My Memories Of 9/11 | My Wedding, Losses, and Guns On My Honeymoon

Memories of 9_11

September 11th, 2001, was just an ordinary Tuesday. It was four days before my wedding, and only about ten days before my honeymoon to Japan. I was hoping the day would go by quickly, I had a lot to do.

Sadly, I had to go to work – back then I was still working full time during the day in the call center, working my way through full time college evenings and weekends.

I don’t know if I had class scheduled that evening. If I did, I know for a fact I didn’t go.

I was listening to the radio, probably on a Walkman-like device since these were pre-iPod days, quality checking how a pile of paper applications for car insurance were processed.

Suddenly, on the radio, there was some confusion. Some talk about something happening in New York. No one was really sure what was happening. They cut to commercial.

Eventually, the radio station would go silent, and be replaced by the news.

Unlike most ordinary Tuesdays, my memories of that day are very, very vivid.

Going To The Cafe

The call center had a cafeteria where we could grab snack, breakfast, lunch, coffee, etc. It also had a television in the corner.

The room was crowded, but silent. Everyone was staring at the TV.

When I looked at it, there was a video of a plane hitting one of the twin towers playing over and over again.

I remember watching for a while, not knowing what was happening. How did a plane hit the towers? They were so big, I don’t know how that pilot missed it and hit the buildings.

Even the newscasters didn’t know what was happening.

Eventually I needed to get back upstairs to work. But slowly the day devolved into chaos. Rumors were flying around about what was happening. Another plane hit the Pentagon. Was there a fire in the White House?

People were crying, panicking. We were not far from New York. We all knew someone who worked or lived there.

We didn’t have access to the internet – not that there would have been too much to see on the internet in 2001. There were no smartphones. The only way to find out what was happening in the world was to listen to the radio, or sneak downstairs and watch TV.

They put TV’s out in the lobby, because the cafeteria was too crowded. Every scheduled break was spent trying to see what was going on in the world. There were silent crowds, just watching.

School started to close, and parents had to leave to go get their kids. People who had family in the military, or family in New York City, also left. Not that many people were calling with questions about their car insurance while this was going on.

Call centers never close. But ours did, eventually, around 3:30 in the afternoon. We were still getting a few sporadic calls from people who wanted to ask about their car insurance.

“HAVE YOU TURNED ON A TV?!?!?!” I wanted to shout at them.

Getting Home and Needing Company

So I got home. My then – fiance, now husband, was not let out of work early and in fact had no access to TV or a radio. I waited for him to come home, watching the news.

By that time, most of the news was the same images over and over again. The towers being hit. Collapsing. The Pentagon smoldering, the plane crash in PA. The recovery efforts underway as day turned into night.

And endless reporting on the rumors of what on earth had happened.

Finally my husband came home and we watched the TV together. A friend, whose parents had recently moved away, came over to be with us and ended up sleeping over.

None of us wanted to be alone.

There were no planes flying in the entire US.

This was going to be a problem for guests who were supposed to be flying to our wedding in four days.

And for flying internationally for the first time in just ten more days.

But on that day, none of that mattered.

The Chaos That Followed

My memories of the days that followed are much more scattered, but no less vivid. After all, I was getting married. And the world was in chaos.

I remember calling my travel agent (yes, those were still a thing) to ask what the heck we should be doing about the flights to Japan. While the planes were still grounded, the first thing she said to me was “no refunds”.

My brother in law had been flying that day. He was in the air as the planes crashed into the towers. Eventually he was grounded over in PA and my in-laws drove hours to pick him up.

Relatives from CA were totally unable to come.

My sister in law from FL was supposed to fly up – and she couldn’t. In our wedding photos, she’s represented by a brick-sized cell phone listening in on our vows.

You can see the brick-like phone over my husbands shoulder. That’s my sister in law, listening to our wedding

My mother made small flag-colored pins for us all to wear during the ceremony. The country was pulling together, particularly as we all came to know what had actually happened. We all wanted to show our support for the country, even in a small way.

All our guests had pins too. Every wedding picture is a reminder of that day.

If you were young on 9/11, or don’t remember it, you won’t know just how much the country really came together. Kids were selling lemonade to raise money for those who were lost. People were sending in so many donations they had to call for them to stop. Everyone just wanted to DO something, and felt so helpless.

Coworkers Lost Relatives

I have two former co-workers who had relatives lose their lives in the towers.

One lost her twin sister. One her brother-in-law, a police officer.

Over the past eighteen years, I’ve met so many people who had close calls, or known people who had close calls. Some were next to the towers, some were in them. Some were supposed to be in them.

But the deaths stay with me, and even though I didn’t know them, I light a candle every 9/11 in memory of them and that day.

In fact, when my husband and I visited the 9/11 memorial in NYC (which I highly recommend if you’re in the city), I found their names.

Guns In Airports

Traveling internationally a week and a half after 9/11 was… interesting. The Army was in the airport, in full uniform, with very large guns.

There was a giant, floor to ceiling tarp hung where the TSA now is. Makeshift security kept people from walking up to the gates. Our luggage for our ten day trip to Japan was hand-searched.

The plane had around five or ten people on it. I was able to nap across the entire middle aisle.

Watching the new in Japan was surreal. We could see the recovery efforts proceeding while we were halfway across the world. The president visited NYC, and we were able to see it all unfold translated into Japanese.

On the flights back to the US, ten days later, we met many people who were JUST getting home from the original grounding of the planes on 9/11. Those planes were packed full as people got home to their families and friends.

Reflection and A Reminder

Today, I hope you’ll take some time to reflect on and remember all those who were lost on this tragic day. I know I will.

And please remember that the unexpected can happen to you, your loved ones, and those you know. If you’re not already prepared for an emergency, today put a reminder on your calendar to start to take steps to get prepared. When the worst happens, you don’t want to be worrying about money.

Readers, what memories do you have from that day? Share in the comments.

Be sure to follow my blog for more great posts via e-mail or WordPress, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter and say hello! You can also check out what I’m buying or baking on Instagram,  what I’m pinning on Pinterest, or the subscribe to the latest videos I’m putting up on YouTube.

14 thoughts on “My Memories Of 9/11 | My Wedding, Losses, and Guns On My Honeymoon”

  1. I was working in a call centre as well, and we were having troubles connecting to New Jersey. The lines were all busy. (I was doing tech callbacks for internet support.) someone brought up CNN online, and told us a plane hit one of the twin towers. Being Canadian and never having been to NYC, I’ll be honest – I never paid attention to what the towers were, or what they represented. I didn’t quite understand what had happened. When a second plane hit its next target, we knew there was something very bad happening. Our centre closed as well, sending my then-fiancé home, and me shortly after. I called the high school where my sister attended to make sure they were safe and if they were closing. The school acted as though I was crazy. I was scared.
    Being close to Niagara Falls, we were not all that far. We waited and watched for what came next, and it was truly devastating. I cannot imagine how it was for you, Liz, being so close and so affected by it.
    To this day, a low-flying plane still puts me on edge.
    I will always remember.

  2. I grew up and went to college in New Jersey.
    I was in college, and my ex sent me a message via AOL messenger to turn on channel 2, CBS, when I first got up. Many of the other stations had their broadcast antenna on the towers and the signal was affected. He went to Fordham in the Bronx, but was far enough from the chaos to be safe. Classes were all cancelled when we got to the classrooms, but that involved tearing yourself away from the TV to walk across campus. Some of the classrooms had the news casts playing. I distinctly remember staring at a screen with the projector running the news, and deciding, I’d rather be back in my dorm room.

    Neither of my parents worked in the city, and a family friend who did was reported safe early on. Dad called my door room phone around 2 or 3 pm to say that things at his work were ok, but that was a possibility I’d never considered. My mom was a teacher, and I’m sure we spoke after she got home. There were affected students at her school, and several teachers stayed and waited as family friends, grandparents, relatives traveled to get there to pick them up.

    The shock of it still has me unable to recall any specifics from the day beyond that. I know fellow students were trying to find ways to get home to be with family. We had ‘club period’ aka no classes Wednesday mornings, and I honestly couldn’t tell you anything about September 12th.

    I find the size of the loss emotionally overwhelming most years, and give myself time and space to not engage in the news or articles. Not rehashing it doesn’t mean I don’t wish peace, and healing to all affected by loss and all the other emotions (many people not directly impacted are still affected). But I have found too much engagement can stick with me for days after.

    A heartfelt thank you Liz for sharing your experience, and showing us that Love still wins!

    1. I hear you-some years I consume a ton of media content, and other years it’s too saddening. But every year I light a candle in memory of those lost, and I share the two 9/11 magazines I bought in the aftermath with my kids. They were all born after 9/11, so for them it’s history. One day all those of us who were adults on that day will be gone, and I hope my sons can help pass down the memories to future generations

  3. On September 11th I went to classes like any other day as a Sophmore in college. Around 10:00 just as I was heading to physics class I got the news. I was in disbelief, heading to the student center to see more on the tv. There I saw the same video of the plane you referenced. I couldn’t believe it and spent most of the day trying to validate what was going on.

    Anyway within about twenty mins of finding out they closed the university and sent everyone either too their forms or off campus. I went to college in downtown Atlanta in the shadow of several large buildings. Moreover there was a decommissioned nuclear reactor on campus. The government moved in and started guarding that part of campus.

    1000 miles from my family with the country on lock down. I really had no idea what to expect. Made for some sleepless nights.

    About a week and a half later I had an emergency trip home via plane for a birth in the family. That was not a pleasant flight.

  4. It was early in the morning in Arizona. I was getting ready for work at a new (2nd) job. We did have the internet, and before leaving I turned on the computer as usual to glance at the news & check email.

    “My god,” I thought, “a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I hope not too many people were hurt.” I went down the hall and told my (now) husband that there’d been a terrible accident and that a small plane hit the building. (Which is what many people assumed at first.) I remembered being on the observation deck when I visited, and couldn’t imagine how horrible that must have been.

    We went to work. There wasn’t really anything for me to do yet, and I didn’t even have my own desk yet. So I sat at a temporary computer and looked at the news. During the time it took me to get to work and sit down a SECOND plane had hit the building. Clearly it was no accident.

    Then a third plane crashed, then a fourth into a field.

    It wasn’t until the fourth that it became obvious that they were all hijacked. I’m sure you remember, but it just literally wasn’t even imaginable that it could be that.

    This whole time all anyone did was watch the news on the computers at work. (My work was a tech company.)

    Over and over again. The entire day. There was talk of letting people go early, but they didn’t do that til early afternoon our time. I wanted to be with my son (who’d been with his dad that morning) but he was at school and it didn’t occur to me that I could just leave and get him early.

    So, we scoured the internet for any scrap of info while the whole world changed. We saw the people jumping. The smoking hole. The collapse. I don’t know how anyone who lived in NYC then gets through today now. I nearly threw up and had to run from the building to stop when I visited Trinity a few years after, and I didn’t even go through anything personally there. I feel so bad for anyone that did.

    Anyway, they kept talking about how the 4th plane must have missed its target. I remember thinking those passengers on that plane must have been fucking heroes, but no one was saying that. I emailed the First Lady’s office, thinking surely all emails would be scanned, and said as much.

    Finally, they let us go from work and I got my son as soon as I could. He was one of the last few kids there and I felt like such a bad mother that I wasn’t there earlier. I talked to him about it a little but he was so young. I asked if he wanted to call his dad and he did.

    The rest of the day (and weeks really) was just more rehashing of horror with new things occasionally being reported. And I remember all the flags. Flags flying from houses, from truck beds as they drove. Pins and stickers in lapels.

    Feeling like the whole world wanted to help and come together. I’d like it if we could get back to that very last bit, without any horror.

    Thanks for letting me share.

  5. Hey Liz – I remember that day in the call center. It started out like every other morning. Tuesday was a semi-busy phone day. We had those TV screens up on the wall, telling how many calls were in queue. Reps were going down to the cafe for their morning coffee. Then slowly, information came bubbling back up that something was going on in NYC.

    As you said, we were all initially clueless. Sad & concerned for those impacted by the “accident” that had occurred. Then as more detail presented itself, we were all shocked by the events. No one believed that kind of terror could break through the shell of our country’s safety.

    The more we learned, the more horrifying it became. Some of the TVs were switched over to local news. The videos that kept on looping over and over — the planes hitting, the smoke, the people still trapped. Awful. Sickening. Phones were still ringing, but barely. Some reps were hysterical. Schools were released early — my partner (also a phone rep) was allowed to leave so he could be home when my step-sons got off the bus. They were in elementary school at the time, so not sure how much they remember.

    And I recall sitting in front of the TV for most of the night, watching the same news stories over and over. Until I couldn’t take watching the videos anymore. It was the people jumping. They knew it wasn’t going to end well, and wanted to do things on their own terms, I guess. But why was it being broadcasted? Eventually, they stopped showing that footage. But the horror of it all stays with me, to this day.

    Prayers for the lives that were lost, the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice, the children who lost parents, the parents who lost children. It’s all too much — but we must never forget.  

    1. You’re right, it was back when we were both working together. There’s definitely footage that was common that day & the immediate aftermath that they never show anymore. When I visited the 9/11 memorial, there was a room off to the side where you could go to view it. But it wasn’t part of the main museum, because the footage is too disturbing. I try to find a good balance of taking the time to remember-and sharing my memories so that time is not forgotten-but not doing it so much it’s upsetting.

  6. My mom got remarried the day after 9/11. I remember going to Walmart to buy party supplies for the wedding reception and seeing all the customers frozen, staring at the TV screens showing the live footage of the plane crashes. A somber memory.

  7. Thank you for sharing this, I agree it’s so important to remember this day. I was a month shy of my 15th birthday on September 11, 2001. I was in photography class at my high school on Long Island, 50 miles from the World Trade Centers. As soon as the announcement was made over the PA system and they said that guidance counselors were available for any students who were concerned about the safety of their families, a girl ran out of the classroom crying- her dad worked in Manhattan.

    I knew my own immediate and extended family were likely safe because none of them worked close enough (though my uncles watched the towers fall from the roof of their office building in downtown Manhattan), but for the rest of that day, I was surrounded by dozens- possibly hundreds- of students in my school of over 2000 who were not sure if all of their friends and family members were safe. It was terrifying and somber.

  8. I was living with my parents in SF at the time and dropped off my sister at the train station who heading to work. I turned on the car radio to listen to some music but instead the station DJ was talking something terrible happening in NYC. I caught the middle of the conversation so I unclear what going on. When I got home and turned on the TV, it showed the second plane hitting the south tower. It was unreal, it seemed like movie. I had classes at the university that morning and didn’t know whether I should go or not. Since the students weren’t informed about any changes so I headed off to class. The professor talked about plane crash briefly but moved on and went about his class lecture. I thought it would be another day of classes until a university rep went into the class thirty minutes in and informed us that classes would be cancelled for the rest of the day because of the terror attacks in NYC.
    After the announcement, I headed straight home to turn on the TV. When I got home, both of my parents and my brother and sister were there glued to the TV as the announcement of the plane clash in the Pentagon and the open field in PA were reported on top of the twin tower attacks. All of them were instructed to leave work/school because of the attacks. We just watched everything unfolding throughout the rest of the day on TV.
    It was horrifying to watch all of it go down. We were all the way in California, I couldn’t imagine how it was for you being so close to NYC and being affected by it. I’ll definitely remember that day!

  9. Despite living the other side of the world I also remember that day. I was in high school back then. It was early afternoon and our history teacher entered the classroom. We all stood up as usual but when she get to her desk she asked us not to sit down. She told us that there was a serious terrorist attack in New York and many people died. She asked us to stay stood for five minutes silent and think about the happenings, so our thoughts and prayers will be with the ones in need. The rest of the day went on pretty depressed. We also tried to gather as much information as we could and I remember watching the news on the TV with our teacher in the dormitory in the evening. We were not really able to process the things back then but we felt that this is very serious situation something what will change the world forever…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.