A First-Hand Account of Activities From 11 Years Ago Today

Since I couldn't find anything to write about today, I decided to share a first-hand account of what happened on September 11, 2001. This text is copied directly from an email I have saved and is in response to my original email titled, "What Did You See?" It was written by a relative that is not only an artist and a musician, but a great story-teller.


Agreed that we will need some healing forces in our lives. I have to admit that in the last weeks I haven’t been too inspired to explore that place. But I know that will change and the swing will likely be strong.

Yes I pretty much saw the whole thing from the point a minute or two after the 2nd impact. Here’s some thoughts I put together in the days immediately after the attack….

Because I was to start teaching last Tuesday evening, I chose to drive in to the museum that morning. And as I typically do on such days, I waited till 9 AM to leave so to avoid sitting in traffic.

I learned of the crashes as I left my home- literally seconds after the second impact- and watched the events unfold sitting where I could see both the TV and the unobstructed view of the two towers out my window. The twin towers are/were my main view from the front of the studio and many all night illustration sessions came to an end with the view of the sun rising from behind their cool blue silhouettes.

Years earlier, I grew up as they did…watching the progress of their construction as I walked to school each day. Tuesday morning they looked as always like the twins they were. Only this time, they were each hemorrhaging deep black smoke. This vision- and the knowledge that many people were in pain as I watched helpless through my window- had a powerful effect on my psyche. Like many people, I tired to make sense of the unthinkable.

As the first tower began to stumble, I knew instantly what I was seeing. But I tried to find other reasons for the sudden expulsion of smoke and debris.  The TV news announcers talked on- not yet noticing the new horror their studio was broadcasting out to the world. As the tower became engulfed, I moved to the window and prayed I was wrong. But after a moment- as the news anchor gasped, “look at the monitor!”- I watched as the twirling shroud of smoke that surrounded the tower shifted in the wind and revealed blue sky. This sequence of events would be repeated again almost exactly one hour later.

By the time the second tower fell, I found I could no longer think right. It was like I had been struck between the eyes by a spike made of ice and my brain had gone numb. I noticed after a while that I was paying close attention to the news reports when the speaker came to the part of the sentence where they had to give this horror a name. I kept waiting for someone to give me the words within which I could frame the day’s events. None succeeded.

In the immediate aftermath of the collapse, the smoke rose in a column until it accumulated above the skyline. The mushroom shape was unmistakable.  The image was borrowed almost perfectly from a nightmare I witnessed in my dreams as a young boy growing up in the shadow of the cold war.

Later I would learn that a boyhood buddy worked on the 105th floor of the first tower to be struck. He is missing, and from what I could see, never had a chance. As children, we conspired to form a band together. The fact that neither one of us owned a single musical instrument was only a temporary impediment. For the whole school year we each put aside a quarter a week to buy ourselves a guitar or two. I never asked him if, years later, the guitar he was playing was partially financed by his lunch monies.

Joe, myself, and a few mutual friends later became regular camping buddies through high school and college. We hiked waterfalls and sat around blazing fires playing music all night. During this time I discovered my connection to nature. And together we all shared this connection during these first forays into the world beyond our hometown.

Later Joe went to work down at Wall St. (I now realize that it was probably his suggestion to squirrel away the milk money.) Over the last 20 years, our worlds diverged and our paths rarely crossed. He was enormously successful and had worked up to title of senior VP in a major firm. But in the few times we met in recent years, it was clear that we hadn’t changed all that much. In my own way, I pray for the family and know that his is only one story among thousands. Each more special than the last.