There once was a Tuesday morning that I have never forgotten. I was 21 years old, but now, ten years have gone by. But I still have a copy of the e-mail that I sent to my cousin (her family was living in Indonesia) on the day after the attacks. You will see, right away, that some of my facts are inaccurate, but remember, we still didn’t have all the details. With barely 24 hours since the attacks, we were still figuring things out.
I was still in shock, but knowing my cousins were out of the country, I badly wanted them to see things through my eyes. I’ve changed nothing in this letter, except a few grammar or spelling mistakes (and adding the picture, of course), since then. Everything else you’re reading is original.
September 12, 2001
Dear Hannah and everybody,
I know Dad has written already, but I thought I’d write as well. I saw what he wrote. I don’t know what you’re hearing over there. It’s been… insane? Weird? Shocking? Unreal? I don’t know what word quite describes what happened. I don’t think there is one. Tragic?
I was at work for an hour, yesterday, when I overheard one of our regular customers mentioning something about a crash, to an employee. Two customers had already tried to change the channel on the TV, since all we get is court TV. But they do newscasts every hour. As things progressed, they moved it up to every half hour, and then constant.
We watched the plane hit the second tower, repeatedly. As home videos off the street came in, we saw all sorts of views. The first hit came at quarter to 9 in the morning. The second followed at 9. Such timing was probably planned, because most people, if they were going to be at work, were there by 9.
We heard about the evacuations. Then we heard about a fire at the state department. The White House was evacuated. The Pentagon was on fire. We heard that a plane had hit the Pentagon. Then the plane went down in Pittsburgh. Rumors that Camp David had been hit. That an undisclosed target had been hit. We heard there was another hijacked plane out there that hadn’t hit a target yet.
These “rumors” were on the news. They didn’t seem to be rumors, but a few of them never became anything. There were no more crashes after the Pittsburgh, Pentagon, and WTCs.
Then we heard that the towers had collapsed. At first, I thought it only meant partly. We watched the pictures. I thought the billowing smoke was hiding one of the buildings, when in reality, the building had fallen. We literally couldn’t believe it, and still find it hard to believe. It’s surreal. As soon as you’re away from the TVs, you can imagine it hasn’t happened. The explosions and buildings falling look like pictures from a movie, such as Armageddon, for example.
We weren’t watching constantly, mind you, but I was often updating those that couldn’t be within the vicinity of the TV. We watched as the flight numbers were announced. We imagined what it’d be like to know a member of your family was bound for California (as they all were) and got flown into a building, instead.
They still aren’t giving numbers on casualties in the buildings. Over 30,000 people worked in those buildings. Then, more footage from the streets came in.
Some of these I saw at work. I was going to Jane’s, after work, so I watched a good bit there, too. A photographer took photos of stuff down there. People jumped out of windows, rather than be killed in the inferno. The windows from the top! The 70th floor and higher, at least. We watched one person fall, about 10 seconds before the first building fell. And it just collapsed in on itself, the smoke and dust billowing out, sprinkler style, as it went down. Then, the other one went down.
There was about an hour to an hour and a half between the crashes of the planes, and the falling of the buildings. That’s all the time there was for people to get out. The elevators weren’t working correctly, so people were being trampled in the stairs. Firefighters and policemen arrived in time to help get people out and their vehicles, at the least, were buried in the building wreckage. The unofficial count is that several hundred policemen and firemen are missing.
The newscast people interviewed people who watched, people who escaped, rescue workers. An ambulance man was crying as he tried to tell what he’d seen. You couldn’t see as much with the smoke and dust, and up close, you couldn’t even breathe. He saw bodies and pieces of bodies, all over.
A man in a bandana was interviewed, and said he worked in the WTC buildings. He had been late for work. He guessed it just wasn’t his number, that day. A girl I work with is from New Jersey, and her bro works there. He was not in the building when it occurred. Don’t ask me why.
The Pentagon crash has had them announcing possible victims from 100 to 800 people. The plane hit an area where the rooms were being remodeled, so not as many were in that section as there could have been.
The Pittsburgh area crash occurred in a field in Amish land. Rescue workers had no hope of survivors. They found no pieces of the plane bigger than a phone book.
As Dad already told you, everything was evacuated in the area. Congress. All government buildings. The Sears Tower in Chicago, as well. The Lincoln Tunnel was closed. Yesterday, all over the country, large companies were closed. The banks were closed. The malls were closed. Air Force planes were on alert in Washington and New York.
This morning, at Ground Zero, as the former WTC site is being called, the search for survivors continued. Nine survivors were pulled from the wreckage, that I’ve heard. Nine out of a possible 20 to 30 thousand, or higher. Today, they found the rooms the hijackers stayed in and what rental car they were in, and got some info from that.
Yesterday, before the later crashes, the Pentagon and Pittsburgh, there were cell phone calls made, saying they were being hijacked and stuff. There were claims of the hijackers using knives, which backed up what people were starting to believe. Easier to believe than how they would get guns aboard. The hijackers had to have some skills in flying, though the big planes are easier to fly than others.
They’re sure the pilots were killed before the crashes occurred. Even at gunpoint, no American would fly into buildings like that, without trying to swerve. No, they had to have been subdued or killed.
We’ve seen footage of Arabs, Palestinians, and Muslims dancing in the streets, singing that God is good, and throwing candy, when they heard what happened to us. It makes me want to cry, almost more than watching the crashes, to see people rejoicing in the death of thousands. Dancing! To know that thousands of mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, children, brothers, and sisters have died. Some never knew what happened. Some watched out the windows as it happened.
Barbara Olson, the wife of some political person, along with others, called their loved ones on their cell phones from the planes, to tell of the hijackers. Olson called her husband. George W. Bush has said we will “hunt down” the people behind this. He called those that did this a “faceless coward”. People are crowding into blood banks to help. Those terrorists wanted this country to fall apart.
It’s not going to be that easy, but I don’t think we’re going to collapse as they hope. Bush and his colleagues are serious about finding answers and they’re going to take action.
It has occurred to me that the hijackers themselves are receiving their punishment right now. Nothing the government can do would compare to what they’re going to have to deal with for eternity. Sadly, as someone also mentioned to me, many people in the towers and elsewhere, are now in the same condition. We can only hope that some called on their Savior at the last minute.
Right now, behind me, Dad’s watching the news, as they talk of more rescue work. There have been more survivors. Few and far between, but there are survivors. A few airplanes are in the air again, today. Just a few. Yesterday, all airports were closed. Linda was in DC when this happened. Last I heard, she was unable to leave by plane or anything. I understand her taxi driver took her and the kids in. Her husband was down here. He said he’d drive her out when he was able. I can only imagine what they’re going through.
Two of my managers were extremely frightened, yesterday, because they have children in the Army. Caleb J. is in the Marines. I wondered if anything with Uncle Dave would change, because of this [retireding from the Army]. We’ll find out when he gets back, this weekend.
Another co-worker of mine was supposed to be flying to Kiev, this Friday, but doesn’t know if they’ll still be able to go. There was a bomb threat at Tri-County Tech, today. I called home, when I found out, wanting to see if Matt was there, in class, today. No, he’ll be there tomorrow. I’m sure it was a prank. Well, that’s not a strong enough word. Somebody’s taken advantage of what’s going on in this country. Sickos.
It’s been insane at work, today. Yesterday, it was dead. Today, everybody wants the papers. We were supposed to get 300 copies eac, of the Washington Post and the New York Times. Then, the post wasn’t coming. I left work today, and the Times still hadn’t arrived. Everybody wants the papers.
The news, right now, has a lady being interviewed, whose husband was on the plane that crashed near Pittsburgh. She received three cell phone calls from him. She was first told that the plane had been hijacked. Somebody had been stabbed to death. She told him about the WTC crashes. She begged him to not draw attention to himself, and he said he couldn’t do that. That plane never made it to DC, as it maybe was meant to. They think the passengers on that plane made an effort to prevent the hijackers from achieving their aims.
I know this hasn’t been a happy letter. Don’t worry, we’re alright. No important stuff is anywhere near us. We’ll keep you updated. I’m sure you’ll hear stuff where you are, but I thought maybe I could tell you some, too. Since you can’t be here, it probably doesn’t seem real or anything. It DID occur to me, though, that Dad flew through New York City, just this last Saturday. Not exactly a close cal, but it gives me a squirmy feeling, just the same.
I love you guys. Pray for your country. I know you will, but I thought I’d say it, anyway.
“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.” –Ephesians 6:19