My 9/11 Story

Change of pace today.  No complaints.  Just remembering 9/11…  What’s your story?  How were you affected?  What did you think then?  What did you think now?

I’ve often been told that my 9/11 story is unique.  You see; I was actually supposed to fly on a plane on September 11th.  I was on vacation in Las Vegas with a friend and had a mid-morning return flight.

Because of the time difference, it was not yet six o’clock in the morning when the terrorist attacks started.  My wife called our hotel and told us what was going on.

My friend had a sister living in New York City.  It was extremely difficult to sit there and watch him try over and over (with no result) to reach her.  Eventually, even though he couldn’t reach her, one of his relatives was able to verify his sister’s safety.

Then, as we helplessly watched the events play out on TV and the flight-grounding was announced, it quickly became evident to us that we were stranded in Las Vegas.  The good news - because nobody was flying into town, the hotels were more than willing to give us deals.  The bad news - our airline couldn’t guarantee when the flights would resume and we were told that we wouldn’t receive priority status.  In fact, I was told that the soonest flight I could secure might be six days away.  So we started making more desperate calls.  Within hours, every single rental car in town was gone.  Some of the rental car agents actually started suggesting that it might be easier for us to just buy a car.  We were also unable to get a train ticket out of town.

After staying in Vegas one more night, my father called the next morning and said, “Pack your bags and get to the Greyhound station now!”  The day before, this didn’t appear to be an option because there were lines down the street for people wanting to buy bus tickets.  However, my father was able to get a ticket for us.  Once again this was a good news and bad news situation.  The good news - I could leave Vegas and head home.  The bad news - the trip was 52 straight hours on the bus through nine states.

Although I couldn’t imagine the discomfort of riding in a bus for that long without showering and only eating at rest stops, I wanted to get home to my family as quickly as possible.  But what I didn’t expect (and probably wasn’t thinking about at the time) was all the fascinating people I would meet on the bus.  They were everyday people just like me.  I met businessmen/women, tourists, bikers, executives and people in just about every profession you could imagine.  And we all had one thing in common - we were stranded in Vegas and wanted to get home.  I sat next to the CEO of a company in New York and he talked most of the way back about his friends and family in the city, some of which he still didn’t know the fate of.  I can still see the look of despair on his face as I write this today.

As passengers on the bus, we went through different stages emotions.  We cried and mourned those who perished in the attacks.  We talked politics and war.  We also played every stupid car game you can imagine and sang as we tried to put any sadness out of our heads, even if it was for a few minutes.  And we found ourselves helping each other.  In one case, I found myself being grabbed and running through the St. Louis Greyhound station in order to catch an earlier connecting bus to Chicago with a few friends I made on the bus before that.

The friend I was originally traveling with to Vegas was going home to CA.  So by the time he took the bus, got home, slept and went to work - I was still traveling.  Upon getting home, my wife gave me the biggest hug possible and then said, “You need a shower!”  Some of the trip is still a blur, but I kept in contact with many of the people on the bus for years after.

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15 comments to My 9/11 Story

  • Jen

    What a great story, and how wonderful that you still keep in touch with some of those people. I would imagine it was an amazing bonding experience.

    I was home with a newborn and a 2 year old and we were cleaning in our toy room with the Today Show on. I don’t know why it was on, usually cartoons were on at that time of the day. I just held my boys and watched the TV while trying to reach my husband who works in downtown Pittsburgh - we knew that another plane was headed his way. Thank God those passengers took matters into their own hands and saved the lives of so many others that morning. They are true heros and I can’t think about their sacrifice without getting choked up even today.

    I had a friend who was stranded for 3 extra days on her Honeymoon in the Caribbean. You would think that would be wonderful, but I remember she was frantic to get home.

    If you haven’t visited the 9/11 museum in NYC I recommend it. I was emotionally drained afterward, but so glad I went.

  • What an adventure you had! It brought tears to my eyes.

    My day was not as dramatic. I didn’t know what was going on until I got in the car to drive to work. I had a local radio station on and it was just hitting the news. I got to hear all about it driving into work. When I got to work, we had just implemented something into production the night before and it failed so we had to spend a few hours focused on that issue. It was nice to not have to think about the terrible events just yet. After that, everyone was hanging around the TV’s as much as they could and walking around like zombies. I remember a few ex-military co-workers saying they wanted to get back into the military and go “kick some a**”.

  • Leo Nevoli

    Nice story CC, not surprised that you keep in touch with the people you made friends with on the bus. You may recall part of my story in the post: http://theconstantcomplainer.com/?p=1065. I still remember the events of that day. After the first plane hit, I called my Mom to have her call my Aunt to see about my Cousin. I knew he worked in one of the towers, just did not know what one. After my Mom called to tell me that he called, I was relieved, until I heard about the second plane hitting the other tower. Where I worked at the time, we did not have access to the internet, so we gathered around a TV to watch. As we watched the towers fall, I just kept thinking about my Cousin, wondering and hoping he had got out before they came down. We closed the office and I got home to check my email, and I had a sinking feeling when I seen that email from him before the attacks happened. It must have been around 2 PM when my Mom called to tell me that he called from home to let his mom know that was where he was. I tried to call him, and was so glad to hear his voice when he answered. Although it ended with happiness within my family, for a while, we feared the worse.

  • MajorLeague09

    That was quite an adventure you had. Thank goodness you were able to make it home safely.

    I remember that morning very well. I was sleeping when my sister called and told me what was going on. I ran downstairs and turned on the tv. I kept thinking that this has to be some kind of joke. Someone hacked into the TV stations and this was all just computer graphics. I think I was still on the phone with her when the 2nd plane hit. I was crying and remember being so scared. I went through so many emotions that day. Just watching the news and seeing firefighters and police running towards the towers while everyone else is running away. I was so scared. I was working at a daycare then and I remember it being so hard to go to work and not get upset in front of the kids. That whole next week was just a blur. It was such a strange feeling. I know generations before us had a defining moment in history that they will never forget. People always telling you where they were when things happened. And all I kept thinking was this is what will define my generation. I still get teary eyed whenever think about that day. God Bless all the families that lost loved ones. We will never forget.

  • I’m honestly not surprised that you would keep in touch with people you met on a bus. You just seem like that friendly type. My 9-11 story is boring. I was on the computer typing an essay that I obviously left until the last minute. I had my ICQ (see how long ago it was) open and one of my friends from Toronto asked me if I saw the news. I turned on the tv and stood there in shock/horror.

    When school was reopened a lot of people didn’t understand why I was so affected by it. I was in school in Montreal…a lot of people didn’t know my American background. It was really surreal. :( A few of my professors had family and friends in NY so it was just pretty somber.

    I hate the fact that our generation has so many “remember whens” or “where were you when…”. So many bad things have happened within the past 20 years you really dont feel like remembering them!

  • What an amazing journey you had with folks on the bus, this is one of the aspects that I love about America, during those moments, it feels like what the US is, and really embraces, I was watching from afar and 18 hour flight afar, but I could believe what was being played out in front of me.

  • Jen

    That is a fabulous experience. It’s interesting how something so horrible can lead to something that you will never forget in a good way. I can’t even imagine being on a bus that long. We had just moved to MN a few months before and I was having granite installed on my kitchen counters. Totally mundane but I remember it like it was yesterday.

  • I can’t even begin to imagine what you must have been feeling….

    I can’t believe the 10 year anniversary is days away. It does just feel like yesterday.

  • I was sitting in math class in high school. That same day we had terrorist attack drills. We had to use it on one occasion, but that’s another story. I remember the classrooms were grim and silent. I remember not knowing if walking home from school was safe and the fear of not knowing. At the time, I was shocked and horrified. MY country, MY land of the free was under attack and becoming a prisoner. I was scared for the families who lost someone or couldn’t find their loved ones. I was sad for all the people maimed and hurt. I was angry for all the people who were fighting back by pulling people out of the rubble. Then, the Scorpio in me decided one thing, it’s time for vindication! I love my country and I even love all of those families and people affected by that horrendous day. But, you know me, TCC, I’m a lover. :)

    My president, George Bush, sent many men and women overseas to do what I wholeheartedly wanted done. I don’t agree with still being over there, but I do believe it was a right to hit them back and I know that’s foolish. Need I remind you of Pearl Harbor… Violence begets violence. So, God bless the USA and help us live to see another war.

  • Jane

    I’ve watched just about every 9/11 remembrance special that has been on tv the last few weeks. It’s emotionally draining, but important for us to never forget those who were lost that day.

  • I was still relatively new at my 911 job so I was still working swing shift and I hadn’t gotten home until about 1130pm. I got a call early (too early) the next morning from my best friend at work, who was crying. I asked her what was wrong and she told me to turn on the tv. I did, and fell to the couch, horrified at what I was seeing. I immediately called my mom who said one of my brothers had just called to tell her to turn on their tv. I called work back, because even though we were on the other side of the country, I knew we would get a lot of panicked people calling, and thought maybe I should go in, but they said no, they were managing.
    I spent most of the day on the couch and on the phone with my family members, praying I didn’t know anyone in those towers and planes, and praying for those who did, and who were.

    To this day I am still horrified, and shocked at how easily some have forgotten. Thanks for this little piece of memory.

    Hugs.
    t

  • David

    9/11 changed me in a lot of ways. I’m more observant of what our Government wants to do. I’m all for TSA and increased security, even if it’s intrusive. And I think that our freedom needs to be protected if necessary. God bless those who died in the horrible events that day.

  • Fellow Meetuppers,

    I don’t write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many people don’t know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.

    Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn’t matter much if we’ve got the internet and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn’t bother me.

    When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly.

    A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet — and grow local communities?

    We didn’t know if it would work. Most people thought it was a crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make people distrust one another.

    A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months after 9/11.

    Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it’s working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups… a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one thing.

    Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me. They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and motivate each other, they babysit each other’s kids and find other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace together. They make friends and form powerful community. It’s powerful stuff.

    It’s a wonderful revolution in local community, and it’s thanks to everyone who shows up.

    Meetups aren’t about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it weren’t for 9/11.

    9/11 didn’t make us too scared to go outside or talk to strangers. 9/11 didn’t rip us apart. No, we’re building new community together!!!!

    The towers fell, but we rise up. And we’re just getting started with these Meetups.

    Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ)
    Co-Founder & CEO, Meetup
    New York City
    September 2011

  • Such a great story! Brought tears to my eyes! :(

  • Zig

    I really have been thinking about this and tryimng to think of a way to write this, but I cannot put words to my feelings. First, I worked in Trade Center 6 (The world finacila cener and the U.S. Customs House, which sits at the base of the South tower. I arrive in NYC in June 1998 and I left NYC in July of 1999. I used to eat lunch at the water fountain in the area between the towers. I saw and probably talked to one of the people from Kanter Fitgerald and some of the others who died that day. How ironic, that I used to ask my supervisor and co-workers if they ever thought about a plane hitting the towers. They said tho towers were built to withstand the impact of a jetliner and told me not to worry. (Typical New Yorker reesponse to dismiss anything that detracted from NYC. Well, I left NYC. The whole time, from when I applied to leave until the day I left, I held my breath. I ould of made aalot of momney if I stayed in NYC, but somethings are more important than money! Once, I was visiting a friend in Cleveland, before I left NYC. As I flew home into Newark airport, the pilot did a fly by of the World Trade Center and it’s 7 buildings. I knew someting like this could and would happen. I don’t claim to be able to see the future. Anyone with a brain could see it happening! Everyone knew it was a danger. That is why they build the towers withj steel reinforcements. It wasn’t the planes tht brought down the towers. It was the planes’ fuel. I have never told anyone this. This is a bit jumbled. I could fix it and correct it for flow and content, but I just wanted to get it out there for people to think. Cleveland ROCKS!