Mike Hoyle of Riverside, NJ

I was on Active Duty and supposed to attend a meeting in The Pentagon that morning. Received a call on the drive in that the meeting had been cancelled, went on to my office at Fort Belvoir, heard about the Pentagon, called my wife in New Jersey, to let her know I was not there.
What has stuck with me was how fortunate I am, to an extent, that I was not there, and the outpouring of concern from friends about the issue, seeing the smoke on the horizon, knowing what it represented, and the story of the Marines who went INTO the affected areas to find and assist survivors

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Kim Carrell-Smith of Bethlehem, PA

It was a beautiful sparkling September 11th Tuesday, and as usual I was running late for class. I was teaching a Lehigh University course called (prophetically?) “History and Community Memory” that semester, and the topic for the day was going to be the way in which significant memories become crystallized and come to mean different things for individuals, and communities (whether small local ones, or national, or global). Among other things, I planned to ask students what their first memory of a significant public event was, and how they thought that shaped their own lives, and their understanding of the world. Little did I know we would experience rather than discuss that on this particular day

As I was rushing to get ready to leave for class,, my husband called to tell me to turn on the tv: a plane had run into the World Trade Center. By the time I had to leave for campus, I had seen the second plane hit the towers. When I arrived in class I heard the first building had collapsed; the students were in shock. I asked them if they wanted to go home, and it seemed like there was pretty universal sentiment to leave. That is, until one student said softly that she would rather stay and have class, please: her brother worked in the World Trade Center and she was unable to reach him.

We all quickly agreed, and spent 90 minutes discussing anything-but-planes-crashing; I’m sure none of us remembers a thing we talked about. At the end, I asked if she’d like me to walk her up to the counseling center. Another student asked if she would like to go for coffee, another asked if she wanted him to walk her home, and yet another asked if she could call anyone to come and be with her, or just to talk to her.

That day is etched in my memory in multiple ways. The terror and confusion and images of planes and buildings falling, if course. The way the sun sparkled off the trees, and Lehigh’s lovely Gothic Packer Church seemed nearly impossible… But also the remarkable ways in which the students responded in that 90 minutes from 10-11:30 am. “History and Community Memory” became more than a class title that day: it was instead an experience that we all shared. The students molded a bit of history themselves that morning, being –and creating– calm and a semblance of normalcy in the midst of terrible tragedy, and forming a community of support and caring for a fellow student they barely knew, on that third week of classes. I will carry that with me, always.

Those are the things I will remember about that day: the power of calm, compassion, community, and even beauty to continue to exist, and flourish, even as the world seem to be caving in around us…

John Gallo of Newtown Square, PA

I was living and working in Brooklyn on September 11, 2001. My office was about 5 miles from the World Trade Center. When I left work, the cars were covered with a thin layer of ash similar to that seen in a volcano. I commuted to work by subway and they weren’t running. I walked the 6 miles home on a perversely beautiful day. I was frightened when I heard planes but reassured when I saw they were fighters. I was also concerned for my daughter in DC working at the State Department but I learned she was OK by early afternoon.

My neighborhood lost 6 people that day. I still can’t disassociate the normally melodic sound of bagpipes from being a dirge at the many funerals in NYC after the attack.

That day crystallized for me that while there are many good people in this world, there are evil people who must be watched and, where possible, eliminated.

 

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Sheila Irwin of North Wildwood, NJ

That day I was pregnant with my 5th child. He was born 9/14/01. I had one child in high school, one in middle, one in grade school and my 2 year old I had just put down for a nap and turned the news on. I could not comprehend what was going on, other than I had all my children scattered all over the township. At the time we lived in Washington Twp Gloucester county NJ. My dad had passed away December of 2000. All that I wanted my husband to do was pick up my mom who lived in the city and all my kids and get them home immediately! Was admitted to the hospital on the 13th to have my son and it was a very surreal feeling. Like everyone was walking on egg shells. Thank god I felt like everybody went through their motions and my son was brought into this world that was literally burning down around him. And now he was a 2020 high school graduate which technically means no graduation, no prom, no mom/son dance and no senior trip. But we celebrated him and made different memories! Same as we did when he was brought into this work feeling like we had to keep looking over our shoulder! God bless the USA we need it now more than ever !

 

Andrea Krivanek of Mount Larel, NJ

My Mom and my Aunt Geigy and I were on a cruise to Bermuda. I was 27 years old. they had solders grading our ship. We left from New York and they said that we could not go back to New York and our ship went to Philadelphia. I was crying that day.

Stephanie Fischer of Bensalem, PA

On 9/11/01, I was the Communications Director for then-Congressman Jim Greenwood of Bucks County in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC. There are a lot of tvs in Congressional offices so staff can watch floor proceedings, and we were all glued to the tv coverage of what had happened in NYC. Then the Pentagon was hit, and at one point we thought the Old Executive Office had been hit. There was no plan for staff working in the U.S. Capitol complex but Rep. Greenwood to send the staff home while he and the Chief of Staff stayed in the office. Getting home to Annapolis was challenging as the route I always took was closed. As trucks of police with guns rolled by, I tried to find an alternative route. It took much longer than usual to get home, and then the Congressman and Chief of Staff came to my house (thinking it was safer to be in Annapolis than in DC). I had grabbed my three ring binder of press contacts on my way out of the office and once Jim determined his family in Bucks County was okay (although very rattled), we started talking to local media. The Congressman wouldn’t have known was happening in DC if his Legislative Director hadn’t lived on the same block as another Member of Congress. She let him know Members of Congress were planning to gather on the Capitol steps in a show of unity, so Jim returned to DC for that.

The security in Annapolis and DC was extremely high for weeks, with tanks stationed at entrances to the U.S. Naval Academy. It was really jarring to see a plane in the air once the Washington Reagan airport re-opened, and there were a lot of false alarms triggering evacuations of the Capitol complex for months, if not years. The post 9-11 Capitol evacuation plan was for everyone to leave the building and gather in the surrounding open space. We were on the 4th floor, and as we ran down the stairs, we would see abandoned shoes. Panicked staffers lost a shoe on the way down but didn’t stop to retrieve it. We were concerned that we were more of a target standing in a big crowd in a park next to the building, but there wasn’t anything else to do. Since then, the sound of a plane overhead makes me anxious as do crowds.

I am incredibly grateful to the passengers and crew of United flight #93 who sacrificed themselves so the plane did not hit the intended target of the U.S. Capitol.

Wasswa Nsibirwa of Bala Cynwyd, PA

I was in 2nd grade when I got word of what happen in New York, Washington, and Western PA on the intercom at school. It was a terrible day for everyone. What changed me is how we live in the world meaning life is very short and we should live our lives to the fullest. I saw on the news of the aftermath it was very scary. I just wanted to honor those people lost by living my life to the fullest and never take it for granted. We all gathered together and help those in need and be stronger and powerful as a nation and not let hate destroy anything in the world.

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