Thirteen years ago, we were invaded forever

Horribly, tragically, forever in my memory. (Getty Images)

Horribly, tragically, forever in my memory. (Robert Giroux/Getty Images)

Thirteen years ago to the minute, I was watching in horror as the television screens in the newsroom of the Syracuse Newspapers were all turned to some version of that horrible vision above.

Oh, how the 9 o’clock hour on this day sends shivers down my spine every year. It forever will. The fact that some faction of the human race deemed it necessary to draw a scheme in which planes would crash into U.S. buildings and murder world citizens is unfathomable to me still.

That hour we journalists stared in disbelief as plane two did its dastardly duty and then we hugged as wounded spirits as the realization sank in that it was no accident. Shortly thereafter it was back to the business of fact gathering and news interpreting to somehow make of it for the readers of two papers still — the evening Herald-Journal soon to roll from the presses and the next morning’s Post-Standard.

It was a long and awful day. Personally, I knew that my brother-in-law worked for a big financial firm in the building directly across from the World Trade Center. I phoned my sister in hopes of hearing of his safety foremost and, yes, I admit now with some astonishment and shame of myself, thinking I may be able to get an eyewitness phone interview as well. It was almost evening, though, until he arrived home on Long Island by cab after fleeing the smoke-filled scene in panic and walking across a bridge from Manhattan. Overload cell service had left him incommunicado. Much later I heard from him that he’d been on a conference call with colleagues in the tower when the plane hit. How awful is that? He’s still unable to return to Ground Zero. And I respect him totally about the whole matter.

As the months and years march by, as a citizen of this country and the world, the capture and death of the man called the mastermind, and rounding up of his comrades, and ebb and flow of terrorism, has done nothing to ease the core of my blood change that morning.

Did you listen to President Obama address the nation last night? We have to act against another organization killing people with disregard for, well, anything except their own beliefs and needs.

The best I can do is pay my respect to those who fight those kind of regimes, those who paid their price with their lives 13 years ago in that tragedy and the aftermath. Then I compartmentalize it, put it back in my intellectual and emotional closet, and get back to my hopes and dreams for better things.

Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001, and how vividly do you remember that day? Do you think much has changed in our fight against terrorism? How do you handle the politics of terrorism in your daily life?

Here’s the source for the photo of the burning World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

48 thoughts on “Thirteen years ago, we were invaded forever

  1. Pretty vivid is right! My wife and I were living about a mile from the Trade Center and it fucked our shit up good and proper for a long, long time. 9/11 is our wedding anniversary, too. But we’ve reclaimed it. We’re back to celebrating.

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    • Damn, Mark, sorry it had more personal overtones to you and your wife besides the broader, savage implications. Living right there, I’m certain it did fuck you up good and proper for a long, long time. Devastating scene, man.

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  2. Couldn’t agree more, Mark. We were in the air when everything happened. Our flight was detoured -midway to our destination – in Little Rock and we were all completely stunned when we landed and found out what had happened.

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  3. I worked at a hospital in Poughkeepsie. My kids were dismissed early from school and sent home to an empty house and I was not allowed to leave. In fact I had to stay for the next 15 hours. My department was corporate services, and I had to dispatch all the local ambulance companies to go down to NYC. Being in the job I was in, I communicated with a lot of emergency personnel. I learned of so many more bombs and things that were found and disarmed that day and the public was never made aware of them. There were several bombs all over the city as well as on bridges in and out. My sister left her job to go be with my kids. (She also worked across the river.) She couldn’t take the Poughkeesie bridge because of a suspected bomb, and she had to drive all the way to Albany to cross and come back down. I had a friend who was attorney and worked in Tower 2, and she happened to be late that day. The plane hit Tower 1 just as she was across the street buying bagels for her boss. She screamed and ran out and had to walk home as the subways stopped. It took her over 10 hours to get home along with a bunch of other people. She lost her shoes in the commotion and didn’t realize it until she was home. A brother of the woman who worked in the desk next to me worked in Tower 1 and died. He was never recovered. For weeks afterwards, when I crossed the bridge to get to work, I could still see a cloud over NYC. It “smelled” of death (to my sensitive autistic nose). We had spotty phone coverage for days afterward and weren’t allowed to use the phone unless it was an emergency. After Tower 2 was hit, it knocked out our cable. That was out for weeks. Even out local store and restaurants had trouble getting food and supplies in because the boats docked near the towers and couldn’t get there. I remember my favorite sandwich shop being out of my favorite tuna for over a month because of it. (Which of course, my resulting problems were ABSOLUTELY NOTHING compared to what the victims’ families went through, but I’m just saying how everything, even little things, rippled even afterward.) My sister’s brother worked in the Pentagon and while it was bad there, what he described didn’t sound nearly as bad as the stuff in NY. (NOT that I’m trying to minimize what happened in DC also.) I had friends in a band who were in the process of flying to a gig, and their flights were stopped and they got stranded out of state and had to ride home in a car with strangers. My son was 7 and was the first home from school that day. Coming home to an empty house, he turned on the TV and saw everything over and over. He had nightmares for months and obsessed over it. He was terrified. Of course we all were. I’m sorry for rambling on your blog, my friend. 🙂

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    • The way it’s still so raw and vivid to you illustrates how it changed us forever, Rachel. The ripple effect was the perfect way to describe it. Thanks for adding that phrase to our blog world page here.

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  4. I woke up just a few minutes after the first tower was hit. It looked like a terrible accident, then I was watching live when the second tower was struck. Then the two other sites were hit and there were reports of missing planes. I was frantic trying to call music friends because I knew most spent so much time flying. Not getting anyone on the line was terrifying and like many, I was scared to go to sleep for fear of waking up to something worse. And I knew that night that the impact of feeling helpless would linger for a long time. Lots of heroes made that day, too. Amidst the ugliness.

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    • The worry of the next shoe to fall was part of the horror, too, Apple Pie, you are correct in pointing that out. Worrying about your friends who had to be flying must have been awful. Thanks for sharing with us on this blog remembrance.

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  5. Dear Mark,

    As to your query?

    I was in Commerce Texas (Middle Earth America, as were most of us: Not Commerce, Texas, but Middle Earth–You know what I mean.)

    I searched out this post of yours, not because I just knew you had some poignant musings on “Nine-Eleven.”

    (Shit! We all do. And ya know what? I read / listen / watch them all)

    And, Yeah, I ‘suffer'(d), but guess what?

    We have, most of us, been to war before, and at the risk of committing ‘blasphemy’, I say this:

    “The men and women who died on Nine-One-One, were not ‘heros’; they were ‘victims.’
    “The men and women who died fighting for whatever we call our country,”
    Now, They are / were ‘HEROS”

    Enuff with “Nine Eleven Heros!”

    They were ‘victims’.
    Just ‘victims’
    Plain,
    Jane
    Victims.
    Simple as that.
    Never ‘heros’.
    Let us not cheapen ‘Heros.’

    Now…
    I had a point to this post (now that I have my ‘rant’ out of the way)

    My point:
    Aw shucks!
    I will sing it to you:

    “Anybody here… seen my old friend Mark?
    “He don’t come ’round much to my blog anymore…”
    (Truth though: I have been distracted of late, and not been to his.)

    Ya got to give a little to get a little.
    (I think I blogged this sentiment once….

    http://wp.me/p2Yfgl-VX

    Peace Mark,
    My New/Old Friend,
    Lanc’d

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    • I gotcha on the visiting thing, Lance. I will return. I suddenly had a 40-hour-per gig on top of my freelancers and this blog and, well, visiting is what suffered. But the temp service thing ended a week ago and I am sure glad I did not give up the freelance blogs so this week I’m trying to readjust after those eight weeks and … I’ll be back.

      Now, calling those victims heroes, I do believe, makes a lot of people feel better about the manner in which they were victimized. But when I use the word heroes when connected to that infamous day, I am also referring to the first responders who rushed in doing their jobs to try to save those victims and thusly lost their lives in the line of duty. And as I watched more stories about that horror, I heard of victims in that building who could have escaped with co-workers but turned around and went back in, attempting to save those less mobile, and lost their lives in doing so. Heroes to me, all.

      Thanks for giving me another shot, Lance, I will be by your Texas Hieroglyphics.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark,
        You are absolutely correct and spot on and I did edit my post to clarify:

        ***
        “Ed. Note: Of course the first responders Were, nay ARE Heroes and shall always remain such. And as Mark pointed out so were those civilians inside the towers who gave their lives trying to help their fellows escape. When I refer to ‘victims’ I am referring to the ninety percent who were just doing what we all do everyday: We get up, go to work, come home, kiss the significant other, pet the dog or the cat or the goldfish, and then next day, rinse and repeat. They were just innocent victims.”
        ***

        Sometimes my typing speed exceeds my brain power and I am ‘one of those’ bloggers who just loves to ‘get the damn post out there.”
        Sometimes this works, often it doesn’t.
        I catch myself doing more editing AFTER posting than before.
        This is most likely a character flaw I have (inherited) From me padre
        Heheheh
        Naw. It is mine to own. Alone

        Cheers My Good Friend,
        Lanc’d

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  6. I remember it very clearly Mark. I remember my 9 year old waiting for me to get home from work, probably about 4 pm. I brought home pizza because I knew I wouldn’t be able to cook. And I remember her sleeping for 20 hours straight, the fear and horror was too much for her. I remember so many moments, pictures, comments, and I still remember the fear I felt freezing me as I thought of the thousands of people and the fear that went through them. And the courage and sacrifice of so many who went in to help. And the families…and friends….. I remember.

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  7. Dave and I were still home when he got the call first to come into work. Then we turned on the TV and saw the 2nd plane hit The Twin Towers. Devastating. That it happened on American soil – even more so.

    But my first encounter with terrorism – as a reporter and later when we flew to England – was when Pan Am Flight 103 was sabotaged on Dec. 21, 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland by terrorists – killing 259 aboard and 11 on the ground. Among them, as I recall, were 39 folks from Central New York – many of them Syracuse University students who never made it home for Christmas. As a reporter, I worked on that story and had co-workers who knew some of the students aboard that plane.

    I will never forget either event.

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    • I will never forget that wretched day, either, Judy, another evening I was in The Post-Standard newsroom, working on the sports desk, all of us so horrified at the news. I can remember the newspaper front page hanging on the wall in the hallway with face of the blonde-haired Syracuse cheerleader crying, because the Orange had a game in the Carrier Dome that night and they announced the news.

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  8. i will never forget that day and i will always remember exactly where i was. on the playground with my kinders and the principal came out to tell the teachers. she also told us that we couldn’t be upset or react or cry in front of the kids. some parents would come to get some of them and we would be on lockdown with rest for the remainder of the day. my brother was in manhattan and my daughter in d.c.. so many feelings and worries and even later when i found they were both okay, so much sadness and shock for all those who lost loved ones on that day and that things would never, ever be the same.

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    • You must have been so worried about your brother and daughter, Beth, and to have to be stoic for the kinders. Wow. What a day for you. The relief must have been palpable when you heard they were OK. But still, the realization we all had of the collective loss of a nation and how we had to grieve for those families. I am sad all over again.

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  9. Wow! What a day that was. On the morning of 9/11/01 at 6:00 am (Alaska time), I was sitting at the Anchorage, Alaska international airport with my boarding pass in hand. My daughter and her husband were sitting with me until my plane departed. At 6:15 am (15 minutes before my flight was to depart to Salt Lake City, Utah), an airport employee got on the intercom and announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, all international and national flights have been cancelled indefinitely due to an extreme national emergency.” My daughter and I looked at each other in disbelief, “Why? What is the national emergency?” A man sitting across from us pulled out his cell phone and read what was happening and told us. We were in shock! The airport employee got back on the intercom and said, “Everyone must clear out of the airport. Go back to your hotels or go home, but clear out of the airport.” We had to wait for my luggage to be returned to the terminal then left immediately. With the radio on we drove the 35+ miles back to Palmer, Alaska. The radio told us to stay in the left hand lanes and leave the right hand lanes open for military personnel only. We passed Richardson Army base and the line of military personnel going back to the base was from Anchorage half-way to Palmer, bumper to bumper (about 20 miles). It was truly eerie and terrifying. Had I been mid-air on the plane, I would have been stranded somewhere between Alaska and Utah.

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    • That was a dramatic was to be affected by the tragedy, PJ, far-reaching in Alaska, as our military reacted to the national emergency from Palmer to Anchorage. It would have been way scarier being told of a national emergency and being turned to the ground from the air, I would think, you are right about that. Who know where you would have ended up, but I bet you would have been met with the kindness of strangers on that day. Thank you for sharing your story with us here, my friend.

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    • I can so relate to this story. I was in mid-air when it happened. And still I feel incredibly blessed to have been inconvenienced, really, when so much worse was happening all around us. I can so relate to your feelings of disbelief and shock. It was like a bad dream.

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    • I am glad to hear of your sympathies, Rachel. How awful for them that day. Of the governments, I am sad to say I believe the battles are not ever going to be plain or simple or easy for me to decipher.

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  10. It was a dark day. I remember it well. I was suppose to work the elections but i wasn’t called that year but I had included that Tuesday in my vacation. Had I gone to work I would have probably witnessed the first plane crashing because my train passed the twin towers every morning around 8:45. I went to work the following day and everyone was in a panic. Police everywhere and any loud noise everyone was jumping. I didn’t go to my usual office because of the train issues but I went to my Queens office. The Towers were situated where you could see them from just different areas from all the boroughs. I was on Queens Blvd and when you looked straight to Manhattan I could see the smoke coming up. My grandson was born two weeks earlier but was sick and in the hospital. When I went to check on him and my daughter it was so eerie. They had discharged everyone to make room for victims of the towers but there weren’t any. So the hospital was dark and quiet and everyone was glued to the TV’s.

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  11. Can’t imagine being in NY at the time but there were, as you know, lots of flags up for days and weeks afterward. You may not realize how many people here in TX were wearing “I love NY” shirts as a show of support as well. I was on my way to my job at the Constable’s office, where I worked with several deputies, when I heard on the radio. When I got there, they turned the tiny TV on, and we watched, turning away as the second plane hit, and wincing as we later watched the towers crumble. After hearing about the news in Pennsylvania, all of the sheriff’s deputies were on high alert, not knowing where the next target would be. A sad day that changed things forever.

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    • Everybody in our country was pulled together by that awful day, Kerbey, and I know from all the people I know who lived in the immediate city area, they felt the love. They surely did. Thanks for sharing your remembrance of how you reacted.

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  12. I was at work at the local weekly I ran when I heard something about a plane hitting a building in New York. I was thinking it must be a prop plane. I got in my car to head out in search of stories. We were a Thursday paper and there were still holes to fill. Of all things to hear it from, I had the radio tuned to “Howard Stern.” How surreal to have him part of that 9/11 memory… Eventually, I found myself in a bar with a television where I saw the first tower collapse. As a news guy, you know you’ve got to find the local angle, and our local angle here on the edge of Vermont was the rumour/fear that they were closing the border down. That was the story I chased that day, stunned…

    I tell people this often, but people forget that prior to 9/11 there was a lot of talk about opening the Canada-U.S. border, making it easier for the flow of commerce and people. That’s just one of the countless things that changed that day.

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    • You had to chase your angle in your stunned pain, and it is of great interest to me that it had to do with our borders, Ross. It irks me greatly that the louses changed our relationship with that cowardly act, too, just one of the dominoes that toppled that day. As an upstater who loves the Canadian side greatly, I wish we’d have greater ease of crossing and commerce. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, my friend.

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  13. You were up close and personal, Mark–wow. Can’t even imagine. So glad your brother-in-law made it home. It’s awful no matter where you were, but I at least was thousands of miles away, knowing it only from the tv screens. I was ironically at the top of one of our downtown’s tallest buildings (no where near as tall as what’s in NYC) working for a client. Folks were watching scenes on the TV when I walked in. Turned around and drove home, watching the horizon the whole time. My husband and I had been trying to have children for years and these events told us that this was no world to bring new folks into, so we decided to let it go – we’d remain childless. Clare was born not even a year later.

    In the end, I just don’t get why we can’t all get along. Terribly cliched and way overly simplistic, but seriously. Why not?

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    • I was 300 miles away, but on that day, I felt like I was down the block, Liz. The ironic thing is, I get the feeling from all the comments piling up today, yours included, that every single person in our country felt that same exact way 13 years ago today. I don’t blame you for getting back in the car and driving home. Believe me, if I hadn’t of been a journalist, that would have been my reaction as well. There’s this news reporter ethic that’s beat into your head that the story is always No. 1, ahead of any personal feelings. Really. Hmmm says the man who was laid off after 29 1/2 years with the company.

      The decision you and your husband made after witnessing that day was quite natural, too, as was what happened when the “trying” part was abandoned, is my guess on the matter. Yay for Clare’s arrival!

      And, finally, yes. Why not? It is not asking too much to be nice.

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  14. Mark, I had the news on as did every morning while getting ready for work. When I came out of the shower, I saw images of the towers on the news and by this point, it was known that it was not an accident. At first my mind could not comprehend it – I thought it was some kind of cruel joke.

    As I listened to the details and the gravity of the situation began to sink in, I burst into tears…it was too close, it was on my continent. I was scared. I was heart-broken for New Yorkers dealing with this on the ground floor.

    My thoughts and prayers are with all who lost loved ones in 2001. ❤
    Diana xo

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    • Today I’ve already seen new TV stories about folks who lost loved ones that day, and they are standing tall through their sadness and talking of how proud they are of how those that lost their lives acted bravely in the face of the cowards who crashed the planes into the buildings.

      I am sad for all of that was lost, the lives, the innocence, the illusion of safety.

      Thank you for sharing and being so compassionate, Diana.

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  15. In our company’s Board room, the news coverage was on a big projector screen the entire day. We were all so stunned; we kept returning to the room, unable to look away from the screen. Unable to believe our eyes.

    I saw one of my colleagues, a rather gruff, difficult man to know, watch as one of the towers collapsed, tears rolling down his face. This man, who always seemed so cold and unemotional to me, had broken down at the images on the screen facing him..

    It is my chief memory when I think of 9/11 – that man sitting there crying for those murdered people. It still makes me emotional when I recall it.

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    • It was impossible not to share in the oneness of human grief that day, Kate, unless you were in cahoots with the cowards who drew up that horrid plan, I’d imagine. We were all in the depths of human sorrow together to see it unfold. Awful.

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    • There are plenty of people who were too close who can’t speak of it still, Mimi. I’m sorry for your loss that day, and thank you from my heart for the dozen words you were able to share here.

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  16. It was a horrible day in history Mark. I recall sitting in the conference room with my cew, going over the day’s plans while a TV on mute played in the corner. One of the crew exclaimed and pointed and we all looked and then turned up the volume. It was live. I watched as the second plane hit. There was a sturctural engineer who was watching with us and when one of the insiders reported that the elevator shafts had been hit in the center of the building, he said that it was all over. The building didn’t look terribly damaged from the outside (“damage” being a relative term) but when the engineer heard that the core had been damaged, he correctly predicted the buildings would fall. And fall they did. It was horrendous. All I could think about were the thousands of people who worked in and visited those buildings. It was surreal. The anger came later.

    I try to watch for suspicious terrorist stuff and have gone to the authorities with suspicions. They generally don’t take it too seriously. To my surprise. Although the RCMP terrorist division here in Canada’s capital are serious about their jobs they have little preventative power. They will speak to the companies that are leaving themselves open to terrorism (poor security around strategic facilities and such) and they will follow up- still they admit they only have advisory authority and cannot order changes. For instance I used to haul into a major oil refinery in a major city and I noticed that at night it would be easy for terrorists to enter and plant bombs, etc because there were ways to get through the gate and security without even producing any ID. And once inside the refinery, most activities were automated so there were no employees and few if any security patrols. To me it looked like a ripe target but to them it was cost saving.

    We are not used to thinking in terms of attackers and terrorists. It is a world view that we may have to adopt, although I am not sure that is a good thing in the long run. Our innocence is fast dissolving into suspicion and fear. May God help us.

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    • Paul, the fact that you can point out the gaps in security means that people on the wrong side of morality saw it, too, and that, my friend, scares me to my core all over again.

      You are correct. Vigilance is needed though trust is far more comforting and costs, well, the bottom line is becoming more the king each and every day.

      Yes, your last sentence is very appropriate on this anniversary day.

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  17. Feeling very somber and grey today, just like the weather outside. The intensity and deep sorrow of the events 13 years ago, never fade. The memories and feelings are just as vivid.

    I was at a yoga class when someone excused themselves to take a phone call out in the hallway. She came back and announced that a plane had hit one of the towers. We all stared at her in disbelief and no one said a word. I think we were trying to process what she had just said. The yoga teacher ended the lesson and sent us all home. I was home by myself watching the events take place. My kids were at school and husband at work. When I went to pick up the kids at school, the adults all looked at each other and nodded, understanding what we were all thinking but could not discuss in front of the children. When Mr. B got home later, we just hugged for a very long time.

    I don’t like the feeling I have now of some impending or imminent threat lurking nearby. It is so sad that after 13 years we don’t feel any safer. I plan on focusing on all the humane acts that occurred that day. We need to remember but also move forward and hold on to hope.

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  18. I remember vividly the events from this side of the Atlantic. Seered into my memory is the juxtaposition of my toddler kids playing on the carpet in front of the horrific events on the TV. Can’t believe it’s 13 years.

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