September 11, 2013   / by Criselda Trillana  / Categories :

There are many days of the year that brings New Yorkers as well as Americans together. One day we will never forget is Tuesday September 11, 2001. The attacks on the World Trade Center have permanently changed the city of New York, and the rest of the world for that matter. This date has been permanently etched in the mind of New Yorkers as a horrible reminder of how many innocent lives were taken and also reminds us to appreciate each day that is given to us. It shows others that as Americans, we could come together and help those around us. Many people remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard of this horrific tragedy. Here are some of our own personal accounts that give perspective – some closer than others to the events that unfolded that day. In the end, all were affected in the same way. 

DHARE – Ground Zero

On a beautiful Tuesday morning 12 years ago, I emerged from the City Hall subway stop and proceeded to walk towards my favorite breakfast spot. With headphones in my ears, I went about my typical morning ritual oblivious to the groups of people looking at the sky. A close brush with a speeding fire truck practically knocked my headphones off – which had been muting the sounds of utter chaos.  It didn’t take long for me to look up into the sky like everyone else, and seeing one of the World Trade Center towers on fire two blocks away.

Five minutes later, a plane crashed into the other tower…

The sound was absolutely deafening.  As debris crashed down around me, I took refuge in a nearby store along with other people.  When the falling debris started to subside, a group of us began our trek away from the World Trade Center area.  As we hastily walked away, the random sounds of metal crashing to the ground were accompanied by suddenly silenced screams followed by a thud.

Moments later, the first tower collapsed.

A plume of smoke rushed towards my group, swallowing people whole.  I had run four blocks by the time I was able to see again.  Safely away from the area, I looked behind me and watched in horror as the second tower fell.  Covered in smoke, everyone around me began the long walk uptown…

9/11 was the most horrific day I ever witnessed.  There are images and sounds that will forever wake me in a cold sweat.  However, there were moments that reminded me why I still call New York City home.

I remember strangers lending their phones so I could call loved ones. I remember shop owners giving away water. I remember a doorman wiping the dust from my face. On New York’s darkest day I witnessed what we do for one another during a crisis. That’s why I call New York home.


HECTOR – Jersey City, NJ

I was working in NYC for a jewelry designer named Mish New York as his apprentice in Marketing and PR. I remember that day I literally had been running late to work because he asked that I run a company errand.  Each day, I would take the Path train to the WTC and then change for the subway.  Usually I would arrive at the WTC area around the time the WTC was devastated.  Since I had been running an errand, I realized that my phone continued to ring.  I didn’t have a chance to reach for the phone, until I looked at the television and noticed what was going on.  At that moment, I became emotional.  I had been struck with a shock that left me speechless. I kept thinking about all the lives that may have been lost.  Turning the television off, I rushed to the downtown area of Jersey City to watch in horror, the WTC catastrophe.  I saw people being evacuated on boats from NYC to other boroughs.  All you could hear were alarms ringing in every direction.  Fire alarms, emergency alarms, evacuation alarms, fire trucks – all as they sped into Manhattan.  People gathered at the waterfront. Emergency doctors rushed to the pier to help those that were injured and being evacuated. Everyone was overcome with emotion. Soon after, all you saw was a giant plume of smoke that covered the city and the Hudson River. People ran for their lives. People held each other. There was only so much you could do.

At that moment, I could only think of the loved ones I knew that were in the path of the chaos. Everyone knew someone that was affected by 9/11.  For weeks life was at a standstill.  It was just too difficult to cope.  We had experienced our first act of war; something that I had never seen in my lifetime.  When you see it live, it has such an impact on your life. I finally was able to reach my sister who was stuck in Manhattan for (2) days.  I stopped watching television, since it was too unbearable. I sat down and prayed, like everyone else. Prayed that perhaps this was not real.  Soon enough reality checked in.  As the weeks progressed, 9/11 felt like a war had been staged in our own backyard.  I was not affected, but having watched it was just as grave.  I could go on writing about the things I saw, but it was just such a horrible day for the world. It’s just something that most of us will always remember.


DAVE – Brooklyn, NY

I was a sophomore in high school. I remember clear as day: I was in Spanish class, and out of nowhere on the loud speakers of the school, our principal announced that we were being attacked by terrorists. I didn’t think anything of it, because you hear news like this all the time whether it’s a bombing or a hijacking. But I had no idea about the scale in which this event took place.

I moved on with my day like everyone else did… That was until I stepped outside of my school to go home. My school was near Coney Island, Brooklyn, nowhere near Manhattan at all. But I saw debris everywhere in the air, like little black particles. And the air smelled so weird.  As I got closer to my home at that time in Brooklyn, I saw even more smoke and debris.  I also had a clear view of the Manhattan skyline from where we lived and it was surreal not seeing the twin towers among the buildings. There was  just so much smoke coming out of Manhattan.

Strangely it wasn’t until this time I realized what had happened and how serious it was.  I started looking at news sources and saw the towers fall, and with those towers, my heart fell for our city and the nation.


BEN – Saint-Tropez, France

On September 11, 2001, I had just started our high school year. I had finished school early that day and my Mom was picking me up. It is when I entered the car that I heard the news on the radio. Nobody really understood what was going on and we rushed to go back home to see it on TV.

What we saw was unbelievable – crazier than any Hollywood movie could do. I think we saw the images of the plane crashing in the towers about 200 times. It was like we had to see it over and over again to actually believe this was real.

The first night was just a shock.

The day after was even stranger. When we arrived at school, there were cops and security barriers everywhere. After the shock, the second feeling was fear. Everyone in Europe thought the next sites in danger were the Eiffel or Montparnasse Towers in Paris or Big Ben in London. We felt we were the next ones on the list. Paris had known similar attacks (but not as dramatic nor big) in the past.

After fear came the feeling of solidarity.

This was, I think, the most powerful and most memorable feeling of all that I experienced at this time, and I was not the only one. There was such a feeling of friendship and kinship with the US. I think many of us felt like we were all American afterwards. Three days after the event, they gathered everyone in the school’s main garden, asked for a minute of silence and played “Imagine” by John Lennon in the whole school. This was a very intense moment.


ALLISON – Edison, NJ

I was in my first year of college at Middlesex County College. I was driving to my morning class and listening to Howard Stern on the radio when he said that a plane flew into one of the World Trade Center Towers and I totally thought it was a joke… It’s Howard Stern. I was early to class and went in and set up and was talking to a few classmates when one of the equipment managers came in and told us 2 planes flew into the World Trade Center and that classes were cancelled. I didn’t realize the severity of that statement and what that meant until I got home and turned on the TV. Prior to starting to work in the city in 2007, I had only been to New York a handful of times. I didn’t understand how many people worked at the World Trade Center. After getting home and watching the TV I did start freaking out because one of my best friend’s parents both worked in the city. Of course I had no idea where but I immediately called him and he was freaking out more than me. Cell lines were spotty at best and the telephone lines were jammed so he wasn’t able to get a hold of them. Hours later he finally heard from them and they were both safe, thank God. I was scheduled to work that day at 1pm and went in. I remember how eerily quiet it was that night. I was a supervisor at CVS and we did almost no business that night. Obviously as the years have passed, I’ve come to realize more and more how awful this was. And how much it still affects the people who had to experience this first hand. Someone that I’ve spent some time with who made it out alive was brought right back to that time and place when the Boston bombings took place and it was a terrible, terrible time for him. 9/11 will always be a day to remember and honor our fallen men and women. Still really sad to think about it…


STEVE – San Francisco, CA

The alarm rang out and I rolled out of bed and sat up, wiping the sleep from my face and started to get ready in anticipation of another day of classes at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where I had attended school at the time. I exited the flat on Bush Street and hurried down the hill with my headphones on, walking at a brisk pace to a soundtrack. Birds flew by, the sun shined brightly and I could feel a cool breeze – just another beautiful day in San Fran. As I got closer to the building I could see people standing by the doors looking around at one another like a lost flock. There was a sign on the door saying that due to recent events all classes are cancelled for the rest of the day. I was baffled but kind of excited with the prospect of a day to myself. No work, no school…this was great! I quickly turned around and did the usual 15-minute walk to my girlfriend’s house in 10 minutes flat. I was so excited. I rang the bell and she quickly buzzed me in. The door opened in the old Victorian hallway and the minute I saw her blue eyes I hugged her and kissed her hello. I explained to her that school was closed and what a great day we were going to have, not getting it immediately that she looked slightly despondent. I looked at her and asked, “What’s wrong?” She was looking down and slowly just grabbed my hand and brought me inside and said “New York is under attack…”

I guess it would be cliché to say that time slowed or the room went quiet or any other movie type explanation… but that’s how it was. In the small dark studio apartment the only light came from the TV that repeatedly showed the plane entering the building and exploding into balls of fire. I don’t remember what was said. In my head it’s just garbled sounds and the explosion over and over. It looked like a scene from Die Hard. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing happening in my hometown. I sat down on the bed and my body shook and conformed into a little ball as my eyes welled up and tears rolled down my face. There was no real emotion I could use to describe the feelings of dealing with something that never entered your mind or was just the most impossible event imaginable.


CRISELDA – Rockland County, NY

September 11th, 2001 occurred during my first full week at Albertus Magnus HS in Rockland County. I didn’t hear the news until 2nd period, Math class. My new classmates were whispering amongst themselves about what was going on. One classmate was in hysterics – her uncle worked at one of the towers at the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, he did not survive.  I had no idea how to feel since I didn’t have anyone who I knew that worked in NYC. But it was pretty obvious we all were in shock. Our classroom TV’s did not have cable, and this was a time before smartphones were glued to our hands for instant updates. Our math teacher somehow managed to find a news station that got pretty poor reception. That was the first time we saw the images; images of planes crashing into the towers, towers crashing, people emerging from smoke, and faces of confusion, fear and panic. Even faces of the NYPD, FDNY and EMT’s were lost. Soon after, we heard about the two other planes that crashed in Pennsylvania and at The Pentagon. Seriously, what was happening?

Soon names were called as parents began to pick their children up. Where were my parents?! We eventually were all sent home early to be with our families. The bus ride home was filled with kids asking questions, talking about Disney World being shut down (it’s obvious how young our mindsets were), and people talking about whom they knew that worked in the city.  I was pretty relieved to see both my parents waiting for me at my bus stop – couldn’t drive yet. I knew they were fine but it was still a relief we were all okay. At home, we were glued to the news and the realization set when they mentioned terrorism and that the US was attacked. That night we all went to bed with those images replaying in our minds and thinking about the information the media had given us. We didn’t know what to expect next.


MANNY – Yonkers, NY

Well September 11 was a day I would never forget because it was the first time I really witnessed acts of war right in my backyard.  Growing up in the United States you always felt this sense of security, like nothing could ever happen to us. That naive outlook changed because of 9/11, making the next generation of young adults wake up and realize that even in the USA, terrible things can still happen.

In September of 2001, I was beginning my junior year of high school.  I remember that morning it was third period and I had study hall.  I was hanging out with some friends in the cafeteria when a gym teacher came to the group to tell us a plane crashed into one of the Twin Towers.  We were shocked but still maintained that naive outlook; just assuming it was a terrible accident.

Within that hour we heard a second plane hit the other tower, and we realized this was no accident.  For the whole day, teachers brought out radios and everyone would listen to the news reports of what was going on.  I was still in shock, but we still hadn’t seen any footage from what was happening.  My high school was located on a big hill in Yonkers, NY, which is about 15 miles away, so we could see a tall plume of smoke over Manhattan in the distance, which was so surreal to me – like being in a movie.

Finally I was the first one to get home that day and I turned on my TV to horror.  I couldn’t believe it happened.  Terror and sadness consumed me as I sat on my bed watching the planes hit and the buildings fall over and over and over. Finally seeing the footage was what really hit me, because even though I’ve seen stuff like this before in movies and even in other countries, this was my country and my state.  I couldn’t believe that there were monsters living in this world who believed killing thousands of innocent people was a good thing.

When my mom and sisters came home we all went to my aunt’s house to have a small gathering and were relieved that no one we knew was involved in the attacks.  But as we watched the footage being shown over and over again, we felt like we did lose people.  All I remember after that, is getting tired of seeing the attacks practically everyday for weeks.  Even though it was still top news, there was a point I just didn’t watch the news anymore because it was so sad and depressing.

I continued with my life normally but didn’t go into Manhattan for almost a year.  Years later, my little sister decided to join the army. Even though I was worried about her safety, I supported her and was so proud of her for risking her own life to protect our country.  I eventually visited the memorial they built and gave my prayers again for the people we lost that day.  I’ll never forget 9/11, and I hope we never have to experience a horrific event like that again.


ERIK – Columbus, OH

I was a sophomore in high school living in Columbus, Ohio at the time. What I remember is: it was second period and I was in English class, I was actually going in and out of sleep at the time. I remember one of the seniors was going classroom to classroom, notifying people about what was happening. I don’t think anyone took him seriously being the typical joker he was, and I don’t think he even took it seriously. By this time though, the second plane had already crashed into the second tower. I was pretty out of it still because mornings really are not my thing. I’m not sure if many students in my class knew what just happened. I didn’t have a clue what a “World Trade Center” was at the time since I had never been to NYC. I honestly thought it was like a colossal super market, like a Walmart Supercenter. What kind of madman bombs a grocery store, I thought?

My next class was math, maybe? Class as usual, it went. Next I had economics, it was the class before lunch – that’s how I remember. At this point the students were all requesting to watch the news on a TV. That was always my favorite part of school was when the teacher would wheel in the big tall cart with the TV on top. But our teacher did not waiver and decided for better not to show the events that were happening at the time. It wasn’t until about noon, when I walked home for open lunch and finally turned on the TV to see what was actually going on. And HOLY SHIT. Okay, so it was NOT a Walmart Supercenter that got bombed, but multiple airplanes that had been hijacked and flown in to what I knew as the “twin towers” from pictures. Before I knew it, it was time to go to class. So, I ate some soda crackers and ran back to school because I didn’t want to be late for Spanish class, right?

By now, I guess everyone had finally seen the news, so they let the students watch the news for the remainder of the day. If our parents said so or came to pick us up, we could go home. The remainder of my day was spent watching the news at school, which was probably better than going home to watch the news by myself. I was just hoping there weren’t any more planes raining down from the sky. The news was starting to get redundant, just watching the planes collide into the towers over and over again, and watching the towers collapse over and over again.


JUAN – Dominican Republic

I was working that morning in a cigar company in the Dominican Republic that also sells coffee and cocoa. That particular day someone in the office was trying to send a fax to the first tower and she said it was impossible to send it because all the lines were congested. A few minutes after, I saw the first image of the iconic skyscraper in New York City on fire, which we all thought at the time was an accident. Minutes after, the second plane hit the second tower. At that moment, we were clear that this was not an accident. It was a terrorist attack.

I absolutely felt powerless and vengeful at the same time…

When I started to see the people on TV searching for their loved ones that used to work in the towers, I realized that this attack was in fact not only against Americans, but was an act of cowardice against humanity. It was an attack against all races, genders, nationalities and religions.


JESSICA – Los Angeles, CA

On the morning of September 11, I was in California and I was supposed to get up for 8th grade like any ordinary school day. My brother came into my room yelling at my best friend and I that New York is being bombed. My mother entered my room and we turned on my TV to see the horror that was unfolding. We just sat there watching, it just seemed surreal. The scary part was that my grandmother was at JFK and was supposed to be on that very flight headed to LAX. We could not get a hold of her because all the cell towers were out. My mother decided it was best not to send us to school, because we had no idea what was going on and if there were going to be more attacks. I just remember watching the news the whole time and witnessing the towers caving in. Later that day, we finally did receive a call from my grandmother saying that she was okay and safe in New Jersey with her brother and how scary and crazy it was for her to get out of JFK and into New Jersey.


MONICA – New York, NY

It was around 9:15 and my husband, DeRohn, and I were driving into NYC across the George Washington Bridge.  I was running late to Phillip Van Heusen, my job at the time. We were listening to Star & Buc Wild on Hot97 and nonchalantly, one of them mentioned, “This just in – a plane crashed into one of the Twin Towers. But let’s talk about real issues…,” and proceeded to talk about rapper gossip in the Hip Hop world. DeRohn and I looked at each other asking, “Did he just say…?” At that moment, it was like time slowed down. All cars on the bridge slowed down too as if they heard the same news for the first time, too. We both looked to our right and saw the smoke in the sky.  Out of nowhere a slew of black cars sped across the bridge and pretty much shut the bridge down. Holy fuck.

At this point, DeRohn had changed the station to 1010 WINS and in the minutes it took for all this to happen, the radio announcer said that a 2nd plane had flown into the 2nd Tower. “We have to go home,” I told DeRohn, “we have to turn around.”

I called my boss at the time, Lynn Spindell, to tell her I was going back home. She said, “We don’t know what’s happening, but go home. Don’t worry.  I think one of the planes headed to LAX had a bunch of girls from TJMaxx. There were 6 of them – all married with young kids.” Everything continued to move in a slow motion. Those women who lost their lives were living just like me.

We went home and sat on the couch in silence as we watched TV. My kids, Lyly and DJ, were too young to understand. They were only 3 and 2 years old.

We watched the smoke and flames. We watched the helicopters get as close as they could to the towers. Just like that, the first tower went down. It was like the news knew this could happen. It was like they had experts give their opinion of how the structure was made and how each tower could collapse. And they did. The difference was, the news did not prep us for what could happen. All we could do was watch.

At that time, my father’s firm, A&M, had offices in the Financial District. We started calling anyone and everyone to make sure they were okay. At one point, the phones just stopped working. One minute, calls went through and the next, busy signals everywhere. Calls were able to come out of NYC but no calls were going in. The government stopped things coming in in fear of any more terrorist attacks. I freaked out and tried emailing. It’s a terrible thing not being able to contact people.

One conversation I’ll never forget was with my cousin, Donna. You could hear her voice shaking over the phone when she told me about her husband, Mario: “Mon, Mario walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. I couldn’t reach him all day. He called me on a payphone to let me know he was okay.”

I couldn’t sleep that night. I was devastated. I was old enough to be devastated.  DeRohn and I held each other that night. It could’ve been us. Thoughts flooded my head. My bridal shower was at the Windows on the World – at the top floors of the North Tower. It could have been us. It could have been anyone.

New York City was turned upside down. It probably took NYC a week and a half to two weeks to start operating again. No one knew what to do. No one knew how toxic the air was due to flames, smoke and debris. I was scared to go to work. I called Lynn and she said it was all surreal. She told me to stay home – she wasn’t requiring anyone to travel until further notice. When I finally came back to work, our office manager, Anthony Viola – also a reverend/preacher – held mass for all employers. We all gathered in a room to pray for those who lost their lives, especially our colleagues from TJ Maxx.

9/11 did start NYC’s action planning. NYC was never the same. Cops and firefighters were respected again. Mayor Giuliani got the strength of NYC back again.

It was such a harsh day. 2000+ people lost their lives that day to terrorist attacks. In one day, so many friends were lost. Every September 11th, I never forget.

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