On September 12, 2001, the Hartford Courant reported: America’s sense of security was shattered with apocalyptic fury Tuesday when the most destructive and meticulously planned terrorist attack in history shattered two of the most most powerful in the country.
Then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told a television interviewer, “The number of casualties will be more than we can bear.”
It is a day etched in the memories of all who are old enough to remember that terrible day. On this 21st anniversary, here we share some memories of Courant staff:
It was a day off at the Orlando Sentinel for me and I woke up and turned on the TV as the second plane hit the building. It took a few minutes to figure out what was going on. Then I heard about a plane heading for the Pentagon and I called my mother and asked her if the world was ending.
Ever since I was in sixth grade and the Challenger blew up, I was fascinated by media coverage of tragedies
That’s part of why I’m a journalist.
I vividly remember the 1965 blackout that left over 30 million people without power and my mother speculated that the Russians might be on their way to bomb America.
It was the first thought I thought of – someone bombing America – when the second plane crashed into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
My instinct was to pick up my 6 and 4 year olds, gather food and hide in the basement to prepare for the war at home.
But the only war for now would be in the psyches of Americans, shaken from their Tuesday routines by the greatest massacre of innocents ever.
I was drinking coffee, watching “Good Morning America” and had already put my daughter on the school bus.
The first plane hit the twin towers and my childless friend, Sharon, called to ask, “Holy @&%$, did you see that?”
I said, “Yeah, it can’t be an accident!”
Just then I changed the channel to “Barney” because my 4 year old son had woken up and the news was just graphic images.
Sharon recalled from Florida, “So I guess you were right!”
I said, “What do you mean?”
She said, “You don’t watch the news? Another plane hit the towers.
A “Barney” marathon would be for the day.
It was a beautiful Tuesday morning when my teacher, Mrs. Benoit, came into the classroom explaining that we were going home early. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t ask, but I could feel something was wrong – the feeling of angst you have as a child when you know something bad is going on. After a short bus ride home, my mother was waiting for me in the driveway. She kissed me longer than usual and held my hand as we entered.
The television was howling and CNN sported the lower right corner of the screen. Two tall buildings had smoke billowing from their tops amid a cacophony of sirens and horns echoing in our living room. I asked what was going on and my mom told me that “bad guys try to hurt people”. Twenty-one years and an entire adult life later, the anxiety of that day is still etched in my memory.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning when the news broke that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Despite being a mother and an active journalist, I did what many people probably did: I called my mother to tell her. She was headmistress of a Catholic school then, but I joined her. What she did next, not yet knowing what was going to happen, stuck with me all these years: She got the students to pray for the victims. I will never know if any of these young students remember doing this on a dark day for America, but it kind of comforted me to know that this is what they did.
I remember I was in my fifth grade class in Terryville when suddenly the mood changed and our teacher seemed distracted and panicked. She crossed the hall to talk to another teacher in a low voice in the hallway, while we looked out the windows in the door to see what was going on.
The two teachers merged our classes together, and we sat at our desks and on the mat as they rode in a multi-tiered cart with a large television attached – the kind they usually brought when we had a ” movie day. Instead, they turned on the news and kept their eyes glued to the screen until it was announced that the school would be closed early.
We boarded our school buses and our bus driver, Bobby Jo, kissed his daughter, who was a classmate of mine, when she boarded. We could tell Bobby Jo was crying, but she told us we had to wait until we got home and talked to our parents to find out what was going on. Another little girl from our neighborhood came to my house, where my mother also had the TV and radio tuned to the news in our living room. One of my brothers was living in Washington, D.C. at the time, and all I really remember after I got home was my mom crying and frantically phoning to find out if he was safe, which that we finally learned.
Not everyone had a cell phone in 2001, but everyone on the Metro-North train heading to Manhattan on that bright, sunny morning started ringing just before 9 a.m. on September 11.
I don’t remember if I called my wife or if she called me to say, “A plane hit the World Trade Center. Not that it mattered. I was crossing the East River, heading for the 125th Street station, and I, like everyone else on that train, could see the black smoke billowing miles into the battery.
At least we all caught a later train, even those who worked at the twin towers, so we were safe, although my wife wasn’t so sure. I don’t remember feeling threatened, just horrified.
My office at the National Episcopal Church Center was two blocks from Grand Central Terminal at Second Avenue and 43rd Street. The work stopped there, as everywhere, when the terrible news arrived: the second tower hit, the Pentagon, a fourth plane in Pennsylvania crashing in a field.
Someone came down the hall crying, saying a bomb had gone off in the Trade Center. It looked like a bomb, but it turned out it wasn’t – just the sickening collapse of one tower, then the next.
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Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had told people not to leave Manhattan. I guess it was to keep the bad guys from running away. I got off several times to find that the trains were not running. Then the news came that Giuliani had urged anyone who could leave town to get out.
Even though my colleagues at the church center planned to gather to pray in the chapel, I pursued it to Grand Central. They loaded the trains and sent them out as soon as they were full.
Strange as it sounds, I was actually having lunch at Burger King in Branford with my wife and 7 year old son at 1:30. He wouldn’t believe us when we told him what had happened.
Nor have I ever descended into “the pit” to see the hot, twisted pile of steel, although I could easily have done so, especially as a journalist. I finally saw her six months later, when the pit was pretty empty.
But there was one more thing for me to discover on 9/11. My friend Andy, who I had worked with at the church center, worked for a finance company as a videographer on the 104th floor (if I remember correctly) of the south tower. He was the only person I knew who worked at the World Trade Center.
When the first tower was hit, they started down the stairs. A message came on the PA: All is well. Return to your offices.
Around 6 p.m., I was taking a nap when a mutual friend called me. Andy and the others ignored the AP. They went down 104 flights and survived.