The 9/11 Memorial – Today, 14 years ago…
It was a crisp, sunny, September morning. Leaves where changing on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls where we had spend three great days exploring the town, riding the Maid of the Mist, driving up and down Niagara River, visiting the butterfly museum, and taking the Aero Car over the whirlpool. I was visiting my boyfriend L one year after the end of my AuPair-year and this was our last day of the trip to Niagara Falls, we watched the sunrise at the Falls, got a quick breakfast, and headed to the Skylon tower.
We got there just at opening around 8 am, there were only very few people with us and we had a beautiful view of the Canadian and American side of Niagara Falls.
We took the elevator back down and landed in the souvenir shop. Browsing around I only overheard the radio saying that Bush cancelled all his activities. My thoughts were “typical international leader, just cancels everything…” – but I did not now what was going on at the time, it was about 9 am.
A sudden turn of plans…
We decided to watch an IMAX movie before heading back to New Jersey but the theater was not yet opened. So we walked back to our hotel and wanted to slowly pack our stuff. My boyfriend L (now husband) went to fix something on the car while I was inside organizing. All the sudden he yelled in to turn on the TV, he had heard something on the radio and could not believe it. I turned on the TV and could not believe it. I saw pictures of the World Trade Center twin towers, both burning. We were both in shock!
L had worked for the Navy before and instinctively reacted, calling out lets throw everything in the car and get back to the US. I was not even thinking about other things that could happen at that time but we stayed on the Canadian side and of course had to cross the border…
We threw bikes and clothes in the car and in the turmoil of all this I saw the first tower collapse. It was like slow motion and I was only thinking “I hope they got everybody out” and “how can this building collapse this quickly”. No time to think, I do not remember if we saw the second building collapse or if I heard it on the radio on Rainbow Bridge while waiting at the border. In a certain way everything is just a blur…
I remember standing in a line of about 10 cars or so in the middle of Rainbow Bridge, we were dead silent listening to the radio.
I was shaking, holding L’s and my passport, just hoping the would “let us back in”. I had thoughts they may only let L back in as a citizen, but tourists like me from Germany not. Then thoughts circled about additional planes attacking Niagara Falls as we heard about the Pentagon and another hijacked flight crashing. Time seemed to have stopped and I kept looking around for planes just hoping none would crash into the bridge.
After an seemingly endless wait border control let us “back in” to the US. And we started our long drive back home to Point Pleasant, NJ. I was shaking, L was driving, and the radio was giving us a glimpse of what was going on but it was hard to imagine…
About half an hour or an hour into the drive we stopped to get something to eat and I tried to call my parents back in Germany. I think L had a cellphone back then but I could not get through so I needed to find a pay-phone someplace and we stopped at a Dennys or Diner. I do not remember after how many tries I finally got through but I got to relay my message that we were OK and that my sister Sarah near Boston, MA (she just started her AuPair year) was all right, too.
The drive home seemed endless, we passed singes on the highway asking for prayers and for truckers to leave their load behind and make their way to NYC for support. Our route took us relatively close to NYC. I saw truckloads on the side of the road and on parking areas – everybody was coming together.
It was getting dark when we finally got home. We did not have a TV at that time and went into our neighbors house to see what had happened and what was going on.
The following days were just more of a blur, seeing the destruction, taking a drive to near NYC seeing the smoke still rising, feeling weird each time you saw a plane in the air (my return-flight to Germany was about two weeks after 9/11), the hardship, the stories, and the worry about friends.
These pictures are from the Internet (click for their location)
This is my (Anja) story about 9/11 – a story and memories that will stick with me and come up every year when it gets close to 9/11, pictures show up on my news-feed, and when “older” friends ask “where where you that day?”
Today, there will be probably the “Tribute in Lights” again and the 9/11 Memorial will have many additional visitors. It is a day to remember, to remember those who lost their lives, celebrate those heroes who worked tirelessly through to rescue as many as they could, and to take the courage to tell our loved ones that we love them because we never know what will happen next.
Please share your story! Where were you, what were your thoughts and feelings?
The 9/11 Memorial
There are many memorials and resources, please feel free to share your own, too!
- 9/11 Timeline of events
- How The Guardian reported the attacks
- The 9/11 Memorial in NYC
- The WTC Memorial in NYC
- The Teardrop memorial in NJ
- The memorial at the Pentagon
- Of course there are also conspiracy theories about 9/11, like this blog shows