9/11 – Where were you?

I’m going to skip away from my normal devotional to ask that question. There are moments of tragedy, moments of shock that are etched on the mind not just of individuals but on communities. On cultures. These are the “where were you” moments. For my grandparents generation, it is, where were you on VE or VJ day? Where were you when man first landed on the moon? The next generation is marked by assassinations. Where were you when MLK and later JFK were shot?

These are pictures of the WTC I took back in 98.

These are pictures of the WTC I took back in 98.

For us, at least for Americans, that question is asked about the tragic events that occurred sixteen years ago today. I was a youth pastor in Webster NY, the first… no, the only one in the building when the children’s pastor called the church and asked, “have you heard?” I acknowledged my ignorance and she, through choked up words managed to get out, “You need to turn on the TV.”

For the next hour or so, I watched as the news came in. I saw the second plane hit live. Shortly after that moment I was on the phone with the NY District college ministries director. We were supposed to meet that day to talk about about my upcoming move to Binghamton to help with the Chi Alpha group there. We decided I would at least head over to Syracuse. Even if we don’t meet, they could probably use my help at the NY Assemblies of God District Office.


I was at the gas station filling up when the first tower fell. There was talk at that time of another bomb. The Pentagon had been hit. A plane went down in PA. Information was flooding in as I drove down the NY Thruway going easily 85mph or more. There was a police car at almost every median but nobody was getting pulled over today. Some other cars were moving so fast they were passing me like I was standing still.


I didn’t know anyone in the towers but I knew people that lived and worked in the area. Just three years before this time I did an internship in the Bronx. Friends I graduated college with a year ago were now living in NYC. Nobody could be contacted. Once at the District Office, there was a steady stream of people calling in to say they, or someone they knew was safe, or that nobody had heard from this person, or that this church had somebody who worked in the towers, please pray. There were also many others who were calling from other parts of the state to ask how they could pray. Convoy of Hope, within hours of the second tower falling had already been mobilized with some people already on the scene working to figure out how to coordinate relief efforts.


My aunt in PA was supposed to be getting a heart transplant. One became available in Boston, I believe, but they could not get it to her because the planes were grounded. By the time that was lifted it was too late. She was no longer healthy enough for the operation and died shortly after. She was one of many overlooked casualties that don’t make the official tally.

These are some scattered memories that still paint a vivid picture in my mind twelve years later. I know this blog, the River Walk, is based out of Two Rivers Assembly in Binghamton, but many of you reading are from all over the world. I’m curious, what are your memories of that day? How were you, or anyone you know impacted in this tragedy? Is there an event or tragedy, perhaps Katrina or the Tsunami that struck the Indian ocean in 04 or Japan last year has left an indelible imprint on your mind. Did Katrina change your life? Are you in Florida or do you have people close to you impacted by Harvey or Irma? Or for those from other parts of the world, do you have loved ones in Bangladesh?

Please, tell your stories. They are worth hearing.

32 thoughts on “9/11 – Where were you?

  1. I was on the bus going to vocational college on 9-11-01 and the bus driver was announcing what he heard over the loudspeaker, when I got to campus it was chaos. One of my teachers was actually stranded in NY at the airport. It took her 3 days to get back to CA.
    The phone lines were busy but we eventually did find out that my grandparents in NJ and my aunt in MD were all OK. it was a huge sigh of relief for us, but I have met other people who were much more closely affected. My heart and prayers go out to them.

  2. I was 21 years old, and I worked at a millwork company in East Providence, RI. I was in the company truck (an old falling apart Chevy Silverado), on my way back to the shop after picking up some material from a supplier. I was in traffic, moving slowly, in front of the Providence Place Mall when the news came over the radio. I literally couldn’t believe my ears, so I changed the radio station to see if other stations were broadcasting the news as well. Sure enough, they were. As soon as I got back to the shop, I went into the office and found my coworker watching the news on the old television (complete with rabbit ears!). Just a few minutes after I began watching, the second tower got hit. I immediately broke down and cried. My boss had been in the shop, and just kept the guys working…although I have no idea why. He told my coworker and I to get back to work. We ignored him, and kept watching. Needless to say, my life had been changed that day. I had thought about joining the military at random points in my life, but didn’t really know if I would or not. That day changed my mind. It took me almost two years, but I joined the Navy. I spent the better part of 10 years serving my country (I had an approximate 2 year break in service). This year is the first year that I’ve been in Rhode Island on 9/11 since I joined the Navy. This has been the hardest day for me. Every time I’m in Providence, the events of that day flash back in my mind. The first time I heard Alan Jackson’s song “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” I was in the same spot I was in when I heard the news on the radio. I will never EVER forget it. I have told my 8 year old son about that day, and showed him come video clips on YouTube of the towers on fire. I will tell my daughters about that day when they are a little older, as well. I believe they should learn about it in a way that will have an impact on their lives so they can learn what it means to appreciate your country and all that you have. I don’t want them to be naive about this day, or any other important day in our history.

    May God forever bless the souls that went home to Him, and may He bless their loved ones.

  3. I was two blocks away in my office building. I saw both planes hit firsthand. After the first tower fell, we evacuated our building. The scene on the street was surreal and horrific. Everything was covered in thick grey dust and there was women’s shoes everywhere. We walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to get home and I remember all the rumors spreading about there being more planes coming. when I heard a sudden wave of screams and crying I knew the second tower was falling. I couldn’t bear to be an eyewitness to any more murder that day so I simply kept walking over the bridge crying and praying the rest of my family and friends were alright. I lost one friend that day. His name was Crossley Williams. He just started work at WTC a day before. I guess I should consider myself lucky. So many people lost so much more. God bless all who gave their lives and lost their lives on that terrible day.

  4. Although I’m Canadian, I still remember this happening like it was yesterday.
    I was in grade 4 when this happened. I remember sitting outside with my best friend at recess, watching airplane go by in the sky. She said “There aren’t supposed to be any airplanes, something bad happened.”
    I thought she was joking, or crazy. My teacher that afternoon told us what happened. I was terrified. I went home, hid in my bedroom, put on a tape (no CDs yet!) and headphones, and tried to drown out the sounds of my parents listening to the news on TV.

    Never forget.

  5. Remembering moments is so true. It is like a moving picture in my head. I live in New Jersey but in the south near Philadelphia. I was working at my audit client, a school district on 9/11. We had limited access to news reports because the internet was down. A kind person living across the street from the school, brought a portable television over so that we could watch the events unfold. The school was in lockdown so I couldn’t leave if I wanted to come back in. I had no lunch and the kind employees shared their food with me. Later I received a call that my daughter’s daycare was going to close for the day as the children were all upset. I thought, why do the children even know about it. I supposed they didn’t really but children can sense when the adults around them are upset.

  6. Ever consider why we recall our surroundings in such detail during these occasions?

    They are designed to traumatize the mind through splitting into before and after. It’s done that way for a reason. It is a common practice in fear based conditioning. In this state our minds are extremely open to suggestion. The program is loaded this way.

    The following poems I wrote once I came to admit the truth about that day.

    Like a Movie

    A clear, and cloudless day, they chose for their display.

    Pretty as a picture, it worked out nice that way.

    It seemed just like a movie, photographed unreal.

    Just like melting butter, planes passed through walls of steel.

    Two towering concessions, standing side by side,

    Two witnesses’s confessions, their movie can not hide.

    You’ve had an operation

    You’ve had an operation,

    No chemical sedation.

    Shock and awe has split your mind.

    Now the truth you leave behind.

    It happened when you were awake,

    Early morning few mistakes.

    The probe inserted near the eye

    Wiggled round till by and by,

    The program once uploaded,

    Hid buildings that exploded.

    Suspects named before days end,

    Television so pretend.

    An operation in reverse

    Psychologically perverse.

    5 minutes that challenged my programming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSApOavkHg8

    I remember where I was when I woke up to the truth. Now that’s healing! Thank God!

  7. I was getting ready for work and my daughter, who was 3 years old at the time was watching Sesame Street, while I was listening to the radio. I heard something so shocking that I had to interrupt my daughters viewing to see what was going on. My wife and I watched in shock as this was just before the second plane crashed into the towers. We cried, and I gathered myself and went to work. Work was sitting around, because I worked for Goldman-Sachs in Salt Lake City, Utah. We were sent home early. And nothing effected me as much directly like your aunt dying, I just didn’t get a paycheck for four weeks because I hadn’t set up direct deposit yet. Just the discussions and shock sticks with me after all these years. I’ll never forget. But there is another day I will never, ever, Ever forget: the day that my Lord and savior comes back for us. That will be a day my brother. That is the day that helps me get past each and every one of those days then, and those that will still happen. For, God is my hope.

  8. I’m in Australia but I do remember it very well. I had the TV on but with the sound down. I had looked up from what I was doing to see the second plane impact and I could not for the life of me rationalise what I had just seen. My eyes were saying it’s a movie but my brain was screaming that there was something terribly wrong with this image. It left me with a very sick feeling of what has humanity become that any of us could reach such a place within to choose to do such an act.

  9. I can remember with vivid detail that day. I was a sophomore in college at a small private school in upstate New York. The student body was made up of about 50% Mid Hudson, NYC, Long Island residents so to say that our campus was hit hard is certainly an understatement.

    I was out on a bike ride that morning with a group of friends. It was a perfect fall morning. The kind that make living in upstate New York year round worthwhile. I remember coming down a trail and passing a man walking in the opposite direction. He appeared to be lost and confused. I was the leader of my biking group and got to him first. I remember him uttering the phrase “they hit the towers.” We had been out in the woods riding trails all morning, so I had no idea what that meant and continued on my way.

    When we got back to campus, we quickly found out what the man back on the trail meant. The tears, screams, and gasps I heard as I watched the first tower fall in a common student area were unbearable. I can still hear them in my head as I write this post.

    I remember immediately packing up my necessity things and making the drive back home to be with my family. I can still recall the exact spot on Route 417 where I was when I heard the second tower had fallen. I remember pulling over to the side of the road to wipe the tears from my eyes.

    My mother happened to be at home when I arrived. I remember sitting with her in the family living room watching the CNN coverage until the rest of my family got home. I can not recall another time since when we were all together, but you could have heard a pin drop for hours.

    To all the victims of that day, “gone but never forgotten”

  10. Getting my six young children ready to load up to take my husband to work.

    My mother called and told me to turn on the television.

    I just stood there staring… trying to make sense of what I was seeing… then the second plane hit.

    I continued to listen to the events on the radio as I drove… members of my husband’s platoon gathered around our van to listen…

    We listened as the first tower fell… The platoon leader broke down in gut wrenching sobs…

    When I returned home, the rest of the day was spent watching the horrors unfold on the screen…

  11. A really great way to celebrate our heroes and loved ones lost in this tragedy. I’m happy to have read this post, thank you. 🙂 Have a good day.

  12. Thank you for this piece today. None of us will ever forget that day and where we were, just as those of us who remember JFK’s assassination still remember all these years later. I was a senior in high school when JFK was shot and heard the news as I left school. on 9/11 I was at work in a call center in Fort Worth TX. It was normally a very busy place with constant calls however that day the calls dropped off to very few if any. I received multiple calls on my cell phone from my then 16 year old granddaughter who lived in CT and was terrified that CT could get hit since it is so close to NYC.

  13. I just returned from my astronomy exam (very early class — 8:00 am) and just got off the phone with my mom to tell her about that, but hadn’t hears about it until I got off the phone with her. When I tried to call back she was all ready on the road with my dad to his parents’ house to prepare it for selling. I never went to any other classes at the university that day.

  14. I was a senior in college and heard the news from a fellow student who walked in saying “The NYC skyline is gone”. My dad’s company was headquarted there but luckily he was in the Jersey office. A family friend’s father was not so lucky; his office was on the top floor. Our neighbor was one of the first-responder firefighters, whose health if affected to this day.

    In all the tragedy there was still a silver lining. The wife of our family friend who was killed, met a widower through a 9-11 support group. They are now a couple who grieve together but love together even more. My cousin, a firefighter, met a widow in a similar setting and they are now happily married with a family of their own.

    In all that is wrong with this world, God’s grace, love and mercy wins in the end.

  15. Wow. I was a senior in high school and had just gotten an acceptance to a school in DC. My parents and I changed those plans. With family in NY, we are actually just getting comfortable with being in the District and in Manhattan again. Thanks for this post.

  16. Being a pastoral care visitor and the spouse of an Air Force man, I was asked by a local chaplain to visit an aged facility where the residence had seen the twin towere hit (again and again and again) The chaplain (civilian) chaplain had no idea of the “language” of retired military men and women.

    My first suggestion was for the staff to turn off the TV. 80 yr olds + were freaked and some having panic attacks beliving it was world war III and that the buildings being attacked were many hundred of buildings. Some had grandchildren on frigates and other Navy ships at the time and were absolutely frantic that their young ones would be killed. Then there were some residents who were barricading themselves in their rooms in fear of being ransacked…and this was in Australia.

    Thank you for sharing your memories.

  17. I was on leave (military term for vacation) at the time and was working a part-time job at our County Fair. After the first crash we wrote it off as a local deal, probably an accident. Then the second hit. No longer thinking accident but still thinking it was a regional event. Then the Pentagon was hit. My supervisor (retired Air Force) said “give em hell” as I was running to the car. I drove to the house to change and by then they had called me to base. I drove to base in my battle gear and was sent to the armory. I armed up and took post for 12 hours.

    Over the years since then I have gone to Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other middle eastern countries since 9/11. In 2008, I separated from the Air Force (Security Forces) due to a TBI.

    Thats where I was and what has happened since.

  18. I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt. Yes, she was an overlooked casualty by most anyway.

    I was in the middle of homeschooling our three children when my brother-in-law called and said, “We’re at war.” We don’t have cable or satellite, but we were able to keep up with the news through the internet. Very sobering. But what is even more sobering is how quickly we forgot about God and returned Him to the back burner. [sigh]

  19. I was at work and was not allowed to leave so I had no idea what was really going on (my office did not have internet then) until 5:00. But I think I was already so hardened to the ways of the world that it took a few days for reality to set in as to what really happened. Now I cry at just the thought of that day.

  20. I was at a banking meeting with the state. We just sat there watching the news in disbelief. That entire day was surreal. I prayed hard that day. I saw others do that as well. Work in the end did not matter that day and we all just pondered and life changed. In many many ways it has never gone back to the pre 9/11

  21. I was in South Africa driving between two cities with my husband when we heard the news on the radio. I was expecting my first child and in my shock I was wondering whether having a baby would be a terrible mistake, what future would be in store for my child? Then I thought about my father, who was killed the previous year in a brutal hi-jacking in Johannesburg, in my irrationality I was thinking how he had missed out on such shocking news. We need to be constantly reminded that God is sovereign because we are constantly surrounded by calamity, from a personal to a worldwide scale.

  22. That was a horrible day. I got off 3rd shift and was watching GMA (Good Morning America) while they were talking about the 1st plane. I figured it was terrorism because it wasn’t the 1st time a plane hit the towers. Then we all saw the 2nd plane hit, and Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson reacted with all of us.
    That night when heading into work, Wal-Mart management let us know the government sent them word we were on the terrorist’s hit list, particularly 3rd shift. Only 1 person quit. We were all on edge but had to provide for our families. God was good to keep us safe. Praying for all those who had loss that day, or were traumatized by the job in helping to identify bodies or clean up. And really everyone because that day affected a lot of people.

  23. I was in 1st grade. And it’s one of the clearest memories of my childhood. I remember my mom picking us up and driving us home even though back then we lived close to the school and usually walked. At the house she turned on the tv and I remember seeing the footage of the towers coming down. I was only 6, so i didn’t really understand what was happening, i thought at first that it was one of the science fiction movies my dad liked to watch. Mostly i remember how afraid everyone was, it felt like nothing would ever be the sane again. And it hasn’t been.

  24. We were not far away from you in Watkins Glen, NY. That day we were packing up to leave for Florida the next day after work-camping at a campground there. Instead we sat glued to the television and when it got too sad we left to walk to the Falls.The sadness that surrounded everyone we met was smothering. It was overwhelming to experience such an unbelievable tragedy. It will never be wiped away from memory: Lest We Forget as many of this generation has. ❤

  25. Whatever the event, whether it is worthy of world news, or it’s our own private world turned upside down, each one has a way of shaping who we are as we allow God to show us His perspective. I love His promise to work all things out for good to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose, as He shapes us into the image of Christ. It gives purpose to every tragedy and a hope that carries you through.

  26. I had just spent a few days with my parents down in Ohio and said what I thought was a final good bye to my dad. He had been sick for awhile. I had been called down there as he died and was rushed to the hospital. I lived in Minnesota and rushed to be with him. I b
    Stopped in Wisconsin to pick up a dear friend who was coming along to help m e as all 3 of my kids where with me. In the middles of the drive home, somewhere near Madison Wisconsin, we stopped for breakfast. As we unloaded all 5 of us, 3 toddlers 2 adults, I saw a tv out in the eating area. I grumbled because I am not a tv watcher and thought how silly to have the tv on. But I stopped to watch it. I was shocked. We could not imagine what we were watching was real. We had been listening to CDs of worship music for the whole trip so we had no clue what was happening. We finished and rushed to drop my friend off. As I drove on to Minnesota, I kept praying. See, my sister from CA had been called to my dads bedside also. She was supposed to be flying home that morning. I did not know of she was safe or not. I did not have a cell phone then. I had to wait. So I drove, as fast as I could to be with my husband. To hold him and my kids. To thank God for our safety, while interceding for those that needed a savior.

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