#55 | Monday, September 17th 2001
My wife Amanda and I had just been married in Memphis a week earlier, and were due to catch a 10:20 AM (CDT) flight home to Pittsburgh after driving back to Memphis following a honeymoon on the Alabama gulf coast. Memphis International closed about fifteen minutes before we arrived to check in "due to terrorist attack in New York", according to the counter agent. News trickled in from fellow stranded passengers - the Pentagon was on fire, a plane had crashed outside Pittsburgh, there were eight planes unaccounted for, or was it six, Chicago was being evacuated, and so on. Fortunately, all of our parents still live in Memphis, so my mother came by to pick us up to plan the next move. I realized that this was all real when I saw my mother starting to cry - she doesn't get rattled by much.

Nobody rents cars to 24 year olds (which we both are), which doesn't matter much anyway because by the time we left the terminal all the cars were gone, too. Neither Greyhound or Amtrak could take us anywhere we wanted to go, either, so we started to look to buy a used car. Used cars were starting to fly off the lots, as well - we missed out on one 1990 Honda Civic that was purchased by an airline pilot on his way home to Detroit between the time we called to ask and the time we got to the lot.

From there it's the standard quickly-buying-a-new-car story (which we settled on after realizing all the used cars we'd looked at which were remotely appealing and realistically affordable without financing had something seriously wrong with them). In Memphis, Amanda had noticed the outpouring of support from communities visible in flags and signs, and decided to take pictures of these on the trip back through the midwest.

Brian | 24 | Pennsylvania

#15 | Sunday, September 16th 2001
I'm not a morning person. Never have been, never will. I usually walk around for about two hours after waking up with the attitude of a very grumpy bear. It was about 9:50 EST when I stumbled into the computer room and flicked on the computer in an effort to try and wake myself up.

... e-mail, check, move on...

... Reblogger comment boxes, check, move on...

... random web sites, check, move on...

... live journal friends page, check, freeze ....

I don't remember which friend it was on my live journal list, but there in the middle of all the entries, there was one saying that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers with 6 already reported dead and 1000 injured. My groggy eyes began to widen. My initial reaction was, "Oh yeah right, you've GOT to be shitting me." with a roll of the eyes.

I read it again. It sunk in deeper this time. All sleepiness exited my body and my hair on my arms and neck immediately began to stand on end. I don't know if it was adrenaline suddenly rushing through my body, pure fear, or a mixture of both. I suddenly felt as if I was on pins and needles and needed to go vomit.

I tried to bring up the article on yahoo.com about it as well as the one on excite. Neither one seemed to work for some reason. I ran to the TV and flicked on CNN. There, before my eyes were the two WTC towers, smoking and on fire. I got dizzy and sunk down onto my bed. I knew it was no accident then... not two planes, not both towers.

My mother saw the shock on my face as I sunk down onto the bed as she was passing my room. She asked me what was the matter. I told her in a very quiet voice to go turn CNN on the TV in the living room and that the two WTC towers had just been hit by planes. She looked at me oddly and quickly walked out towards the living room. Once she had the TV on and the picture greeted her eyes, she uttered a simple, "Dear Jesus..."

I turned my TV off and headed for the living room to watch on the big screen television with her. We both sat there in utter amazement and horror. If that wasn't enough, they then switched to the coverage of the Pentagon attack. I began to cry. She tapped my arm and told me to go wake my step father. I did. He stumbled out of their bedroom, half awake. When he looked at the TV, he made a noise that was half a grunt, half a sigh, and half shock. He wasn't awake enough yet to muster the motor skills to speak.

I knew I had to get to class and I needed to move it, so I hesitantly pulled myself away from the TV with the information I had absorbed and got ready to go. It was Denny's turn to drive me up to the campus, so we hopped in the van and immediately turned on the radio. While we were in the car, pulling into the gas station, one of the towers collapsed. I can't remember if it was the first or second. Things became a blur. As we pulled into the Penn State Altoona parking lot, they announced that a large plane had gone down in Central Pennsylvania and they weren't sure if it was related or not. Central Pennsylvania, the land I call home. Fear ripped through my gut even more than it had. I blindly walked into my class from there.

All I wanted to do was go watch the news, but there I was, sitting in my religious studies class, trying in vain to listen to the rabbi who teaches the class. No one could really pay attention, nor could he. He dismissed us. The student center was packed around the TV. I didn't want to be around that many people because I knew if I watched, I would cry. I went and found an empty bench along the pond and sat quietly, listening to a CD and just staring out at the water. A preacher walked up to me and thanked me for having a cool spirit and asked me to try and spread it in this time of need. When he walked away, I broke down.

When I finally got to a TV that wasn't jam packed, which was quite hard, I found out that the PA plane had gone down in Somerset County... I've been to Somerset and it's surrounding areas many times. It's a 40 minute or so drive.

My mind began to "what if" itself to death "what if that plane had gone down 10 minutes later? It could have been in my backyard." "what if that plane hadn't have crashed into an empty field, where would it have hit?" I couldn't concentrate whatsoever from that point on. Luckily, my last day of the class was cancelled. I called Mom and she came and got me.

We both cried on the ride back to my house. Sometimes, things just hit way to close to home. This time, it not only did that, but changed me, inside, forever.

Heather | 18 | Pennsylvania

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