Where Were You When…?

This is one of those posts that I’m not sure I should write, as no matter what I say, I feel like my words will fall short of anything and everything else that’s being published on the topic.

But this is my memory of September 11, 2001. The only reason I’m publishing this is because I can, because we all have a “where were you when” story to tell, and thank god, we’re all still here to tell it.


I was not in Washington or New York, but rather on my way to class in Michigan. A college student still living at home, my focus was on all the things I should do, and of course, all the things I should be.

At that point in time it was all about me, not selfishly, but in the way that we’re told it should be. Study for this, work over there, network with them — but leave time for fun! — study some more, plan out your life and then watch it all change, either slowly after several years or in a flash before your eyes.

My routine commute on that day took a twist as I made my way into my Shakespeare class, where literary analysis and dissection of prose was soon pushed aside for the news, the scattered bits and pieces of info that nobody knew how to piece together quite yet.

There were airplanes. There were fires.

There was confusion. There was fear.

There were 25 college students—young, relatively ignorant to the evil of the world—huddled together outside in the campus Shakespeare garden with one radio and millions of questions. Hanging on to every static-ridden word, we tried to use our education to make sense of something that 10 years later, we are all still struggling to make sense of.

Although excused for the day, we all hung around—hundreds of us—calling our families and watching the TVs set up in auditoriums, craving a sense of community from those we might otherwise never have uttered a word.

The details from there are unclear, as the gravity of the situation did not pull us down until later, until what we were privy to know would be plastered in our minds and our memories from then until now.

But I remember eating my lunch outside before going home — there was cantaloupe — and the chaotic news reports still filtering in as I sat there, digesting my food and the weight of it all in the best way my 20-year old mind would allow.

My phone rang.

I assured my mom I was on my way home, a place that I’d left just hours before like I did every day of the week.

Like so many people had done on that morning that wouldn’t be going back home.


This is one of those posts that I’m not sure I should publish, as I wasn’t there on that day. I wasn’t privy to first hand accounts and the horror that so many had, that so many still have today.

But this is my memory of September 11, 2001. The only reason I’m publishing this is because I can, because we all have a “where were you when” story to tell, and thank god, we’re all still here to tell it.

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17 responses to “Where Were You When…?

  1. I made a promise to myself taht I would avoid 9/11 ness because of the birthdays surrounding my house and the general uneasiness with my feelings. I’m glad I lied to the robot part and the human piece of me is talking to you.

    I was at work. The sky was perfect, not unlike today. I had been at my a new job for about 3 weeks. I was preparing to take an exam to become surveyor. As I looked over drawings a coworker came running into my office shouting, “a plane just hit the World Trade Center, you gotta see this”. I spent the enxt six or so hours glued to the office television. Around 3 o clock or so, my boss shut the office down and sent everyone home.

    Things just felt eerie and surreal and wrong. I kind of feel that way again, thinking about it.

    • I agree. I was going to avoid things completely, but I read a great post at Blunt Delivery that made me realize that as much as we all might want to avoid thinking about it, we all have that “Where where you when?” moment, as trivial or eerie as it might seem.

      But Happy Birthday to your girls! Proof that life goes on and we need to embrace every second of every day, as annoying as that sounds and as frustrating as life can be 😉

  2. You know where I was that day, and I can tell you that I appreciate hearing everyone’s story.
    It hit us all, tattooed us all in different ways.
    It is a hard concept, being attacked like that, the death and decisions and injuries and losses that day. It had to do something to all our brains, our sensibilities. We all had organic reactions and remember what they were. We grasped what normalcies we could find and clung, because it is not normal to be under attack. It is not normal to run for your life, or to have your place taken over and flown into a tower.
    There are so many people to think of as the anniversary creeps up. People who died, people who ran in to help as others ran out, people who were deeply psychologically scarred by the event, people frustrated they still can’t understand it because they have never set foot where the towers once were.
    Sharing, to me, is important. I prefer not to. I’m choked up right now typing this. But we have to talk. We have to listen. It’s what keeps us together.
    Which is how we should be when terrible things happen.

  3. I liked reading your story as well, Abby. Even though many of us don’t have a story for the morning of 9/11 per se, we were all united that morning. All of us were scared shitless, no matter how many miles away from the tragedy we may have been or at what point in life we were at. Personally, I grabbed my newborn and drove to my parents’ house.

  4. I can relate to you being at school. I was at home, actually, taking a mid-morning “break” from my grade 12 classes. When I got back to school, it was time for French class and the teacher made us listen to the radio IN FRENCH. She kept gasping and making sounds but none of us knew what the hell was going on. After about half an hour of this, she finally let us listen in English. It was still devastating, no matter what language.

  5. Abby thank you for sharing your story. Of course you were there that day. We all were.

  6. That day affected many of us in deep and profound ways no matter where we were. Especially, I believe, our generation. We grew up knowing very little of carnage, death and war. Desert Storm was, in our childlike capacity to understand, a television show of green lights flying across the screen.
    The worst we had experienced was the Challenger.

    I was in Austin Texas and for months and months when I would see low flying (or so it seemed) planes or helicopters out in the am I would get nervous. I still find it extremely hard to watch the documentaries. The testimony. I think everyone had a personal stake in 9/11.

  7. I love these stories because it reminds us how one event can make time stand still and stop us in our tracks. And I think whether we were in NYC or not that day changed how we perceive our world.

  8. I think talking about it shows homage and respect for the gravity of it all. I was living in Portland, Or, working at a new job which involved a home office, groggily turned on my computer as I did every morning, saw an image of WTC 1 & 2 blazing. Clicked on my emails. Started reading. Then my brain went, WAIT! WTF WAS THAT??? I just assumed it was a movie preview or something – nothing that catastrophic and horrible could possibly be real, but it was. As I followed the coverage of it all over the next few months I became infatuated with New Yorkers – I wanted to be one. 1 year later I was! 10 years later I am still here. I think that the energy and passion and spirit of the people who lived through that experience is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful things in the world. It gives me chills.

  9. You were right to publish this post. We all have a story to tell, as you said, at least we can tell it. It’s all a part of our history as well as the worlds. I told my own account, and wasn’t sure either, but I think it’s important to remember. I’m glad you told it.

  10. I think all of our memories are valid. We were all changed that day even if we weren’t in the places where people died. I wasn’t going to say anything either. I didn’t even want to watch the tv this weekend. But, we all need to reflect a little. Then move on.

  11. I read this a few times today, kept coming back to it. I think that no matter where you were that day life was different. I said in my own piece that I was distracted that day, in shock and denail. It wasn’t until days later that I literally felt the dam break and the images come rushing in, the true impact of what had happened..and I think everyone felt that in their own way. Thanks for sharing your memories of that day with me.

  12. I remember that day as all us do. But I walk into our break room at work right after the plane hit the first tower. Just before I was to leave the room they showed the second plane coming into the second tower. I was stun but like all Americans the ability to watch this unfold on the TV was not in my realm. I walked away praying for the lives that were loss but also for the lives that I had to take care of that day. I walked back into the operating room to do my job and to take care of the lives that I knew depended on me to be there 100 %.

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