September 11, 2001 was a day that changed the world and the lives of many. Where were we that day? Here’s a few answers +972 staff gave:
Aziz Abu Sarah
I was in Jerusalem, hanging out with an American friend from NYC. We watched the news together with a sense of shock and disbelief. I remember thinking: if this is a terror attack, we will be screwed. Unfortunately, I was right.
I landed in New York that morning at 6AM from Tel Aviv on a visit to see my parents. I saw the twin towers for the last time while riding in a cab into Manhattan from the airport in Queens. I didn’t even go outside to watch it because I was too stunned, rather I watched it on TV. It was like a movie. When I did go outside, I saw army tanks going down the F.D.R. Drive. Like a movie. I already had a ticket booked to San Francisco ten days later, which I didn’t think would end up taking place, since all flights came to a grinding halt that day. But it did, amid hyper security like I had never experienced before. Every non-circular object I had was confiscated, like my tweezers. It marked the beginning of an era in which anyone flying in US would wait in ridiculously long lines, having to take off shoes and wonder whether the security agents were getting any better at racial profiling.
I was the duty officer at the International Department of the IDF Intelligence Analysis Division (AMAN – Mekhkar). I don’t remember much (maybe because on the morning of the 12th I left for a three week vacation). However, I do remember that when the first plane hit my reaction was – “this is definitely an accident”. Five minutes later, someone popped in and reported the second crash.
I was on the bus to Haaretz. I got there before the second plane hit. I was Roshdesk (Chief night editor) at the Herald Tribune, and I remember yelling at Editor-in-Chief David Landau on the phone to get his ass over here, but he kept telling me I “would manage somehow”. I did, but I was scared as hell the whole night. I still have that paper I made.
I was in my first days of 11th grade, in New Jersey. I actually saw it live because I had study hall 2nd period, which started at 8:30 am, and we had TVs there tuned to the news. But I didn’t know what I was looking at until 3rd period social studies. Someone mentioned that Americans would now know what it’s like to be Israelis, and I remember feeling awfully strange, a feeling of worlds colliding.
I was at my desk at a now-failed hi-tech startup, IMing with a French friend who worked for ABC News in NYC. She typed calmly, ‘Good morning, how are you? A plane has crashed into the WTC.’ Like most people, we thought it was a small-plane accident. A few minutes later she started typing in French, all caps, “MAMAN! TERRORISME! DIEU!” All the US news sites were inaccessible from the high traffic. I called a colleague in Boston who said in a tearful voice, “I’m sorry, I just cannot talk now. I know you in Israel are used to this sort of thing, but we’re not.” About an hour later I took a taxi to a hair appointment in Kikar Hamedina (I’m afraid so, yes); and the driver had the radio on. He tsk-tsked and said, “Well, maybe now those Americans will understand what it means to live with terrorism.”
On 9/11, I was 18, sitting at the makeshift office of the Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival, where I worked as production assistant. We watched it all unfold on CNN, kind of expecting the rest of Manhattan to collapse. We cancelled the concert planned for the evening and held a memorial one instead; many of the musicians played not knowing if their loved ones were dead or alive. It later turned out one musician was just landing in NY and saw the first plane hit from his own window seat.
I was stringer here for U.S. News and World Report, and the managing editor called me in desperation, saying she couldn’t get through to NY. (She evidently thought “terrorism…Israel.”) She asked me who I thought was behind it. And at that point it was just baffling how anybody could fly planes into the WTC and Pentagon, how anybody could have such technological prowess and ingenuity. They had to be just the most amazing geniuses. “I don’t know who could have done this,” I told her.”Maybe the Japanese.” In retrospect, I guess it was a combination of stereotyping and “remembering Pearl.”
I was finishing my shift at the satanic mill where I was working, some hellish chemical plant in the outskirts of Petah Tikva, when we heard about it on the radio. First report was of an accident. Then the second plane hit, and we closed shop in a hurry. Rushed home, and passed a TV shop, which was either deserted or closed; the TV sets all showed the second plane hitting, time and time again. Went home, thinking of Al Qaeda and knowing a new Mithrditahian war was upon us.
I was in California staying at a friend’s house … with all of my suitcases and boxes. I was one day away from moving to London. I immediately woke up my friend and then notified some of my other friends. I recall one of them asking, “Where is this coming from?” “Why do people not like us?” I then called another former colleague who told me she would not be going to work that day because it was “too close to the Los Angeles Federal Building” … which was actually more than 5 miles from her office. I understood the magnitude of what happened, but question the lock-down mentality that immediately followed.
Two days later, I went to Los Angeles airport with all of my things. Cars were prevented from driving up to the terminal curbside drop-off, and instead I had to use a special drop-off parking lots about a mile away. After checking-in my bags, I had to go through Terminal 6 security. A young officer (TSA-style) searched my carry-on bags. She commented: “you got a lotta stuff.” I said to her that I was moving to London. “London?” she ask. “Dang. Do you speak the language?”
I’m not mocking either scenario. The attacks of 9/11 were horrific and created lots of chaos. But part of that chaos was a direct reflection of years of international isolation that Americans enjoyed.
I was a sophomore at Rutgers University. Wandered into work (at a university office) and was told grimly by the secretary that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I said, half asleep, “Oh….,” assuming it was an accident. Stumbled to my computer and tried, as was my wont, to sign into nytimes.com. The site was overloaded and wouldn’t work. While staring at the screen perturbed, the secretary came in and announced that one of the towers had collapsed.
Seeing as my mother’s subway stop was the WTC, and I hadn’t yet memorized her new cell number (I was too low-tech at the time to possess my own phone), I promptly went into a panic, and raced home to my apartment, rushing past hundreds of students – crying, lined up behind pay phones, pacing, racing, running and shouting. Got home only to encounter several confused roommates, and to hear my mother’s phone on the answering machine announcing her whereabouts. Like so many others, she had been late to work that day.