9/11 stories

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

My wife lived in New York City. She had just checked in for jury duty a few blocks away from the World Trade Center when the court let the jurors go, saying that the towers were on fire. She got on the subway—but after one stop, that was evacuated, too.

So, she walked in a crowd about two miles to Midtown. Only then was she able to see a television and really learn what had happened.

Her friend, Jim Long (they went to the senior prom together, but that was a long time ago and he and I are buds), was in his office on the 83rd floor of Tower 2. Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote soon afterward, while the memories were fresh:

It sounded like thunder, only higher pitched. What the hell was that? I saw a giant fireball … We all started going down the stairs. …

We were shaken but had no idea of how bad things were. John congratulated me on my recent engagement. …

BOOM!!!!! … People were tripping on each other. Somebody took command, yelling to walk in an orderly fashion. Somebody else told women to take off their heels. … It began to get smoky around the tenth floor. …

I got out, looked back, and didn’t quite realize what had happened. I still didn’t know about the second plane. I thought the fire on Tower 2 was just from the first plane. Steve estimated we’d be out of the office for at least 3 weeks. Little did we know.

As for me, I’d just moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter. My sister Seana called at 6:30 a.m. Pacific to tell me to turn on the TV; my best friend Griff called soon after to admonish me not to go to my day job in downtown L.A. (They hit New York at rush hour, he said. Will they hit LA then too?)

Back when I was at Stars & Stripes, in 2011, I helped build a 10-year 9/11 retrospective called “Why You Fight,” (link is .pdf) where we interviewed soldiers about how their memories. People really wanted to share their stories. Some said it helped them, even though they hadn’t thought of them in a while.

We all have these stories — at least those of us who were alive and old enough to remember. So, if you’re interested, on this 19th anniversary of that tragic day, I’d like to invite you to share your 9/11 story in the comments (where it says “Like & Comment”).

We’re approaching the point, if we haven’t reached it yet, where 9/11 really has become history. Freshmen college students this year largely weren’t born until 2002, for example. So, I think it’s worth remembering and sharing once again.

Given the technical problems we’ve had with comments recently, as an alternative, you can also go to this form, and I’ll add them manually.