Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Personal Experience with 9/11 (no photos)

I debated about writing a blog article about 9/11. And after all that debate, this is a long post.

On the one hand, there's no denying it was a pivotal point in the world's history.

On the other hand, it's still raw to me and my husband and I doubt I will ever, ever be able to watch a television program about it for as long as I live. In fact the events of that fateful day are still so horrifying I can't bring myself to watch any of the shows about 9/11.

I think I've shared my story with you before, but I will again for those who may not have heard it. Lots of us have stories, and I do believe that our stories do need to be heard -- so history won't repeat itself, so we remember what's important, so we don't make snap judgments, and so our verbal history might make looking at terrifying photos not so necessary.

So here's my family's story.

I was working in the field of high tech in September of 2001. I had just started a new job, convincing large companies they needed this huge software to run their entire business. I integrated a team of ten to twenty programmers and systems analysts to make all this work. Needless to say, each job often took six months to sell, a year and a half to complete, and cost easily a million dollars upon completion. My new job's challenge was to take this brand new company no one had ever heard of into a brand new territory -- government entities.

My start date -- September 10th.

My husband and I lived in Frederick, MD at the time and commuted over an hour together over to our jobs. Rick dropped me off at work with a kiss and headed to his new job, working as a contractor for national security. Just two weeks prior he had decided against a job that would have had him working at the Pentagon.

September 11th was orientation day at the new company. Myself and two other new employees sat in the conference room learning about our health insurance and 401K plans. Nice boring stuff.

Then came a knock at the door.

The company president's secretary poked her head through the door. "I think you need to see this," she whispered.

She dragged the television cart into the conference room and through lousy, fuzzy reception, we watched CNN. The first plane had already hit a tower, but no one knew what kind of plane. All of us were concerned, of course, but the company president was more than a little distraught, as he used to work in the Towers and still had friends there.

Then the second plane hit.

"Get the TV in my office," he barked. "We'll get better reception." The company was in a tall building and his corner office was completely surrounded with windows. It also overlooked Washington, DC and the basin where the Pentagon lay.

As everyone watched the television, I looked out the windows. I saw a plane. One plane. I idly watched it -- anything was better than watching those other planes decimating lives over and over and over. The plane lowered below sight and somewhere in my brain I supposed it was landing at Reagan National Airport.

But then.

A BOOM. Black smoke erupting, billowing, into the sky. We actually felt the building shake. Everyone's head jerked up to look outside, but all I could think was "Where is my husband?"

"Get the hell out of here!" shouted the company president and an immediate silent scramble started. The silence was so strange -- silent except for me, trying desperately to get my husband on his cell phone. Nothing, for the longest time. Cell lines were down or busy, but finally I reached him. He was on his way to pick me up and head home.

The ride home was surreal. Cars were all headed away from downtown -- nothing was headed southward to Washington. People stood on overpasses, already waving American flags. "ALREADY", I thought. Already.

On the way home, we continued to worry. Our hearts went out to those in New York and Pennsylvania, but Rick's brother was a DC firefighter, stationed at the China Town fire station, close to both the White House and the Capitol. We later learned that all the firefighters in the area reported to certain areas within DC, not knowing what would be hit next, but certain the nation's capitol would be a certain target. At one point, Rick's brother looked at his captain and said, "I think we're took close [to where they were parked waiting] and they moved a few blocks down.

Rick's brother got called to report to the Pentagon. I'm positive it's scarred him for life. His story is gruesome. I'm not going to talk about it here. But Rick and I met him in our driveway early that next morning to meet him on his way home, and we just stood there for a while, looking at each other. What could anyone say?

In Frederick, we lived in the direct flight pattern from Washington, DC to Camp David. We routinely saw Marine One fly overhead with the First Family on its way to weekend retreats in the mountains north of Frederick leading up to 9/11. For months afterward, our windows rattled as F-16's flew Defensive Air Patrols over the capitol area and when the First Family was in residence at Camp David.

A month after 9/11, I lost my job at that company for failure to bring in a client. After the initial shock and humiliation, I realized I couldn't have done a single thing differently. How could I sell something in a month (that takes six months to sell in a normal climate) to someone who'd never heard of us, to the GOVERNMENT, no less, when all they cared about now was trying to heal a country?

Yet, there were many things I was grateful for that day.

I was grateful my husband didn't take the job at the Pentagon.

I was grateful my brother-in-law was able to do his duty
without, at least, physical harm.

I was grateful I didn't have a child at the time.

And I was grateful I owned an American flag.

Both my husband and I are prior military -- me, four years, and my husband, retired after 26 years, both US Air Force. We're patriotic. My husband still works in defense of our country. We don't always agree with the choices made by The Powers That Be, but we won't soon forget how long those flags flew from overpasses and were plastered to cars and shop windows.

So this is why I can't ever watch the television programs. I have my own program running in my head of that day. I'm certain we ALL have that day emblazoned in our heads. As much as I hate it, and as much as I'd like to forget it, it does need to be remembered. There were heroes made in many ways that day. May they never be forgotten.

My heart goes out to all of you who were affected, each and every day.

Because 9/11 doesn't just stop at midnight.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off. She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene and is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.


  1. This day plays over and over in my head as well XOXO

  2. I am new to your blog. I love your work. I had never heard this story. I haven't been watching a lot of tv this weekend. I will always remember. God bless you, Lori.


  3. Hi Lori. I was working at GAO near Chinatown in D.C. on 9/11. I had just come back to D.C. from Vancouver, WA the year before. A co-worker came by to tell me a plane had hit the tower. I thought that was strange and sad. Then, he came by minutes later to tell me another plane had hit the tower. Then, I knew we were under attack. I was horrified for the people in the towers. I couldn't watch the TV coveage but other co-workers did and were crying. We got word the Pentagon got hit and the Comptroller General pushed a voice mail to all of us telling us to stay in the building. I was terrified to stay and terrified to leave. All I could imagine was the terrorists wanted us all trapped in the metro and all trapped on the roads. No one knew what was next. When the Pentagon got hit, I thought of my fellow Feds and people I knew who worked there. My family (in Philly) couldn't reach me nor I them to tell them I was safe. I didn't watch the TV coverage until years later and couldn't stop weeping then as I watched people jump from the buildings. I will never forget that day. Years later, I had a job at TSA on the 12th floor and could see the Pentagon from my window. It was a constant reminder of how fragile life is.

  4. For those of us who were not personally involved it was and is still quite traumatic. I have not watched any of it on TV either. I remember! We will have a memorial service in Church today and that will be how I memorialize this day. Thank you for sharing your day with us. God Bless America!

  5. Thanks for sharing your family's story.

  6. We were doing some shopping that day when suddenly they switched all tv-s to the event... It was horrible... Some even thought it's a film only. I wish it would... Thank you for telling your story! It helps understanding and makes sure: life will never be the same after 9/11. Kisses from Hungary

  7. That's a sobering and powerful story, Lori. Although I was far from the unfolding events of 9/11 the press on this anniversary has been difficult for me to watch. It has truely scarred us, both individually and as a nation. Thanks for sharing your personal story.

  8. May God continue to bless America for our children and their children...

  9. Thank you Lori for sharing your story with us. I certainly will never forget that day. I pray for peace in this world of ours. I am very thankful you and your family were safe.

  10. What a story, Lori. Everyone over the age of 10 that day (and maybe even some younger folks) has one. But you have a way of telling a story that's riveting and touching at the same time.

    I'm so glad things turned out as they did for you and your family.

    I'm a native New Yorker transplanted to northern Arizona. I was in shock for weeks, could barely get out of my nightclothes, glued to the TV. I'd been in the World Trade Center many times. Held press conferences there for my company in the 80s.

    I felt like I should go "home" and be near the site, but I knew that wasn't a good idea either.

    A friend's brother-in-law was one of the pilots. Other friends had cousins who were lost. But no one "close." Still, there's a wound. Still there's personal sorrow. Still there's the memory that will not go away. Ever. And, I confess, still there's anger. Anger at the perversion of spirit into something that asks men to kill the innocent.

    Today is a somber day, filled with reflection.

  11. Thank you, Lori, for sharing your memories with us. We remember...

  12. Hey Lori ~ thank you ~ sending love.

  13. A day of reflection for us all i think, even us here in the UK.
    My Sister was on holiday in LA on that day, the other side of the country i know, but she was due to fly back that day, and of course every thing was grounded, she made it home safely a few days late, but she said it was frightening as you just couldn't know what was going to happen next

  14. many hugs are travelling in your direction will be etched for eternity but I know you have the strength to live side by side with it.

    hugs xxx

  15. Lori, this is a moving piece on your experience on 9/11. I debated on telling my story of that day and also felt compelled to do so. God bless!

  16. I haven't been watching the coverage of it either, Lori - it's just too hard and I can't do it to myself. I remember all too well being glued to the TV when it happened and I will never forget the images. To relive them again is too much for me. It's hard to even talk about. I'm glad your family was at least physically okay.

  17. Like you Lori, I just have trouble watching anything to do with the tragedy. I didn't know anyone that died that day, but in my heart I felt such a huge hole. I watched every moment for three days from the initial CNN report & even at work we pulled the television from the break room to the laboratory. For three days, we were on call just in case...I hate those words so bad...just in case. You are so right, that I too from then on have thought how lucky I am to be safe and free with my loved ones.

    Last night at work, several coworkers said how they could not imagine the courage of the first responders. I told them courage first, but always duty. My Grandfather was a firefighter and though he would not talk about most things he experienced, there were a few times he'd tell me about some of the rescues. Heart breaking.

    I have always said the true heroes aren't sport stars or celebrities. Heroes are people who set aside their own fears and help regardless of the situation. I think we've seen many many stories of true heroes just on that day. From firefighters, to workmen rescuing people stuck behind a damaged door, to plain people just doing what needed to be done. So many unsung heroes, and to them all, I pay my respect today.

  18. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  19. Lori, your blog always amazes me and I had no idea you had been so close to those tragedies.

    Take care, and you are right, the events and repercussions do not end at midnight.

  20. I didn't know this story either Lori, thank you for sharing it again. I was watching TV when the news came on and I watched the second tower get hit.Then I ran out to go get my kids out of school. As soon as I got them home safe with us, i went to the restaurant and put "God Bless America" out on our marquis. The day plays over and over with us too as we live right around the corner from NASA Wallops Flight facility and Aegis command and we were all very scared.

  21. Thanks Lori for your story. I too shall never forget. And I too am gratful for my flag. We never forget to fly our flag and we do adhere to flag etiquette.I am also Patriot. I just pray our nation continues to adhere to our high ideals. and stay Strong and Free God Bless America
    Be blessed to be a blessing

  22. Thank you for sharing this. I can't imagine watching it happen live at the Pentagon.

    The one thing that strikes me about 9-11 is the way our country came together even if only for a day we didn't care about our issues we cared about our country.

    And I thank your brother-in-law for what he did that day.

  23. Lori, your story moved me to tears, as I'm sure it did others, bringing out incredible memories....

  24. Thank you Lori for this! It just really hurts to see the 911 show I watched tonight and brings tears! I was in Scotland living with my husband at the time. It was so so surreal as I watched it happen live broadcasted! Such a tragedy. And all because of the hearts of men. I hope you are feeling better too these days ox

  25. Thank you for sharing, Lori.

  26. I was so busy yesterday with the fundraiser weekend that I really didn't think about it until late last night. We did watch a program on History channel and although it was hard, I am glad I did. Because time doesn't erase the memories but dulls the pain a bit. It was brought back into sharp focus all over again, but in a way that was even more terrifying, more personal. But it while it was hard to watch, I am glad I did.

    My dad was in NYC that day. Not right at the site but still on that island with no way out. He has never spoken of that day, and can't still. But I did watch that program with the amateur videos thinking that one of those thousands of people walking might be my dad.

    I recall that day wall, and I did have two kids and remember thinking that for my daughter who was just 6 mos that her world would never not know this sort of terror. All you can do is hold them tighter.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Miss Lori. I am glad you were able to find your 'something good' in this tragedy.

    Enjoy the day.

  27. Bless you Lori.
    I wasn't able to write about this and I'm glad you did.

  28. Oh my god. I cried and got chills when I read this. When I watched the memorial yesterday morning, my family didn't know what to do when I burst into tears. Even though we were not directly affected by 9/11, it's just something that hits really close to my heart. Thank you for sharing your story and thanks to you and your husband for your service.

  29. A powerful story, thank you for sharing.
    /Eva-Britt from Sweden


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