When time stands still: 15th anniversary of 9/11

394261 14: A fiery blasts rocks the World Trade Center after being hit by two planes September 11, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

394261 14: A fiery blasts rocks the World Trade Center after being hit by two planes September 11, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Not too long ago, one of my regular readers spoke of seeing a bunch of military tanks practicing for a martial law takeover. In America, I am hearing of an increasing number of incidents like this. I try to avoid the news, but there’s an increasing and unavoidable sense of panic that our nation may be on the brink of a removal of all our freedoms as martial law becomes the norm rather than the exception. It’s very frightening.

But what I really want to talk about is the feeling of unreality and dissociation that accompanies seeing something like what my reader did.  She said when she saw the tanks, she felt as if she was dreaming. It didn’t seem real to her. I know that feeling, and I think almost everyone who is old enough knows that feeling: it happened on September 11, 2001.

I think just about everyone remembers exactly what they were doing the moment it happened. I’m not sure of the psychological reasons why whenever there is a major historical disaster — JFK or MLK getting shot and killed…Pearl Harbor…The Challenger disaster…9/11 — we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing with unusual clarity. It’s as if our mind takes a picture at the moment we hear or see bad news.

Here’s how I remember 9/11. It’s hard to believe it was 15 years ago, because my memory of it is so clear and sharp edged. Yet I can’t remember what I had for breakfast that morning.

That day was a brilliant and beautiful, filled with sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. It was warm as early September can be, but the oppressive humidity of high summer was gone. Fall was in the air.

I was at work, in the lunch room, making myself a cup of coffee when I heard. A coworker came in, looking pale as a sheet. He said one of the Twin Towers in New York was down, that a plane had crashed into it. I stared at him, thinking he must be joking. But I could tell from his face he was not. I forgot all about the coffee, and followed him into one of the offices where a TV was on. Everyone was gathered around the TV, and there was an eerie silence. No one said a word.

On the TV they were showing a replay of the plane crashing through the first tower. I felt like I was dreaming. No, this couldn’t be real. It looked like a movie — an action movie like “Independence Day.” No way was this happening. It had to be a movie, with phenomenal special effects.

As I stared at the screen, I saw the second tower go down in black smoke and flames. A plane had crashed through it too. No, no, no, this wasn’t happening. It was some elaborate set-up, like the “War of the Worlds” bogus radio newscast back in the 1930s.

In a fog, I slowly walked back to my desk. I only had one phone call that day. Although the office didn’t close, no one was working…and no one cared. No other customers called. No one talked, except in hushed whispers. There was a lot of crying going on, even for those who had lost no one in the disaster and had never been to New York City in their lives. As for myself, I felt nothing. I just felt numb. I didn’t feel like myself at all. It wasn’t until the next day that I burst into tears thinking about it. I can’t even imagine how it would have felt to have been right there, watching these horrible events unfold from a New York City apartment window, as many did…or worse, be just outside the towers when it happened.

Whenever we hear bad news, whether it’s something that affects only us (such as when someone we love dies) or something that affects an entire nation like 9/11, we remember these events with the clarity of a movie. I’m not sure what the reason is for this, or what purpose it serves, but I believe it’s a form of dissociation–when we temporarily split from ourselves and feel as if we’re viewing the events from an outsider’s perspective. That accounts for the surrealness of these moments. It’s why we have a photographic memory for them. Maybe this is a way we protect ourselves from the shock of unbearably bad news at the moment it happens — and can’t grieve properly until our minds are ready to process it.

How does everyone remember 9/11 and what was your experience of it like?

15 thoughts on “When time stands still: 15th anniversary of 9/11

  1. I was in NJ in the living room of my rented condo, I was married at the time, my husband at work. I saw what you saw on TV and when the second plane hit you knew it was deliberate. I called my narc mother at her job and said that I thought the end of the world was here(she’s very religious). I bought a carton of cigarettes immediately fearing that stores would close as I was a heavy smoker.

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    • Isn’t it incredible how every detail of what we were doing when a huge disaster occurs is etched in our memory as if it happened today?
      At first it just seemed so unreal. I thought I was watching a movie. I felt very dissociated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was having my car detailed when we heard the news. At first I was shocked and then I was angry that some stupid little country dared attack us. I felt very superior to them. And patriotic for the first (and last) time in my life. Since then, I’ve come to believe the whole thing was perpetrated by our own government. Some of it was mentioned on the news before it happened. And have you ever wondered how all those TV cameramen happened to have their cameras set up and trained right on the twin towers at just the right time to catch all the action? I can’t believe I never thought about that before. There are all kinds of evidence that what they say happened couldn’t have happened that way. Anyway, here’s a blog that convinced me. https://nopsychos.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/the-american-pathocracy-kept-6-secrets-about-911/ There must have been a lot of people in on it. Yeah. The militarization of America. The shit is coming down for sure. I’m glad I’m old.

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  3. It was a beautiful warm, sunny early fall day in Switzerland as well. I had the son of one of my friends with me that day. My husband had just only returned from a business trip to NYC. We were house sitting for my parents and I took my friends son outside for a ride on a pony. We were back and brushing the pony when I heard the news about a plane crash in New York in the radio that was always playing in the stable. We finished and went to the house where I found my husband watching the news. Usually with international news you had to go to CNN for the latest ones but this one was all over the channels. It was still discussed if it was an accident but then became clearer that it was not. And then we watched as the second plane approached… I’m actually crying right now… I sent my friends son to get some water. I knew the plane would hit the second tower. Although I didn’t wanted it to happen. But it did. My friend picked up her son, she didn’t know anything about it yet. She was driving and was listening to CDs… My husband and I kept watching what was happening. Watching the people jump. Crying. Some of our friends were in NYC at the time. One working there only a block away, one who just flew in as a flight attendant. The crew had the tradition that they would eat breakfast at the restaurant in the WTC the morning after flying in… They never made it to the WTC that morning. One of them had left her purse in the hotel room and then got stuck in the elevator. They others were waiting for her. Then they got stuck in traffic. They would have been up there…

    I don’t know for how long we sat in front of the TV, hoping it’s all just a dream. Just a story, just a movie. 😦

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  4. On September 10, 2001, the night before 9-11, I had discovered that my boyfriend was cheating on me. I was shattered. I felt so alone. All the hateful things that my abusive mother had ever said about me being unlovable and bringing out the worst in people seemed true.

    I got very little sleep that night. Awake before sunrise, I decided to go to an early morning AA meeting at a nearby sobriety club. I hadn’t had an alcoholic drink in over eleven years at that point. But since my marriage had ended a year and a half before, I had been going to a lot of meetings to ensure that I didn’t start drinking again. My mistake, though, was dating someone I had met in AA. BIG mistake.

    As I sat through the sunrise meeting, I was in so much emotional pain that I felt like I might be having a heart attack. I had heard of people dying from a broken heart, and I thought that was about to happen to me. I briefly considered going to the emergency room, but decided not to bother. I was too depressed to care.

    When the meeting ended, one of my friends came over and asked if I was ok. I started crying, and told him about my cheating boyfriend. My friend was empathetic. He told me he was going to have breakfast at the truck stop before going to work, and he asked me to join him.

    I followed him in my car to the diner, where I sniffled and cried through a meal of scrambled eggs and French toast. At the end of the meal I went to the restroom. I still felt like I was about to have a heart attack, even more so after eating. I looked in the mirror, at how ugly my face looks when I cry. I felt like such a loser. I was in my late forties and no one had ever really loved me.

    I came out of the restroom and my friend told me that an airplane had just flown into the World Trade Center tower. There was a TV in the truck stop, over the cashier station, and he had seen it on a news bulletin as he was paying the bill.

    I followed him over to the television and watched in horror as a jet flew into the tower. It had to be a terrible accident, I thought. It looked unreal, like something in a movie.

    I said goodbye to my friend, then went out to my car and turned the key in the ignition. The radio came on and I heard a reporter say that a second jet airplane had flown into a second tower.

    That’s when I knew it wasn’t an accident. Our country was under attack.

    Suddenly, my boyfriend problems did not matter any more. The pain in my chest was instantly gone. My thoughts flew to my children and grandchildren. What was going to happen to them? Would my twenty-year-old son follow in his dad’s footsteps now and join the military? If our country went to war, would he be drafted?

    Instead of driving to my empty apartment, I drove to my son’s workplace. On the way there, I heard the report of a jet airplane hitting the Pentagon. My family and I were living in southeastern Pennsylvania at the time. New York City was a few hours to our north. Washington DC was only about eighty miles to our south.

    As I pulled into the parking lot of the TJ Maxx store where my son worked, I heard the news bulletin about a fourth jet crashing in western Pennsylvania.

    Our country was under attack, and we were surrounded!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you. I made a few changes in my post. The most important change involves the sentence “I was in my late forties and no one had ever really loved me.” I changed it to: “I was in my late forties and I believed that no one had ever really loved me.” Then in parentheses I added: “(Today, I know that I was always loved by God. His love is more than enough for me! And today I have a wonderful husband, and a few precious loved ones, who also love me.)”

        For some reason, right after I reblogged this 9-11 post last night, my daughter in Washington sent me a text asking me to send her my Jade Helm pictures (of a mile long train loaded from one end to the other with military tanks and other war weapons, which passed through our county in May, 2015). I sent her those pictures, and then she asked for my pictures of the supercell we had here in 2012, the storm that produced softball sized hail and destroyed all of the roofs in our town. I sent her those, and also sent her a picture I took of the mesocyclone we had here in May of last year. Finally, I sent her a YouTube video, done by storm chaser Reed Timmer, of our 2012 supercell. I sent a message to my daughter along with that video, explaining that three of the big grain silos that you can see in the video, which were located only 1/4 mile from our house, blew down two days after last Christmas during the Goliath blizzard.

        Lauren…. by the time I had gone through all those pictures, all taken right here where we live, after writing my post about 9-11….. I went to bed expecting to be blown up or blown away at any second!!!

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  5. I was on a commuter train going form downtown L.A. to Orange County. The train stopped and the conductor announced all train services have been ordered to stop. We were told that two planes had struck the twin towers, there was one plane headed towards the white house and one plane heading towards Seattle and downtown Los Angeles was being evacuated. We all just sat on the train in silence.

    After 30 – 45 minutes the conductor announced we’ve been ordered back to Los Angeles. Many of us thought the same thing…we were told Los Angeles downtown was being evacuated and we were being taken back there? None of us were thrilled about this. When we arrived at the train station I immediately rushed to the subway to get home. The entire time I was on the subway I was scared. If we were at war, who knew where there would be further attacks.

    Once I got home my partner and I stayed glued to the TV. We sat there for hours in silence. As you said, the details of the day will never be forgotten.

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  6. I woke up for work (which didn’t start until 1pm). I turned on a local cable station which gave a running weather ticker while a local radio station played over it. They said something about a plane hitting the Pentagon. I must have switched to CNN to get the rest. Both planes had already hit by then. When I walked to work, I noted the eerie sound of no planes, and that all the drivers were being POLITE to each other for once. Nobody talked about it at work, but you could see in their faces that they knew what had happened. I kept the radio on while I worked, to hear the news.

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