9/11 is one of those events where you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when it happened. Just like Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, the moon landing and the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion.
5:46 am PDT The North Tower is hit by a plane.
That morning I headed out to my parents house on our family to farm to help my dad with something. I was listening to the radio on the way around 6 am and heard there was a plane crash in New York. Details were sketchy. Then it was said the plane crashed into one of the Twin Towers. At the time it was still thought to be an accident. I got to my parents house and we watched the news.
6:03 am The South Tower is hit
Then the news showed the second tower being hit. You could actually see the plane hit the building. Then it became obvious this was not an accident, but some type of hijacking and terrorist event. That’s when I think an eery feeling started to hit people. What was going on? Is this an attack? Who is it?
6:37 am The Pentagon is hit
By now, like a lot of others, I thought we were under attack. Are they hitting big cities? San Francisco has to be next or one of the targets is what crossed my mind.
6:42 am the FAA grounds all flights and orders all planes in the air to land.
6:59 am The South Tower, the second of the two Twin Towers to be hit, collapses.
I would have never thought a building could fall like that. It was like something out of a movie. I remember gasping and thinking oh my God, what just happened? They showed all the dust and smoke and people running to escape it and stay ahead of the cloud.
7:03 am, Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania
Before it was known to have crashed news reports about a plane heading towards the White House were aired. I remember thinking where is the air force? They need to shoot it down or do something. Shortly after that came reports that passengers on flight 93 had talked to loved ones and were told about the other hijackings and planes crashing into the Twin Towers. The heroic actions by those passengers to take over the cockpit and force the plane to crash many lives. I remember thinking that turned the tide. It was one of those moments where you were proud to be an American.
By this time the news is showing the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and people are scrambling to figure out what was going on. Are there more planes in the air? What next?
7:28 am, the North Tower collapses
Just like the south tower, it falls down on itself. I remember seeing them show firefighters and police officers running into the buildings before they collapsed. I remember expecting the death toll to be in the thousands.
I decided to head back home. My wife was about 4 months pregnant at the time with our first child. She had just woke up and was unaware of the days events. We watched the news and it just felt like an out of body experience. Eventually she headed off to work and I stayed home and watched the news all day. I couldn’t stop. My wife came home early and we watched the news all evening. I recall that there was a plan to have a moment of silence that night. They asked people to go outside at a certain time and light a candle. We did it at our house. I think a few of our neighbors did too.
The coming days were filled with sadness for all those who lost their lives. The safety and innocence that we took for granted was gone. Our ability to come and go freely was taken away. Going to any large scale event or traveling required security checkpoints and delays. 9/11 was this generation’s Pearl Harbor. The raising of the American flag became one of the iconic images of our time.