Ann Oliverio – An Unrefined Vegan
I’ll tell you one thing,
We ain’t gonna change much.
The sun still rises
Even with the pain.
Can we go on like it once was?
- from Another Story by The Head and The Heart
On September 11, 2001, I was living a peaceful life in Cambridge, MA, working as a faculty assistant to then Professor Elizabeth Warren at Harvard Law School.
Like It Once Was
No matter what one felt on the morning of September 11, 2001 – shock, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, disbelief – the reality was universal: the world as we knew it had changed. Not just the smaller world that some of us call home, the United States of America, but the whole world. It was evident in the gaping holes left by airliner-missiles in three of our most iconic buildings; in the deep gash gouged into a farmer’s field in rural Pennsylvania; in the thousands of poignantly irrelevant pieces of paper lazily fluttering down from the sky before coming to rest on drifts of thick gray ash; in the stunned faces; the hopeful, heart-breaking “missing person” posters taped to fences, walls, and utility poles; the fiery political rhetoric; and the removing of shoes in airport security lines.
My experiences on this day aren’t particularly interesting or unusual. I didn’t reside in New York or Washington, D.C. I had no friends or relatives boarding planes that morning. I had no premonitions, no nagging feelings of trepidation, and in fact, for many hours following the collapse of the Twin Towers, the loss of Flight 93, and the crash into the Pentagon, I didn’t truly grasp what had happened. I imagine that my experience is much like the vast majority of Americans who began their day like any other: an alarm clock that woke them too early, a hurried breakfast followed by a commute to work and a head filled with everything that had to be accomplished before making the reverse trip back home, to family, to dinner, to a little mindless television before bed – and starting it all over again the next day.
It was only that evening as I sat down with my husband to watch the news reports that the magnitude of what had taken place a few hours before began to sink in. I wanted to turn away from the stream of sorrow and the endless loop of chaos, the talking heads and experts, and the harrowing stories of those who witnessed firsthand what had happened in New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania. What I knew was that I wanted to go back to the way our world was. Instead, the morning replayed over and over and over again: clear blue sky, speeding planes, flames, jumpers, first-responders rushing in and up, the domino of 110 stories collapsing one upon the other – and then another 110 stories disappearing into smoke and debris.
The next day, another beautiful September morning, as I once again walked to work my head was filled with images of carnage and firefighters and grieving. I could hear the fighter jets circling over Boston.
The events of September 11, 2001 affected me like no other disaster before it – man-made or otherwise. Tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, far-away genocide, airplane crashes – sure, they were devastating, sad, and frightening and for brief moments I thought, “what was it like to have been in that plane/fire/storm? What if that had been me?” before moving on to the next event that overtook the headlines. They never really touched me. Never even got close. But this. There was no avoiding this. No turning the page of the newspaper to be distracted by something else, no way to wake up one fine September morning to the world the way that it was.
Thank you, Angela, for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts about that terrible day. In memory of those who died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, in sympathy to those who lost loved ones, and in deep gratitude to those who serve our nation in times of war and peace.
Anna Johnson – The Fit Vegan Ginger
Where was I?! I was sitting in the floor of my room…dressed up in a Snow White Disney costume, getting ready to leave for Chucky Cheese…I heard my mom start yelling for me and my older sister to come into the TV room where she was. She was on the phone with my dad and she was crying. I looked at the TV and saw…smoke. Fire and smoke. That’s all I remember…I was so little, but I remember that sight like it was yesterday. I’ll never ever forget seeing that. I started crying too and mom hugged me in close. After a few seconds, she looked at me and said “Chucky Cheese will have to wait.” Being a four year old at the time, I was heartbroken. What was more important than going to Chucky Cheese on MY FIFTH BIRTHDAY?! Little naive me…
My thoughts? Many were affected that day. Many people died. Many people are living with permanent scars–physical AND emotional. But many were affected that are unknown to most people. Myself included. That day now defines my birthday. Now every time I have to fill out paperwork, or answer someone’s innocent question of “when’s your birthday?!”, I get puppy dog eyes and “Oh–I’m SO sorry. That must ruin it.”
I’m not trying in ANY way at all say that my suffering was equally as painful as those who lost loved ones, or their own lives–all I’m saying is I think ALL of us were greatly affected by September 11 2001. All of us. Those people that the terrorists MEANT to harm, and those that they didn’t.
Fran Pimblett – The Road To Serendipity
I live in Tasmania Australia but when the news broke I was living in Western Australia. I remember waking up and turning on the radio to hear that a plane had hit one of the twin towers. I raced to the television and watched in disbelief as the rest of what happened that day unfolded like a Stephen King novel. Everything that I had planned for the day, all of my normalcy was gone and in its place the numb feeling that the whole world had run off the rails and was in shock and reeling at the seemingly endless stream of tragedy that unfolded
The juxtaposition of abject fear and chaos with the bravery that occurred that day, some of it only seeing the light of day months after the events, was incredible. As these tragedies unfolded there were people, strangers, helping strangers, simple acts of human kindness, hearts opening and despite what happened and the unbelievable tragic loss of life, there was love.
The love was the salve that we all needed to heal. 9/11 was a lesson in how easy it is to compromise your humanity for the sake of a cause and yet those small acts of kindness, the bravery and ultimate selfless sacrifice that so many people made for each other, robbed that horrific series of acts of their ultimate sting.
Nancy M – Ordinary Vegan
On September 11, 2001, 5:50am, I woke up to a ringing phone. On the other line was my mother-in-law who never calls so I was immediately on alert. She asked if her son was home and I said yes. She said “turn on the news, I was worried because you both travel so much.” So I turned on the television and there it was. I really couldn’t believe my eyes. As the events unfolded, I felt anger, shock, sadness, fear and confusion, but the worstreaction was the hate I experienced. Me, the pacifist, the Buddhist, the woman who didn’t believe in the death penalty. I let those terrorists make methink like a different person. I was full of revenge and malice. Fortunately, those feelings eventually went away but it frightened me to my core to know that I could think that way even for a moment and that is how terrorism wins. They want to make you into them.
Later that day, we heard more despairing news. A friend and co-worker’s wife was returning from Boston to Los Angeles after taking their children to college. She was on American Airlines flight 11 that crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. My husband and I and all his co-workers went to his home. We congregated there for the next week, drifting in and out. All of us walking around like zombies. It was impossible to turn off the news because we felt fragile and thought something else could happen. So we kept seeing the same footage of that plane that killed his wife hitting the tower over and over again, but somehow we became numb to it. All we could focus on was a friend who lost his wife and the children who lost their mother.
Poppy Velosa – Bunny Kitchen
I was at school in London on the morning of the attacks in New York. I came home from school to find my father just inches from the television with a face of horror. I could see explosions on the screen and there was a feeling in the atmosphere that I just can’t explain and will never forget. It was unsettled and haunting. I soon learnt what had happened from the news and the few words my father could offer through his state of shock.
I was just ten years old, but I fully understood what had happened and what the implications were. It troubled my young mind that this was going on somewhere in the world so far from where I was. It was the first time I experienced this kind of overwhelming helplessness and utter disbelief. I learned that day that I must fight for peace throughout my life and as I grew, and of the importance of unity and cooperation at every level, between individuals and nations and all that’s in between.
I am sorry that such suffering must happen in our lifetime.
Brandi Shine Doming – The Vegan 8
I remember 9-11-2001 like it was just yesterday. It’s hard to believe it has been almost 13 years. I was working at an auto finance company at the time, sitting in my cubicle, when the attack happened.
As I was sitting there working, people started to leave the area to go watch the tv in the kitchen. I went in and watched the television and was shocked to my core watching the tower crumble to the ground. It was so surreal. Several of us just stood there watching in disbelief. Such a sad, scary and helpless moment.
I immediately went back to a private room and started to pray over the situation. I honestly didn’t know what else to do. It was and has been tough ever since that day to ever feel totally safe anymore. I think it has and will always leave people a little bit more guarded and distrusting to some degree. There has been so much evil and cruelty displayed in our country, that it is a frightening feeling sometimes knowing how, at any moment, things could go terribly wrong.
One thing that the attacks taught me was to embrace life more. Be realistic that life isn’t perfect, nowhere near it, and we must enjoy each moment. It breaks my heart when I look at the photos from that day and the fear in the people’s eyes and faces. Also knowing that parents lost children that day breaks my heart as a mother. I try my best to remember to cherish each day with my family, especially my daughter, and even on the frustrating days, I find myself stopping to relax and just hug her and tell her I love her.
Dianne Wenz – Veggie Girl
I live in New Jersey, just outside New York City, and in 2001 I lived in Nutley, a small town on Route 3, which is the highway that runs right into the city. You can see the Manhattan skyline if you’re on the east-bound side, and it almost looks magical in the distance.
At the time, I was the assistant art director at a small toy company. On September 11th, we had a consumer test panel scheduled to get feedback on the packaging of our new infant toy line. You know, the kind you see on tv, where the company sits behind a two-way mirror and potential buyers sit around a table to talk about the products they’re shown? That’s what we had planned for the day. That morning was getting myself ready for the day with the Today Show playing on the television in the living room. I was just about ready to leave when the local news interrupted the show to say that a plane had just flown into one of the Twin Towers. It seems pretty incomprehensible. How had a plane flown into one of the Twin Towers? I thought it might be one of those little charter planes that take off from Teteroboro airport. I didn’t fully comprehend what had happed yet – I don’t think anyone did. I continued on with my plans for the day.
On my way to the test panel facility, I had 1010WINS, a New York City news station, on in my car. There was word of another plane flying into the second tower, and the gravity of the situation started to hit. There seemed to be mass chaos in the city, as there were reports of explosions going off at the United Nations building and car bombs exploding throughout Manhattan. (All of which later turned out to be untrue.) I was driving westbound towards Paramus, and I wasn’t sure if I should turn around and go home, but I continued on.
As I entered the office where our test panel was supposed to take place, I saw that some of my coworkers were already there, and they were looking upward toward a wall-mounted television, some with tears streaming down their faces. The first tower had just fallen. It seemed impossible – how could one of those giant towers fall down so easily? That didn’t really just happen, did it? Unsure what to do, we all sat around in shock, exchanging stories of what we had heard on the news. The woman running the consumer panel said that no one was going to leave their homes to talk about toys, and she began making phone calls to cancel the day’s meeting.
Since it was still unclear exactly what was going on, I drove to my mother’s house, which was closer to Paramus, and not in the direction of Manhattan. As I got close to her home, news of the second tower’s collapse broke on the radio. My mom and I sat and watched the news, listening to sirens going off all around us, as the local emergency services were called in. It was all terrifying and surreal, and it seemed like something from an action movie – my least favorite type of film, by the way – not something happening just a few miles way.
After some time, I decided to go home, as there seemed to be something comforting about being in my own apartment with my cats. As I was driving eastward on Route 3, I realized there wasn’t another car around me on either side of the highway. I heard on the news later that the road had been closed to all traffic. I have no idea how I was able to get on it or why I wasn’t pulled over. The familiar site of the Twin Towers in the distance was gone, and was replaced by a giant black cloud engulfing the city.
For quite a while after the Twin Towers fell, there was a no-fly zone over the area, and I remember waking up bolt-upright when hearing a plane fly overhead for the first time several weeks later. Things were somber in the area for quite some time after the event, and it took quite a while for life to get back to normal. A few years after the attack, I was invited to party in the Financial District. (Several New Yorker friends had moved to the area, as rents were much cheaper there than they had been before September 11th.) I took the PATH train from Hoboken to Wall Street. The PATH station used to be underneath the World Trade Center, but now it stopped next to where the towers used to stand, which was a massive hole in the ground. I hadn’t been to the area since before the towers fell, and visiting the site was really difficult. It seemed so strange that it was right next to a train station, that people walked to and from every day. Did people stop and think about what had happened there, or did it become another one of those familiar sites that New Yorkers pass every day? The Freedom Tower now stands where the Twin Towers used to be, and we have all gotten on with our lives, but it’s something that lives on in our memories, and something that none of us will ever forget.
Pentagon 9-11 Memorial
Angela McKee – Canned Time
Like millions of Americans, I was getting ready for work when the attacks began. I was living just outside the Washington D. C. beltway then and was supposed to be opening a brand new retail store by the end of that week. I was not thinking about terrorism. I wasn’t thinking about living in the flight path of BWI airport with a constant flow of planes crossing over the house every hour. I wasn’t thinking I’d be watching people just like me jumping hundreds of feet to their deaths on live T V that morning. I wasn’t thinking that my life was about to change forever.
As I sat on the end of my bed and watched the second plane glide effortlessly into the second tower that morning, within minutes, my stomach began to churn. Where would something happen next? How would my husband get home from Baltimore? Would they hit the bridges that cross millions of cars everyday in and out of Virginia and Maryland next. Would I lose my job? Nothing long term seemed to matter that morning, yet. The long term effects would come months, even years later when my views of the Government, my understanding of the vulnerabilities of life, how fragile our way of life, our freedoms really are here in the U. S. I quickly developed a necessity of trying to ‘be prepared’ for the worst. I wanted to know everything that was happening in the World, everyday after that and became a 24 hour News junky. 2 of the hijackers had been staying in a cheap hotel just a few miles from the house for the months leading up to 9-11. How many times did I drive past the room they were in without knowing what their intentions were? I really just wanted to know everything before it happened to me with an unhealthy obsession after that day. How could we have just let it happen? More importantly, what were we supposed to learn from such a horrific event in our lifetime? Would it happen again and when? Where? The paranoia was very real here in the city for years with armed soldiers on the streets and highway signs alerting us to any hint of a new threat level. Life changed for all of us here in Washington on 9-11. Some for good, and many for the worse.
The sky could not have been more blue that day. As I heard some cursing God for allowing such a tragedy to occur, I remember thinking that Man did this. God cleared the skies and gave us the will to react and grow from it all. When all the planes were grounded, the silence of the clear sky was in stark contrast to the smoke and death in N. Y., Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. Even today, we refer to that kind of clear, cloudless sky as ‘A 9-11 day’ And when the planes returned to the skies over our house, they regularly woke me from a deep sleep as they descended down lower and lower as they landed at the airport. The fighter jets overhead were all too regular in those first years after 9-11 as well. My boss told me that everyone would move out of D. C. They didn’t. I didn’t lose my job but did choose to make it my life’s goal to get out of the Retail industry once and for all and start enjoying my life. My husband did get home from Baltimore and ended up changing his job for a computer geek position within the newly created Homeland Security Department downtown of all things. Life changed. For all the bad that happened that day, there is good. And I just don’t want to get back to that place I was at as I first sat down on the bed to watch the towers fall back on 9-11-01.
Let’s not forget who we were on the 10th, and what we became on the 11th.
My many heartfelt thanks to those who took time and emotion to share their feelings with us today.
– Angela ♥
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