#394 | Saturday, December 8th 2001
I had been asleep for about 3 hours (having burnt the midnight oil) when my wife woke me and told me about the first plane crash into the WTC. I immediately remembered that I had heard a B-25 had crashed into the Empire State Building in fog many years ago and assumed the same thing had just happened again. I was far too tired to get up and rolled back to sleep. When my wife came back just a few minutes later and told me that she had just seen, live on TV, a second plane crash into the other tower, I knew this was no accident and, lack of sleep notwithstanding, I was now fully awake and spent the morning watching the news unfold in abject horror.
Gary | 40 | Canada

#393 | Saturday, December 8th 2001
I was online reading e-mail when my next door neighbor called me and told me to turn on CNN. My neighbor said that the WTC had just had a jet fly into it. I said, " you are kidding right?". My neigbhor certainly was not kidding as I watched in horror the scene unfolding live on CNN at approximately 9:35 am.

I sat in my living room with my family stunned into silence as I listened to the news anchors droning on and on about what was going on and what had happened and what was possibly going to happen and so on and so forth.

Then the towers began to fall. One and then the next. It was as if I was in some sort of dream. I really could not believe that those buildings were collapsing right there before millions of people watching all over the globe.

I was horrified as I tried to imagine the pain, sorrow and loss of the many men, women and children who lost their lives on that day. Lives that were terminated in the blinking of an eye with no warning. All the hopes and dreams and goals and aspirations of all those people were forever wiped out never to see the future.

I remember feeling helpless and hopeless all at once. I remember feeling so vulnerable as the reality of our nations vulerability was such a stark reality. I would have never dreamed that anything this horrible could ever happen to a great nation such as ours. I would imagine that the people at Pearl Harbor back in 1941 felt the same way.

September 11, 2001 will stay forever in my mind because our daughter Jessica would have been 11 years old on that date had she not died of a brain tumor on August 5th of this same year. I remember standing in the bank with other customers later that afternoon talking and then suddenly realizing that the horrible events of this day actually overshadowed our daughters date of birth.

Now, our brave men and women are waging war against terrorism and tyrants who have no regard for human life. Americans are standing up for the right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness no matter what color, race or religion you choose to follow. The citizens of the United States of America have been dealt a wake up call of the most vivid type. The world will learn that they have awakened a sleeping giant. May God have mercy upon our souls....

James | 40 | South Carolina

#264 | Wednesday, November 21st 2001
I was looking forward to a weekend trip to New York that was to begin on Thursday, September 13. I was supposed to see Cathy Richardson Band perform as well as kicking off my midlife crisis which was to begin on September 12, my 40th birthday.
Bill | 40 | Illinois

#229 | Thursday, November 1st 2001
I was preoccupied about as I stepped onto Church Street. I looked at my watch. It was 8:47AM and I was thinking about the day ahead. I was 17 minutes late for work. I saw one of my coworkers just ahead of me about to cross Church Street in front of the World Trade Center. I was about to call to her when a deafening roar made everyone in the plaza look up.

We stood in shock as the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, 1WTC. Then there was a thunderous concussion and fire ball and everyone was screaming and running from falling glass, metal and debris. And the burning bodies and parts of bodies though we didn't realize what they were at that moment.

The force of the impact was tremendous. Some of the debris rocketed clear through the tower hitting the buildings across Liberty Street two blocks south. We huddled with a mass of people under the overhang of 4 World Trade Center as burning paper, insulation and pulverized glass swirled around us like confetti.

At first we weren't sure if it was a plane because it came so suddenly out of the north over the Bank of New York building. We thought it was a missile. We'd gotten less than a block away when we saw the second plane banking in from the south like a jet fighter heading toward 2 WTC.

It crash into the south tower sending out a fireball that looked even bigger than the first. This one propelled glass and metal into the screaming crowds below. Police cars and fire trucks all along Liberty Street were burning and exploding. Thousands of people tried desperately to get away. Not everyone did. Firemen and police rushed in to help the injured. I saw firefighters pouring out of the Liberty street station pulling on their jackets as they ran towards the Trade Center across the street.

Thousands of pigeons took to the air moments before the second plane impacted. They must have been spooked by the fire in 1WTC or by the noise of the second jet. These birds were flashed burned in flight by the fireball and hundreds of smoking birds fell all around us. It rained dead pigeons.

The Twin Towers cast a shadow over the width of Manhattan. I think every one of us was thinking the same thing. How far and how fast do you have to run to get away from them if they topple? Hundreds of thousands of people live, work and visit that area. The narrow twisted streets are already jammed with people and emergency vehicles. Where do you go?

Too many images of horror to comprehend or describe. People leaping hundreds of feet to their death choosing to die that way instead of burning. The feelings of helplessness. It's much bigger than anyone can think about. Much bigger than any one of us. It just didn't seem like it could be real. But the firefighters were real. They guided us to safety and then... they went back in!

I saw not one act of heroism but dozens. The courage of the New York Fire Department, of the Police and even ordinary people that day defies description. Unbelievable courage. It makes my heart sick to hear that many of those brave people I saw just this morning won't be going home. I want those heroes to be remember. The men and women of New York Fire Department, Police Department and the Port Authority workers who defied the overwhelming odds against them trying to save as many as they could. They shouldn't go unremarked. They were our finest and they shined like stars in that moment.

I was stuck in a group of several hundred people one block from the Trade Center when building 2 collapsed. We tried running till the choking wall of debris overwhelmed us. I took a running dive between two parked cars to shield myself and landed on top of someone already there. Over the roar of the building falling I could hear chunks of concrete and metal ricochet off the street hitting cars and breaking windows all around.

I've experienced mortal fear. Near misses and car accidents narrowly avoided. Moments of panic. But not like this. In those minutes I was sure I was going to die. Absolutely sure.

But again there were the firefighters and police leading us to safety.

I heard later that the collapse registered a 2.6 on seismographs hundreds of miles away. I don't doubt it. It was a sound that filled the world.

I couldn't see a thing. Maybe I was in shock. I don't know. My head hurt. I put my hand up to my forehead and it came away sticky with blood.

Somewhere in there I lost a shoe. I don't remember much about the minutes afterward except that each breath hurt. I found my way out by sound and touch. Except for some coughing and a few distant sirens there was nothing. No sounds near by except my own raspy breathing and something that sounded like crickets. I never found out what that sound was. I made it to City Hall Park somehow and began the long walk away from the area. I got out before the second building collapsed.

New Yorkers are famous for their cynicism but I saw many acts of kindness and compassion. People who's lives intersected for only moments but I won't forget any of them.

- The bloody bike messenger still wearing his satchel helping an elderly woman covered in ash find her way back home.

- The teenage girl with purple hair who helped a woman carry her small child many blocks to safety.

- The half dozen people acting as a self appointed escort to a wheelchair bound man helping to lift him over the rubble.

Total strangers helping each other. All of us trying to make sense of this overwhelming tragedy.

I was walking with a young Hispanic man named Rafael who worked in 2WTC. We'd never met before and we were both covered head to foot it that awful gray soot. We looked like identical ghosts. Rafael told me that he didn't think anyone in his office had made it out. "They were too high up", he told me, his voice cracking with emotion.

We walked together for a few hours making our way uptown talking in little bits about what we'd seen. A group of us formed by ones and two's. It was unspoken but we somehow decided to throw our lots together. Store owners along the walk handed us towels and water and sat injured people down in the shade to minister to them.

An exodus of thousands moved out of lower Manhattan. Some left on foot over the Brooklyn Bridge while the rest just headed north away from the devastation. There was no public transport. All of the roads were blocked by emergency vehicles screaming south, some going the wrong way down one way boulevards. All of the other bridges and tunnels out of Manhattan were sealed. There were few working telephone lines out of the city and cell phones were just about useless. We still had no idea what truly had happened - especially those of us who had narrowly escaped the building collapse. Every few blocks we'd stop by a truck or a taxi cab that had a radio on.

Terrorists had struck in Washington too. Some reports said that there were 3 planes hijacked. Other reports put the number at 5.

Rafael gave me his new sneakers out his gym bag when he saw that my feet were bleeding. "Lucky thing we both have big feet," he said. Those of us with cell phones would try and if we got through we would ask the person at the other end to pass along messages to the other peoples families. I will probably never see any of them again but that day everyone in that city of millions became a family. It was astonishing and it is what I hope to carry forward from that day after the horror fades. I hope that's what carries us all forward through the dark days ahead. I hope that's what will unite us all. I hope people will not forget.

Rafael and I parted at 34th Street when I turned west to try the ferry and Rafael walked north to try to get to his family uptown. I hope that he did and that they are all safe. I'll probably never know.

Thousands and thousands of New Jersey bound commuters waited in lines along the Westside Highway to be taken off Manhattan. A flotilla of boats waited in turns to transport us across the Hudson. Ships from NY Waterways, Circle Line Tours and even US Coast Guard vessels were taking people across. We passed the injured and disabled to the front of the line to go first. Nobody complained. Everyone cooperated.

It was 4:00 PM when I arrived at Hoboken Station. Seven and a half hours had passed since the first plane hit.

Triage. People in Tyvek haz-mat suits hang cards around our necks, marking off body parts on a butchers chart. Red, green or yellow cards. I get a green bordered card which meant that I got to go home. Red cards did not. The US National Guard and the Hoboken Fire Department used high pressure hoses and decontamination showers to clean us up. We joke with the Firemen about getting our fully clothed unplanned baths. They probably heard the same lame jokes several hundred times before the day ended. Thousands of people crowd the street next to the station. Most overwhelmed with grief and confused in what was a bustling commuter station only a few hours earlier. Nightmare. I just can't convey the scale adequately. Just not real. Behind us across the river a mushroom cloud towered miles over our heads.

Sitting in a train half empty on the ride home I'm thinking that this could not have happened. There is no conversation. The conductor takes one look at my face and doesn't ask for my ticket. A simple thing like that brought the gravity home to me. I don't know how I feel yet. I ache all over. We pass by station after station and see local volunteers waiting with blankets and coffee for people who never arrive.

I get off at my stop and look at the cars still in the parking lot. I wondered who wouldn't be coming back for them. If I'd been on time for work I might not be getting into my car to go home to my family. Many of the people I know or maybe had seen just that morning wouldn't be going home ever. People who's only fault was going to work that day. I'm heartbroken for them all. Every one of them and their loved ones who would go on waiting.

I don't want to think about it. I don't want to but I do. I know that I can't remember what I was so worried before 8:45AM this morning. It was probably trivial but I want that time back with all of my heart.

Joe | 40 | New Jersey

#212 | Monday, October 22nd 2001
I was watching the ABC morning show with Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson which is on 1 hour tape delay here. They cut into live footage of the first World Trade Tower on fire and said a plane had hit it. I remember thinking that it had to be a jet for all the damage that it caused and felt terrible that somehow it had gotten off track . As I watched the screen I saw this black object flit from the right side and then the second tower was on fire. I said out loud, "My God, did another jet just hit that building?" at the same time Charles Gibson said almost the same thing. I literally felt my heart break that day and just wept as the news grew worse and worse. I remember crying over and over, "My God, my God. My country, my country." My husband was at work and our dog stayed by my side licking away my tears. I pray for all those beautiful lost souls, their families and loved ones, and our nation. Life will never be the same.
anna | 40 | Nebraska

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