Where were you? 9Eleven remembered

Over the past 100 years, only a few events have been powerful enough to sear the national consciousness, to create a universal sense of tragedy and loss: Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and September 11. Whatever your age, your career, or your politics, it simply isn't possible to forget where you were the day terrorism struck home. Here, locals look back on America's second "day of infamy."



Will Nugent

American Airlines pilot

 I've flown Flight 77, the one that crashed into the Pentagon, and I'd flown with its captain, Charles "Chic" Burlingame, a couple of times. He was a real outgoing, funny guy. People would joke that he was a neat freak. He'd clean all those knobs, dials, and switches in the cockpit because the cabin service doesn't, and it does tend to get dirty.

I was on call in Charlottesville that day. The first I heard about it was when I got a call from a cousin in Texas who wanted to see if I was home. I spent the rest of the day watching TV and talking to my family in Louisiana. I'd estimate I got about 20 phone calls. That happens when you're a pilot and there's a crash.


Blake Caravati

Former mayor of Charlottesville

 I was in my office listening to public radio. The broadcast said there was a big fire but didn't mention an airplane. I cut on the TV when the first tower went down, and I immediately cut it off. I couldn't take it.

My wife is from New York. Her sister works in the old Bonwit Teller building up the street, and her cousin works in a building around the World Trade Center, and was late that day. We worried about their safety but couldn't get through because the phones were jammed.

It was a very emotional time, and even if you're the mayor of a small Virginia town, you feel the need to stand up and express sorrow. I made five or six speeches in two days.


Sally Thomas

Chairman, Albemarle Board of Supervisors

 I was at the dentist's office getting my teeth cleaned with the radio playing in the background. I heard it once without noticing, and then we heard it and the person cleaning my teeth stopped, and I sat there with my mouth open.

I went home and watched TV, which I never do during the day. I'm never certain where my daughter Laura is, and she called to let me know she wasn't in New York.

I was thinking about how something shattered that day, that little piece you'd learned as a child that planes don't fly into buildings. Something elemental was destroyed. It touched something you thought you knew, and suddenly you're wrong.


Maurice Jones

City spokesman

 I was on vacation in L.A. with friends and family, and I heard about it a little after 7am. I could hear a message being left on the answering machine that someone had bombed the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. I thought, oh come on.

We were watching TV, and my friend said, "Aren't there supposed to be two towers?" That's when I realized the enormity of this. Then we watched the other tower come down.

My family in Northern Virginia travels in and around the Pentagon a lot. It took a few hours to get through to them. I also called the city manager to see if there was anything I could do from the West Coast. It was tough not being here.


Dave Mayo

Respiratory therapist

 I was in Easton, Maryland, at Hog Neck Golf Course. We'd played an early morning round and finished around 1 o'clock. We approached the clubhouse and this elderly golfer said to us, "Wow, what a mess." They were redoing some of the holes on the course, and we said, "There's some rough spots, but it's not that bad." He gave us a strange look and said, "You don't have any idea what's going on. Go watch TV in the clubhouse."

My first thought when I heard was, oh my God, what's the Beltway going to be like to get home? I zoomed around the Beltway at about 2:30. I've never seen it so empty.


Tim Longo

Charlottesville police chief

 I was having a sergeant staff meeting that usually runs from 8:30 to 11. When the second plane hit the tower, that meeting disbanded. The city manager called to meet with him. The day was spent in planning and assessment mode although how can you plan for something like that?

My cousin works in the World Trade Center on one of the 90th floors. He'd taken the day off for a doctor's appointment, thank the Lord.

I have two babies and two older children, and I was trying to connect with them. We're not a financial center or defense center, but we do have historical monuments. You didn't know what to think that day.


Dave Rogers

Principal, Virginia L. Murray Elementary

Professor Bebop on WTJU

 We were having an Albemarle County administrators meeting that morning, and all the principals were there. A teacher knocked on the door and said a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.

I went through the same wave of emotion as everyone else: How could it be, this horrible accident, then realizing it's horrible, but it's not an accident.

All the elementary principals met. Our feeling was that it was more likely to scare the children than do any good, so we wouldn't announce it.

We were dealing with our own emotions. My mind was racing about where this is going to lead us, while having to deal with what's happening at the school. If you transmit a lot of alarm, the kids pick that up.


Tom Hanson

Director, Emergency Communications Center

 I was sitting in the office in a meeting. My assistant interrupted and said you need to come to the conference room, a large plane hit the World Trade tower.

The second plane hit while we were watching. We were stunned and thought it was an accident up to that point.

We did a Level One activation to bring the public safety people together: the police chiefs, the fire chiefs, and the three executives Bob Tucker for the county, Leonard Sandridge for the university, and Gary O'Connell for the city.

A very close friend of mine is the 911 director in Arlington. They're the 911 center that handled the Pentagon, and they were so close that they could see it.


Joyce Colony

Piano teacher

 I was here at the breakfast table with my daughter and son-in-law eating a huge breakfast. We got a call to cut on the TV, and we couldn't get back to the table.

I was horrified by the magnitude of the number of people lost. I used to live near the Pentagon and know people who worked there.

I was 13 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. We found out about 3pm on a gray miserable Sunday at my grandmother's house. My father said, "Let's go down to the [Roanoke] Times-World and wait for the extras."

Pearl Harbor changed everyone's life immediately and involved everyone. I don't think September 11 did that.


Patricia Kluge

Owner, Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard

 I was in Charlottesville, and it was a gorgeous September day. I woke up thinking how lucky I was to be alive in such a wonderful place with our children situated, a great husband, and a career that I love.

Funny I was thinking that. Then my husband called and said a plane crashed into the tower. I called my son at Columbia [University] and watched TV and saw the second plane crash.

The scariest part was that our children were in New York. The chaos I remember vividly as a child when I was eight during the first revolution against the King of Iraq. That was exactly what I was witnessing on TV.

Most people didn't appreciate how long term those feelings of loss, fear, and confusion, and the constraints on travel are.


Jenny Mead

Research assistant

 I was at the Marriott Hotel in Crystal City attending a Humane Association conference. I was on my way to check out a few museums and overheard at the reception desk that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I imagined some little crop duster or tiny sightseeing plane with a confused pilot, taking a wrong turn after the Empire State building.

I went back to my room and turned on CNN right after the second plane hit, and for the next hour, watched, all alone and horrified.

Outside my hotel room, I heard an extraordinarily loud crash, like a semi full of concrete blocks crashing into a guardrail. I still don't know if that was the plane hitting the Pentagon, but I suspect it was, because immediately afterwards, the Washington news reports about the crash began.


Judy Mueller

Charlottesville director of public works

 I was in Philadelphia at the American Public Works Association national conference with 5,000 people. We had to huddle to decide what to do about the conference.

They shut off the bridges into and out of Philadelphia. The City of Philadelphia assigned a police officer to our group. There was a certain concern for security with almost every public works director in the country there and we were staying in a high-rise hotel next door.

It was interesting to see how communities all over the country got their public works directors home because most had flown in. Some sent police to pick them up. Some in the Midwest rented buses. Folks got real creative.


Greg Fairchild

Darden assistant professor

 My mother called and said a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I thought that was odd, but went back to preparing to teach a class at 11:45. Then another plane flew into a tower. At that point I began to get worried.

I'd done graduate work and taught at Columbia. All the business schools place people on Wall Street, and I have a friend at American Express [located in a building adjacent to the towers].

Also, Monday I'd had a guest speaker who stayed at my house. He'd left at 6am to drive to Dulles to take a plane to L.A. I feared I'd put him in harm's way.

I didn't lose anybody personally, but I took it personally. I'd lived in New York two times and met my wife there. The attack on places where I have good memories made me angrier.

Three weeks later I had business in New York. The pilot took us over the site. It was still smoldering. That blew me away.


 A surreal Dali world



I was the first staff writer in the office that morning. I was reading email when my editor ran over and told me that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers.

He told me to write a quick news article on it for Forbes.com, Forbes magazine's website. I went to the south side of the office, on the 11th floor, and saw the tower, about a mile and a half away. It was a beautiful day, with perfect visibility. There was a hole in the side of the building that was the shape of a plane. Black smoke puffed out of the hole– it looked surreal, like a Dali painting.

The second plane hit the other tower a few minutes later. From where we were watching, that plane looked black, like a military aircraft. I kept on adding to the brief story I had originally published on the website that morning. I also added news from the news wires. A lot of the wire stories turned out to be false, like one that said that the State Department had been bombed and another saying that Congress had been blown up.

In New York, the sky filled with Air Force jets. My college girlfriend­ who I hadn't spoken with in years­ called me from Baltimore, crying. My hands trembled on the computer keyboard for a few moments after I hung up.

Everyone at work behaved differently. One guy got aggressively loud. Another shut himself in his office. My boss­ who has been to several war fronts– was calm and sharp and that kept the reporters focused.

That night after work I went to a nearby bar on Park Avenue South. The place had a few dozen people and everyone was smiling and ordering a lot of drinks. No one was talking about the World Trade Center.

I had to walk home that night because the subways were closed and the streets were only open to military trucks, ambulances and Hummers. Dust and helicopters whirred in the sky.

A staff reporter at Forbes.com, Davide Dukcevich used to write for the Daily Progress.



Rosalind Warfield-Brown, freelance writer and copy editor for The Hook

 My youngest son drove across the country with me last summer when I returned to my teaching job at UC Santa Cruz. We had a week together enjoying the beaches and the mountains, and then it was time for me to take him to the San Francisco airport for his flight home– midnight on September 10. While we were waiting in the boarding area, he made a typical teenager's nervous joke about the plane crashing and our sushi dinner being his last meal. I asked what he would most regret if his plane did go down. "Not buying my motorcycle sooner," he replied, grinning. I hugged him and said I was glad he'd have many more years to enjoy riding his bike. He waved as he walked down the boarding ramp, and I turned and headed for the car.

A frantic call from home jolted me from sleep at seven the next morning. "What plane is Jay on?" his brothers demanded. "Planes are crashing all over the country. What airline is Jay flying on?"

It wasn't until about noon that we were able to locate him, put down in Indianapolis when all the planes were grounded. His dad drove out to bring him home, and I stopped shaking for the first time that day.


Jennifer Mnookin, UVA law professor

 I was supposed to be teaching at 10 o'clock. I'd just found out that the first Tower had gone down, so I went in and dismissed class. None of us would have been able to focus. We all went out in the hall to watch one tiny television. Some students were hysterical, and there were all these rumors circulating about what was happening in Washington. My mother-in-law lives in Manhattan, and we couldn't reach her for a long time, but once we saw that the rest of New York was still standing, we felt a little better– there was no reason she would have been at the Towers.


Mark Messina, Charlottesville-based First Officer (co-pilot) for USAirways

 I was flying into Charlotte, and we were first on the approach. We switched channels on the radio and heard controllers talking about an explosion at the Pentagon. At that point, they were saying it was a gas leak, and I thought, 'Yeah right.' We still didn't know anything that was going on until we walked into the pilot room in the airport. Then we watched the Towers get hit. Two months ago I flew from Dulles to National [the same route flight 77 took]. Repairs to the Pentagon weren't complete at that point, so it was pretty eerie. I work this September 11, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.


Vernie Francis, Piedmont Virginia Community College student and Barracks Road Service Station employee

 I was at home. I got up and turned on the TV and watched it all day– till 11 o'clock that night. I don't remember checking to see if we had class that day. I just said, "There's no need."


Phyllis Marrs, cleaning service owner

 I was working. I was just devastated when I saw it on TV. It was unbelievable. Nobody was in the house but me. I said, "Oh my God, this did not happen." I called several friends. I have a friend in New York; I called her, and everything was okay.


Darrin Short, Firefighter for the City of Charlottesville

 I'd gotten home about 7:30am and gone to sleep. A neighbor called me to tell me, and a bunch of us came back in to the station and hung out. We were glued to the TV.


Peter Carpenter, Firefighter

 The thought of those buildings collapsing was going through my mind before it happened because of the way the fire was going. Even now, thinking about it, chills come. When the buildings came down, I thought of what we consider brothers and sisters in the fire service. Knowing we'd lost so many was something we'd never experienced before.


Cliff Turner, distribution clerk at the Downtown Post Office, owner of Cliff Commercial Cleaning Service

 I was on annual leave, and I was driving down McIntire Road. My wife called me and asked if I'd heard the news. I stopped by the post office to see what was going on. All of a sudden, the second plane hit. I went home and turned the TV on. It's just a sad day in the U.S. when something like that happens; we had never heard of something that tragic here in the U.S.


 Rick Crickenberger, Captain in the Charlottesville Fire Department

I was working on a friend's house– I was off duty. My friend said come inside and see what's on TV. They had the news on. Both towers were on fire at the time. I watched the one collapse, and my friend didn't realize what was going on. I said, 'The tower is collapsing anyone in there is dead." Then we watched the other one. I got a very sick feeling. One of the other firefighters who knew where I was stopped by and said he was going back to work. We both went in to work. My concern and my attention was drawn to the fact that so many people had probably perished in those towers. I knew there had to be several firefighters that had perished. You feel part of you is there because you know you would have been there if you'd been working.


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