September 11

The anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is approaching. As part of our coverage, we want to share your stories. Where were you on September 11, 2001?

By washingtonpost.com editors |  August 23, 2007; 2:57 PM ET Metro , September 11
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On the night of 9-11, still stunned, I tried to sit quietly in my Silver Spring backyard with my dogs and I wrote this verse:

BACKYARD WATCH WITH MY DOGS

Night surrounds us.
Me on my back, head in hands.
Eyes up to a sky pinholed with starlight.

One sits to my left, one to my right.
Four patrolling eyes wafting
To scan the backyard and beyond.

Relaxed on their haunches they listen
To the symphony of crickets and frog peeps
That drench us in the humid summer air.

Thick and sticky it polishes their twitching noses
With a moist sheen of messages
That I will never read.

Like puppets on a common string
They roll their ears forward and back
Pulled by impressions that I will never feel.

Together their brows contract, necks extend.
Leaning their weight forward, they study
Shifts in shadows that I will see too late.

Gargoyles at the gate, they guard me
From what I will not sense in time
And I lay between them in the moonlight.

But their dedication brings me no peace,
For I see what they cannot.
There are no planes tonight.

Posted by: Marcia Nilson | August 24, 2007 12:18 PM

I can tell you where I was on September 11, 2006.

Sitting in my office wondering why we were still obsessing over it after five years. The victim mentality is old. Move on please.

2001 was a bad year, we survived. I am tired of seeing people feel guilty about it. I thought Americans were tougher than this.

Posted by: James Buchanan | August 24, 2007 7:10 PM

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, I was standing in my office at the Pentagon watching the horrific tragedy unfolding in New York. Suddenly, a deafening explosion shook the Pentagon, debris was hurled at the shatter-proof windows, and my world would never be the same again.

Posted by: Jerome W. Mapp | August 26, 2007 4:13 PM

I was in my office at the NIH main campus in Bethesda when a coworker said there had been an accident after the first plane hit the WTC. Rest of the morning was total disbelief as the events unfolded, then the drive back home and trying to get in touch with family in Europe.

Posted by: kate s. | August 27, 2007 12:32 PM

I was listening to the Stern show on WJFK at home, when he announced that there are reports that the WTC had been crashed into - and at first the thought was it was an accident. I then turned on the Today show to watch their coverage while listening to Howard and the others provide excellent coverage, as well as being a helpful emotional anchor and outlet.

Posted by: David S. - Baltimore | August 28, 2007 12:46 PM

Oh what a day. On 9/11, I was working at a University in D.C.
My father called my office telling me an airplane crashed into a building in NY. I knew it to be true. It was my father telling the story! Like the others, I thought it was an accident. Then my father slowly explained how 'two planes don't make an accident'. I hung up the phone and grabbed a radio. WTOP kept me posted.
The phone rang again. My father again. This time his emotions were higher. The Pentagon had been hit. He could see smoke. He regained his senses and instructed me to leave my job immediately, get my kids, get home, and don't come outside until everything settled.
I obeyed. The roads through D.C. were crowded but not bumper to bumper--yet. Then PG County schools closed. Wow...who came up with that one? I still wonder. The kids were safer in school.
The mad rush escalated.

People were afraid--everywhere. You could see it on our faces. But, for the first time it seemed, D.C. experienced a 'kind' traffic jam.

I'd never witnessed such empathy, gentleness, and pure kindness in this city before. No yelling. No cursing. No horns honking. Drivers were politely taking turns merging. Everyone understood the needs of the other person. Can anyone remember that feeling. A feeling of fear that caused us to project kindness because no one knew what was in store for them when they reached their destinations.

Oh, what a day!

Posted by: LCDA - DC | August 29, 2007 7:57 AM

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was in Penn. with my eighth grade class on a camping trip. We were in the school van and heard the news report. To be honest, I did not fully understand what was happening. However, my teacher explained the situation and I attempted to call my mother. The phone lines were full. I did not talk to my mother until the night of Septeber 12th when she was instructed to pick me up early from my middle school. On the 11th, I remember our principle telling us not to come back to D.C. (where I live and where my school was located) because it was safer to stay where we were. When we arrived back on the 12th, I found out a friend of mine who had been selected by National Geographic to go to California was on the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon. She was eleven years old. For years after, I struggled with the fact that these men could walk on a plane see the faces of three young children (11-12) and still go through with their plans.

-- All I ask is that at a time when it is SO EASY to habor anger and hatred, we take the challenging route and practice love. The last thing I would want to do is perpetuate the same things that caused America's greatest lost.

I pray for all the victims and their loved ones.

Posted by: Jo'el H. | August 29, 2007 8:48 AM

On 9/11/2001 I was away at college in Greensboro, NC. I had just got out of my morning classes and was walking to my dorm with friends when someone told us about what happened. As we walked in the dorm everyone's doors were open and you could see everybody watching the developing story. Everybody from NY and DC were panicking trying to reach friends and family. I remember being unable to reach my mother who worked in DC at the time.

Very sad, scary, unsure time.

Posted by: D Brooks | August 29, 2007 11:46 AM

It was my first class year (senior year) at the US Naval Academy. I was waiting for a lab period to start at USNA in Annapolis. A friend came in and very flipantly said "Someone just crashed into the World Trade Center. They think it's an accident." Everyone ignored him because he sounded so casual about it. Someone else came in and said something similiar. I jumped up and plugged in the TV in the room and found CNN. We watched in shock as the second tower was hit. Our instructor had come in at that point. He just sat and watched with us too. The talked about a third plane and finally showed the destruction at the Pentagon. Our instructor left, as his wife (also a Naval officer) worked there. We all headed back to our rooms. I was in shock because my mother worked for Headquarters Marine Corps at the time and often briefed in the Pentagon. I struggled to remember if she was supposed to brief that day or the next.
There was a lot of confusion over the next several hours. I spent some time on AOL Instant Messager talking to my father, as phone lines were jammed. I also was serving as a company HERO (like a peer counselor) and had to personally talk to everyone in my company that was from NY. We spent several hours trying to find out if everyone's loved ones were safe. Eventually we did.
It was surreal to watch the Marines who stood guard on the campus put on flax jackets and bullet proof vests. We instantly had to post a sentry at every entrance to the dorms. We were no longer allowed to eat all at one time. We ate in thirds and watched the news.
While we all knew war was a possibility for many of us, it had instantly become a reality.
I've lost a few friends and had many in harms way since then. We cannot forget this tradgey.
Despite what you think of our leaders, there are real enemies out there who hate us all just because of where we were born. September 11th needs to be remember so we never again allow this to happen to innocent people.

Posted by: A Taylor | August 30, 2007 8:25 PM

I was reporting for work at 1 p.m. that day.
Before going to work, I went to another level where I live to pick up a newspaper. Another person was standing there and approached me and whispered planes crashed into several buildings. Of course, I did not believe this. I ignored her and returned to my apartment and told my husband that something has happened and I was going to turn on the television. I motioned him into the living room. It hasn't been the same since.

Posted by: kathy | August 30, 2007 11:19 PM

On Sept 11, 2001 I was away at school in North Carolina. I had class that Tuesday morning and it just so happened to be weight training. There were several TV's in the gym which mostly show college news, music videos etc... I was looking at the screen and thought that it was a movie for the longest time. It wasn't until I saw the news ticker at the bottom of the screen displaying "BREAKING NEWS" that I knew this was serious and real. My entire class seemed to realize it at the same time and within minutes the whole campus of North Carolina A&T State University was shutting down. I tried to call my mom, immediately, to see what if anything was still going on. It was like every cell phone in the USA was in use so it took a few minutes. Soon she told me she was fine as I watched the towers burning, then collapse... class was cancelled and we all went home to watch the news to see what happened. I was scared for my family in my hometown, because I had never seen anything like this before. That was the last day before the "New World Agenda". Nothing has been the same since...

Posted by: J. Love | August 31, 2007 8:51 AM

On 9/11 I was in Ocean City. We were watching the Today show and packing up to had home to WDC. The show was interruptred with the report of the first plane hitting the Towers. Then, we watched as the second plane hit. I felt completely numb. We packed the car and headed back to DC, not knowing what we would find but knowing without a doubt that we wanted to be "home". The radio was on during the entire trip and we listened to the description as the towers fell. We were crying, there was little conversation. Then we heard about the Pentagon. In the next months, my path to work took me past the Pentagon daily and it was comforting to see the building being rebuilt and the spirit of the people of the DC area and the country coming together in the face of this tragedy.

Posted by: Pat W | August 31, 2007 10:48 PM

In September 2001, I was a junior at a small, liberal arts college in New Orleans, Louisiana. On the morning of September 11, I had gone to breakfast before class in our school cafeteria and was sitting at a table when I heard one of the school janitors say to a co-worker that one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City had been hit by a bomb, and that this was the second time in about 10 years. I dismissed the comment as a friend sat down to join me at the table. A few minutes later, that friend (who was getting ready to study abroad for a year at a university in London, England) got a call from a friend saying that one of the World Trade Center buildings had been crashed into by an airplane. Still, we continued with our breakfast and began to offhandedly discuss what this might mean as far as her trip to England was concerned...and after that, we let the topic go for the rest of the meal. (It's almost amazing how detached from the rest of the world those of us in the deep south can feel when something happens in major cities like NYC, WADC and LA)...As I finished up breakfast and returned to my dorm room, the reality of what had happened started to set in. I entered the suite and glanced over at the tv--which my roomate had tuned to one of the 24 hour news networks--and began to watch the coverage of what was unfolding in New York City. We all sat silently and paid close attention to the footage of the first and second towers' collapse. Even after watching all of this, it took many of us on my campus awhile to realize that this wasn't just something that affected New Yorkers, but that would alter the path that the entire nation was headed down...

Posted by: MSJ | September 1, 2007 3:09 AM

On Sept 11th 2001 I was a senior at High Point High School. That morning I had just left my math class to go to my computer programming class. When I arrived, my teacher had the tv on, and it was showing one of the towers. At first sight I thought there was merely a fire on a floor of the building that had gone out of control, but then I found out that a plane had crashed into it. Of course I originally thought it was a freak accident, but when the second hit the second tower I knew it was an attack. School was dismissed and my mother left work early to come home to us. The two things that I remember clear to this day were the terrified message my mom left on our answer machine when I got home and seeing both towers completely collapse. I never would have thought a building could collapse from a hit that didn't immediately cause it to fall. We should never forget that day.

Posted by: Brandon | September 1, 2007 6:43 PM

I had flown to Los Angeles on business the day before 9/11 and sauntered over to a Marie Callender's coffee shop for breakfast.

The place was oddly deserted. There was no one at the host's station and tables were filled with half-eaten breakfasts. I could hear a radio or TV coming from the kitchen and found all of the staff and customers there, gazing stupefied at a small TV propped up on a counter as the hideous images filled the screen.

I wandered back to my hotel and shared an elevator with an airline pilot. It turned out we both lived in the D.C. area. I told him I would be driving home if the airports didn't open in a day or two and invited him to call my cell phone if he wanted to hitch a ride.

I had friends and relatives who worked in lower Manhattan and my children told me some of their classmates had lost parents in the Pentagon attacks. I felt a strong desire to be with them.

Los Angeles radio stations reported endlessly on the effect the attacks were having on L.A. traffic and speculated that Disneyland would be the next target. Must get out of here, I vowed.

The next day, I abducted my rental car and drove somewhat aimlessly East. The highways and motels were full of other grounded frequent fliers. I spent one night near the Mexico border, having obviously veered too far south, but after a few wrong turns, made it to Oklahoma City, where a few days later I caught an empty Southwest flight. There were a few deadheading crew members but I was the only "revenue passenger."

When I got to BWI, I expected a huge parking bill. I had left my car in the high-priced lot, planning to be gone only two days. But in an unprecedented act of bureaucratic kindness, BWI charged me only for one day. And Long Island-based Avis generously forgave me for abandoning their car in OK, canceling the drop charge.

All of my friends and family were safe, although my brother-in-law, a Long Island priest, lost more than 30 parishoners. A longtime friend, a high-flying Wall Streeter, was coming out of the subway as the first building came down. He nearly lost his life; he did lose his job when his firm failed to reopen after its offices were destroyed.

I was a college student on November 22, 1963, and vividly remember hearing of the Kennedy assassination as I walked to class in the rain. I thought nothing would ever displace that day in my memory. That changed on September 11, 2001.

Posted by: James Hood | September 2, 2007 12:28 AM

I was in class-the third day of school when I got a note from the office saying my brother's plane was rerouted back to London. I didn't think much of it until our teacher turned on the TV to watch our schools daily morning broadcast-instead it was set to CNN and everyone watched. No one spoke. After class was over then it hit me. I was sent to the nurses office to calm down and had my very nice history teacher walk me. My younger sister had it worse though. She was in 7th grade and was crying so hard in her classroom. Some boys,thought it'd be the funniest thing in the world to make paper airplanes, fly them around and have them crash into things while saying that our brother's plane crashed and he was dead.

Posted by: Tammy | September 5, 2007 12:34 AM

I was in Palo Alto, CA on business. I was in my hotel room getting dressed. It was very early in CA. I had the TV on. I happened to be in the bedroom when news of the attack came on TV. I sat on the bed and watched the 2nd plane fly into the second tower. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thought it was a science fiction skit like War of the Worlds. In CA work continued as normal although with tv's turned on everywhere in the office. It took me a week to get home because everything was grounded at first and then only a handful of flights through the following weekend. Until then I didn't realize how far CA was from DC and how hard it is to get from there to here without planes. After I got home fighter jets flew over my house in Silver Spring regularly. It was strange not to have any planes in the sky overhead but we were within the no fly zone for quite awhile. I went back out to CA about a month later on business and was unnerverd by the planes flying normally above the hotel and office.

Posted by: Corrie | September 5, 2007 9:54 AM

On 9/11 I was attending a conference in Norfolk, Va., where who but Gonzalez, the recently resigned attorney general was the keynote speaker!

I remember nothing of his speech, however, last words will remain seared in my memory..."I will not take any questions, as I must return to Washington immediately.

As he was sweep away, the Director of the Federal agency holding the conference came to the podium and announced the reason for Mr. Gonzalez' abrupt departure:

"...A plane had crashed into the World Trade Building in New York!!!!"

The conference room of over 500 attendees immediately emptied....I went to the bar area of the hotel with many of the others to see what was going on in New York where I have a host of relatives that live there and work in Manhattan.

To our horror we arrived in front of the tv to see a jet enter into the side of the the second tower...we were all stunned, then a fellow participant said out of frustration, " next it will be the Pentagon!" I cried, please do not say that, my eldest brother is employed their!!! But no sooner than those prophetic words left his lips, the news commentator exclaimed, "oh my God, the Pentagon has just been hit by a Plane...!, I immediately called my mother in DC, my hometown, as I was a native Washingtonian living in the city at the time.

I asked my mom had she heard the distubing news, but she was on another call and it just did not registering with to her,(it seemed no one in D>C> knew what was going on there) I secondly called my spouse who should have just gotten home from working the night shift...

By then I was praying, lamenting and crying frantically, trying to tell him of the recent events, as well as, pleading with him to call my mom and see about my brother, who would have been walking his mail run at the Pentagon, by then.

I finally calmed enough to tell my husband what was going on in New York and DC, which he had no clue about, since he came in at 7am and went immediately to bed. He said was going to get our children from school, I advised him to get all of them, including all our niece and newphews, who all attended the same public school at the time..." I then called back to the hotel room where I left my sister who had travelled on this business trip with me. We had driven to Norfolk the day before. Since I left her asleep in the hotel room , I wanted to see if she was aware of the recent disaster...she was and said that the hotel switchboard was restricted and she was unable to make a call...she said the operator at the hotel said only the head of the Hotel could make a call out...but when she explained tearfully, that she was from DC and her oldest brother, who is profoundly deaf, works at the Pentagon and she must contact her mother, the operator sympathized and patched her call through to Washington, DC where she contacted our mother who advised us that our brother was o.k., and on his way home!

I just began to sob uncontrollably.

Because our brother is profoundly deaf, he felt the building quake and the earth move at the moment of impact...bewildered when he saw people running by, a gentleman stopped and looked at him and pushed him towards the exits and mouthed "RUN! RUN!" so he said he ran until he arrived at the either Nordstroms or Macy's where he asked a woman at one of the counters, to call his mom and let her know that he was o.k.,

Without out his wallet, money or any identification, he made it to his upper northwest home.

All of the calling occurred in the matter of 30 minutes! Then my cell phone went dead, and we all learned that Norfolk, being a port and military town, was shutdown!! No one could leave and no one could enter we were under a state of emergency...I returned to my hotel and embaced my sister, thankful to God that I was with family and not alone during this time and grateful that I had spouse and a family network that sprung into action.

Unfortunately, my brother later found out about the tremendous loss of life of many co workers and friends, whom he remembers often in conversation.

Posted by: TCS | September 6, 2007 2:36 AM

I remember it vividly because the morning was so pristine and I just knew I'd be at Anacostia Park that evening, hanging out with my boyfriend and friends after work. I was working on 17th and K at NCARB and I had my headphones on. I was totally oblivious. Then I saw lots of people wondering around and because our supervisor was such a grinch, I thought that was out of character. My co-worker told me a plane hit the WTC and I put my headphones back on, thinking it was an accident. Then they turned the news on and another plane, quite deliberately I might add, smashed into the other tower. Then I heard reports of the Pentagon being attacked. My boyfriend (now my child's father) worked there renovating at the time so I was spastic, and my aunt worked at the Pentagon as an auditor (she took my grandmother to the doctor that day, an maybe 75% of her immediate co-workers died)

Boss told us to stay put..ofcourse we were maybe 5 blocks from the White House and THAT OTHER PLANE was headed here. I decided to walk. I walked all the way to Galludet with another co-worker because buses weren't letting people on (too full) and traffic was scary. The metro train shut down. When I got home, my boyfriend was there. In his boxers..he said he was on the Smithsonian rood when it happened, saw the entire thing, and got on the train before the smoke cleared to get home. Scary day. I lived nead Bolling AFB and I remember being scared to death a plane would hit my little apt building because I heard fighter jets scrambling all darn night.

Posted by: Miss Cephas | September 7, 2007 12:24 PM

It was just after noon when our principal announced over the PA that Langley High would go into lockdown and that we would stay in the classroom where we were now until we were given the all-clear. This was because of what was happening "to our country" in New York. I had no idea what he was talking about. One of my students popped on the TV and there were two towers burning. I remembered that one of the trade towers had been bombed from within its garage back in the 90's and wondered if an attack using planes was ever considered by the powers that be. Who could ignore what perfect targets tall buildings like that would be? My teaching partner and I discussed how many people might have been in the two buildings. I estimated at 50,000, but that's teacher's math. We had 1400 in our small building, but of course, there were 25 of us crammed into the same size room as an office in the Trade Towers which would have held one or two.

I'm a pessimist, so I never bother getting angry at selfish, idiotic monsters such as the 19 who chose to take so many lives for their God; human monsters aren't able to change, but I was angry at the brilliant architects of those or any tall building who ignore the vulnerability and desirability as targets of their high glass structures. Even if the first plane hit HAD been an accident, as most of my fellow posters say they assumed at the time, you'd still have had 1500 people killed because whoever was above the fire had no chance. (Had the Pentagon been shaped like the WTC, we'd have lost a few thousand more.)

In a country where "orange alert" is now a household word, it's time that our fire departments, governments, and architects get together to make any building in the entire country with more than 4 stories escapable from any floor.

But, being the pessimist, I know that won't happen.

Oh, by the way, despite Langley's dangerously close proximity to the CIA, another possible target, Fairfax County would not dismiss our school. The old belief that students are safer in schools than on the road is a tough one to break when you don't have much imagination.

Posted by: Cordy | September 9, 2007 9:34 AM

I was on duty that bright, long September day. We had some "leaders" abandon us. We had many pitch in to get the jobs done when others could not / would not. Some that got the job done were heroes of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 who fought back because they were able to gather their own intelligence and make their own decision to fight back. They must have known they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. They saved us another ground zero that I still believe would have been the White House or Capitol. They greatly spared the country and the region a greater calamity. I followed the plan we made and carried out my orders. At the end of my day, I met a friend who took me home to eat, and I spent the night in town at another friend's home. Do not forget that when everyone else gets to flee to safety, there are some that have to stay and hold the line because we are the guardians.

Posted by: EJ | September 10, 2007 9:56 AM

I was going to school in Philadelphia at the time. I remember waking up to my roommates phone ringing. Next thing I know, the TV is turned in and I see one of the WTC buildings on fire, and I thought to myself "That sucks, wonder what happened?" I was about to dismiss it in my mind and go shower, when the TV cut to a shot of the Pentagon burning. Right after that happened, I hear the man talking about airplanes crashing into buildings, and thinking to myself that World War 3 was about to start. Then the fire alarm in my building goes off, and I'm forced to walk outside in my PJs. That was the moment when I really got scared. I was living in a city that was directly in between the two that suffered the most damage that day, and I can remember going to bed that night for the first time in my entire life fearing for my future.

Posted by: Phil Williams | September 10, 2007 11:20 AM

On the morning of 9/11 I went to work 7 1/2 months pregnant and against my doctors orders. I'd been having pre-term labor for over a month. After watching the news and hearing about the Pentagon, I demanded that the school release my children, had my husband pick them up, and had a friend take me home. That trip to over 4 hours and during that time all I could think of was that I would never get to see the face of my beautiful baby boy that I was carrying.

Posted by: LS | September 10, 2007 1:46 PM

I was in school in Pittsburgh. It was my freshman year. I was on my way back to the droms after my frist class. I stopped through the student union to grab some breakfast only to notice everyone standing around the TV's. I stopped to watch too. Thats how I found out what happened. I only had one class that day. They cancled classes and evacuated downtown Pittsburgh. I never did get to eat breakfast.

Posted by: Ritchy_Ri | September 10, 2007 3:41 PM

My respect go out to the victim family. I love u all

Posted by: Tasmine | September 10, 2007 3:57 PM

I was traveling north on the GW Parkway and noticed a jet coming in "hot" (very fast) in an approach I didn't recognize. I passed beneath the I-395 bridges and then didn't see the plane where I expected it might be. Later I noticed smoke coming from the far side of the Pentagon and figured that a large AC unit or boiler had exploded. Office fires of PCs and paper don't burn like that. I did not wait for traffic to come to a complete massive stop for hours. I got the hell out of there before the day would be completely wasted in a traffic jam. If the jet had over-shot the Pentagon and crashed onto the Parkway then I would have driven right into the explosion I guess. But I've had closer calls in life than that.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 10, 2007 5:48 PM

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