Chris Murtha, Wethersfield: I was living in NYC at the time, and would connect my subway line at the WTC everyday. I can still remember everything about that morning. It was a bright blue sky, fall crispness in the air, and I was on my way to Newark airport for my United Airlines flight to California.
I had a connecting flight in Chicago, and around 9:00 the plan started turning around to head back to O'Hare. The pilot announced that management told them they needed to return to Chicago, not further explanation was given. Everyone was annoyed because of how this threw a wrench in their plans for the day. Then a few minutes later, the pilots announced that the FAA has ordered them to land at the closest airport (St. Louis) due to "sabotage" in NY. There was no panic on the plane, just confusion and conversation amongst passengers speculating on what that meant.
When we landed in St. Louis, runways were crowded with planes, and we taxied immediately to the terminal still unaware of what occurred. In the terminal, all of the TVs in the waiting areas were turned off and officials were ushering people to the main area, but there didn't seem to be any panic, just quiet confusion on why the terminal was closing down.
I called my office in NYC and got a recorded message that the building was evacuated due to an emergency. I then called a colleague in San Diego (a former New Yorker) who's first words were, "Thank God you're alive. No one knew which plane you were on. New York is being attacked and they're crashing planes into buildings!" Like a scene out of a movie, I felt like the terminal was spinning around me like I was the only one in terminal who just found out. Then someone was able to turn on a TV, and everyone crowded around to see the first tower fall. Then the terminal became more chaotic with screams, frantic phone call attempts to NY, and disbelief.
I was able to get through to my sister-in-law who was working in midtown, and she let me know that she and my brother were OK. I was able to reach my parents in CT to relay the news, to their obvious relief. It was a few days before I was able to get through to all of my NYC friends (and DC friends), who fortunately were OK.
I ended up driving home with my boss back to NY, getting back on the 14th (he had driven from Las Vegas to St. Louis). The drive across the country was strange - roads more desloate, random American flags hanging on overpasses, and little conversation as we were glued to the radio. When I finally made it home, there was a hole in the skyline replaced with billowing smoke and dust, and a unique smell, kind of like burnt rubber, that lasted for weeks.
Phyllis Parizek Benton, (formerly of West Hartford) St. John, US Virgin Islands: In 1990, I moved to West Hartford and, the following spring, we had a tag sale. Our paper boy ended up buying a set of golf clubs from us, and my husband gave him the deal of the century. We would see the young man practicing with the clubs on his lawn down the street. It was a wonderful neighborhood with a special kind of innocence.
Ten years later, the towers came down. It was a clear, beautiful day, and we had planned to go to the beach. Instead, we went to the local Red Cross center in Farmington to help out however possible. After several days of volunteering, I was asked to call the families of missing Conn. residents to tell them about available mental health services. Many of these people waited anxiously as I spoke, hoping I would have positive news about their missing loved one. It was so, so sad. I remember those calls, and what some of the people told me. One woman spoke as a child made noise in the background. "I have a young child, and I have to hold it together for her." Another woman, who sounded older, was waiting for news of her husband; it was clear she was all alone. I made the calls, left the Red Cross that day and never went back. There was a palpable sadness everywhere and an eerie quietness. I remember hearing about cars left at train stations in Connecticut. The owners never came back.
That weekend -- in the midst of sadness and unbearable heartbreak -- I could hear children playing in our neighborhood. It was a pool party; I assumed it might be a child's birthday; perhaps the family went ahead with the party, even in this terrible time, so the child would not be disappointed. As I drove by, I saw a neighbor. "They're celebrating because their son got out of the World Trade Center." I was eager to speak with the young man who had escaped; he appeared to be in his mid-20s. He told me he had been in the second tower; when the all-clear was given, he decided to stay with a friend on a lower-floor cafeteria and finish a cup of coffee. They worked up above the 80th floor. Shortly afterward, the building shook as the second plane hit. Because of their simple decision to stay put on one of the lower floors, he and his friend lived; many of his coworkers had returned to their office and ended up dying. When his building was hit, he ran out and kept running uptown. I asked him, "What did you think?" He said he thought they were being bombed.
I was so thrilled to meet with this survivor, especially after knowing that so many people, including the loved-ones of those I had spoken to several days earlier, would never return. I had a paper American flag in the rear window of my car, and I gave it to the young man. He placed on the door of his mother's house. He told me he had wanted a flag, but it was hard to find any in stores. The whole country seemed united and very patriotic.
That night, as I continued to try to process everything that had happened in the past few day, I began to wonder -- was this young man our former paperboy? I mentioned it to my husband who said he doubted it. Months later, as I rounded the corner on our street, I had my answer. It was a Wednesday evening, when people put out their trash along with "valuables" -- items they no long needed but which others might find useful. The young man's mother was now moving, and they were cleaning things out. There on the curb sat the now well-worn set of golf clubs that my husband had sold to our paper boy so many years ago. I almost could not breathe.
I know that the entire country mourned the World Trade Center attack, but somehow this event -- so senseless and unfair -- seems more personal to people in our neck of the woods. I believe it always will be. I also know that, as memories of 9/11 fade for some, I will always remember it like yesterday.
Jim, Bristol: I worked for a bank that had an ATM machine at the top of the WTC. I know someone used their card right before the first plane hit. I have always wondered who it was, and what happened to them. If their loved ones knew they were at the top. Also, one of the armored car drivers lost his life in the building.
J. Morton, Somers: My memory of September 11th was getting my middle child ready for her preschool open house. My mother called and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and that I should turn on the TV. By that time, the second plane had hit and I remember being glued to the TV in disbelief. I wasn't sure if I should bring my daughter to the open house, but we went anyway. While at the open house, another mother came in and told us that a third plane was missing. At that point, I remember being nervous for the safety of my children. I knew our country was being attacked and really didn't know what was coming next. I left the open house and went straight to my eldest child's school to bring her home. I guess I just felt better having all of my children home with me. It was a scary time for our country.
That Tuesday started out to be a startlingly beautiful day: sunny, blue, and clear. I was proud of myself because I had just managed to get an unwanted sofa out to the street, all by myself.
I headed for the health club. I was in the hot tub, when the water aerobics teacher started voicing alarm. She had been watching a TV nearby at the entry desk.Quickly I got out and went to the TV. As I watched, I said to myself: "Are they trying to scare us? They certainly are succeeding." The news was getting worse and worse.
A short time later I went to my sister's house. One had to be with family at a time like this.
(Coincidentally, I had been at the health club, when news of the Oklahoma bombing broke some years earlier.)
Never would life be the same again. The only thing I can compare it to is my reaction to the assassination of President Kennedy. Then too there was a quantum change of perception.
Ray Lemay, Southington: I was in Mountreal Canada visiting a customer. I was watching CNN putting on a tie when I saw the second plane hit the tower. I thought "When am I going to get home???"
Nancy Franson, Mansfield Center: Outside the sky was a brilliant blue, not even a wisp of a cloud dotted the horizon. Inside the home schoolroom however, storms were brewing. Only one week into the new school year and the excitement of unopened books and new school supplies seemed a distant memory, a cruel joke. My children bickered instead of working through assignments. Lacking patience to resolve conflict I reached for that desperate act most mothers resort to eventually, sending older sister to her room, hoping to salvage something of the morning.
After only a brief exile, my daughter returned from her bedroom. Before I could reprimand her, she said something was going on. She had been listening to the country radio station, and the announcer had said everyone should turn on the TV.
My first thought, upon hearing my daughter's words, was that someone had shot the president. As with many in my generation, my earliest childhood memories are of watching news footage of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Though I was only two years old at the time, I can still see my mother, sister, and myself sitting on the floor in our first floor apartment, watching the black-and-white television set with rabbit ears as my mother ate chicken salad.
I knew my children were witnessing a similar defining moment in their lives, one which would create an indelible mark in their memories and shape much of their lives from that point forward. We cried. We knelt by the coffee table and prayed. Then I told them to write about what they were witnessing. My son was eight years old at the time, and my daughter was not quite twelve. The following are their journal entries from that day, reflecting their original spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Son's Entry: 9/11/01 SunnyPlanes crashed into the world trade center and the Pentagon, and it might be a war daddy is in Utah and the airports are closed. We were doing school and (sister) went to listen to her Radio, and then it happed. They said get your kids out of school and get them in front of t.v. so mommy went to go see what it was, and one plane crashed into the world trade center, then they said one crashed into Pentagon. Then the world trade center collapsed, then they said that another building collapsed.
Daughter's Entry: 9/11/01 Sunny Terrorism in AmericaToday the World Trade Center was hit by two airplanes. A scary deal. People hijacked the plane and flew it into one of the towers. Another followed in the next half hour. On my break I turned on my radio and they were telling people to take their kids out of school so I knew something was up. The tv was turn on and soon the first and second crash ended in the buildings collapsing. About 10,000 people died in the crash in New York. They are comparing it to Pearl Harbour. Much the same. We saw the second building collapse. White House was evacuated and so were all the important buildings. American and United Airlines were used as usage for bombs. The Pentagon was hit after the second tower was hit. There were a lot of people killed there and fire was pouring out everywhere.
Although I had asked my children to write about the day America was attacked, I hadn't written about it until now. I want to remember that day, to remember how we had wept and prayed together, how we watched the horrible footage over and over, how we waited for news of rescue and survivors.
I'd forgotten how high the early estimates of casualties were, not that the numbers weren't horrific enough. As my children had written, my husband was out West traveling on business. At first I wanted him home immediately, but all air traffic had been grounded. I called a friend whose husband was stationed at the nearby submarine base to see if, as a military wife, she had any more news than was circulating on the networks. She said only that her husband had called to say he'd be late. Once it occurred to me that my home was within striking distance of nuclear submarines, I no longer wanted my husband to come home. I figured he was safer from terrorists in the deserts and mountains of the West than we were on the East Coast, near a military asset. I had a full tank of gas and thought maybe I should just load up the kids and drive toward him.
People volunteered for blood drives. Flags flew. Strangers were kind to one another in the days following the attacks, when clouds of smoke continued to swirl in the streets of New York City. While walking through the parking lot of a shopping center, I saw an elderly woman back her car into that of another. I saw that she was visibly upset and, after making sure she wasn't injured, tried to reassure her. "Everyone's a little shaken these days," I said.
I learned that a young woman from my hometown had been killed in the collapse of one of the towers. When I was a young girl with a paper route, her family was among my customers. A gangly, awkward, pre-teen, I always looked forward to the possibility that she might answer the door, offering her friendly smile and a few kind words. She was tall and beautiful and a member of the girls' basketball team, and she made this shy, awkward girl feel so special when she came to the door to take the newspaper. She was just one of so many beautiful people killed on that day.
Airplanes started flying again and when we heard one overhead, my children and I looked up as if seeing something for the very first time. My husband returned home, and a few short days later our family flew together out West. We had to get up much earlier than usual to undergo new search and security procedures. We saw dogs and soldiers and automatic weapons in an American airport. The flight attendants on our plane were visibly nervous, though trying hard not to appear so. I asked one how she was doing. She tried to assure me that she was okay, but then pointed to a large, muscular passenger seated next to me and said, "But if anyone gives me any trouble, I'm coming for him."
When we arrived at our destination at a national park, a huge American flag flew against the red rock entrance and bright, blue sky, the same brilliant blue which had colored the sky before all the trouble began. A sign in front of a hotel read, "Thanks for traveling. God bless America."
These are the things I needed to write down, to remember so I can tell them to generations to come. Things I want never, ever to forget.
Leslie F., New Haven: I was working in downtown Washington DC. I remember it was an absolutely beautiful day. When I got to my office, a co-worker told me about the first plane. I saw the TV in the conference room was on and people were gathering. Then we heard about the 2nd plane in NY. What the heck was going on? My brain rationalized that it must have been a suicide pact between pilots as it was the most rational explanation I could come up with. Then we heard about the pentagon. Then I was scared. We somehow got through the day as we had a board meeting going on that day with folks from out of town...at least those who had come in the night before. Later found out a member had been at National Airport Metro when the Pentagon was hit.
When we finally closed up for the night I was in a state of shock as was most everyone in the country. I remember when I was riding Metro home (fortunately it remained open) that being the city DC is there were a number of nationalities represented on the train car I was in. I remember trying not to look of people who looked Middle Eastern. I did not want them to think I was giving them the stink eye.
When we went back to work a few days later, there were armed military soldiers in the Metro and on the street corners. I wondered if life would ever feel normal again.
Jessica, Vernon: I was a sophomore in High school. I was just starting my day and we were told by our teacher to turn on the tv's in the cafeteria cause there had been an accident. I actually watched as the second planned crashed into the world trade centers. My cousin at the time, or so I thought worked there. So I thought I was watching what could have been my cousin dieing in the buildings.Come to find out he left two weeks earlier. I am now 25 years old and I can remember that day like it happened yesterday. My cousin however, did lose three of his closets friends that day.
Mark Guertin, Manchester: I remember the morning of 9/11 very vividly. I was in Vermont, watching the CBS Early show with Bryant Gumbel.
He came on and said that it had been reported that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. As he finished saying this I watched in horror as another plane crashed into the other tower.
The plumes of smoke surrounding the Twin towers.
One plane was an accident I thought, two was just not right. Then information started coming in that the Pentagon had a plane crash into it as well.
Now I started worrying about my friends and family back in Connecticut. Were they alright? You never knew what with Pratt and Electric boat being close to New York.
I tried calling my friends as work, but all the lines were busy. It was quite a tense couple of hours for me.
I finally got through and heard that everyone was alright, but they were going home in a little bit.
The television became an important piece to me that day, as I am sure it was to the rest of the United States.
That evening the chairman of one of the companies located in the World Trade Center came on. His voice was raw from talking; you could hear the sorrow in it and the sobs. Not knowing how many of his employees and friends had been killed. His words tore through.
In the days that followed I never saw such American pride in my life.
This is my generations Pearl Harbor, it is not some film footage or something taught in our schools. This is etched in our memories forever!Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times