9/12/01: The morning after a real nightmare

If you were around on Sept. 11, 2001, you may remember how nice people were to each other following the attacks. Especially in New York City and Washington, towns not known for their civility or charm. Wednesday’s column asked people where they were, what they were doing and what they remember. Turns out, a lot.

“You asked what I remember about 9/12/01. Here’s my story: The 9/11 attacks had such an impact on me that I decided I wanted to be in government. I moved to Washington, got a job in the defense/intelligence community and loved every moment of it. One of our primary missions was to track and find bin Laden. It was a huge undertaking. Even he may have thought we had given up. On the day of the Seal Team mission I think I was one of only a couple of hundred people who knew what was about to happen. When it did, I can’t tell you the feeling it gave me. USA!” — Anon

“The day after 9/11, I was taking my morning walk in Poolesville, Md., and I will never forget how quiet the sky was, nothing. Growing up in Bethesda … I had never seen that in my lifetime. — Bob, CPSC

J, who now works in Atlanta, was a Baltimore-based fed on 9/11. When asked what she was doing the next day, she said, “What I remember about 9/12 is that EVERYONE in my office came to work wearing some form of red, white and blue.”


Lenore in Cleveland recalls the attack and how nice people were to each other in the aftermath:

“…I really appreciated reading your recollections of 9/11. The attacks made an impact on all of us even if we weren’t directly affected by the loss of a loved one. Your last sentence, about not remembering anything about 9/12 got my mind to wandering.

“My husband and I had been attending a ship reunion in Buffalo, N.Y., the week before the attacks. At the time, we knew we were ‘never’ going to be in the Northeast again (I now live in Cleveland) so we made arrangements to see the sights. We left some luggage to be stored at the Days Inn in Buffalo and made reservations to see Baltimore and Philadelphia. Our last stop on the itinerary before returning to Buffalo was a trip to New York City, a place I had never been. We arrived the afternoon of Sept. 10, saw some sights and, of course, saw none of the normal tourist things on Sept. 11. We ended up waiting in lines to give blood only to be told that enough blood had been collected.

“On the 12th, I insisted that my husband not check out of the hotel until he got through to Penn Station (we had train tickets back to Buffalo) to make sure the trains were running. They were. There was a long line to check out at the hotel since no phone lines were available for charge cards. (There was limited phone service.) Breakfast was interesting. The toast was toasted French bread and the sausage was Italian instead of breakfast sausage. Our waiter was the same poor fellow who had been there the day before. He had slept on site since he couldn’t get home. We had to pay for breakfast with our dwindling cash due, once again, to the shortage of phone lines.

“I remember a change in the way people dealt with one another. It was as if human interaction had suddenly become precious.

“On our way to Penn Station, someone offered to help me when he could see that I was struggling with my luggage. The train ride was standing room only. (Remember that no planes were flying.) On the train ride, total strangers spoke to one another. I remember one woman sitting near me whose voice still shook as she described taking cover in a subway station and being covered with ashes from the WTC. About half way through the trip to Buffalo, those who had been sitting stood to give the others a chance to sit down.

“When we arrived in Buffalo, it was late. We went to a restaurant that someone on the train had told us about, thinking that we still had 1 1/2 hours before they closed. It turned out they closed in 30 minutes. The owner greeted us and when he found out we had come in from “The City,” he insisted on telling us all of the specials of the day and told us to choose what we wanted; they would prepare it.

“The rest of the week goes by in a blur. I remember staying in the hospitality area of the Days Inn, swilling down coffee and watching the non-stop coverage on television. I remember my husband walking over to the airport each day to find out if the planes were flying yet. Sometime during the week, the American Legion learned of our plight, picked us up at the motel and took us to their hall for a fish fry.

“Eventually, of course, the planes did fly again. I remember the Southwest Airlines flight attendant, when we were getting ready to land, saying on the loudspeaker that she wanted to thank all of us brave passengers who chose to fly that day. ‘Together we can take back the skies — one plane at a time.’

“I don’t expect you to publish any of this. I just needed to tell it.”


Compiled by Jack Moore

While Georgia may be known as the “Peach State,” the world’s largest peach structure is in Gaffney, S.C. The 135-foot-tall Peachoid (actually a peach-painted water tower) was commissioned in 1981 and holds 1 million gallons of water.

(Source: Smithsonian Magazine blog)


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