Friday, September 11th marks the 14th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda. Four passenger airliners were hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists and flown into buildings on U.S. soil. Two of those planes were flown into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Within an hour and 42 minutes, both towers collapsed with debris and the resulting fires caused a partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the World Trade Center complex.
A third plane was crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, VA, leading to a partial collapse in the Pentagon's western side. The fourth plane was meant to crash into Washington D.C. but instead crashed into a field near Shanksville, PA.
The attacks claimed the lives of 2,996 people and caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage. It was also a very deadly incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers with 343 and 72 killed respectively.
This was a huge tragedy for our country and something that we should never forget. Most people remember hearing the news for the first time, watching the non-stop coverage that day (and subsequent days) and feeling the weight of the tragedy.
It is through personal storytelling that we can help to memorialize that day, and keep those who lost their lives or are still suffering from loss in our hearts and minds. Here are some stories from our angels who remember where they were and how they heard about the September 11th Attacks.
Susie Turner, Director of Volunteer Services
On September 11, 2001 I was on my honeymoon in Florence, Italy. My husband and I were walking around Florence being tourists, and noticed that there were people that were upset, scared and worried but we had no idea why. When we got back to our hotel and turned on the TV, all we saw was the Twin Towers and the caption "WAR ON AMERICA". Everything was in Italian so all we could do is sit and stare. We had no idea what was going on. We tried for hours to call home and could not get through to anyone. After several hours of trying to call we finally made a connection back home. I wanted to go home, I wanted to know what was going on, what was happening, where were my family and friends and what was going to happen next. We were stuck, with little to no information and no way to go home.
The day we were scheduled to come home was the first day the United States allowed international flights in. The airport was eerily insane with people and security checks. In Rome we went through 4 different security checks and when we were boarding there was a final security check just as we walked through the door.
It did not really sink in until we landed in the Phoenix airport. When we left it was a busy bustling airport, people everywhere so loud you could barely hear yourself but when we got home it was beyond quiet and the only people that you saw were the people on your flight.
Tracy Curran, Deployed Support Teams Program Manager
I was living on a military installation in the DC area with my husband and 2 young sons. On that day, my husband began working recovery at the Pentagon as a Forensic expert. He spent 3 weeks doing it. My neighbor, Wayne Davis, died at the World Trade Center, leaving behind two very young children and a wife. He was just about to separate from the Army and was on a job interview with his best friend (who happened to survive). Every year, we remember how our community pulled together, not only to support our neighbor who lost her husband, but to support our service members, who were getting ready to fight a war, a war that has yet to be won.
Michelle Julazadeh Chavarin, Online Communications Manager
It was my first semester of college and my major (at that time) was Broadcast Journalism. I was at home getting ready to leave for my "Beginning Reporting" class when the first plane hit. At that time, most media were reporting it was an accident and there weren't too many red flags raised. I was halfway to my class when the second plane hit. By the time I got to campus, you could tell something major was happening. No one was speaking, no one was in the courtyards or outside smoking--- it just seemed silent. Everyone was huddled around whatever TV they could find, watching the live coverage. I still went on to my class, as did most of the people in that class. But once we arrived, my teacher said "This is what you want to do, report the news. We all need to be watching this." We went to the nearest lounge and spent the rest of the day craning our necks to see the TV. I changed my major after 9/11. Watching so many reporters make it through the weeks of coverage without ever showing emotion (at least not on camera), I struggled with the idea of reporting tragedy with a straight face.
Renee Cheatham, Sewing and Crafting Team Leader
On September 11, 2001 I was sitting at my desk on the 23rd floor of the Enron building, in the heart of Downtown Houston Oil and Gas territory, watching dual screens preparing for yet another routine work day. On one screen I was watching the news and the other a long list of emails, when suddenly breaking news alerts started crawling as the first unimaginable pictures began to hit the screens. One click, one squint and the world changed. As one of the business floors this was not typically a quiet floor but suddenly you could hear a pin drop as others jockeyed for position in front of the randomly placed televisions. The phones began ringing as upper level executives were being called into an emergency meeting, while corporate plans and decisions were being hurriedly made. My boss came back crying and told me to tell everyone to evacuate the building, right now.
In less than an hour our building was cleared, it was bedlam as most employees rode commuter buses into town and for some reason I cannot recall, I drove that day and was pressed into service to help as many as I could drive out of the Houston Oil and Gas corridor.
When I finally made it home, standing in front of the television I watched the second plane hit and the buildings collapse. I did not pick my daughter up from school, I was numb. The next day was her birthday and I could not think of how to make it special. I had friends who had parents in meetings in the building that day. I had friends who lived across the river who worked in the buildings.
As the fog of that day lifted, I recall with pride watching this great country pull together.
Dr. Brendalynn Love, Family Support Program Manager
In Sept. 2001 I was in college for my BA and I was working overnight at a retail store. After my shift I got in my car to go home and the radio was describing a situation where a plane hit a building but no one had more details. I got home and my mom called me to see if I had heard what had happened. I told her that a plane hit a building and I just heard it on the radio. She waited a minute for me to continue so she was quiet. She then explained to me it was not the small single engine plane I thought it was but a commercial airliner that was purposely collided with one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I told her that can't be right-the radio didn't say anything like that. She told me to turn on the TV to the news. Once I did I saw what she meant and then the second plane collided with the other tower. I stared at the TV in shock and not quite believing what was happening. The third plane crashed into the pentagon and that is when I believed that it was a terrorist attack- I was hoping the other two planes were just accidents. Then came United Flight 93 that crashed into a field thwarting the original destination of that hijacked flight. "Let's Roll" will forever be etched into the memories of those who remember this day.
The rest of the morning I watched the TV and went online to see what the needs were going to be. The news stations were asking people to sign up to give blood and donate to the Red Cross. I called my husband at work and told him I was going to attend my classes at the University because I needed to be with people and not sitting at home by myself. I wanted to discuss these events with others who felt the same. We went to the University Chapel and prayed with others. We had conversations with our professors about how this would change the world.
Leslie Scott, VA Support Manager
On 9/11/01 I was at work as a receptionist at a local business when one of my co-workers came in and said that the first tower had been hit. We all were kind of in shock like WHAT?!? Then we heard about the 2nd tower, and then the Pentagon. It wasn’t till the Pentagon that I began to panic, I had a family member who worked in the section that had been hit. I don’t remember much about what I did next other than I kept trying to call his wife and couldn’t get thru because the phone lines were jammed to the max.
We heard a few hours later that he was safe. He had a meeting that morning on the OTHER SIDE of the building so he was not in his office at the time the events occurred.
When I think about that day, I feel an immense amount of sorrow still to this day for all that was taken not only from us as a nation, but for all those who lost so much. But, I also feel grateful for the guardian angel that was watching over my cousin that day so that he was able to return safely to his family.