Bil Browning

9/11 open thread

Filed By Bil Browning | September 11, 2007 8:49 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: 9/11, open thread, World Trade Center

Today's open thread question for the 6th anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers... Where were you when you heard about the terrorist attacks? What did that day look like to you? What were your experiences?

I was working as a convenience store manager at the time. Jerame called me on the phone and said "You won't believe it. A plane just hit the World Trade Center." We talked for a bit while I did the paperwork; I assumed it was a sad tragedy but Jerame kept repeating "Something is fishy about this." Suddenly he yelled in my ear, "Oh my GOD, Bil! Another plane just flew into the other tower!" He was upset enough that he had to hang up.

As word spread, I got my information from customers about what was happening. And as the news got out, we got busier and busier - more and more folks wanted to buy gas before the price shot sky high. Within a couple of hours, there was a line onto the highway just to get to a pump. I had to call in every employee I could find and we spent hours standing in the roads surrounding the store directing traffic - until we ran out of gas. Just as we were ready to call it a day and I was going to go home, a tanker pulled up to refill our supply. And we started all over again. Even Jerame ended up driving down to the store and helping to direct traffic so the highway would move again. I think I made it home around 10 or 11pm finally.

I watched none of the TV news. I couldn't. I was too busy working. I saw some clips afterwards, but not too much. Jerame didn't want to watch it again (he's watched horrified as it happened - from the planes hitting to the towers collapsing and the aftermath like folks jumping out the windows) so we talked about it, of course, and caught clips on the news, but it wasn't something he wanted to relive. I've never seen Jerame as shaken as I did that day. I, however, didn't get all of the trauma - I worked through it.


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My wife told me a plane had hit the World Trade Center and I flipped on CNN and sat there for about a minute when another plane entered the frame and hit the second tower. Then, right then, I knew this was terrorism and the likely suspect was the Taleban.

I had been blogging about the Taleban - bitching constantly about their "Department of Virtue" and their severe anti-western activities. The beheadings for possession of lipstick somehow symbolized the worst of humanity.

I had followed their activities from the first attack on the WTC, to the failed take-over of trans-Pacific flights, to Embassy bombings in Africa and the bombing of the USS Cole. It was also known that Clinton-Gore had warned BushCo the most significant threat to the US was the Taleban and Bush hadn't done anything about it.

I also felt September 10th was the last day I would probably feel good about being American. I knew BushCo would use this opportunity to advance his Neocon agenda.

Looking back today, Bin Laden may have gotten his wish. America is a wreck - lost liberties, lost rights with hate now more palpable than anytime in the last 20 years.

[If this is a repeat, I apologize, I keep getting an error message]

I was serving in the Peace Corps in Ghana, West Africa. I heard the news on local radio that evening as I sat down to eat my dinner (yam & stew). At first I thought they were talking about a new movie. It took a while to sink in. Then I switched to BBC radio and just sat, staring at the radio. I became frustrated with the lack of new info (they just kept repeating the same thing) and then they casually mentioned that a 4th plane crashed in PA...back to the main news. I started yelling at the radio (somehow, I guess I thought they would listen to me) to give more details (I'm from PA).

I had no means of communication with the outside world (no phone, no internet). It was just me and my radio. The next day I was telling someone in my village that I was going to try to go to town to see if I could place a phone call to my family. He asked if everything was ok. I told him about the attacks. He said, "Oh, yeah, I saw that on tv, it looked kinda bad." He had no way of comprehending a sky scraper, had never been on an air plane and didn't understand the feeling of your country being under attack.

The phone lines in town weren't working that day (not unusual) so I traveled to another volunteer's house and we sat staring at the radio some more. It was really all we could do. We couldn't be with our families and it seemed like we were a milllion miles away from them. We had no way to find out if they were okay.

I have never seen the footage of what happened. Some people think I should watch it. I don't think I want to see it. For me, having been so far away when it happened, it sorta feels right that I've never seen it.

My favorite straight career gal, Penelope Trunk had a fantastic post today at Brazen Careerist called
My 9/11. My husband. The meaning of my to-do list.

It puts it all in perspective. Something to remember as we head to work!

I was teaching. I was preparing for class when students started arriving. They came in telling us that they had heard on their car radios that planes had crashed into the Towers. My co-teacher and I tried to reassure our students (8th & 9th Graders) that there had to be some mistake. We reasoned that if it had happened the Director of the school would have informed us (which she had not). However, we turned on the TV. Ironically, the station was playing commercials at that moment so we reasoned with the kids that obviously there was some mistake because if it had happened the news would be reporting it instead of playing commercials. Then we changed the channel and saw a replay of the planes crashing into the Towers.

What I remember is the disconnect in my students. Their initial response, believe it or not, was "Cool!" It was like they thought they were watching a movie! We had to have a long discussion with them about the fact that what they just witnessed was real.

It did not become "real" to them until later when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon: The father of one of our students was a physician who was in Washington meeting there to discuss some research he had done and he was staying somewhere near the Pentagon. Coincidentally, it was at this time that many parents (including this student's mother) were picking their children up and taking them home. Knowing that the parent of a classmate was potentially at risk-- being so close to the incident-- made it suddenly real to them. (The child's father was fine; his meeting had been rescheduled and he was nowhere near the Pentagon at the time).

Later, my co-teacher and I were criticized for turning on the TV and allowing our students to watch the news coverage. Parents felt that we should have gone on as if nothing had happened until we could properly inform the students and discuss the "event" rationally, tho' no one was clear about what was meant by a "proper" discussion.

Seems appropriate...

Melissa Etheridge - Tuesday Morning

10:03 on a Tuesday morning
In the fall of an American dream
A man is doing what he knows is right
On flight 93
He loved his mom and he loved his dad
He loved his home and he loved his man
But on that bloody Tuesday morning
He died an American

Now you cannot change this
You can't erase this
You can't pretend this is not the truth

Even though he could not marry
Or teach your children in our schools
Because who he wants to love
Is breaking your Gods' rules
He stood up on a Tuesday morning
In the terror he was brave
And he made his choice
And without a doubt
A hundred lives he must have saved

And the things you might take for granted
Your inalienable rights
Some might chose to deny him
Even though he gave his life
Can you live with yourself in the land of the free
And make him less of a hero than the other three
Well it might begin to change ya
In a field in Pennsylvania

Stand up America
Hear the bell now as it tolls
Wake up America
It's Tuesday morning
Come on let's roll

Eric Georgantes | September 11, 2007 12:58 PM

What I remember is the disconnect in my students. Their initial response, believe it or not, was "Cool!" It was like they thought they were watching a movie! We had to have a long discussion with them about the fact that what they just witnessed was real.

I believe it.

I was 14, freshman in high school, and the reaction was exactly as you described.

Truth be told, I don't remember what I was doing. Given that it was a student resource period, I was probably reading. I remember another teacher coming in, and telling our teacher to turn the TV on. I remember looking up, and hearing what was going on the TV.

But I don't remember reacting much to it, or even caring much.

It wasn't for several days that I think I started to "get" the impact.

Something that annoys me to this day, however, is the people who are my age who I know reacted in one way, and yet talk about how "horrified" they were.


I have no trouble remembering what I was doing when I found out.

It was 5:50Am and I awoke with tires streaming down my face and a sense of dread. This has only happened a couple of times before in my life so I got up and turned on the radio. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing so I turned on CNN and sat stunned in front of the TV until 9:00Am when I began to get ready to go to work. I was shocked when I saw both towers fall neatly into a pile of rubble. I have some engineering background and that unlikely event has left me questioning what happened ever since.

I will not turn this thread into a conspiracy debate so any discussion of such will go unanswered by me.

This is how I felt and what I experienced six years ago this morning.

Pray for the survivors, the First responders who are dying from respiratory ailments related to the terror event.

Pray for all those who died on September 11th 2001.

Pray this never happens again.

And Pray for an end to this war that is draining the substance out of our country that was justified by the terror event of September 11th 2001.


Sue

I was with my family driving from northern Wisconsin to Joliet Illinois. We were near Portage Wisconsin on Interstate 94. We were leaving for the funeral of my spouse's truly wonderful mother. My eight year old son was playing with a portable CB Radio he had brought with him for the trip. I remember him shouting from the far back of the van - "I think we just started a war!" He had overheard truckers along the highway talking about the attack.

I remember the weather in Wisconsin on that day was very much like it is today, crisp with an achingly blue sky. I turned on NPR in the car and we listened to the details throughout the trip. I remember seeing the steam trail from a jet airplane marking an abrupt U-turn in the sky after all air traffic was ordered to land. I had never seen anything like that before. My spouse's mother had died only three days before the attack. She had been an inveterate news hound. In one small way, I am glad she never had to see that news.

I'll have to be honest and confess --- I slept through the whole thing ... well, most of it ...

... which isn't quite so bad, considering that I was in Los Angeles at the time, and had worked until 3AM the night before. I had slept that night in my LazyBoy recliner, and about 9AM California time I went across the street to the Rite-Aid drugstore to buy God-knows-what. The store had all the TV's that were for sale on, each tuned to a different news channel. I stood there in the drugstore and watched Ashley Banfield, in the middle of interviewing a woman holding a baby, quickly move away from in front of the CNN camera as Tower 7 collapsed in the background.

When I heard that a fourth plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania while heading toward DC, I immediately suspected, with fair certainty, that some of the airline passengers themselves had taken on the hijackers and either the defeated hijackers or the passengers themselves had pointed the plane into the ground. I wondered how many days or weeks it would be before we learned the whole story, but I felt certain it was a tale of heroism of the highest sort.

Of course, there are many people from the Middle East in Los Angeles. I feared that many of them, some of them my friends and former co-workers, would be targets of hate crimes because of their nationalities. A therapist I was seeing was a Muslim Iranian, and I feared for him and his family.

For a few days that followed, there was a surge of white American nationalism permeating the streets that was palpable, during which Mexicans were criticized for flying Mexican flags instead of USA flags. In response, there were Latino gangs that would drive through parts of the city unfurling Old Glory and chanting, "U.S.A! ... U.S.A! ... U.S.A!" as if to plead, "Please don't kill us just because we are foreigners!"

In Los Angeles it was several days before we all realized that the riots would not happen. We all feared "religion riots" or "nationality riots" ... in a city that had experienced major race riots in 1965 and again in 1992, this was not all that unreasonable.

The following Friday was the memorial ceremony in the National Cathedral. A friend of mine pointed out, "That church service ended with the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and that means, right or wrong, one way or another, we are going to war! We'll find someone's ass to kick, whether they had anything to do with it or not."

Now, here we are, six years later. Of course, he was right.

I was getting out of the shower when the guy I was seeing called me and told me to turn on CNN.. I watched it in disbelief until the 2nd plane hit. I couldn't even think.. What did all this mean?
As the morning went by.. i got to work at around 10:30. There was an weird energy downtown.. by this time people were talking serious about terrorism..
I remember as time went by clients started calling in and canceling their appointments because they were closing all the towers and sending everyone home early in case there were other attacks planed.. Since the salon is located at the bottom of all those towers, I closed the shop and sent everyone home..
To this day many of the parking meters downtown still have bags over them and you cant park near the towers.
One really weird thing I remember the most about the going on.. I really noticed that there were no planes in the air. Usually at any given time there are several planes in the sky and for weeks there was nothing..

I'd forgotten about that, Zach. The eerie quiet of no planes flying. We lived under a path all the Fed-Ex planes used at night to fly into Indy airport at the time. That deathly silence was unnerving. You never realize how much that background noise starts to just become a normal part of life.

To this day many of the parking meters downtown still have bags over them and you cant park near the towers.

Uh ... OK ... well, duh! ... Thanks, Zach, for explaining why it is such a headache finding parking near Monument Circle, and so many of the streets seem to have those bags over the meters more or less permanently. Now it clicks that those bags are always near a major high-rise building.

I should have figured it out myself ... but I was too frantic looking for a parking space.