Watching the Twin Towers, from across the Hudson
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was on the 26th floor of my office building on the Jersey side of the Hudson River, right across from the World Trade Center.
I was aware, from a phone call, of the first plane hitting the Tower, coming from the East Side of New York.
I couldn’t see that side of the tower, so I went back to work.
Shortly thereafter, my office mate got up and looked out the window and said, “I see a ring of fire.”
I couldn’t imagine what she meant, so I got up and looked.
Literally a ring of fire encased the tower on the upper floors.
By this time, word had spread throughout our floor and everyone came to the bank of windows on the Hudson River side of the building.
Suddenly a deafening roar was heard coming from around the area of the Statue of Liberty.
As we watched, stunned, the second plane came around and banked it wings and slammed into the second tower.
Fire balls and debris erupted from the tower and our building shook on its foundation.
For months after the attack, I witnessed smoke and fire coming from the pit where the Twin Towers once stood.
-Linda Hyer, Land O Lakes
He was safe, but what about his sister?
I was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, a crew chief on the C130Es at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, at the time.
I was on the flight line, with my rear-end hanging out of the side window of a C130, sitting on the ledge leaning out and over — cleaning windows for that morning’s sortie when the expeditor truck pulls up.
He yells out of his truck, “SHUT ‘ER DOWN, GET INSIDE ASAP!”
After hearing the command, the launch crew and I looked at each other puzzled that we should get a flight crew showing up soon. He yelled again. So we did.
We gathered our tools, made it inside and saw a crowd gathered around the breakroom television.
Almost immediately, I felt tension in the room.
I quickly learned why.
After watching for a few minutes, many of us were released to go home on stand-by.
After the initial shock, my thoughts turned to my sister.
She had been working in the CIA as an analyst for many years.
At the time I did not know exactly what she was doing, only that it had to do with terrorism.
I was getting concerned that the CIA headquarters building might be next.
After the fact, I learned that my sister and some of her coworkers had been tracking the rise of Bin Laden and al-Qaida as a terrorist organization.
The warnings were sent up about a possible attack, but were ignored because they could not get the specifics. Bin Laden had a good grip on keeping his plans secret.
I was safe. My sister though — I was fearful.
As I watched the second tower get hit on television, I was still thinking of my sister.
I am sure she had watched it, too.
Thinking back now and knowing much more, I cannot fathom the emotions she must have felt at the time.
I really had no fear of our base coming under attack, but the CIA headquarters, certainly.
I obviously never got through to her that day. There was no communication from her for a couple of days.
I have no lasting effects, such as PTSD.
My deployments were easy because of my job.
My sister, however, left the agency and now teaches, lectures on terrorism and extremism.
I retired after 24 years and am now working on a master’s degree for clinical mental health counseling.
I want to help those who did go through that which I escaped.
-Patrick Storer, Land O’ Lakes
At the heart doctor’s office
We were living in Fort Lauderdale at the time, the home of many New York transplants.
That morning, while in my husband Dave’s cardiologist’s office, we saw the news about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Our eyes were still glued to the TV when the second plane hit.
We knew, immediately, that we were under attack.
I asked the receptionist to turn the TV off so that their patients would not have heart events right there — because many had relatives still living and working in Manhattan.
When we got home from the doctor’s office, we were horrified and fell to our knees crying and praying as we watched the Twin Towers collapse.
One of my associate company’s buildings, 7 World Trade Center, also collapsed a few hours later — as collateral damage from the towers falling.
Many of my friends who worked there literally had to carry some employees to safety because they were frozen, in shock, under their desks because of what happened next door at the Twin Towers.
We later learned that the brother of one of those employees, Michael Ragusa, was among the firefighters who perished that day.
In March 2002, I had the opportunity to visit New York City on a business trip.
My business colleagues and I went to the site of the memorial pool and the new One World Trade Center that was being built.
It was a somber and humble visit.
I cried all day after seeing the name of Michael Ragusa at the memorial pool. He had been a firefighter in Engine Company 279.
Sept. 11, 2001 was one of America’s saddest days.
We have mourned for 20 years, and we will never forget that day.
-Lillian Cucuzza, Land O’ Lakes
Taking in 9/11 events, from Japan
On Sept. 11, 2001, my husband, John, and I were working in Japan as part of a Sister City program.
Because of the time difference, we watched events unfold in the evening, live on television.
I remember turning on the television and watching the replay of the first tower being hit, and thinking it looked like a Bruce Willis movie. And then the extraordinary shock of what was happening washed over us, while watching the second tower hit in real time.
The next morning, we went to work, representing the United States, on a paddlewheel, called the Michigan Boat.
We’re musicians who worked alongside U.S. students, representing the American experience. As we walked there, we were first afraid to set out on a boat that now felt like a target.
Then, we were both relieved, and upset, to see that the company had removed all of the American flags.
I can’t imagine ever feeling as patriotic or American as one does when representing their country abroad.
We stood on a stage, while the students lined up in front of us to greet the now nonexistent guests.
They had fear clearly etched on their faces and waited for us to start.
And so, we sang a song out of character for us.
John Denver and patriotic music wasn’t what felt right.
Instead, we played, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down” (Tubthumping by the British band Chumbawamba).
And, we saw the Americans we knew again, as the fear left their faces and we all rallied defiantly.
The show began an hour into the cruise and, as we stepped onto the stage, we saw the only guests on the boat, and they all appeared to be from the Middle East.
You can imagine how long that 30-minute show felt, and also our relief when afterward we met the United Nations ambassadors who had come on the boat as a show of support for our country.
It was an immediate reminder that the world is a community — and not everyone is suspect, even in what feels like the worst of times.
-Sheri Thrasher, Wesley Chapel
That’s strange, no calls are coming in
I was working at the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) headquarters in Brooklyn on 9/11/01, as a desktop technician, and living in Bayport, Long Island.
My job was to take calls and assist the firefighters in the firehouses with any computer issues they were having.
On a typical day, the calls came in almost constantly.
Most of the firefighters weren’t very tech-savvy.
On 9/11/01, I took the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to work, and I remember it being a nice Tuesday morning.
When I got to the office, there were no calls coming in, which was very odd.
I asked my coworker Keith if he knew if we were having phone issues.
We started calling around to other departments.
That’s when we found out that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings.
We looked online and we saw what looked like a small commuter plane had hit one of the buildings.
I said to Keith, “I hope nobody died in the building.”
Little did I know what was to come.
After the second plane hit, it became clear we were under attack.
We realized the reason our phones weren’t ringing was because every firefighter we worked with was at the Trade Center.
We were evacuated from our building because “911” calls came into that building and officials felt that if we were under attack, and terrorists wanted to immobilize the city, the building where all the “911” calls came in might be a target.
I couldn’t go home because all trains were stopped.
My coworkers and I found a restaurant where we could sit and watch the news.
That’s when I found out about the Pentagon and Pennsylvania attacks.
I was afraid I was never going home. I thought: “I might die today.”
Hours had passed, and we watched people coming into the restaurant that had just walked over from Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge.
They were covered in debris and they all looked shocked.
Many were crying.
When train service was finally restored, I rode on the train with these people.
They were crying because they couldn’t reach their family, friends and/or coworkers.
It was complete devastation.
When I got home, I called my mom to ask her if all of our family members that worked in Manhattan were accounted for and when she said, yes, I was so relieved.
A couple days later I found out that my friend — Deanna Micciulli Galante — who I had grown up with, was missing.
She worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 106th floor. She was eight months pregnant with her first baby (Matthew) and was two weeks away from maternity leave.
-Tania Marziano, Land O’ Lakes
New Jersey HUD workers ordered to evacuate their building
On 9/11, 2001, I was working at the office of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, at One Newark Center Building in Newark, New Jersey.
About 9:10 a.m., a commotion started on the 12th floor.
Several coworkers started to run toward the windows to watch one of the World Trade towers being destroyed by the fire.
When I asked a coworker what was going on, he told me that he’d heard on the radio that a tower at the World Trade Center was accidentally hit by an airplane.
After watching the fire at the first tower for a while, with several coworkers, we saw an airplane coming around the second tower and hitting it — causing an explosion and another fire.
Immediately we determined that the striking of both towers by planes was no accident.
I called administration for instructions on how to handle this emergency.
They instructed me that I had to immediately leave the building, with all my coworkers and wait for instructions for when to return to work.
–Juan Bonilla, Zephyrhills
News announced on Navy ship’s PA system
I was in the Navy, on the way to the Persian Gulf.
I had a late watch, so I was trying to get some sleep.
But the captain kept coming over the PA system, talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center.
When I went on watch at 12:45 in the morning, I asked what was this about a plane hitting the World Trade Center.
They showed me the pictures. The next day we topped off our gas tanks. And, as we pulled away from the replenishment ship, we played “We’re Not Gonna Take It” — which I had provided for the occasion.
-Paul Snider, Land O’ Lakes
Published September 15, 2021