9-11, So Far and Yet So Near

Can it really have been 15 years since 9-11? Obviously so, because my tiny preemie USA Flags at World Trade Centernephew, born six weeks earlier, is now a towering teen. My dad, so saddened by the events, died less than two months afterward.

Everyone, or at least everyone here in the States, has their own 9-11 story. Mine is kind of…odd, I guess. I was living in New Orleans and already at work when a coworker stuck her head in my office door and asked if I’d heard that a plane hit one of the Twin Towers. I hadn’t, but we had a little TV in the office and quickly turned it on “Today” just as the second plane hit. I remember my thoughts shifting quickly from “what a horrible accident” to “that was no accident.” With in 15 minutes, I had been called to the Tulane president’s office, where I spent the rest of the day working with him and his staff to craft a message to our students, as Tulane has a very large student population from New York and D.C. (I did most of his speechwriting.) There were TVs on everywhere but not where I could see them, so I didn’t see any of the footage until the next day…when I again got called on to help write a speech for the president to give to the student body that afternoon.

So I guess in some ways, I missed it–at least in terms of the shared horror of TV footage. I ended up seeing very little. But one of my dearest friends lives and works in NYC, so I worried about her. She wasn’t hurt physically,, but the psychological hurt was deep and is still there. Our lives all changed, of course, even those of us far away from the destruction and the deaths. My brother was forced to take early retirement after a long career at Delta; the airlines were struggling to survive in a population afraid to fly. He was at an age near enough retirement that it was difficult for him to find another job. But he survived; everyone adapted.

Long lines and enhanced security became the norm. Now, I look at the world around us and realize how naive we were. Naive and, yeah, probably arrogant. Other than Pearl Harbor, Americans had never been attacked on our own soil. I think it made us complacent, gave us a sense of invulnerability. That’s gone now, and 9-11 was the first big crack in that veneer.

So that’s my 9-11 story, such as it is. What’s yours?

Stay tuned tomorrow, when we’ll have a two-week Reader’s Choice extravaganza and announce our latest round of winners!

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

16 thoughts on “9-11, So Far and Yet So Near

  1. That morning I was laying in bed with Bryan. We weren’t in a hurry to get up cause he usually worked night shift and then I worked days. That was one of the few days where we were both off. A friend called my sister and she knocked on our bedroom door telling us a plane had hit one of the towers. Of course like you and everyone else we thought accident. We got up and went downstairs to watch with her in the living room. From there we spent the rest of the day on the couch holding each other in disbelief as all the events unfolded because in my sisters words that isn’t post to happen here. With homeschooling my kids I try to touch on the events that happened to make the world what it is now the one they will grow up in and I have yet to be able to do it without a few tears.

    • Yes, I was thinking about my student worker this year. She was only 2 when 9-11 happened, so she’s never known a different world than the one we have now. Which is very sad.

  2. I worked for an American company in Toronto. We were told about it from another employee who had a radio on his desk. As the morning wore on we kept getting more info. Several employees were getting personal calls at work and the rumour mill was rampant. Finally after lunch the company decided to send us all home. Sad day for everyone.

    • I always wondered it how it was viewed outside the U.S., but of course you were working for an American company and Canada is so close. The university I worked for, Tulane, canceled classes but I can’t remember whether or not “non-essential personnel” were sent home. Maybe they were. I was glad to be busy and working on ways to help our students who had family in NY and DC.

  3. I lived in California, so it was a bit later in the morning at work when we first heard about it. We all turned on the radio and listened all day to hear about what was happening, we didn’t have television at work. Even though it was so far away, on the other side of the country, we were all shocked and horrified. I went home and spent the evening watching all the coverage on television, it was awful. On September 18th I was scheduled to go visit my son in Florida, I hadn’t seen him in three years so I was determined that I was going to go if at all possible. The airports were shut down until just before I was to leave. My sister refused to drive me to the airport because she didn’t want me to fly. You can imagine the scene at LAX, you had to be dropped off in the parking lot and ride a shuttle to the airport, security was so tight. The lines were really long because everyone was trying to get home and the plane was packed. I just figured with all the extra security, everything would be fine, and it was. The plane on the way home was almost empty, once everyone got where they were going, no one wanted to fly, so I had a whole row to myself.

  4. I work at AAA Oklahoma, in the travel department. On that morning the phones just stopped ringing. Some of our employees live near the Tulsa International Airport, and they reported seeing all the planes lined up in the air, headed for the airport. Planes were grounded at the nearest airport, if you remember. Normally our phones are fairly busy, especially since I sat near our membership records department. No incoming calls. We spent most of the day watching the TV in our breakroom. The next day we did get some calls, mainly people stranded. I was on the phone from 30 minutes or more, telling someone in a rental car just how he could get back home to Oklahoma. He had no map and cell phones didn’t have all the map apps like they do now. I talked him through each leg, as he took notes. I couldn’t wait to get home and hug my family.

    • Oh, I hadn’t thought about that, Susan. I guess everything did just stop that day. Everyone was in shock…and then I’m sure it got super-busy with people trying to figure out how to get home from wherever they’d been stranded. i was so busy that day and the next, trying to craft “messaging,” in public relations-speak, that I couldn’t keep up with it much.

  5. I was in an underground laser lab all morning so it was quite a shock to come up for lunch and see a huge crowd of students gathered in prayer. I quietly asked what was going on and joined them when a kind studento explained. An hour later we were instructed to return to class as stopping would be “exactly what the terrorists wanted”. So we went back to class and checked in with family as soon as we could. I had a hard time believing it was real. But it was.

    • That’s interesting, and a good response, I think. It’s hard to know whether stopping classes was a good move or not. In your case it sounds like a good one. Where I was, because we had SO many students from New York, it was decided to just bring all the students together at the student center to talk and pray. Counselors were there, along with faculty. Helping students get word about loved ones. So in our case, I think canceling classes to help students process things made sense.

  6. I live just north of Boston. I worked for my town government at the time and was in our weekly Tuesday morning staff meeting when an admin interrupted to tell us that she’d heard on the news that the Towers had been hit. We immediately all went down to the first floor where we had a TV and proceeded to watch in shock the events unfold. It still brings me to tears recalling those moments.

    Being so close to Boston, where two of the flights departed, it was a huge hit. Several people in our town are pilots (none that I knew of were killed). Additionally, my husband traveled that flight from Boston often. Thank God he wasn’t traveling that day. We are also very close to NY, and I worked with several people who had friends/family in Manhattan. It was a tense few days until everyone was able to get in touch with loved ones.

    • That had to be a harrowing day. I spent some time this afternoon watching all the day-long coverage on History Channel, and hadn’t realized until today that two of the flights originated in Boston. That adds an extra layer of shock to it. Although Boston has, of course, since had its own horrific attack.

  7. I heard about it when I got to work. The full impact hit me once I had watched the footage.

    The horror of this and the realisation was felt fully here in Australia too.

    • I guess it’s similar to the horror we’ve felt watching things go down recently in Paris and in Brussels. The world has gotten to be a very small place, and what impacts some of us impacts us all. 9-1-1 was probably one of the first incidents in that shrinking world.

  8. I was home watching Good Morning America. My husband had called me late the night before to say the trade show was a bust and they were coming home a day early. When the 2nd plane hit the tower and we knew it was an attack, I had no idea where my husband was, only that he had caught a flight out of Dallas. It wasn’t until after the towers fell that he finally called me to ask what was going on as his plane had been diverted to Atlanta and they weren’t told what was going on. Took him 3 days to get home after he and a co worker were able to rent a car. They arrived in NYC just as the George Washington Bridge was re-opened. They were the only vehicle on the bridge and stopped half way across to just stare south at the lights and the smoke still hanging in the air. Was so thankful when my kids got off the school bus that afternoon I could tell them that their Dad was safe but I din’t know when he would be able to get home. We went camping that week-end and it was surreal that there were no planes in the sky.

    • I’m glad you weren’t left hanging any longer than you were–I would have been freaking out. My brother travels a lot and first thing we did was make sure he was at home and not in the air. I’m glad your husband made it home safely, even though it took a while. I’m sure the pilots/airlines had to decide whether it was better to tell the passengers or not tell them. Probably it was better to keep them in the dark–annoyed but not panicked–until they were safely on the ground.