September 11, 2001: My Story

Everyone has their own story from 9/11.  Where they were, what they were doing, how they heard the news.

Most of the people I have talked to were either at work or school when they heard of the horrifying act of war that had struck the United States.

I was there.

Four days earlier, my mom, her friend Barb, I and my faithful companion, Sandi Beach, embarked on what we imagined would be the Mother of all road trips.  We were going to spend three weeks travelling across New England, seeing the sights.

Hershey, PA.  New York City.  Salem, MA.  Gloucester, MA.  Kennebunkport, Bangor and Bar Harbor, ME.  Burlington, VT.  These were some of the cities we planned to explore.

I have to chuckle when I remember the set-up we had, driving down the road.  When she wasn’t on my lap, Sandi would lie on her dog bed, perched on top of our luggage in the back of the vehicle.  A baby gate kept everything from toppling into the back seat.  [Sandi was a peach!  Really. The best dog ever.]  On the console between the two front seats there usually sat a package of Oreo cookies.  I don’t really remember this, but Mom has mentioned it a few times and I certainly believe her.  I shudder to think how many packages of cookies we went through on that trip!

After camping in Hershey, Pennsylvania and enjoying a half-day at Hershey’s Chocolate World (Yum, by the way), we were on the road again.  Next stop:  New York City!

NYC was hands-down the one place I was most excited to visit.  I had always wanted to visit the Big Apple to gaze up at the lights in Time Square and at the time my #1 hobby was shopping, so you can imagine my rush to get into the heart of the city.  Unfortunately, we arrived at the RV park — which was across the Hudson River in Jersey City — on the evening of September 9 and Mom and Barb wanted to wait until the next morning to take the subway into the city.  We could see the NYC skyline from the dock near the campground.

I almost died from the exquisite pain of anticipation.

(What follows are some of the scrapbook pages that I did after we arrived back home at the end of our journey.)

Finally, FINALLY! the next day (September 10) we made our way into the city.  Sandi was such a good dog — the best, really.  Have I mentioned that? — that we left her in the camper during the day while we were touring the city.  We went inside the NY Public Library, Grand Central Station, walked through Times Square, took pictures of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and FAO Schwartz.  We were crunched on time that first day — there is so much to see!  So much to do! — and it started to rain in the afternoon.

In an attempt to escape the rain, we grabbed a cab to the subway station.  But because no girls’ trip to NYC would be the same without a little adventure, we got separated in the subway.  Barb missed the train while Mom and I sped away — watching Barb’s face move past the windows, that was a big “Uh oh” moment!  Luckily, she caught up with us soon enough.  But we had gotten turned around somehow and ended up wandering around outside in the rain, trying to figure out where we were.

I think my mom peed outside a building.

I’m sure she will deny that.  But it’s true.  As it turns out, we wouldn’t have known if she’d wet her pants, because we were all soaked by the time we made it back to the camper.  What a day!

I could see the Statue of Liberty from my bed.  It was very small, off in the distance, and lit up by an orange glow.  We had two more days left in New York City and we planned to get much closer to Lady Liberty.

But first, we wanted to go to the World Trade Center.  We would go there first thing in the morning and have breakfast.

The next morning — September 11 — I slept in.

Now, the way Mom tells it, they tried and tried to get me up, but I just would not budge.  She’ll claim they begged and pleaded — even used a cattle prod — but to no avail.  The way remember it:  yes, I slept in later than originally intended, but the other ladies certainly weren’t complaining!  I rolled out of bed around 8:40.

(These were in the days pre-Violet and I could sleep in with the best of them.  For me, this was early.)

While I sat at the tiny table across from Barb, trying to wake up, we heard a loud BOOM.  The RV park was adjacent to a scrap yard, so we didn’t think much of the noise.  Shortly after that, I turned on the tv to see what the weather would be like that day.  Hopefully, clear and dry.  The Today show was on, but was soon interrupted by a special report from NBC News.

An airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:47 a.m.

If we walked just a few hundred feet from our camper, we had a clear view of the World Trade Center.

These are all photographs that we took with our own cameras.

Here is an excerpt from my scrapbook page:

Very little was known at the time.  The news anchors were speculating as to whether it was a deliberate act.  Meanwhile, many of the people in our campground were gathering outside to view the disaster from our own vantage point.  Smoke poured out of the side of the building.  People wandered around, intermittently staring at the scene and exclaiming with others about the cause.  I rushed back into the trailer to see what was being played on the news. Mom shouted at me to get my video camera, and as I stood at the door, camera in hand, eyes on the television, the second plane hit.  I saw it on the tv seconds before I heard it.  This time the noise was five times louder than the first.  There was an explosion and people poured out of their trailers to see.  Now we all knew this was terrorism.

And then, before we even really knew what had happened, the buildings were gone.  All we could see was smoke.

I recorded probably ten minutes’ of video while this was all happening.  I wasn’t recording when the buildings collapsed — either of them — because I was inside the camper, staring at the television.  I have watched that video a handful of times since that day and I always get goosebumps.  I can hear the voices of the people in the campground — strangers — talking to each other, trying to understand what is happening.

There was a pregnant cat hanging around that day.  I named her Liberty and she is the star of several minutes’ worth of camera time.  To this day, the thought of that sweet, pregnant, gray tabby cat makes me sad.

We had planned to be there that morning.

We were supposed to be there.  The thought gives me chills.  I remember a few months or so after the 9/11 attacks there was a special program on television that showed a lot of video from Ground Zero.  Video from inside the buildings and on the streets as these events took place.  I always imagine myself there.

I always imagine myself there, and I imagine everyone I would have left behind.

And I truly thank God that I slept in that morning.

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6 responses to “September 11, 2001: My Story

  1. Well written Jen, I remember it all as if happened yesterday instead of 11 years ago. Hugs to you Violet and your mom. Barb

    • Barb!! I tried to send you a message yesterday on facebook, but it wouldn’t let me.
      What a trip, huh? Lots of memories.
      Hugs right back at you! I hope you’re doing well. 🙂

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