How could anyone forget where they were on Sept. 11, 2001? I was going to visit my sister in Las Vegas. I arrived at the Manchester, N.H., airport at 7 a.m. for my Southwest flight, checked in, passed through security, bought the Boston Globe and boarded the plane for Las Vegas. I was talking with my seat partners as the plane backed out onto the tarmac. The plane taxied to the end of the tarmac and stopped. (Usually, you take off immediately.) We waited, and the pilot told us that we had to return to the terminal.
"We may be taking off in one hour, and if you go through security you will not be able to board the plane again." I began to see the luggage being off-loaded. I still had no idea of the disaster. I waited 15 minutes and decided to get something to eat. The horror that greeted me was overwhelming. I could not believe what I saw on the TV monitors. The towers were on fire, and the black smoke billowing from the buildings. I claimed my luggage and drove home to Beverly and was welcomed by my relieved family and friends.
The day of 9/11, I sat down in from of the TV with my coffee and breakfast. One of the Twin Towers was on fire. It shocked me. Then I called my daughter on the phone. She had a day care. I said, "Have the kids find something to occupy themselves and turn on the TV." Just as she did, a plane went into the other tower.
My grandson worked for the Fire Department in New York when all this was happening. I was a wreck. Later that morning, he called me and said he was in Massachusetts with a buddy who also was a New York fireman.
They called New York and were told to stay put. No one was allowed back into New York. My grandson's name is Troy Saunders, and the friend's name was Anthony DeRubbio. Then they were told they could come back to New York, and Anthony DeRubbio learned when he did get back his brother, David DeRubbio, had died in the tower.
I have a poster on my porch that has his name on it and thousands more. I'll leave it there as long as I'm here.
Shortly before 9/11, I had drastically changed my life. I quit a dead-end job to start a voice-over career and write a novel. On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, I woke up a little later than normal and was about to go out and run some errands before sitting down to write. I turned on the TV while getting organized to go and the "Today" show was on. A stunned Katie Couric was speaking, and a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I stared at the television, trying to make sense of what had happened, thinking that someone was making a horror movie in New York and the "Today" show was playing a part in it.
Then the second plane crashed and the realization that it was real hit me. I tried to call my Aunt Peg, who lives in Brooklyn, and couldn't get through (later, she told me that she saw all the smoke and wondered what they were doing over in New Jersey this time.) I called my mom in Florida and couldn't get through to her. All I could do was send up prayers for everyone I love and everyone in the path of the planes.
After a plane hit the Pentagon and another landed in that field in Pennsylvania, near where my mom spent her childhood summers, it all just felt so overwhelming. My only response was tears.
And two days later I managed to leave the house to run those errands. I went down to Independence Park here in Beverly, and a man was flying a wireless plane. We both stared out into the ocean and talked about the little plane and how the sea gulls were checking it out. Neither of us mentioned the attack. I don't think that words could adequately describe the tragedy so we just watched that little plane.
On Sept. 10, 2001, I came home from a three-month stay in Beverly Hospital and Shaughnessy Rehab, I was and so thrilled to be home! Therefore, we were here at our home when the unbelievable crashes happened. With all the news, commotion and confusion, a very long day, we watched the TV for most of that day. Such sights to behold. Thankfully, I was at home with my husband, and not alone in a hospital bed.
And later on, our older son, who lived in the Bronx, called to say he was still trying to locate his wife, who was on Long Island that day at a teaching seminar for Con-Ed, directly across from the second hit. In the evening, she finally reached him and said she was OK, at a cousin's house near Long Island. It was still another day before she got home, badly shaken up but OK, and all the family was relieved, as we did not know she was at Long Island, but thought she was at the main plant, her usual place of employment.
After nearly 50 miles of hiking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, my husband and I were walking the streets of Pamplona, Spain. A young lady from Britain stopped us to ask for directions. When she realized we were from the U.S., she offered us her deep sympathy. We didn't know for what until she told us of the 9/11 attacks. When we got to our hostel, the lady in charge kindly brought a TV so we were able to view the devastation. The next day, still shocked and saddened, we continued our pilgrimage on the Camino and found compassion from those we met along the way. After about 40 more miles, we had to stop our journey because I fell and was told at the hospital "no more Camino." In Logrono before heading back home via England, we had a conversation with a man from Madrid who had been listening to the news. He predicted the U.S. would respond to the attacks by bombing. It was my hope that we would not, that we would look honestly at ourselves to learn why someone would hate us enough to do this, and that we would respond with justice to what we learn.
The next year, my husband went back to finish the 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela and he already sensed a change in attitude toward the U.S.
Ten years later, we are still bombing, we have not yet faced facts about ourselves as to why, and we have an ever increasing number of people in the world who hate the U.S.
I am reminded of a poem written by Susan Kay on 9-11-02: "Would You Do the Same Today." It is written by a Christian, but I believe by substituting a few key words (i.e., Jesus, etc.) the poem can be read from the perspective of other faiths — Muslims, Jews or others.
On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it is time to look deep into our hearts and ask: Is there a better way than bombing? Shall we try love, forgiveness and justice?
My 91-year-old mother, a resident of the Girdler House in Beverly, spent her childhood in a poor Slovak immigrant community in lower Manhattan — on the site of what was to later become the World Trade Center. I have memories of visiting my grandfather's flat in the old neighborhood and of hearing my mother's stories of her childhood — cold water and wood stoves in a three-room tenement. The men were waiters and watchmen, and the women cleaned Wall Street offices at night, as these optimistic immigrants on the lower West Side worked for a better life for their children in their adopted country. When the Trade Center was built, the tenements were razed, but the memories remained, still alive in the minds of now old men and women and their offspring.
Ironically, after college, my first job was at #7 World Trade Center. Still a new complex, the excitement of a transformed downtown and the unbelievable elevator ride to the top of the towers remain with me today. It soared on and on, as did my hopes and plans. The dreams of those immigrants and the optimism of America seemed to be evident on that site, as those two buildings reached toward the sky for all the world to see.
9/11/01. Another irony. Now a longtime resident of Massachusetts with dreams well under way — a small company, a wonderful young family in Topsfield. 9/11 finds me in New York City on business, a few miles north of downtown. As the car radio talks of early reports of perhaps a light plane hitting the north tower on that bright blue morning, I, along with others, stop to see the plume of black smoke billowing across the East River and wonder. Then my unforgettable memory as the huge orange ball of flame from the south tower explodes outward, from what we would later learn was the impact of the second plane. Eventually, the crumbling of the towers as seen still from a distance and the realization of what had happened led me to realize that our lives had been changed forever. Anger, pain, retribution. So many lives lost that day and by our gallant military in the years since.
9/11/11. Ring our bells. Remember our losses. Rebuild our towers. Rekindle our optimism in our nation — in honor of all of our immigrant ancestors and in hopes for the futures of our children.
I do not have a dramatic memory, but a simple one that I think of often.
I had carpool duty that morning, dropping off middle-school kids in a long line of other moms who were rushing off to the next part of their day. Little did any of us realize that we would be picking them up in a much different world. When I returned later on that half-day, the usual long line of cars was even longer, and one of the first things I noticed was the more than usual number of dads.
There was also an eerie silence in the crowded parking lot. ... Sad looks were exchanged, but we all seemed focused on the same thing ... standing outside our cars, waiting, searching for a glimpse of our children. Although we were far from the physical destruction, for some reason I had an odd feeling of relief when I saw the faces of those kids. Adding to the great sadness for all who lost lives and loved ones on that day was the sadness that I felt looking into the faces of these children, knowing they had no idea how the world they lived in was now changed forever.
Susan Berry Cann
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was teaching a computer class at Manchester High School (now Manchester Essex Regional High) and explaining growing up in the late '50s, early '60s for a history project the class was assigned. We were discussing my experience with air raids and how lucky they were to live in a free world, when an announcement from the main office signified the Twin Towers disaster. A lot of confusion commenced and student emotions became the main focus for faculty.
Along with student concern, I had to worry about my son's whereabouts, since he was a New York City fire inspector and worked in all parts of the city. When I managed to find time and a cellphone, I headed for a closet (quiet place) in hopes of hearing my son's voice. No one in my family was able to connect with him, either.
After many agonizing hours, his call came to say he was on vacation with two friends, not in New York, and all were OK. One friend was a New York City firefighter and the other worked in the financial district. Had they not been on vacation, all three would have been in the throes of the disaster. The firefighter lost his brother (also a firefighter), and all three lost many friends. When I arrived home, my wonderful neighbors were waiting to hear if my son was OK, and good friends from Melbourne, Australia, called expressing their concern. Someone, hopefully my late husband, was watching over my family that day.