Community Voices

I don’t think anyone will forget where they were and what they were doing 18 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001. The day started out like any other. It was a beautiful sunny morning with a brilliant, deep-blue sky.

We’d just awakened to the clock radio going off and were laying in bed still a little sleepy, listening to the news. We heard something about a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and a reference to the attack in 1993. Then the news commentator said something about a jet hitting one of the Twin Towers. What?

At that point I was wide awake and flew out of bed to turn on our small TV. Just as the picture came into focus, we could see another plane flying right into the second tower. When that happened, I knew it was deliberate, and that the United States was under attack.

We watched in horror as huge billows of black smoke and flames shot out of the gaping holes in the towers. In the open areas where windows had once been, there were people holding onto the sides of the window frames to escape the heat. A small TV helicopter was seen hovering at the same level, and one could see the people begging for help.

We were on vacation that week, but our daughter still had to go to school, so I got her ready and sent her off to the bus. By that time we were watching all of this unfold on the large TV downstairs. My husband’s mom had come to stay with us until she was able to move into an apartment. All three of us sat there in shock, watching.

People were streaming down the streets away from the towers. I think it was around 10 a.m. when the South Tower collapsed. It was unbelievable how it came down so fast. It actually imploded upon itself, with dust and debris spreading in all directions. People were covered in the dust and choking on it. Some were lucky to get inside of a building so they wouldn’t get hit by the rapidly moving cloud.

Around 10:30 a.m. the North Tower fell. It fell in the same way as the first. I remember as the towers fell I was praying so hard and asked God to be with every one of those people falling to their deaths.

At around the same time, a jet flew into the Pentagon, and 125 people were killed. Another jet, Flight 93, was taken over by terrorists, but the passengers managed to stop them from hitting their target, and all died in an explosion as the plane hit the ground in Pennsylvania. Some think the target of that plane was the White House.

My sister, who lives in upstate New York, was driving back there from Illinois. She had the radio on when she heard the news and decided to pull over for a bit and get some coffee to calm her nerves. She called her husband, who was at home, to find out if their kids were all right. Her son worked in New Jersey, and her daughter worked in Manhattan. Both of them were all right.

My niece who worked in Manhattan had not gone into work that day. She could see the Twin Towers from her kitchen window in Brooklyn and watched them fall. Her boss worked in Tower 7 but managed to get all her people out safely.

I didn’t know anyone who died that day in the attacks. But I, like millions of other Americans, felt the pain and anguish of that day. The news was on 24/7 for months about the attacks. I think I cried every day for weeks. Finally, I had to turn the television off and not watch it anymore. Of course, I watched the memorial services, but after that, the TV remained off for a long time.

I heard this affected people all over the world. A friend who was doing consulting in Hamburg, Germany, around the time of the attacks said there was a ceremony in the square near where he worked. People watched as everyone stood in silence and listened to the U.S. national anthem played by a small band and contingent of German soldiers holding an American flag in reverence to the people who died. He said it was very touching.

Some people are afraid we will forget 9/11. I don’t think so, as it profoundly affected each and every American that fateful day. I know I will never forget, just as my parents never forgot Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Margaret Daum-Hill is one of several people in the Savage community who write for Community Voices.

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