From Tracie: I Had Never Heard of the World Trade Center

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Had Never Heard of the World Trade Center

I was not going to write anything today.

September 11, 2011. 

Words are my thing. I tell stories. I share small details of lives.

But this is not my story.

I feel inadequate to speak on this. I did not loose someone I loved, or even someone I knew.

What is the process for sharing the stories of others? Because it is something I try never to do. 

When people fall into the "where were you" conversation, and every year when we watch the footage on tv, Thomas always tells his story.

I usually stay silent. I'm not sure how my story fits in. It is so little compared to the grief of those who lost so much that day.

This morning I watched as they read the names at the 9/11 Memorial. I wept.

That is how I find myself here, writing my story... 

Ten years ago, I was eighteen. I worked at a small bookstore. Every morning, I slept in until the last possible minute before rushing to work. On September 11th I woke up early to the sound of the phone ringing. My dad was calling to tell me to turn on the Today show - a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

I had never heard of the World Trade Center before that moment. As I stared at the screen, trying to wake up, all I could think was, "How many people are in that building?"

I sat holding the phone, not talking, and stared at the smoke pouring out of the building.

I watched as the second plane hit.

A few minutes later, my dad told me I had better go to work or I would be late.

The smoke. The people jumping. The reporters crying.

Work? Was the bookstore going to be open? Who would be out shopping on this day? How was I supposed to walk away from the tv? It didn't make sense.

I drove the few blocks to work. My manager, Mary, had just opened the door when I pulled into the parking lot. I told her about the planes.

In the front of the store we had an old boom box that we used to play cassette tapes. Mary fiddled with the radio buttons, and we were able to get some local station to come in.
We sat on the floor by the radio. The lights in the store were still off, sunlight from the window reflected off of Mary's glasses. The station was letting people call in, and there was a lot of hysterical crying.

Ten minutes later, one of our regular customers came walking in the door, "Hey y'all! Why are all the lights off? What's up? The roads are deserted. It is a strange day." I told her about the planes. She sat on the floor next to us, crying, and listened to the crackly radio.

A pastor came in looking for communion wafers. I told him about the planes. 

The radio station continued to allow call-ins, and it wasn't long before the conspiracy theories were flowing. When they announced that something had happened at the Pentagon, I wasn't even sure it was real.

A piano teacher came in to pick up sheet music she had special ordered. I told her about the planes.

Listening to that radio station was pointless. They were in chaos, and there was more spreading of rumors than reporting of actual news. We turned it off. Not having the crackly crying and commotion filling the room was a relief, but there was also a feeling of being cut off. I wondered if something else was being hit. I wanted to go home and watch the real news.

The owner of the bookstore finally called, and told us to close up the store.

I stopped at a gas station near my apartment, and there was a line. People I knew were sitting on their cars, talking. One of them was going to give blood. One was trying desperately to get through on a cell phone to his mom who lived in DC, I remember hugging him as he cried.

I went home and watched the news. They showed the second plane hit, over and over and over again. I turned it off. I don't remember much about the rest of that day.

The first week planes were allowed to fly again, I took my mom to the airport. It was the first time I dropped someone off for a flight and didn't walk them all the way to the gate, and watch the plane take off. It was the first time I dropped someone off for a flight and felt worried.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed September 11, 2001, there were a lot of firsts. That is what happens when the whole world changes.

Today, at Band Back Together, we are sharing people's stories and memories of September 11th.


  1. Thanks for posting your story. Someday soon when it slows down i hope to see it on BB2G.

  2. I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday, so hard to believe it was 10 years ago. I was so confused with what was happening! At the time, I lived in Virginia and worked a mile away from Dulles Airport. I can still remember the fighter jets flying over our building on their way to the Pentagon, I couldn't wait to get away from the area and home to my family! Such a time of sadness and watching the coverage fills me with a flood of emotions!

  3. This is your story too. It's all of ours. I can't believe it's been ten years. *hugs*

  4. It IS your story. It belongs to all of us. Thank you for sharing it. I love you.

  5. It changed for all of us. We lost our innocence as a country that day and we can never get it back.

  6. This is an awesome story. It's still hard to believe it was 10 years ago.

  7. You know, one of the things that bothers me, though I know it's insignificant, is that my kids will never know what it's like to meet a loved one at the gate of their plane. That really bothers me even though I know it's a small thing to be concerned about. That day certainly changed more than that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so beautifully, Tracie :)

  8. So well done. You capture that sense of instant community, of shock and terror and wide eyes.

    Yes. We were all community that day.

  9. There are so many things that changed following 911. Nice post!

  10. the day still plays out like an old nightmare in my mind. I live in a flight path in southern california - actually between a small airport and an international airport - the lack of air traffic was strange. the days were too quiet. but when they allowed the planes to fly again, it was deafening ... and scary.

    thank you for sharing your memories of it.

  11. I kind of felt the same way, wondering if I should post, wondering if I was qualified to morn that day. I am glad you shared your story. It is just as important, just as special as any other. Our entire nation watched and witnessed this event together. And as the saying goes, "We will never forget." Your post keeps true to those words.

  12. Thanks for sharing your story Tracie. We all need to share our stories, and we all need to listen to others' stories as well. Even if it didn't directly affect us, it has affected us in some way. And we are still healing.

  13. Thank you for sharing your story!