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September 12 2006

Five years on. A short post from Jane Espenson about working on Buffy at the time of the attacks of 9/11.

I was working for an oil company in Aberdeen, Scotland at the time (in the nerd/IT department). I was on the phone to a friend and he happened to be watching the news. We yabbered after the first plane had struck, not really realising what had happened was, you know, real - but when the second plane struck, I was still on the phone to him, and he just kinda sat there in silence for a few minutes, said gotta go and hung up. I knew I should check online to find out what was happening, but BBC News was offline, as was every other news site I tried.

It was only when I saw the now iconic images of completely dust covered streets with people walking through them that I realised it was going to be an event which would shape the next 30 or so years - for better or for worse.

A lot of people say it was the day 'world saw evil'. Or at least, that's what the World Trade Centre trailer says. I disagree - the world has seen evil through it's history. That was the first time I've geninuely felt detached from the human race for a period, though. I had no idea how to relate or react to anything to do with it. I still don't.

RIP those who died on September 11th, 2001.

[ edited by gossi on :11 ]

[ edited by gossi on 2006-09-12 01:13 ]
Am I missing some sort of clever joke, gossi, or did you mistype the date?

Did a number of people die on the 9th of September? Like, on a 9/11 scale?

I'm confused.

Anyway, I was a Sophomore in High School five years ago. It was during my History class -- it's odd that I just now realized the irony of being in History class while real history was being made -- that the principal came over the intercom and announced that the twin towers had been hit. I didn't think that it was an attack at first. I can't even remember what I thought it was, but it didn't take long until we knew for sure.

R.I.P.
I totally got the date wrong. I was trying to spell out 9/11, because I think 9/11 is beginning to become a term which disassociates itself with a date.

So, being British, I then decided it was 9th September. Well, being an idiot probably had more to do with it than my nationality, but we'll let that slide.
We know your heart is in the right place gossi. :-)
I was a freshman in high school and also in history class, Hoban.
I was at work in Boston, MA.

At first we heard it was a small plane--and thought OMG.
Then came news that a plane then a second plane out of Logan had been hijacked--again OMG, what is going on.

Then a second plane hit the second tower.


I knew folks flying to Ca that day=were they on those planes? -

and I had so many friends in the NY area--most from on line clubs (and it took days for us to find which ones had made it home and which ones did not).

We gathered in a conference room and watched the first tower collapse and the fact that the pentagon had also been hit and there was a plance they could not contact-speculation it would have to be shot down.

We were sent home--and I am sure we were all glued to TV that whole day and our computers trying to get in touch with everyone we knew.

It was a scary sad day.
I was driving to work, at IBM's facilities in the DC area in Bethesda, Maryland (don't work there any more)...only knew about the first tower when I got to the office...called a pal who works for Merrill Lynch in Manhattan...he had a TV in his office, and about 30 seconds into our conversation he said, "Holy crap...another plane hit the other tower."

I shouted to everybody on my floor that it wasn't an accident, that it was an attack...the next few hours were bizarre...all the rumors of what had happened in DC (sadly, the Pentagon one was true), and the total lack of certitude that there weren't 5, 10, 50 more similar attacks on the way...as a commuications professional, I was on IBM's Crisis Management Team...fortunatley, not too much to manage...although we did have the horrible news that a colleague, a middle-aged newlywed, and her new husband, died in the Pentagon crash (her memorial service the following week was so very painful). The team conferred in a special conference room, and I was amazed at the professionalism and sensitivity of everybody. Extremely impressive.

I remember walking outside, the incredibly beautiful blue sky, with no planes at all, and then occasionally some menacing helicopters, thinking, "what the hell is going on...?

I put a flag out on our bedroom window sill and a halogen lamp above it overnight...maybe that seems silly, but it had meaning for us then.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2006-09-12 03:10 ]

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2006-09-12 03:12 ]

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2006-09-12 03:12 ]
I was at work emailing some of my Buffy friends (and we still email each other every day) and one of them broke the news to us.

I went to the break room to find out more news on the TV there and couldn't believe my eyes.
I was living in New York, and was watching the morning news when they announced the first tower had been hit. My mom called, and I was on the phone with her when the second plane hit. I spent hours that day watching the news, but what I remember most is walking with my neighbor down Broadway - literally, down the middle of the street, with no cars to avoid, no horns blaring - it was surreal. The anniversary is always hard. Thanks, Whedonesque friends, for letting me share.
KatieB, that is an amazing notion...my father-in-law lives in Manhattan...he wasn't in the city that morning...I can't imagine what it was like in NYC that day.
I work nights until 4am, have since 1997, so it’s very difficult for me to wake up before 1pm, much less any earlier than that. The morning of 9/11, I awoke at sometime after 10am for no reason I could think of. And I don’t mean “roll over and go back to sleep” awake, I was WIRED. I got up, turned on the TV, and The Weather Channel was talking about some kind of smoke trail from NYC going eastwards. I thought there must have been a big fire in one of the skyscrapers. I switched to CNN and all you could see in the video of NYC was a pall of smoke over the city and a single skyscraper in flames. Soon after I started watching, and before Aaron Brown’s discussion of the disaster had really sunk in, the 2nd tower collapsed. I … still can’t think of that moment without … well, I’m sure everyone’s the same way.

I don’t know why I woke up. Maybe someone in my apartment building shouted when the first tower collapsed, but by the time I was actually conscious, the building was totally silent. *shrug* I know what I believe, and that’s not it. My deepest sympathies go to those who lost loved ones or who had to live through the terror of New York that day and the unremitting hardship of the months that followed in NYC.
"I remember walking outside, the incredibly beautiful blue sky, with no planes at all, and then occasionally some menacing helicopters, thinking, "what the hell is going on...?"

Same here, Chris in Virginia. I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. The other half worked at the Pentagon, so that was a day straight out of Hell for me (the phones were f$#%d for hours so I had no idea if he was ok until the afternoon). He was fine, but he knew some of the people that died. We spent the next several days looking up in fear each time we'd hear a plane/chopper when there wasn't supposed to be anything flying.

I think Jane summed it up well. Trying to put something like this into perspective, into something you can comprehend, is pretty much impossible. All I can say is that I FEEL for people in countries where terrorism is the norm instead of the exception it is here.
I was asleep in our home in California and my partner ran all the way back from the gym to wake me up and tell me that we were under attack, that he'd just seen the Towers fall (live & in silence on a close-captioned TV) and he'd turned & left and come home to me.

I knew that my younger sister was flying American out of Logan in Boston that a.m. and freaked out -- no one really knew anything at that point. I reached my parents' home back east to hear that she'd called, her flight was mysteriously grounded on the runway in Boston and they sent everyone home.

Later that day, my sick-at-the-time father got out of bed for the first time in days, walked downstairs to the TV, watched the Towers fall again and again and just as suddenly went back up to bed. Several hours later, my family called an ambulance when my Dad became critically ill. The Towers kept falling over and over that day and they reflected externally the chaos and pain I felt as I realized I was losing my father.

He died a few days later in hospital, and I think he gave up on 9/11, watching the Towers falling repeatedly, grieving in his heart about a horror that he'd anticipated and spoken about for years, and unwilling to fight to recover to live in that world.

We flew over NYC the next day and everyone was so friendly and scared on the plane and the pilot was muy macho, which was comforting, and there were clouds of smoke over the lower end of Manhattan. Every airport we were in had alarms and evacuations and nothing felt safe. His memorial was, for me, about him and 9/11 and my own loss, all mixed up together.

I will always associate that time with the loss of my father and the loss of safety and the personal loss of a kind of (remnant) innocence. RIP for the dead of 9/11, their families, and my father, and all the people that have died worldwide as a result of those brutal events.

For once, I have no quote -- except maybe Auden's "We must love one another or die."

(I'm so glad Jane posted [and vera found it] something about 9/11 & Buffy-work so we could link & have a thread of comments. It didn't feel right -- at least for me -- to let this day go by on whedonesque without talking about it. I like reading what y'all are writing.
I would love to hear Jane (or anyone else) talk a little about how 9/11 shaped the writing of season 6 of Buffy. It always seemed to me that the sense of loss, self-doubt and insecurity where once security was had could very well have been, in part, a response to the disillusionment of the country after 9/11.
Thanks QuoterGal :) It seems fitting to me that I posted this on September 12, because that is when it happened from my perspective - woke up to the radio on sept12, was hearing a strange selection of reports in my sleepy state, planes grounded in the US etc, and I was thinking major disruptive snowstorm or something, but reports kept getting worse, and finally they repeated the main news as it was known then and I had to get up to see those iconic images being played over and over on the TV.

It seemed very strange for me to go to uni an hour later and sit through a three hour postgrad lecture on molecular pathway signalling in Fungi before I could just sit down and watch all the reports that were coming in.

I know my Granma found out by switching briefly to BBC world news sometime after midnight, seeing the breaking news images and then staying up all night unable to stop watching as it all unfolded half a world away
I was 15, and I wasn't here (in America) yet. I was back home (in Singapore), and it means a lot that I'm spending the 5th Aniversary here in New York. I'm not an American, but the memory, the feelings, the dread - it's still so clear in my mind.

I remember that I was in English class, and it was 12 hours after-the-fact (because of the timezones). My classmate turned on the radio, and my entire class, composed of 35-odd Chinese girls, just sat there in stunned silence. It's definitely something that transcends national borders, timezones, race... The grief was palpable, even though none of us were American, or knew any Americans personally. I also remember feeling shame that I was relieved that it wasn't us, that it wasn't anyone whom I knew.

I further learnt not to take my family for granted when they were a hair's breadth away from the July London Underground bombings last year. They were headed for Paddington that exact hour, but changed their minds and decided to take a cab at the last minute instead. But for the grace of God, I would no longer have parents or a sister. I was at home, and was mad with worry because they didn't call until they'd landed in Amsterdam hours later.

Now that I'm living in New York, 9/11/01 is not just a memory of myself in a schoolroom, but something that I see around me in the city, in the residents of NYC, in the physical rubble of ground zero. I think about what if my parents and sister weren't that lucky - and feel for the people who lost someone that day in such a senseless, unreasonable manner.
I remember waking up to my smooth jazz station and not hearing music. I thought to myself, did I accidently put it on the PBS station? And as I started to fully awake it was the scariest thing to ever happen to me. I flew out of bed running to the tv in the living room, screaming "oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god". And my husband was yelling at me, "what's wrong?. And all I could do was yell at the tv "oh my god" at least a dozen times. And he finally came into the living room and saw what was on the tv he flipped out because all his family lives in NYC and his step-brother worked in the restaurant at the top of the Towers. It took two days but we found out his bro had called in sick that day. his bro still lives with major guilt to this day.
I didn't watch the news or listen to the radio, and wasn't online much. I didn't find out until hours after it happened, when I walked up on the library cop at my local branch lowering the flag to half-mast, and asked him who'd died. I know I spent the whole day watching the news after that, but don't remember much about it.

What's clearer in my mind is a while later riding around the LA area with a JAG officer, helping set up the legal briefings he was giving to soldiers on alert in their National Guard armories, waiting to be called up for the new security missions. The mood was still grim but everybody was acting upbeat, "hooah!", trying to be professional. We had all guessed that we weren't going to be such part-time soldiers anymore.

So my main 9/11-related memory is riding around LA in uniform in the Major's little red convertible with the top down. Palm trees. Sunshine.
Thank you for your service, dreamlogic.
You're welcome, but I get paid. I was mainly trying to convey the surreality, which continued. I had to go to a public ceremony couple of months after, a unit anniversary, nothing to do with the attack, and a bunch of bikers roared by and hooted and cheered at us. We were widely popular. It was strange.
The evening of September 10th, over the phone, a friend in Boston, where I used to live, and I agreed that maybe we'd try being "more than friends." He promised an email in the morning. Early hours of the am, Arizona time, Mom calls: Dad's having chest pains and is on his way to the hospital. Four heart attacks already, so I'm upset but not shocked, and, with nothing to do but wait, fall back asleep. Overslept. When the phone woke me at 8:30 am, I thought it was Mom. It was a friend from work and I remember the conversation, word for word. "Have you seen the TV?"
"No."
"Turn it on."
"Why?"
"Just turn it on."
"What channel?" My finger hits the power button as I realize the implication of her not having already volunteered that information. "It's on all the channels, isn't it?"--and the picture comes on.

It was the undisguised shock in Katie Couric's voice as she reported that last rites were being said over the bodies on the streets that first broke through the surreal unreality of it. Then Katie went back into professional mode and Mom called to say Dad was in ICU and needed a triple bypass. No way to get there in any sort of time. No planes. No phone lines to friends and family in New York or Boston. My boyfriend-to-be emailed from Boston's John Hancock building to report the building being evacuated.

I think, at the time, I may have been distracted from the actual awfulness of 9/11 by my dad and distracted from the actual awfulness of my dad's situation by 9/11. I didn't cry. It was all too weird, too real to cry about.

Dad survived. That email from the Hancock was the first of many and then the guy moved from Boston and we were together for two years. I wonder if 9/11 had anything to do with this? I read a lot of people got engaged or made babies soon after that day--sort of like the conversation in "The Message" about people's reactions to death where Jayne tells Book it make him want "a piece of trim" from a willing woman.

Good to see this thread. To read all your experiences of the day, to read and share the sympathy expressed for the victims and survivors of 9/11 and the aftermath and of all terrorism attacks-- no matter the time, nation, or place. Thank you.

edited to add--Oh Quotergal, you posted while I was writing the above, and my heart is full of sorrow to hear about your Dad's passing at that time! How strangely human for there to have been all that loss, for us all to be discussing all the loss of that day--and for news of how your father passed away then when mine survived to feel like a blow to the body. I am sad for you and for all of us.

[ edited by narnia on 2006-09-12 06:13 ]

[ edited by narnia on 2006-09-12 06:13 ]

[ edited by narnia on 2006-09-12 06:15 ]
Hey, narnia, yeah, we met on the most recent "The Body" thread. This was the backstory to my other parental loss -- those losses that make watching that episode extra difficult and so meaningful.

We traded stories and (vied for the title of "Threadkillah" -- with gossi stepping in, as well.) I haven't forgotten that you're now going through more stuff with and about your Dad -- I hope you & your'n are as well as can be expected, given the situation. Thanks for your kind thoughts...
All I can think to say is my sincere wishes of peace and condolence to all those who lost, whether they lost family, friends, or a sense -- a sense of security, a sense of hope, a sense of faith, a sense of compassion, and so on. The world does go on, even after losses. I wish us all the courage to love and laugh and be compassionately passionate even in this world where awful things happen from time to time. Thanks, all, for sharing on this thread! :-)
I was at work. I think the news first came over the radio at about 2:30 pm (UK time) and as with many others we thought it was a horrible accident. Then the second plane hit and more news started to filter through and the truth started to become apparent.

I remember desperately trying to find news but most of the web-sites being down (we had no TV at work) due to a kind of global version of the slashdot effect. Took me an hour or so to think of the one site that, by definition, can't be slashdotted i.e. Slashdot. There was already a post about the news with hundreds of comments and I remember being impressed at the overwhelming majority of moderate, considered responses as news continued to filter in.

My strongest memory about September 11th isn't actually from September 11th though, it's from a couple of years later, around Christmas. My Dad is a very traditionally Scottish example of the gender, a man's role is to provide for his family, men don't show emotion, take your knocks and keep going etc. Anyway, he was telling a story he'd read in the paper about a guy that died in one of the towers because he'd stayed to help his friend. His friend was in a wheelchair and the guy knew that the friend basically wasn't going to get out in time so he simply decided to stay. Made his phonecalls, told everyone he loved them and then went to be by his friend's side. My Dad, who hadn't even let me see him break-down when his Mum died, was sitting in tears by the end of the story, barely able to get his words out. He thought it was one of the most beautiful things he'd ever heard. And who am I to argue ?

RIP all those who died, and condolences to those who lost someone.
We were checking out a venue at the time when I got a text from my girlfriend - who had a bad habit of trying to convince me of false news facts when I was on the road. Turned around and there it was, on the television in the corner. We were a few months away from having our twins, and it was just a massive jolt of reality and fear for their futures.

I think a lot of us grew up that day...
Yesterday I found myself dodging all the anniversary newscasts, flipping past anything about 9/11/2001, not reading much news. It felt like it was turning it into an abstraction of something long ago, but reading other comments about where people were returns its human face and the true surrealness and the rumors and uncertainty of that day.

Five years ago, I was driving my kids to school. They actually let me leave the radio on NPR because my daughter was starting a current events class. The first reports made it sound like a little Cessna or something had hit, so it seemed odd that the President was already talking about terrorists. Then I got to work, checked online; it was the first time every network news page were so overloaded that it took forever to get on. I worked in a dorm at the time, so I found an excuse to go upstairs to the dining hall so I could see the TV, just as the second tower fell.

I had only second or third hand connection with anyone who was there, a friend's cousin was stepping out of the subway to go to work in the WTC when the planes hit. My daughter's classmate's father just happened to be working in his brokerage's New Jersey office that day.
Sorry for the long post.

I live and work 20 miles from NYC, in a commuter area. That morning was spent trying to get information about the status and work places of co-workers’ friends and family. There were very few of us who did not have someone who should have been at the Towers that day. Unlike most of the others, my brother had stopped working there 10 months before and a co-worker, who had just left a job in the Towers, knew her husband had decided to work from home that day rather than going in to his office in the WTC. We tried to gather information to help the others stay calm since no one knew which tower was which or where their loved ones worked in relation to where the planes had hit.

Broadcast TV was down when the Towers fell, as was most radio. The internet news services were down as well. We were in a bubble, getting horrible reports by phone from friends who had a view of Manhattan while we were looking out of the window at a surreally pristine blue sky.

After they sent us home, I saw what had happened on the only NJ Broadcast TV station. That and an ABC station that they got going later would be the only two broadcast TV stations in our area for weeks. When my son got home from Kindergarten with a message from the school that they were leaving it to the parents to explain to the children what had happened, I showed it to my son once and turned off the TV. I also explained that he should not talk to his classmates about it unless his teacher started the discussion, because we didn’t know whether any of them lost family yet. (Which parents did not show up to pick up their children after school and whose cars were left at the Park and Rides were some of the first ways the authorities were trying to determine who was missing.)

My town and company ended up lucky. We lost very few. One by one my co-workers heard from their people. One by one I was eventually able to get in touch with my friends who lived in NYC. Some individual local towns lost more than 20 residents that day, however. When the obituaries started in the local paper, I decided to read each one, both to honor the memories of innocent people who had been senselessly killed and to give thanks that more had not died. They went on and on, pages and pages of them for months.

Early that day I had felt the tears start but had pushed them down until later. It turned out that “later” did not come for many months. Like everyone else I was in shock. I could not wrap my mind around what had happened. I visited Ground Zero a couple weeks later to try to make myself believe it. It did not help, though seeing a crane that looked like a toy on top of this huge pile of rubble, gave me a jolt of perspective. The cloud of smoke was visible for a long time afterward from high points all over Northern NJ and for months afterward a smell hung over lower Manhattan that had some strange relationship to burning rubber.

Last night I tried to explain to my son what happened that day but had to keep stopping because of the tears, even though I was not personally affected by the tragedy any more than the rest of the country. My story is nothing special. Other than my luck, it is typical of what millions of people in this area were going through that day. I can not imagine the pain and trauma of the people who were closer to the tragedy or who lost loved ones. My heart goes out to them every day. Unfortunately, I think I finally do have some idea of what my parents felt on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. I hope my son never gets the same understanding of 9/11.
I was working at home, less than a mile from the Pentagon. I heard a noise and ignored it. The missus, understanding me well, called from her office and told me to turn on the TV set.

A friend made a quick decision that saved her life. There was a subway station at ground zero, her regular stop. She got off the train that morning and noticed something. So she turned around and got back on the train. The doors closed and she rode off to safety.
My father and his wife flew out of Logan to San Francisco on 9/10. It was a little eerie remembering that the following day. I went into law school - of course there were no classes, just a group of students watching the big TV in the coffee bar all day long. Over the next few days my neighbors in the University Village - graduate students from all over the world, including a brilliant Egyptian architect, Russian scholars, Taiwanese scientists, and several large Mormon families spontaneously had town hall discussions in our courtyard, debating the whys and wherefores, and striving to master their upset.

BTW: I strongly recommend checking out the comic books, including Artists Respond and Emergency Relief, produced for 9/11 charities wherein writers and artists struggle to make sense of the events, from every possible perspective. Also the book 102 Minutes, which tells the stories of those inside the towers.
SNT, I also liked (Maus creator) Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers.

Pointy: "A friend made a quick decision that saved her life."

I am always struck by the combination of utter damn luck and individual behavior that can spell survival in holocaust & cataclysm. Personal responsibility and the roll of the wheel.
Fate and free will, QuoterGal. As Leo Tolstoy and Forrest Gump said, it's a little of both.

[ edited by Pointy on 2006-09-13 02:14 ]
QuoterGal, Dad went back in the hospital for a few months recently (broken hip) but has gotten out much sooner than expected and is doing well at home--driving mom crazy. Thanks for asking. Of course, I remember our "The Body" thread exchange well. A long time daily lurker, but only occasional poster (I get to the threads late in the evening and am tired and everyone has just about said all that could be said and better than I), so it was my first real Whedonesque conversation--only wish there had been tea and biscuits to go with the sympathy chat. So I keep a proud eye out for all your posts and am pleased to find myself almost always agreeing with your special combination of heartfelt and witty insight. Cheers, my dear.

Am hoping Gossi will come and vy for threadkillah status. But fear I have won the belt.
Meh...I will take that belt today :) Just read through this amazing thread of personal stories, and this bring back vivid memories of where I was during 9/11. I too avoided all those memorials on tv etc. but this thread in my non-important opinion is a wonderful memorial and expression of grief and compassion to the events of that day.

It was a shocker is an understatement, and I can say I was somewhere during that history making event. Not proud of that fact though. Sometimes the chinese proverb "May you live in interesting times" is not a good thing.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-09-17 02:15 ]

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