by Seattle Jon:
What do you remember? Leave a comment ...
I was an investment banker in Baltimore on 9-11. I was at my desk when the first and second planes hit the towers. I remember the guy who sat across from me (he was also LDS) turning around and saying, "Hey, there are planes hitting buildings in New York." When the third plane hit the Pentagon, he turned around again and said, "Dude ... I think this is the end of the world." His statement sent chills through me. Soon after, we went down to the trading floor where we watched both towers fall on fifty television screens. It was horrifying to think what our headquartered colleagues across the street from the towers were going through. Baltimore essentially shut down, and I was only able to get out of the city because I knew a few cabbies. I spent the next few days glued to the news, worrying about my wife and daughter in Utah.
I was on a mission in Bristol, England on 9/11. We happened to be tracting door-to-door when the attacks began. We knocked on a woman’s door, introduced ourselves as missionaries, and she curtly told us she was not interested. As we were walking away she said, “Wait…Have you seen what’s going on?...I think you better come in.” We watched her TV in shock and confusion as the first tower burned, a plane crashed into the second tower, and then both towers collapsed. It was a heavy, heavy day and the mission changed a great deal after that.
I was a freshman in high school and had just started attending early morning seminary. We were reading something as a class when "the late kid" came in, interrupted us, and said, "I was watching the craziest movie! Planes were hitting buildings. It was nuts." We didn't pay him any attention and returned to our reading. After seminary, I hitched my usual ride and entered my high school. Normally you could hear a loud buzz of socializing going on, but when I opened the door it was silent. I remember thinking that school must have been canceled, but then I heard a news voice. As I moved toward it, I saw hundreds of students gathered around every TV in the school. Everyone was watching and not saying a word to each other. I spotted a friend and asked him what was going on. He didn't say anything. He just pointed to the TV. TVs stayed on in every classroom all day. We really didn't get much done.
9-11 happened the day after my wife and I brought our first child home from the hospital and on my wife’s birthday. We lived in Henderson, Nevada at the time and had just struggled through a sleepless night when my sister-in-law phoned to ask if we had seen the news, and no, we didn’t have the TV on at 6:50 in the morning! Amid the realization that our lives had forever changed now that we were parents, we were forced to deal with the fact that terrorists had figured out how to launch a pretty successful attack on U.S. soil. It was a new world. I lived and worked in Manhattan from 1996-97 and went through the Trade Center on my way to work at the World Financial Center every workday. Plus my wife’s sister (a different sister-in-law than the one who called) was studying at NYU at the time, so we were all concerned as to her whereabouts. She was impacted like all New Yorkers but not in danger of harm. It was surreal to realize that a place I had frequented almost daily for two years, and could have been in on that fateful day, was now destroyed. We celebrate 9-11 in our family because it's the day my sweetheart was born, long before terrorists destroyed the World Trade Towers.
I had recently returned from my mission and was attending BYU-Idaho. I stumbled out of bed a bit late that morning to find my roommates glued to the TV. As I poured a bowl of cereal, they told me that one of the twin towers was in flames and that an airplane had apparently hit the building. I was shocked, but didn't grasp the gravity of the situation until the second tower was hit. "This can't be a coincidence, right?" I asked. I'll never forget how I felt when I found out the source of the attacks...dismayed, angry, vengeful, and, in spite of being in one of the most remote locations in the U.S., unsafe.
In 2001 I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and was asleep when the first plane hit the World Trade Center on 9-11. My alarm clock was set to a local news station and it was typical for me to wake up, listen to the radio for a minute and then hit the snooze bar a few times. That morning was no different. Each time the alarm went off there were anxious voices, and I eventually understood through a sleepy daze that one or two planes had hit the WTC in New York and it seemed serious. At that time we didn't have a television, so not knowing what else to do, I got ready for the day and headed in to work. Like everyone there, I was glued to my computer trying to understand what was happening. I wasn't getting much work done since the magnitude of what happened made my routine activities seem trivial. By noontime there was so much information and speculation flooding in via the internet that our CEO sent an email and told everyone they could go home to be with their families.
I can't say anything overly interesting about where I was the morning of September 11, 2001. I awoke that morning to the phone ringing--a friend calling to tell me to turn on the news. At that point, only United 11 had hit the north tower, and everything still appeared to be some confusing, inexplicable accident. I distinctly recall the startling wave of realization that crashed over me as I watched, live, the second plane, United 175, make an unnaturally sharp turn and slam into the south tower. It was remarkably clear to me at that point that something was terribly wrong. My recollection of that surreal scene, as well as the disbelief I felt as the first tower fell, will probably never leave me. For me, 9/11 serves as one of a handful of moments of uncomfortable revelation in my life, where something I once treasured is irrecoverably gone. Like discovering that your parents are semi-annually defrauding you every Christmas and Easter. Or like the jerk who put razor blades in candy bars one halloween and ruined the event for everyone, forever, because the thrill of amassing an obscene hoard of candy is somehow spoiled by parents sorting through your stash and discarding anything that isn't hermetically packaged. I hate the fact that I really want to watch the 9/11 Tribute in Lights from the Brooklyn Bridge this year, but I am too afraid to be around major New York landmarks. And I miss the feeling of invulnerability we used to have, a uniquely American sort of naivete that war and civilian life can be neatly separated, with war cordoned off on a foreign battlefield thousands of miles away and insulated by oceans and the innocence of never before being attacked on our turf. That all went away when we watched planes flying into buildings.
I was three weeks away from entering the MTC to leave on my mission to Sendai, Japan. I had wrapped things up at my job and was taking it easy until I left in early October. I was still asleep when my brother-in-law Tyler who was living with us at the time, came into my room to tell me I needed to come watch the news. I could not believe what I was witnessing on that tv screen. What had happened to the world while I was peacefully sleeping? Both towers had fallen and the news was recapping the events and filming the awful aftermath. With a heavy heart for the victims, their families, and our world, I sat in my pajamas on the living room floor watching the coverage the rest of the day.
This post was originally published September 11, 2011.
Seattle Jon is a family man, little league coach, urban farmer and businessman living in Seattle. He currently gets up early with the markets to trade bonds for a living. In his spare time he enjoys movies, thrifting and is an avid reader. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Japan Fukuoka mission field. He has one wife, four kids and three chickens.
Image credit: lookingattheleft.com.