Wednesday, September 11, 2013

That morning

Robert Clark—INSTITUTE

I was teaching PreKindergarten. I walked my kids to music class and saw some teachers watching TV in the library. When I joined them they told me that one of the Twin Towers had been hit by a plane and while we were watching, the other was hit. I immediately said "This is Osama bin Laden," and the other teachers said, "Who?" But I had just watched an A&E Biography on him the week before where he swore that he would strike again and be successful this time. He did and he was.

We frantically emailed parents telling them that school was closed and to come get their kids. It took some parents a couple of hours to get there, the traffic downtown was so bad. When my little babies asked why they were going home early I had no idea what to say so I told them, "It's such a pretty day outside, we want you to go home so you can play," and from then on, every time it was pretty outside, they asked if they could go home and play. And I would feel guilty for lying to them but how on earth do you explain 9/11 to a four year old? How do you explain it to an adult??

While we waited for the parents to come I would step into the hallway so they could not see me cry. There was usually another teacher doing the same and we would hug each other and cry silently so the kids wouldn't hear us. When the moms got there, more hugging and silent crying. Then we all went home and stayed glued to the television until bedtime. 

The news just got worse and worse.

I remember thinking, this changes everything. These babies, my sweet four and five year old babies, will never know a world pre-9/11. And that broke my heart. That still breaks my heart.

Where were you that morning?


  1. WOW, I remember it so clearly. I was about 6 weeks away from my due date with my first child (I was only 20 yrs old). I didn't watch the news that morning so it wasn't until I got to work that my husband called me & told me. We turned on the TVs at work & just stared. I was in shock. I didn't want to know what was going on, I didn't want to see the planes hitting the building over & over or watch people jump from the burning buildings. I knew my son would be born into a different world after than moment. I prayed for the people in NYC, DC & PA, I prayed for my unborn son to have an oppurtunity to grow up in a peaceful world. I prayed for the human race.

  2. I remember it very clearly. I was sitting in my college Reading Education class when the secretary for the building came and told us the first building was hit. My professor thought it was a joke and went on teaching. When she came back and told us the second one was hit we stopped and prayed. I spent the rest of the day going between watching at the news at a friend's house and going to class. I remember knowing that I would be okay because I was in a small college town, but being fearful that Houston would be hit (which is where my family was).

  3. I was 19 and working in a day-care at that time and would have been with my kiddos but at the time I was a sophomore in college and I had a morning class that one day of the week. I was getting ready for class when my uncle, who lived with us at the time, told me what happened with the first plane. I naively just thought the plane had an accident and was so sad because I had just been in NYC about a year before and the skyline wouldn't be the same with a big hole in the building. It didn't register with me at all that we were under attack. When I saw the second plane hit I KNEW . . . but didn't want to believe it. It just couldn't be. We were America! I would soon understand just what was happening and when the towers fell I just remember standing there in shock, just thinking of all of those people that had lost their lives and being scared for their families. I still went to class that morning and my professor had no idea about any of the events. I remember being so scared but also not fully comprehending what was going on. It just seemed like a bad dream or a bad movie. When it really sank in I cried a lot just KNOWING that this was one of those moments in time that will be a "before" and "after" point.

  4. I was working on Capitol Hill. It was the most terrifying time in my life.

  5. I was on my way to work, 3 months pregnant with my first child. I remember hearing it on the radio (and at that time they did not know it was a terrorist attack) and I remember I was just starting to wear maternity clothes and had on a pink and black outfit. When I got into work someone "joked" that it must be a terrorist, and we soon found out it was no joke. I remember being scared of my baby being born into a war. I knew things were forever changed.

  6. I was home with my 1 year old, having just found out 10 days earlier that we were pregnant again. Like you, as I watched the second plane hit the other tower, I turned to my husband and said, "This is Osama bin Laden." God bless all the families mourning afresh today.

  7. I was in the drive-through at McDonalds on my way to work. I still have the outfit I was wearing that day. I heard about the first plane, assumed like everyone else that it was a freak accident, and went on to work at a sports retail store. We had a TV in the store so we could broadcast ESPN, and I asked my manager if he'd heard the news. He said no, so we turned the TV on NBC and watched the second plane hit just as the screen came on. We watched the rest of the day.

    As customers came into the store (people who had no idea what was going on), they'd see us glued to the TV, and we'd tell them what was happening. I watched the blood drain from person after person's face as they realized what was going on. Being the one to break news this intense to total strangers was so surreal.

    Despite the anger, confusion, and sadness we all felt that day, I actually remember that day as a day of kindness. Walking through the shopping center where I worked, I noticed strangers nodded to one another, held doors for each other, and asked how each other was. This is in North Carolina, so we casually do that around here on normal days, but this time it was just different. You could feel it. Driving home, I noticed that no one was in a hurry. People who had the right of way waved other drivers on through intersections, and no one ran yellow-red lights.

    The whole country slowed down, and the time we suddenly had we used to show our love and support to our neighbors, no matter how small the gesture. I try hard to remember that part of the day and not dwell on the sadness, but it's still hard all these years later.

  8. I was 6 months pregnant and had been already at work for a few hours, 28 floors up in the tallest building in downtown Houston. I had on NPR in my office and heard the breaking news. As the word went up and down the hall to those recently and just arriving a few of us turned on the TV in the boss's suite. I saw the second plane hit and my heart sank. The world had changed. Reports and images came in over the TV. I called the INS to check a client's interview for their naturalization that was to happen within the hour and then called the client to break not only the news of the cancellation, but also the events unfolding. In the back of my mind were all those people in those burning and then collapsed buildings and the wonder if we were next and I would soon be fighting for my life and my son's. The call went out to ground all planes, but I didn't know that. I just saw several planes circling the city, approaching, descending out the windows. Traffic was gridlock on the street. The rush hour in was meeting an exodus out. Two strangers shared a taxi with me to get out of downtown and back to the parking area as we had all taken metro in that morning. Metro was struggling to get people out. Lines were long at each stop. On every face was worry and sorrow and resignation. My husband was in the Air National Guard and I was waiting to hear from him - to know if he would be or had been mobilized for action. And I just kept rubbing my belly, working my way back to pick up my daughter at school, meeting up with my mom, waiting for news from hubs who I couldn't get a hold of. Family. That was all that mattered. And putting my faith in a good God that it would be ok, no matter what the next days held. But I donated the outfit I wore that day. It was new but seeing it brought back to many emotions to want to wear it ever again. Every thought, every feeling, every image is burned into my memory. I will never forget.

  9. I talked about that day with my college students this week. They were in first grade when it happened, so they don't remember much about it at all. They listened, enraptured, as I talked about it, and, in a way, I felt kind of awkward doing it, but I know it's so important to keep the memory out there. I know I'll never forget it. Thanks for writing this.

  10. I was on my way to school at HBU ... crazy! We all stood around the tvs watching all morning long!

  11. Driving home from work after working a 12+ hour night shift. I was listening to KBXR. 102.1 FM. The sun was shining, the pavement was uneven d/t..well, the street being brick. Simon Rose, a guy with an English accent, because, well, he's English..broke in and made the announcement. Weird, I thought and continued driving home. Turned on the television first thing when home, changed my clothes, got into bed and called my sister. By that time the second plane had hit. It was awful. People were falling (jumping) out of the buildings, chaos, fear, terror. The morning News Anchors had no idea what to do, it seemed. My sister and I were talking on the phone, we were wondering where the next hit would be, we had not heard about "Bin Laden" at that time. The next hit was the Pentagon. I was awake all day. It wasn't until later that we heard about the heroics that landed the plane in Pennsylvania, well, crashed.
    We had a trip to California planned two weeks after 9/11. I began planning the trip in March of that year. I asked my children where they would like to go. My oldest son said, "New York City", my middle son said, "Washington, D.C." and my baby wanted to see "Los Angeles, CA". Tickets in March to L.A. were deeply discounted. So I bought them, planned for a long weekend and, well, we flew to L.A. two weeks, to the day, after 9/11.
    This past Christmas we were in New York City. My oldest son, now in his early 20's, wanted to see the 9/11 memorial and so, we did.



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