In December 2000 I moved from Utah to New Jersey. I was set to go to William Paterson University and start a new adventure. Less than a year later, one of the greatest and most tragic events in U.S. history happened only 30 minutes from my door step.
It was a beautiful, not a cloud in the sky Tuesday, and I was at my boyfriend’s house. We were watching our regular morning TV programming and I had just taken out the garbage. When I got back in the house, the TV flashed that something had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings. I clearly remember thinking it was a small plane and how odd, they must have had a mechanical issue or something because those buildings were so big. I haven’t shared the emails between my mother and I that morning before this, I don’t even think she know’s I saved them.
My first email at 10:09 am EST:
Wow… you see these things from miles and miles away
and its sad but its never scary until its 15 miles
away from you mom.. The south tower at the World Trade
Center has just collapsed. At 8:45 a plane crashed
into the north one and then as soon as we looked at
the tv again there was a huge explosion and another
one crashed in. The pentagon is on fire… part of the
washington mall (between the white house and capital)
is on fire. This is some really scary stuff mom. They
are saying its terrorist stuff.
Smoke billowed all throughout NYC I am sure if I went
outside I could see it. And ALL airports across the
united STates are closed as well as the sears tower.
Ok I better go.. I love you mom. : )
I remember watching the smoke billow from the tower and there was a helicopter you could see on the news. All I could think was how are they going to land on that to get people out? And they need to hurry! No sooner did everything change and the reality sunk in and the first tower fell and then the second. I remember sobbing as the first tower fell. I don’t even think it occurred fully that there were lots of people still in side. It was just two massive buildings, gone.
My second email at 10:34 am EST:
Mom.. its scary.. I just watched the second tower
collapse.. you cannot even see manhatten its covered
in smoke. Anyway.. a sad day. Prayers are going to be
a must today. I love you mom.
This email came in from my mom at 11:43 am EST:
I just logged in to leave you a message to CONTACT US
IMMEDIATELY. I was relieved to see your messages.
You’re too close to such catastrophe. I would guess
that things will be chaotic around there for the next
It’s indescribable; the film reports, the interviews
with survivors and emergency personnel …
Now a Pennsylvania crash? They’re saying hijacking in
all instances. We’ll have to wait to sift through all
the news: reliable and bogus.
Now a bomb threat at a school. Channel 5 news said no
threats have been received for any region or building
in Utah. They evacuated the SLOC building and have
increased security at all SLC district schools just in
What a tragedy. You stay as far away from NYC as
Keep sending notes throughout the day. I just want
regular confirmations that you are okay and safe.
The most recent reports are of car bombs in the city.
HEY! One of the planes originated from NEWARK. That
means the terrorists were there (are there?).
HELLO!!!!! NEWARK!!!!!!! HELLO!!!!!!!! I’m getting
more and more worried about you.
They are calling for blood donors to assist with the
need of the multitude of victims. Do you think you
could bring yourself to do it?
Stuart keeps getting on the keyboard, but is too light
to press any keys. He’s probably trying to tell you
to get out of there. Or he could just be looking for
a new place to poop. He’s running out of unexplored
Oh my GOSH! footage of the collapse!!!!!!!
I gotta go.
I was still new to the area, I didn’t know anyone there to be connected to those buildings, actually the only time I had seen them or taken a picture was on the way to the airport. I still had to go to work that day. I was a waitress at a local Bennigan’s and it was one of the longest days I had ever worked. That day I learned that everyone knew someone that knew someone. I couldn’t and I didn’t ask anyone the whole day how they were, like a normal waitress conversation, because I didn’t know if they were awaiting news of someone that was missing. It was a long few days of watching the news and being so close and not being able to really do anything.
After 9/11 my first time I was in lower Manhattan was 3 months to the day. I ended up with some friends just outside one of the blocks on a December evening. It had been raining and I remember the smell was still in the air and the shell of the buildings still stood. That is a smell you don’t forget. From then on I made an effort every time I went into the city to make it to that space to pay my respects. It was amazing to watch the progress over 6 years. At one time they had a wooden ramp leading to the footings to look down into the space and thousands of people had signed it, it was very humbling. I remember coming off that ramp and seeing a fire engine pass by and mouthing thank you, and they saw and mouthed your welcome back. One very distinct memories I have is when they finally opened the PATH train back into NYC from NJ to the WTC area and I will never forget as it came around the corner through this empty space in the ground, it was very eerie and breath taking.
15 years later the space is filled with a beautiful new train station stop and brand new buildings. It also houses the 9/11 memorial museum, which I haven’t really brought myself to go to yet. I went to the small one they had while they were still building it and with as morbid as it sounds, I appreciate all the small items that were part of it and made their way into the new museum. That is real. Those are the pieces of lives that were lost, the wallets, the shoes, the work id’s, and so on and each of those items remind us that it is something that shouldn’t be forgotten.
People’s attitudes changed after 9/11. Let me share an experience I had. I get very choked up every time I tell this and it still devastates me to this day. The world got a little more loving for a minute, but there was also a switch that went on that anyone in a turban or seemed Middle Eastern should be approached with caution and was ‘bad.’ Even though that wasn’t the reality, people made it so. I was standing on a corner in NYC waiting to cross the street on 7th Avenue and a cab was next to me waiting at the light with its window down. I don’t remember if the driver did have a turban on but he was Middle Eastern and it was the first (and only) time I had watched a stranger walk up to a cab driver and spit on him. I cried as I walked across the street on my way. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed.
In 2003 we were given a project for a non-verbal communication class I was in at Montclair State. I felt compelled to document the last 2 years. This is what I ended up with ,a reminder of everything that had happened over that time period. (I do not own this music by Trans Siberian Orchestra “Christmas Eve in Sarajevo” it is used for editorial purposes only.)
15 years later and I still find myself drawn to every single personal story that runs on television this time of year. There is always someone that is ready to finally tell their story and I will sit and watch all of them. I am not interested in conspiracy, just the experiences of the people that were there. To this day, it still brings tears to my eyes when the second plane hits and when the towers fall. That was what really made me sob the first time. The memory of seeing them collapse in real time just makes it all very real. I think now learning the stories of what was happening inside those buildings could be part of why I still get emotional, the reminder of how real every single person was and how many stories will never be told.
I have walked those streets around those buildings dozens of times. It still blows my mind everything that happened in that small space that day. My thoughts will always be with those lost and that lost that day and those that helped those two weeks after.