Open Thread: Where Were You That Day?



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • Scipio Africanus

    At school in Massachusetts. It was my off day from working out at teh gym, so I went to the cafeteria for breakfast. Finished eating, drove to the parking garage and heard Howard Stern talking about it. Parked my car, went to the Campus Center, sat down in front of teh TV and watched from maybe about 15 minutes after the second plane hit until the very end.

  • quadmoniker

    Still in my senior year of college, taking a painfully early but great class called Biology and Public Policy. It was in the mammoth science building, and when we left class it was just after the second plane had it. Someone had brought a TV out into the hallway, and all the students filing out of class stopped to watch. My Muslim dorm-neighbor was stuck in Philadelphia that morning, harassed because of her hijab and unable to get back to our suburban campus. A year later, I was working three blocks away in a building where one of the planes’ wheels had landed in the lobby.

  • Grump

    I was headed to my African-American Politics class whn my guy called and told me that the 1st plane had hit. I turned on the tv and saw the 2nd plane strike a few minutes later.

  • aisha

    As usual I was late for work for my job that was by the Boston seaport. Where I could usually see the planes taking off at Logan. I was getting dressed when the first plane hit and heard it on the radio. I started watching TV and the second plane hit. I then decided that I wouldn’t be at work that day. I was freak out for one particular reason.

    When you exit the train at Boston’s South Station you are in front of a federal reserve station. On the north side of my office building is a federal court house. To the east of my building was the Boston World Trade Center. The fact that my office building sat in between these three building always made me nervous. I’m such a morbid person.

  • Steve

    I was in college for about two weeks. I was walking from my latin america history class and wondered why everyone was on the radio.

    I walked to my renaissance lit class and my teacher was like we all gon watch TV I was like WHY?

    Then I became distraught because someone said the state deprtment got blown up and my brother works there

  • storm

    I was in NYC, at work on the 46th floor of a skyscraper that had an awesome view of the WTC.

    I was sitting at my desk, when a co-worker yelled out there was smoke coming from the WTC. As a group of us gathered at the window to look at the smoking tower, and puzzle as to why it was smoking (this was before anyone heard the news about a plane flying into it), we were stunned to see a plane, flying low pass our window, crash into the other tower. It was horrifying — and mind-boggling — to witness.

    We didn’t know what to make of it. At this point, we had turned on the news and found out that two planes (not just the one we’d seen) had crashed into towers.

    About an hour later, my company directed all employees to vacate the building. Not really knowing what was going on, the company thought that all tall buildings could be a target and wanted the building empty ASAP.

    Since all subway service had been suspended, getting home was a challenge for most people. At the time, I lived in Harlem, so I had to walk from 57th street to 149th street. (Getting a cab or bus was impossible since there were hundreds of people in the streets trying to get home too.) I was lucky to be able to walk home. Many people had to sleep in Grand Central Station and on the steps of public spaces like the library or post office. It was insane.

    As I was walking home, I witnessed the towers collapsing. Most anyplace you were in NYC, you would almost always have a clear view of the WTC; they were that tall and distintinctive of the NYC skyline.

    Horror, disbelief, shock, to see those two buildings topple. People were screaming in the streets and I was in Harlem (uptown Manhattan) miles from the WTC (located in downtown Manhattan).

    When I finally made in home, I watched the news coverage for the rest of day. The news coverage was gruesome and sad.

    I felt like I was shell-shocked for months afterwards.

  • imnotemily

    A sophomore in high school, on Long Island right on the border of Queens. I still remember the smell and sight- an hour after the towers were hit and before the principal canceled the rest of the day’s classes- of dark burning smoke drifting through the window of my classroom.

  • We all slept in. PK was a few months old, and for some reason Mr. B. called in sick that day. We woke up and Mr. B. turned on the tv (which I kind of hate). He went into the bathroom, and the local news was saying that the border to Canada was closed. I called out to him that some weirdness was going on with closing the border, and we joked about why. Then the footage came on and I was like holy shit, a plane ran into the WTC. At which point we started making phone calls and paying attention to the news. Mr. B.’s siblings came over and hung out at the house and we talked about who could have done it all day. I tried to argue that we didn’t *know* it was middle eastern terrorists and we shouldn’t jump to that conclusion. Mr. B.’s brother wasn’t having it. He was right. I called my girlfriend in NYC, thinking that I was being silly b/c she lived up north and worked at Baruch and wasn’t anywhere near the WTC, and didn’t get through. She called later that day (the next day?) to tell me that she’d been on jury duty downtown and had to walk all the way up to Inwood.

    A few days later (maybe it was more than that, but in memory it seems like just a few days) I marched in an ecuminical demonstration against war in Afghanistan. I remember flags going up all over Seattle, and it feeling sad but also strangely refreshing to be able to see flags being displayed without thinking of them as offensively jingoistic.

    I’m not good at remembering how many years it’s been unless I think of it in terms of PK’s having been a few months old at the time, and then I know.

  • lsn

    I was loading trucks on night shift (other side of the world). I saw the initial news flash, which came during the late news I watched on my tea break, then headed back out to the dock to start loading again. Each driver coming in had more news, they were all listening to the radios in stunned disbelief. We couldn’t get radio reception on the dock, and it was too noisy to hear anything even if we could. The first driver told me about the second plane, the second about the Pentagon, the third that a tower had collapsed.

    “There’s 10,000 people work there, they’re saying.” Neither of us could really grasp the scale of it.

    When I got home at 3am I went straight onto the computer (the car radio had told me the phones were jammed) to try and get hold of my friend, who was postdocing at Columbia. I knew that Columbia was a long way from the WTC, but I wasn’t sure how close to it his fiancee worked. As it turned out, she was a couple of blocks away, but safe.

    My husband was still awake, having gone to bed about half an hour before I got home. He’d been watching “Sudden Impact” on video and had turned it off just in time to see the second plane hit. For a moment he had no idea what he was seeing – had he buggered up the video somehow?

    The following day was when it really hit here – half the country had seen the initial news flashes and been up a large part of the night; the other half slept through it all and found out in the morning. I tried to write my thesis, but kept drifting back to the TV, watching the families trying to find loved ones. I got nothing written.

    It still seems so much more recent than 8 years ago.

  • ladybug

    I was driving into the city from my folks’ place in Connecticut. I was on my way back to DC (where I live) but was planning to meet a friend for lunch in Manhattan. It was about 8:45am when I got in the car. I turned on the radio shortly thereafter – to a NYC station – and because the DJs were on the top of the Empire State building, they could see it all. They were all trying to figure out what the hell was going on – it was a play-by-play interpretation. As more information was revealed via radio, I kept driving, this time past the city (via the Tappan Zee – mad traffic) and home to DC. I will never forget the billowing smoke against the beautiful clear blue September sky as I drove down the Garden State Pkwy and then the NJ Turnpike. All I had was the radio so it was many hours before I saw what happened that day.

  • ladyfresh

    i was home, late for work. i went to the train station after calling one of my photographers to make sure he had the heads up, only to turn back home after seeing the station was 20 people deep. got home greeted my then roommate, who went to vote, then turned on the tv to figure out what was going on and watched it all called the photographer back to hope and pray he actually didn;t run downtown…then my mom, then my dad, then my fam including my aunt, who’s house i’m currently at, in DC who worked at the pentagon then. i had a landline which i kept until last year.

  • glory

    I was trying to snatch the last few minutes of sleep when the first plane hit. My mom was getting dressed and watching TV coverage of that when she saw the second plane hit, live. She called my name with a strange urgency and I stumbled out of bed to watch the coverage with her. We knew it was an attack then. I debated about not commuting to my classes that day, but I knew I had to go, so I got dressed and headed out. I switched my radio to the news and listened as they described how the Pentagon – the PENTAGON! – two hours away had been hit. I worried about my dad, who was at work already. I worried about how I didn’t want my family to be in three different places with the country under attack.

    I thought about turning around and driving home several times, but I went to school anyway and sat in my assigned seat, and opened my laptop, like all my other classmates. I sat near the back of the lecture hall and could see that about 80% of my classmates were trying unsuccessfully to read the latest on CNN and any news site they could find that wasn’t bandwidth overloaded, instead of trying to take notes on the lecture. I was tempted, but I just tried to focus on class. Midway through class, my professor went out into the hallway to talk with the dean. He re-entered and cancelled class. Classes were cancelled for the rest of the day, he said, since none of us could focus anyway.

    I asked my classmates who’d been checking the news about what was going on, and one of them told me that the towers fell. I chuckled nervously in denial, thinking he was teasing me, immediately feeling guilty for my reaction. That couldn’t happen. No really, I wanted to know what was happening. He didn’t laugh. I knew he meant it. I think that was when it started getting real to me. This American vulnerability that I’d never imagined. I left the lecture hall, meandering through the crowd of fellow students trying unsuccessfully to call New York friends and relatives on jammed cell phones, and got into my car and drove home listening to the news. I looked up in the sky, thinking that I’ll always remember this as the day we grounded all the airplanes because we couldn’t trust them. I spent the day with my mom and dad, watching the TV news coverage, crying intermittently. I wore black for days afterwards. I mourned for a long, long time.