Remembering 9/11: Office of the Dead; #Wherewereyou

From a couple of years ago, a podcast I made praying the Office of the Dead for the victims of 9/11 and all who die by means of terrorism.

Over at Twitter, there is a hashtag: #Wherewereyou

Where was I? My husband was in the air, on his way to Atlanta, and in those first awful minutes when we didn’t know what planes were where…awful. When we learned which flights were involved I called the kids schools and asked them to please let my sons know their dad’s plane wasn’t one of them.

My eeriest memory of the day, though, was after the noon hour, when I had to get away from the set and went to the store for supplies — because we live on an island, and the bridges and tunnels were closed. The store had put the radio on, and we customers wandered the aisles like ghosts. I watched a woman put tomatoes in a bag, distractedly and then just lay them down and walk away.

And as I packed the car I looked up at the incredibly blue, crystalline sky, and it was so awfully empty and silent. Even the birds did not fly. An oppressive, terrible beauty.

Where were you?

A nice little story about the difficulty of lighting a candle at the WTC, when Pope Benedict prayed there.

And my thoughts on that day: Benedict, a Shepherd who is Led

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Sherry Weddell

    Honolulu – for work. We had just toured Pearl Harbor two days previously. I called my husband at 6 am Hawaii time, babbling about tropic flowers and he interrupted me. “Turn on the television.” “What?” “Turn on the television”. It was noon in New York and it was all over but Hawaii was just waking up to it. The cover of the newspaper, naturally, was of Pearl Harbor because for them, this was Pearl Harbor all over again. 10 days later, I was on the first plane out of Honolulu. I remember walking through the vast empty halls of DIA where there were almost no people but television screens on every corner blarring CNN’s 24/7 coverage.

  • Patty

    In the hospital holding my newborn, who arrived the day before. My mother called to say I needed to turn on the TV, that there had been a plane crash. Shortly after I turned on the TV I watched the second plane hit the tower. I get the shivers just thinking about it.

  • Kathleen

    I was at mass. Later on the car radio I heard there was a “fire” at the WTC. My husband worked in tower 2 so I raced to my parents’ house a few blocks away and turned on the TV. As we watched we heard a BOOM from across the harbor and seconds later saw the plane hit the second tower. I had a bad 20- minutes or so until my husband phoned and told me he was safe. That day changed our city and our neighborhood so much. Our street was “renamed” for a firefighter who had lived here for ten minutes 20 years ago, and my autistic son began obsessing on towers and airplanes and the names of firefighters which appeared on street signs all over town. Of course we have ‘moved on’, life does that and it is a good thing but it is in our growth grooves and we will never ever forget. It was heartening to learn that peace may actually come to pass in Syria. I prayed really hard in church this morning with my second son who was not yet born on that day. Sorry I get very emotional. Hoping everyone has a peaceful, prayerful day.

  • Mark

    In California, I was in a Kinko’s printing a school report for my daughter as our printer was out of ink. I saw the second tower hit from a television that was on in the store. The customers were stunned. Things seemed to move in slow motion from there. I stayed home from work that day and my wife and I sat on the couch and watched all the coverage. The world changed for me that day. A new seriousness set in. The next day I went down to my manufacturing plant, lead a prayer service for all my employees and then hung an American flag that had draped my dad’s casket on the wall in the center of our plant. It was the last thing I took down after we closed that factory and sold that building 9 years later. It now sits respectfully next to the one my mom had on her casket after she, another Navy veteran of WWII, died on 11-11-11.

  • NCMountainGirl

    I was in my office about a block away from Chicago’s Sears Tower, The managing partner asked what I was still doing there. He’d sent everyone home after getting flooded with calls from family members concerned we were so close to the tallest building in America. I reminded him my condo was even closer to another iconic tower, the John Hancock. As I walked home I knew I would never again look at those lovely tall building without seeing them as terror targets.

    Even more eery was the lack of planes. On most clear nights I could watch planes stacked up over Lake Michigan awaiting the OK to land at O;Hare, That night the sky was empty except for a couple of military jets on patrol.

  • Augustine

    I am however sick and tired of this tragedy being used for personal gain
    left and right. This annual national exercise of picking scabs and
    licking the wound instead of letting it heal is sickening.

  • Kris, in New England

    The start of a 2-week vacation on a very remote lake in upstate NY. 9/11/01 was day 4; we spent the remainder of the time glued to the TV trying to figure out if we should try to get home or not. The house we were staying in had no phone and cell service was cut-off. We managed to get thru the vacation and when we got home we learned never to ignore that wee-small-voice in our heads; the daughter of friends was on Flight 11 and with no way to reach us…we learned by reading about her in the local obituaries. Heather Lee Smith was 30 years old, newly engaged having just set her wedding date for October 2002. We should have been home – we missed her memorial service, we weren’t there for her parents in those early days as they waited for family from CA to be able to get to the east coast. We have been there for them afterwards and even now, 12 years later, you can see the damage Heather’s murder inflicted on her parents. Their lives will never be the same and neither will ours. At one of the Boston Memorial events we attended the invocation included these lines: “We must remember them; we must show great courage in remembering them, for memories can be painful.” I agree; despite the pain it causes we must remember the victims. To forget them will be to forget the lessons their deaths have taught us about our place in the world and the strength we can all draw from each other.

  • Barbara

    Milwaukee – working in a Bank of NY office. We thought there was a phone problem when our morning customer calls were cut off. Then someone said, “Look at the news.” We saw the towers where our customers worked and we knew then that it wasn’t just the phones that were dead. Horrorstruck.

  • AnneG

    On our way to the dentist outside of Atlanta. We had just come back to the States from our overseas assignment for home leave on Monday, the 10th. Everybody was watching on TV at the dentist when the second tower fell. Rather than picking at scabs and healing, I think we are ignoring the basic causes of the attack.

  • Aileen

    At work in Dallas. I got a phone call from a colleague who said a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought he meant the WTC in Dallas. Before national airspace had been cleared, a coworker came in from a construction site downtown and said after they heard the news the construction crew instinctively ducked every time a plane flew over. He said it was nerve wracking. The next morning driving to work the skies were eerily silent and empty because part of my route was under a flight path.

  • D Leblanc

    I was at home. I watched on TV. Pre-911 and post-911. Never the same. I am so grateful for those 2 million bikers in Washington today!

  • TXRed

    I’d just gotten off shift (air-evac pilot) and was asleep. My sibling called. “Turn on the radio, Sis. Your world just changed.” And it had. I stayed glued to the radio (no TV) and the pager all day.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    I was preparing my classroom. I taught 7th grade English and my first period was my planning period. The art teacher from across the hall told me to turn on the news. I had barely grasped what was happening when the second plane hit, and then the towers collapsed. The bell rang and the students came in. Some already knew, some didn’t. Some had relatives in New York. Some had relatives who could have been on those flights. They were in shock, nearly in a panic. We watched that day, and we wrote, and they huddled in groups and spoke in quiet voices, and even the nastiest gang member in my classroom kept anything inappropriate to himself. I could not explain it to them because I didn’t understand it myself.

  • RelapsedCatholic

    I had just begun my student teaching. I walked out into the hallways to notice the students were quiet and staring at a few Televisions that seemed to have two smokestacks. One student was curled up in the bathroom crying. His father worked at the Pentagon. It would be eight more hours before he learned that he was alive and well. Quite an introduction to teaching. There is so much about teaching that will never be understood by looking at test scores.

  • Joseph

    I was at work. It was the twentieth anniversary of my employment with my company, and I thought there might be a small celebration for me. It didn’t take long for me to forget all about that. I was in line at the store where I work, buying some donuts to eat on my break, when I heard other men talking about an attack on the WTC and Pentagon (this was about an hour and a half or so after the attacks). At first I thought they were talking about a Tom Clancy novel or something, then it sounded too real. I asked one of the men what happened, and he said terrorists were raising hell back east. I thought it was Armageddon.