Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning?) – The Partnered Pen

Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-seven. That is the number of people who died as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


Two thousand, seven hundred and fifty-three of them were in the World Trade Center towers. As of July 2019, 60% have been positively identified.


Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I’m a moderator in the Medium Dreamers Facebook group, and I posted a question to our members this morning.

Screenshot from Facebook done by author.

Note: Some of these comments have been truncated for length.

Salathia Richburg:
“I was in 1st grade in Queens, NY. We all were in the cafeteria waiting for our parents to pick us up. The sky was black and you could smell the smoke miles away. Every channel was filled with horror but like any first grader, I had no idea what had happened.”

“Were you in the yard, with your wife and children, or working on some stage in LA?”

Jintao Lin:
“Being six years old and not really the type to care for the happenings of my surroundings, I honestly don’t remember much from that day. Also I was in NJ, in school. You really wouldn’t have known much unless you were watching the news as it happened. Based on my parents’ memory, everyone was sent home early and my mother was so relieved and thankful that my dad’s bus never made it to New York that day.”

“Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke, rising against that blue sky?”

Shelly McIntosh:
“Home in Tempe, AZ. We got a call from my stepson’s mother. I answered and she was hysterical on the phone. I didn’t know what she was talking about. All I could understand was ‘turn on the tv.’ She is originally from Rochester and her sister lived in Manhattan. She was terrified for her sister. Her sister was ok but it took a while to find that out. I turned on the tv just moments before the second plane hit.”

“Did you shout out in anger and fear for your neighbor, or did you just sit down and cry?”

Tassia Agatowski:
“I was at home in England, having just come back from school (I was 11 at the time), watching it happen on the news, and my Mum was watching with me. I remember her crying with her hand to her mouth, and me realizing that something awful had happened.”

“Did you weep for the children, who lost their dear loved ones, pray for the ones who don’t know?”

Peter Sealy:

“Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble, and sob for the ones left below?”

Oren Cohen:
“At home, in Israel. 14 years old.”

“Did you burst out with pride for the red, white, and blue; and the heroes who died, just doing what they do?”

Reuben Shalome:
South Korea. Watching the news live on tv at 6am just before I had an adult class…no one was interested in class that day.”

“Did you look up to Heaven for some kind of answer, or look at yourself, and what really matters?”

Jenn Pike:
“I lived in Houston and was all stressed because my kids had gotten in a huge fight before school and I had to call to let my son’s teacher know that my daughter bit him. Then I saw the reports and knew that my problem didn’t matter.”

“Where were you when the world stopped turning…on that September day? Teaching a class…full of innocent children, or driving down some cold interstate?”

Keara Lou:
“I was in 8th grade choir class. Northern Michigan. One of the history teachers came in and told the choir teacher about it and left. So the choir teacher turned on the TV for about five or ten minutes. Then he turned off the TV, and we sat there for a few minutes. Then he had us continue the lesson. But for the rest of the day, that’s all you talked about. All my other classes had the TV on all day too. I sometimes wonder if my choir teacher had the right idea to get our minds off of it.”

“Did you feel guilty cuz you’re a survivor? In a crowded room did you feel alone?”

Estacious(Charles White):
“I was teaching at Douglass Alternative High School in Columbia, MO. A student told me in the hall. I didn’t believe him. It seemed incredulous that two of the most iconic structures which are part of a dynamic skyline could be on fire. It was unbelievable. America changed that day.”

“Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her? Did you dust off that Bible at home?”

K. Ryan French:
“I’m an American Airlines flight attendant. This is something I wrote last year about my experience that day. Sorry for the length.”

[Note: She goes on to detail what exactly her experience was like, starting in Boston early in the morning and finishing in Chicago. I’m pulling a quote I found particularly heart-wrenching.]

Ryan French (cont.)
“The crew room is packed but nobody is moving. Everyone is looking in the direction of the TV on the wall. I turn to the TV and see the collapse of the last tower. Moments later I see a plane fly into the tower. One of our planes.

“Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened, close your eyes and not go to sleep? Did you notice the sunset, for the first time in ages or speak to some stranger on the street?”

Sara Tsompanidi:
“I was 8 years old, at home. I still remember the videos and pictures I saw on the news.”

“Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family, thank God you had somebody to love…?”

Tami Nieto:
“I was at home in the kitchen, and my grandmother called us. We spent all day in front of the tv. My dad was across the river and saw the smoke.”

“Faith hope and love are some good things He gave us, but the greatest is love.”

Elizabeth Bolton
“I was on the 3rd day of my honeymoon.”

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