By TCCRI Staff. September. 11, 2020
Today marks the 19th anniversary of 9/11. Some of our staff have shared their experience on that day below, what it means to them, and how it has affected them moving forward.
I was just starting my freshman year of college at UT Austin. In true freshman form, I was running late to my morning class when I was summoned to the room of one of the girls living down the hallway in Littlefield Dormitory on UT’s campus. Several hallmates were already in the tiny dorm room watching the horrific scene of the first plane hitting the tower. We all numbly continued to stand together and watch as the second plane hit, as the Pentagon was struck, as the towers eventually collapsed, and as the last plane went down in a field in Pennsylvania. The word shock does not come close to describing the sentiment overwhelming that tiny room. No one had the words in their vocabulary to even process what was happening.
Classes were cancelled and the day was heavy. I was heart-broken, scared, confused, and had no idea what to do next. I remember thinking, “we live in America. This is not supposed to happen in America.”
That day and what came after 9/11 was truly life changing for me. Watching Americans come together, mourn together, be angry together, and help each other out was an experience like none other. I will never take the freedoms I enjoy for granted. We are privileged to live in this country even on its worst day. It is something that my husband and I talk to our children about every chance we get. I will never forget September 11, 2001 and the thousands who lost their life that day and in the days and years that followed.
Going through 9/11 in England was a likely different experience compared to how most Americans went through that day. Instead of any early-morning wake up, the attacks took place in the afternoon, UK-time. I was home from college for the summer, ahead of my senior year. I was listening to the radio when the news of the first plane hitting the tower broke, and I watched the rest of the attacks on television as they unfolded. When my Mom returned home from work I told her what was happening and we watched in horror together. It’s easy to forget that in those first hours, it was not at all clear what was happening. It took hours and then days to truly comprehend what happened.
Around the dinner table that evening my family talked about nothing but the attacks. It was a wide-ranging conversation, touching on the horror of the day’s events, the likely international reaction, how the British government should stand with America, whether other European allies would act the same way, and even what could have prompted the terrorists to do what they had done. For anyone who lived through that day and the weeks that followed, those are the issues that dominated conversations. It is always helpful to remember that when we think back on those days, and especially the military and political response that followed. Those responses were formed in those early days and hours. And they were the justified responses of a nation attacked and its allies.
I will never forget the morning of September 11, 2001. A sophomore at the University of Texas, I shared an apartment with two other guys. We each had our own bedrooms, connected to a common living area. Perhaps we’d had too much fun the night before, or maybe we thought it wasn’t important because we all had cell phones, but when the landline in our living room began ringing, nobody answered it. It rang, and rang, and rang, and rang. Annoyed to be the person who got out of bed to answer, I was rude when I finally did. The person on the other end was too excited to register my rudeness, but I still feel terrible about it to this day.
“Wake Travis up right now and turn on the news! We’re under attack!”
What are you talking about?
“Our parents work at the Pentagon! Wake him up right now!”
Travis’s sister was on the phone, trying to get a hold of her little brother. Their parents were both military and both worked at the Pentagon. While we all slept in on that Tuesday morning, towers one and two of the World Trade Center had already been hit within 20 minutes of each other and another plan had already crashed into the Pentagon half an hour later. Flight 93 was still in the air.
We turned on the news and watched that morning as the towers fell, as Flight 93 crashed, and as part of the Pentagon collapsed. The only good news that day came when Travis got word that his parents were safe. But nearly 3,000 who died were not so fortunate.
Nineteen years later, Travis and I have fallen out of touch, but every September 11, I think about him, his sister, their parents, and that ringing phone.