullet but we knew she was safe from the outset and thus the rest of us were spared the hours and days of anxiety so many experienced. Our family’s close call during the 9/11 events, as well as the slow down in my consulting activity following Y2K, are what led me to make a point of looking behind the headlines about what was going on in the world, which eventually led me here to SST among other places.

    • ex-PFC Chuck says:

      Oops! I got things backwards. The first plane hit building 1 and the second one hit building 2. It was #2 that fell first, perhaps because the plane hit at a lower level.

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