9/11 - Five Years Later

There are things you see and hear in documentaries over the years, usually in black and white. My grandparents were asked in later years, "Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?" For my mother, when I was born in 1962, when asked where she was when John F. Kennedy was shot, she would say she was walking me in my stroller.

And so it is, unfortunately, with this day. It certainly isn't something I looked for 5 years ago, to a part of history; I'd rather I was a part of history in some other way, like my mom being a dancer as a 9-year-old at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Yes, both my husband and my family have some ties to the City (er, New York, for those who aren't familiar with that). My husband's ties are quite deep, as his grandmother and grandfather grew up and worked in New York during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and stayed there, with a few side trips, until his grandfather died way too young in the late 1960s.

So please indulge me as I tell you my experience that horrible day...

9/11/2001 - A Beautiful Morning

I'd gone in for bladder surgery a few days before, and was looking forward to my follow-up appointment on 9/12, wherein my catheter would finally be taken out. Goof that I am, I looked at the catheter and the little bag attached to it as my six shooter, because I could tie the bag to my leg just like the cowboys and cowgirls of the Wild West.

I did my usual thing that morning, got the dogs out into the backyard, got them back in to feed them...that sort of thing. After he washed up, my husband came down as he always does to get his breakfast and make himself some coffee. We sat and talked, watched some TV news. It felt like a lovely, beautiful day was about to greet us.

If only we knew.

After seeing my husband off to work, I took a brief snooze, then decided to watch a movie on one of the movie channels (either American Movie Classics or Turner Classic Movies; I can't remember which).

Now, I love old movies of the 1930s and 1940s, and there was a good one on that morning, Stanley and Livingstone, starring Spencer Tracy. I hadn't seen it in a while, so I settled in to watch it.

I couldn't. I just couldn't sit still. I guess I could always say that something in the flow of the universe was disturbing me, but making that claim sounds like hindsight and, of course, "hindsight is 20/20".

So I flipped around the channels...until I came up on a photo of something burning. The announcer of whatever newschannel I stumbled on intoned, "The north tower of the World Trade Center has been hit." Or something like that. I thought it unusual and surreal enough that I had to let my husband know what had happened, especially since his sister still lived in the City at that time (thankfully, she was out of town that weekend with one of her other brothers, the first real vacation she'd had in many years).

I called and let him know about what had happened, that the announcers were saying some sort of plane hit the tower. I wondered if maybe the same thing happened as what happened back in the late 1940s: A WWII plane hit the Empire State Building. But that happened in thick fog; very soupy conditions.

I hung up and continued to watch.

The World Comes Apart

I did a little cleaning around the house, but then sat down again on the couch to watch what was unfolding. Were people being evacuated? Who was dead? What type of plane was it? All these thoughts swirled in my head as I flipped from newschannel to newschannel, seeing if I could hear anymore information to impart to my husband.

I'd soon have my chance, and I wish to God I didn't.

The camera was trained on the north tower, with huge, dark plumes of smoke streaming into the sky. One or two other news choppers were circling, just small specks buzzing around the Center. I noticed something off to the right--it was much bigger than the helicopters. In a split second, I realized it was a plane of some sort--and it was headed to the other tower! "Doesn't it see the tower?" I shrieked, watching the plane go into the building...

I was dumbfounded. Shocked. Aghast. I just sat and stared. Did I really just see that happen? Did I really see a plane hit the south tower? That station's feed went down, so I tried another one. They were showing that scene over and over...

I awoke out of my stupor long enough to call my husband. I tried again and again, panic rising. Of course. Everything was a jumble because of what happened--everyone was trying to get in touch with everyone else. I either managed to get through or my husband did, and we talked, as he tried to calm me down.

And then he said something that didn't compute, at least not right away: "Nancy, we've been attacked."

What? No. It couldn't be. It couldn't happen here. But then my mind woke up...and I knew he was right. One plane was an accident...two planes? No. Until that moment, it hadn't crossed my mind it was a terrorist attack.

We kept in touch throughout the rest of that morning, through either email or phone calls, whichever managed to get through the mangled lines. During one phone call, my husband told me the north tower had fallen. I'd just washed up and come downstairs to the TV. "I've got terrible news," I told him. "Both towers are down."

He left work late that morning, and after giving me a hug and kiss, told me his experience on the roads. "Everyone was driving about 30 miles per hour. It was unreal, like people were zombies, just going through the motions." New Jersey drivers usually sail along at a high rate of speed because we want to get where we want to get now. But not that day.

Thank goodness my husband came home; we comforted each other, and our dogs helped where that was concerned, too. We did nothing but watch the news for several hours, viewing and listening with horror as we learned the Pentagon had been hit, and that a plane had gone down in Pennsylvania.

Close to Home

Thankfully, no one in either of our families was killed or maimed in these attacks. But there was one close call, and as we found out later, an acquaintance of ours at the time lost a co-worker.

A friend of ours, Jeff, was supposed to take that early flight out of Newark to California for a meeting. He decided to be lazy and changed to the one after that one. I couldn't believe when he told my husband and I this in such a non-chalant manner. This was just a few days later, and I don't think it had sunk in that he'd dodged death...

The other close one I found even more sad. A friend of ours worked in some capacity for a toy store chain. One of his co-workers, who hadn't been on a plane in a long time, needed to go out west for a meeting. It was his unfortunate luck that he got the flight that eventually went down in Pennsylvania. Imagine that...you haven't been on a plane in, say, 30 years, and your first time back on one...is your last time alive on Earth...

A Small Tribute

To all those who have lost love ones at either the Trade Center or the Pentagon; in any of the planes that went down or into buildings that day--you have my deepest, most heartfelt sympathies. Words can't express it well enough, but I hope that God or whatever higher power you believe in will give you strength and peace of mind to go forward with your life.

For the fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, and whomever else tried to help people out of the rubble--you have my utmost thanks for your selfless acts. To those who didn't make it out of the Towers--I hope your loved ones find peace of mind to carry on.

Peace to us all. May we all find peace and serenity in whatever burdens we have in our minds.

My Novel

This will be quite short. I did manage to do more bios over the weekend, diligently writing them down in my journal. I changed the name of the protag to Jacqueline Namir. Ack, I guess the names of all characters are subject to change.

I also wrote and re-wrote a couple of scenes.

So I think it's coming along well.

Keep writing. And never give up on your dreams.


MTV said...

Hi ~Nancy

First the story

- I like Jacqueline; Namir - doesn't flow for me. A central character named Jackie I like that. Maybe an Eqyptian last name and a shorted first name that is Egyptian based that shortens to Jackie. Don't know why I'm hung up on the Egyptian thing - I think it came from your mention about some of your research on cats.


I lived in the east Bronx. The very same neighborhood as the God Father was set in, 187th and Arthur Ave. In fact there are scenes in that neighborhood in the second movie I wrote .

That day 5 years ago was a surreal as you can get and still be considered alive on this planet. I found out after, several people I know here in MI knew people personally that worked in the Towers. In fact, one good high school friend of my daughter actually worked in the Towers during the summer and attended NYU. Many of his coworkers died in the attack. So besides being from NYC, there were direct connections for me as well.

Philosophical commentary -

It is strange what humans will do for an idea - as if the idea had life. There are no ideas that have life until we give them life and we do this by putting our attention on them and making them manifest.

It would be a great world if we all focused on the reality of love and made it real in our lives.

I ask daily what does it take to do that and live the answer that comes to me for that day.

While I'd like to change masses of people in a positive way with my writing - ultimately it starts with a single thought that I energize with my being.

G Paul B. said...

Nancy, this story was so well told - as I was reading your account of that morning I actually started feeling the panic again that I felt then when I couldn't reach a loved one on the phone. I was really into it, in a chilling sort of way. Anyway......thanks for sharing that account that really "brought me back" to that horrible day. - MM

~Nancy said...

G - Thanks for the comment! :-)

I sat down and just tried to remember the terror of that day...I didn't think it would be that vivid, but it was, as if only happened yesterday.

~Nancy said...

In fact, one good high school friend of my daughter actually worked in the Towers during the summer and attended NYU. Many of his coworkers died in the attack. So besides being from NYC, there were direct connections for me as well.

OMG - You and your daughter have my total sympathy. And to originally be from NYC and watching from afar...just horrible, terrible.

As to my novel...

Actually, Namir is a Persian name meaning "swift cat" ;-), but I see what you mean that it doesn't flow; sounds kind of clunky. There's another last name I'm considering that means "kitten" in Egyptian, but the way I'm pronouncing (or looks to be pronounced) for some reason reminds me of the word "snooze" - not a word I want someone to think of this character!

I'll need to do some more research on names, though. Thanks for your input - much appreciated!

MTV said...


I don't know what your story is about specifically but I just love the sound of the premise!

Jackie Namir ... Hmmm. Is the pnounciation "nameer"? That is okay enough, but I was thinking of a more Egyptian sounding name that's all.

Is Jackie an agressive character?
How about the word for a "cat that eats cats" for instance. Sort of the mojo cat -:)!

Just a thought.

Re:9/11 - I remember taking my half-sister that I met after 41 years to Liberty Park in Jersey City in '98. We stood and looked at the Towers, then took the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty and looked at the Towers from there.
It was such an awesome sight for both her and I. She came from Denver. (My second movie is about me finding her by the way.) That was such an inspiring sight.

Tears ran down my face in counterpoint to that memory as I watched the Towers fall. Then in 2003 I visited "ground zero". Very strange feeling. It was still surreal to me and still is.

HoolaHoops said...

Best wishes Nancy - I am glad your husband came through ok

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I'm a customs officer, and we sat there sickened, watching CNN and panicking in case we had been the ones to accidentally let in a terrorist.

There's nothing to compare with the feeling like you might have just killed thousands of people...