T Nation

9/11 - Where Were You?

I was teaching some special forces guys how to mountain climb. It was an easy gig for me, a baby soldier. We watched the news on an old-school TV in the ranger (as in, park ranger) station. The mood of these guys switched from jovial to downright dangerous. They were looking to go kill somebody.

A week later I got roped into (pun intended) teaching them how to ride horses and shoot from horseback (and to do things like shoeing a horse on the trail and care and feeding of horses). They sucked. It’s a hard skill. Horses do not like loud noises coming from their back.

~ Three months later I got moved units at the direction of their CO and went with them, as a “climbing specialist,” which I think was a made-up title. I made them mountain cowboys. They made me a soldier.

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Wait. We have soldiers that train how to shoot from horseback? I just wanted to make sure that got it’s own post, because that is awesome.

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I was home, having just finished my midnight shift at a large warehouse of a bottled water company. I went back into work shortly after we realized what was going on. We began sending as many emergency loads to NY and DC as we could get out the door.

It was a really long day, but I distinctly remember one trucker getting super-pissed off that I was making him wait while we prioritized the emergency shipments. I wanted to smack the shit out of that dude…

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I was getting ready for work with the TV on in the background. When I heard the first reports, you know, when the reporters didn’t want to “jump to conclusions” and call it a terrorist attack yet, my first thought was “Well, it happened. They got us.”

7TH grade science class

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I was in a back yard in McMurray Pa, cutting some trees. Went to the truck to get a rake and bust the balls of the dude that was always listening to the radio.

He was listening to Howard Stern describing what was happening from the studio.

I was on the way to work when I heard about the first plane. I thought “a plane hit the Empire State Building once”. After I was at work the 2nd plane hit and we all went “oh shit”. We turned a radio on in the office and listened in gloom all day.

At home (just about about to go and discuss my AS level results)…I remember turning on the tv & standing there for about 5 minutes and thinking WTF!!! Incredibly shocking, I honestly thought i was watching some kind of apocalyptic film or sicko joke at first…at was only when the second plane that it really started to sink in.

I was sitting in 10th-grade English class when one of the teachers came rushing around the halls telling each classroom to turn on the news. We spent the rest of the day mostly watching the news. My social studies teacher that year just punted on doing any work for the next couple of weeks; he had every class watch the news for the first portion of class, then discuss what was happening. He realized that we had more to gain from watching/discussing history as it unfolded (for at least a few weeks).

I was getting ready for school, pissed off that my cartoons were interrupted.

I was sitting in my office about 2 blocks away (which is pretty far in NYC). We heard a bang and the building shook. We thought an elevator had failed or something.

Then we saw the smoke and turned on the TV that is used for witness prep (one of those on a big cart to roll around). We got channel 3 on without an antenna by getting it close to the window.

We did a lock down of the building per security protocol, as it was obvious this was an attack. No one in or out.

I called my family and told them to stay put.

Then the second plane hit. It apparently flew right past us, but we didn’t see it at all.

Smoke started really going and people fleeing.

We opened the building up to get people out of the smoke and dust. Lots of people slept on our carpet.

Power went out. Back up power went on, but land lines didn’t work. Cells went out and stayed out. Internet worked long enough to send an email to family saying we were stuck but otherwise just fine.

Spent the next 2 days hauling water and little cheese/peanut butter crackers (it’s what we had) from the giant supply room to the lobby to give to whoever wanted it. Up and down 30 flights of stairs. We eventually got smart enough to do a chain.

We ran out of toilet paper. This almost started a fight, but cooler heads prevailed. (You can make printer paper very soft with a little bit of effort and rubbing against a desk edge.)

Ate cheese crackers for 2 days. Prayed a lot.

Cannot even see cheese crackers without thinking of 9/11.

A giant package of TP is in my emergency supplies.


I was just arriving on campus of college (in Florida) when I saw one of my intro computer science professors and he was in panic mode, and he said, “We’re under attack. The nation is under attack. School is closed, go home!”… I was like, wtf. I did see everyone leaving, so I went back to my car and when I turned on NPR I learned about what was going on. Then I got home and my mom & dad were watching it on tv. My mom was crying. So I watched with them, while also chatting on IRC, and then saw the towers fall. Later that day I went to shoot some hoops and some fighter jets flew over.

One of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta, was apparently living nearby before he left for the attack.

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5th grade, class rotations, at 11 I (we) weren’t sure what was going on, but I remember the teachers’ faces and they pulled us out into the common area where we watched history unfold, remember being scared, because every single adult obviously was, I remember a bit of panic (as there were folks who knew folks that were in the area), I distinctly remember my large, gruff, female teacher staring at the tv, dumbfounded. I remember the next day my baby sitter’s older brother (a local football hero) dropped out of a full ride at a small college to join up…

10th-grade history class for me. Our teacher had CNN on. It’s still pretty surreal to me.

At home, getting ready to meet my wife at a house we were thinking of buying. I was watching the news and the station (forget which) had a live camera on the tower that had been hit (prior to the second plane hitting). In the middle of the reporting, the second plane came into the picture and plowed into the second tower. The talking head nearly shrieked at the surprise, as did I. Describing that memory gave me chills again.

I met my wife at the house, and she told me as I got out of the car, “they’ve hit the Pentagon.”

As incredibly devastating as it all was, I always think what two more planes would have done, or more than that. I hate to look at the events of 9-11 and think that, to this day, we got lucky, but we did.

Well, a number of folks made that luck, too. God bless those folks on the plane in PA, and the others who helped prevent a worse attack.

Never forget.


3rd grade sitting in class in elementary school.

I remember being sent home early, since I lived on Long Island. I also remember seeing a wanted poster for Bin Laden on the refrigerator at home as well as my mom crying. Seeing his face was traumatizing. It was like the terror that was once so far from home finally made its way into my HOUSE; the safe bubble I could be a spoiled little western middle class kid in with no worry at all.

It’s also like my memory kicked into high gear post 9/11. Although I remember the late 90s vaguely, life became palpably different post 9/11 for me…eerie…or maybe just the fact that I was a kid.

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Not many. I was known as a participant in rodeos, known to the special forces guys as a climber (and we would ride on nice gentle ponies to good climbing spots), so I was effectively drafted from a Ranger (Army, this time) unit to teach some really, really, impressive guys how to ride because they knew my name.

After about 2 days of training it was combat. On crappy wooden saddles and still learning basic stuff like how to turn, stop, get on, get off. After about 3 days and lots of bleeding/pinched balls, they got it. If I hurt my balls like they hurt theirs, I’d have been out.

Keep in mind, this was December 2001, Afghanistan. We were improvising.

I was on my way in to work, teaching at a private school here on Long Island. My morning-get ready-routine at the time was listening to CDs, not watching news, so I walked into school a little after 9 and the principal and teachers were standing around talking. I heard someone say “It’s so bad.” I walk up and was like, “What? What’d Roy do now?” Roy was the custodian who they’d been having problems with recently, so I figured he screwed something up.

They all gave me a look. Some sad, some fearful, some “how can you be so stupid?”. The principal said “The twin towers were just attacked by plane.” I didn’t really get what she was saying, but I felt dumb and embarrassed. I think they called it a half day and sent the kids home early. At one point in the morning, we got word that a 5th grade girl’s mom was picking her up immediately because her uncle was already gone.

I was also teaching at a karate school at the time. I don’t remember the conversation I had with the owner, but at some point he told me we weren’t having classes that night. I was also training at a gym at the time (a guy’s gotta make ends meet) and over the next few days, there was a lot of checking in with clients and just listening to what they went through. More than a few spent hours walking across the bridges to get out of the city.


Study hall in the library 7th grade. Social studies/world events teacher comes running in. Real hard assed ex military guy dead serious as he switches on the tv:
“They flew a plain into the twin towers.”

Librarian: “who did?”

“Probably the same guys who bombed it the last time. Kids, pay attention! This is when the war starts, this is your Kennedy moment.”

We watched the second one hit live. That serious dude never cussed: “fuckers”

Pentagon gets hit.

When they talked about flight 93 crash landing in a field in PA (before the “let’s roll” call aired) he mumbles to himself “They shot it down.”

Eerie stuff.

I was eleven, asleep while on vacation. My mom yells “OMFG!” I come running down stairs and she screams we are going to war. I thought that meant it would be on our turf at the time and was freaked out. My dad walked in the front door with groceries as the second plane hit. I remember that was the day I learned about the draft and selective service, because my aunt called my parents worried my cousins would be called to serve.