VISTA Today’s Readers Share Their 9/11 Memories, Reflections

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Today marks the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a day that will forever live in infamy in the collective heart and mind of America.

Last week, VISTA Today asked its readers across the Delaware Valley a few questions regarding of the events of 9/11.

Here’s a small sample of their responses:

What were you doing when you heard the news of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the western Pennsylvania field?

“I was in eighth grade, in science class, listening to the teacher when a fellow student came rushing in and told the teacher to turn the TV on, that New York had been attacked.”

– LeAnne Zolovich

“I was actually in court and one of the administrators came bursting into the courtroom saying that the World Trade Center Buildings were under attack. The judge was unfazed by the announcement and told me to proceed with my witness, who happened to be a doctor.”

– John F. McKenna, Esq.

“I was writing an e-mail to my friend in New York City, saying I was sorry for not being able to contact her on 9/10 while I was in New York at a conference. I was supposed to stay at her apartment the night of the 10th. Then I heard the news. My husband was actually in the air at the time of the attacks.”

– Ellen Fisher

“I was living and working up in the New York City area on 9/11. I was at work and tried to watch the event unfolding on TV. Since most of the New York City television stations used the TV tower on the north tower to transmit, we had to watch the events on a Spanish station that sent their signal out of the Empire State Building. My assistant Rafael had to translate for us.”

– Kenneth Klein

“I was sitting in the lobby of Tower 7 (a building adjacent to the Twin Towers that also eventually collapsed) awaiting a receptionist to meet me for a job interview.”

– Jay Lesko

“I was at work at Phoenixville Hospital. I heard of the Twin Tower initially and really did not comprehend what was happening. I was teaching a class to new orientees then I received a call from a co-worker telling me the Pentagon had been hit. My brother worked at the Pentagon at the time. I was in shock, and we did not hear from my brother until late that evening due to the issues with phone communications. I spoke with my father and had never heard him sob so much as he did thinking my brother may have died. My brother did survive and is a retired Rear Admiral from the Navy currently a judge at the Department of the Defense.”

– Tracy Duffy

“I was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike and saw the first tower in flames. Then I watched as the second plane hit. I proceeded to Jersey City where I was scheduled to work in a medical center that day. We watched as the towers burned and then fell down. The doctors in the center went to New York City to help and told us that they would send the van back for us so that we could also help. Instead, we stayed and helped people who were put on a train to get out of New York City. We helped them contact their families to let them know they were OK. When I left the medical center, I was stopped by police on every corner and asked where I was going and why I was in Jersey City. My friend led me to a Turnpike exit north of Jersey City and I waited until the Turnpike opened. A very nice state trooper told me he would let me on the Turnpike when it opened. When I got on the Turnpike, I was the only car for miles. I watched as the fire trucks and ambulances were driving to New York City to help.”

– Nancy Becker

“I was in New York City at a building on the Avenue of the Americas near the 14th Street Metro Station, about two miles north of the World Trade Center. I was in a meeting that was just getting started. The group had never met before, and we had just started shaking hands, grabbing danish, and getting coffee and tea. A new arrival came in and said something very odd: “You need to see this – a plane crashed into the World Trade Tower. You can see it perfectly from the street.” It was about 8:50 AM, 10 minutes before the meeting was to start. In my mind, for some reason, I was thinking of a private plane, something small, that might be sticking out of the building after crashing into it.”

– Allen Puy

What memory of the day remains most vivid for you?

“I remember that moment. I started to panic. I was pregnant with our daughter, and I remember being so incredibly scared for her and what she was being brought into. Work let us out early that day. I remember driving down Route 202, and some guy in a truck was being a jerk. I started crying so hard, thinking, where is the humanity? Why are we so awful to each other? I remember getting home, and it feeling so quiet. No planes were flying, nothing was moving. It seemed like the whole world just stopped.”

– Jenn Givler

“Talking to my daughter, who called me on the phone to tell me the first airplane hit. While she was telling me that, she said the next one hit. I said something is wrong. With that, this awful droning sound came through the phone, very loud. I asked her what it was, and she said an airplane and that she was at the end of the runway of Dulles Airport (in Northern Virginia). Again, I said something is wrong; the pilot must not know how to fly because they usually do not take off that low. Needless to say, that was the plane that went into the Pentagon. We went to visit my daughter for Thanksgiving and were going into D.C. when she turned a corner and I gasped. We saw the big gaping hole in the Pentagon. We stopped and saw all the messages people had left. We watched as they took debris out of the building and can still remember the smell of the jet fuel.”

– Joan S. Wood

“After hearing of the first attack, I rushed to turn on the TV. As I was watching, my husband’s secretary called to ask if I had heard from him, as he was traveling for business. I did not connect that everyone was concerned about him until all planes were ordered down, and there were unaccounted for planes. It was the first time I really felt personally connected to a world event.”

– Ellen Fisher

“Responding to assist the rescue and recovery efforts in New York City. The drive up from this area was surreal, as there was no traffic on I-95. While I was on site working there, there was a moment when we heard a jet plane, and everyone stopped and looked up. For a split-second, nobody knew what to expect since planes had been grounded. It was a military fighter jet flying over the area. It was truly spine-tingling.”

– Tim (last name omitted)

“I’ll never forget the confusion, then horror in my mother’s voice as the second plane hit the towers. She was watching it live on TV and telling me on the phone what was happening. She couldn’t quite wrap her head around what she was seeing. Her voice started trembling, and she kept saying, ‘No, that can’t be.’ I had called her from my office so she could give me and my co-workers updates on what was going on. I also remember picking up my 11-year-old son from school. He had a doctor’s appointment for a sports physical that day. The teachers had not told the children what happened. When he came running down the hall to me, I just burst into tears and hugged him so tight. To know that this terrible event took so many lives in a few short moments in such a horrible way, I was very emotional. Then to see my happy, carefree child – as yet untouched by any of it – was possibly the best and worst moment all at once.

– Sue (last name omitted)

“I remember coming home, and my parents were at our house. My mother was in tears. My wife was watching her girlfriend’s autistic son, while she went to the crash site to look for her husband. He worked in the North Tower for the Port Authority. He didn’t make it out. I vividly remember that her son, Willie, was hiding in my son’s room, saying ‘Daddy’ over and over again. He knew something bad had happened to his father.”

– Kenneth Klein

“My husband was supposed to be at the World Trade Center that day, but the trip was postponed the night before. My brother-in-law worked at the Pentagon and left the area the plane struck 10 minutes before it hit. My mother-in-law went to church every day and prayed for her family. She died before 9/11, but her prayers saved her two sons. The ash on my car and the fact that I was able to help in a small way that day will remain with me forever.”

– Nancy Becker

“The sight of the people that chose to fall to their death. There was a stage next to the North Tower for a summer concert series. I witnessed several people hit this stage. Also, the World Trade Center complex had an outdoor speaker/music system. I clearly remember an instrumental version of Billy Joel’s ‘She’s Always a Woman to Me’ playing over this system as I ran down Church street toward Battery Park.

– Jay Lesko

“When I exited onto the sidewalk, the picture was far different. Looking up at the Tower, I saw a huge gash, an area stretching maybe 10 floors up and down and perhaps three quarters of the way across the face of the building. This area wasn’t yet very smoky, so it looked to me very much as though someone had scooped out a big handful of the building, taking everything away and leaving a jagged empty space. I was immediately struck by the question of how many people might have been in that now missing space. The whole idea of a small airplane crashing into the building was quickly driven from my mind. Later in the day, as I was walking back to my hotel, more than once, I saw persons who were very dirty, covered from head to foot in dust. But I failed to make the connection that these were the ones who’d been in the debris cloud, regrettably. What I found strangest, though, were the military fighter jets that passed overhead a number of times. A reminder of the profound uncertainty about the situation and the heightened security precautions for whatever was to come.”

– Allen Puy

“It was difficult to see footage of those who elected to jump from the buildings. The thought of having to make such a decision haunts me to this day.”

– Leon Spencer

In hindsight, what impact did 9/11 have on your life?

“I like to think that my life has not be hugely impacted by 9/11. My husband and I were married a month later, and several of our out-of-town guests decided not to come to our wedding. However, I still travel, and refuse to stop. Do I think of this tragedy when I get on a plane or on the anniversary? Of course I do. Have I shared the story with my children? Yes, of course I have. They need to know. However, I don’t want to live in fear or teach my children to live in the shadow of that day. Americans are stronger than that. Always remember.”

– Diane D’Arcangelo

“I realized we were vulnerable. Terrorism was not a legitimate fear here in the U.S. before 9/11. Terrorists were so far away. We heard it on the news, saw the videos and photos, and we feel bad, but it wasn’t quite real. It wasn’t part of our lives. When it’s in your back yard, it’s terrifying, eye-opening, and life-changing. I don’t like going to huge events like New Year’s Day in Times Square, or St. Patty’s Day in Philly anymore. Even though I would have relished doing that before 9/11. I worry when my son goes to something like that with his friends. I worry that any large crowd is now a target. 9/11 was probably the single, biggest, life-changing event that affected ALL Americans in the last 200 years.”

– Sue (last name omitted)

“I no longer feel totally safe and secure. I think the event took away much of our innocence of feeling safe in the mainland USA. I did not realize that people from other countries hated the USA so much. We are strong and need to be a united country, despite our diversity of opinions.”

– Tracy Duffy

“It made me change careers. I traveled often and had to take flights all over the country. I decided to change careers because I was afraid to fly. It was a good decision, because in my new career, I was able to help thousands of veterans.”

– Nancy Becker

“I’ve grown profoundly in my sense of our shared interdependence, the imperative that we all connect with each other and look out for each other. This is most apparent to me at the interpersonal level, but speaks about the challenges our country and world face in the political and relational realms.”

– Allen Puy

“It has had an impact in so many different ways. The heroism shown by ‘average’ men and women made me so proud to be an American, but also very humble, too. It impacted the freedom of flight, general aviation. Personal travel, in general, will never be the same. It made me recognize all of our freedoms, and unfortunately took some away.”

– Debbie Harding

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Top photo credit: _Hadock_ 16 years later via photopin (license)

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