Never Forgotten

photo by Derek Jensen

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.  Airplanes have been flying overhead for hours now–commercial or military, I don’t know–but it feels weird. When I woke up this morning, I watched the CNN livestream of the memorial service in NYC for a bit. I imagine one day my children (or my cats, who knows) will ask me where I was on 9/11, much like how I’ve asked my parents where they were when Kennedy was shot.

I was just shy of eighteen on September 11, 2001. My parents were out of town, so I was house-sitting with my best friend Miriam. The night before,  we fell asleep together in the living room watching some stupid movie about I don’t even remember anymore.

A call on the house phone woke me up a little before 3am HST. It was my other best friend, Jen, and she was sobbing uncontrollably. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and sat up.

“Something happened! Turn on the TV!!!” She was practically yelling in my ear. “Someone bombed the World Trade Center.”

“What? It’s okay, everything’s all right,” I reassured her, searching for the TV remote in the darkness.

“What’s going on?” Miriam yawned.

“I’m not sure,” I explained. “Here, talk to Jen while I look for the remote.”

I handed the phone to her and got up to turn on the light. I found the remote wedged between the loveseat cushions and flipped on the television, thumbing through the channels in search of a news channel. I thought I was watching a movie, like a scene from Independence Day. It was unreal.

“Tell her I don’t think it’s a bomb,” I told Miriam to relay to Jen, listening to the news anchors share what little info they had. “People think it might be a plane?”  I watched as smoked billowed out of the first tower and while Miriam was still on the phone crying with Jen, a plane hit the second tower.  I knew it was a plane from the livestream on television. The plane appeared seemingly out of nowhere, passing the first tower and then disappearing behind the second tower. A few moments later, there was an explosion from the building.  The news anchors weren’t sure what caused the explosion at first, but soon the information started pouring in. I remember Miriam telling me this was the beginning of WWIII.

While Miriam and Jen consoled each other over the phone, I reached for my cell phone to call my mom and stepdad who were now stranded in San Francisco. I woke them up and my mom sounded much like I did when I first answered the phone: confused.  We stayed up after the sun came out and my dad picked us up later and took us to breakfast at Zippy’s to calm our nerves.

My mom and stepdad were trying to fly back to Hawaii from Seattle and ended up getting stranded in San Francisco for a few days. My mom said it was a ghost town, only the cable cars were running. They were staying at a hotel in downtown and there was fear that the financial district nearby was a target, so my stepdad called a relative in the suburbs, they checked out of the hotel, grabbed the last available rental car, and headed out of the city. When they flew home, she said the pilots made sure to introduce themselves to the passengers as they boarded the plane. They reassured them everything was safe and it was okay to fly, but reminded them to speak up if they saw something weird. My mom said it was strange at the time, but now it’s common to see pilots watching the passengers shuffle in. It’s crazy how quickly things have been forced to change.

In the months after 9/11, I didn’t sleep well. I lived in Manoa Valley with my ex and her friend in this tiny studio and when the planes passed through, it made the walls shake. I’m not sure if they were commercial planes, but the sound of them roaring through put me on edge. I didn’t sleep properly until I moved out of the Valley and that was nearly six months later.

I lived in Washington, DC for three years during college. A few times I got off at the Pentagon metro stop, mainly to transfer to other lines, but once we stopped outside so I could see the 9/11 plaques near the bus station.  A big portion of the Pentagon was closed off, still under repair, and I remember feeling heavy when I left.

I just want to take a moment and remember those who lost their lives that day and give thanks to the first responders for all they did.

Where were you on 9/11?

  • Kelcathcart

    I was in bed too.  In Portland Oregon in our apartment.  I woke up to the alarm clock radio and the DJ’s were freaking out.  And later that day the skies were silent except for lone fighter jets from McChord AFB.  I remember looking at them and wondering if we were going to have to start carrying our passports around and presenting them like the French do…Wierd huh?  I always feel like I’ve missed something when I wake up, because half the day is gone on the east coast by the time I wake up on the west coast! 

  • Hail

    I was living in LA with my then boyfriend. He came home early from work because his boss hadn’t shown up. Listening to the radio he learned what had happened and rushed home. We didn’t have a tv so spent the day listening to radio. Our daughter was visiting her grandma. Was so happy she was there. LA was so strange and quiet. Part of LA is the noise of planes and when military planes would fly we would cringe.

  • kristel

    I can imagine that things felt very strange, but also tense in LA. In Hawaii, we were affected but we also felt far away. Now that I’m in LA, the helicopters and planes make me cringe. I wonder if that ever goes away?

  • kristel

    At least being in Portland you’re still a few hours ahead of Hawaii. I know what you mean about half the day being gone on the east coast by the time you wake up!

    And to think how quickly things changed with air travel–I remember being able to say goodbye to friends and family at the gate, those days are long gone.