Last evening when the four of us were sitting outside on the deck having dinner ( a kick-a** shrimp etouffee if I say so myself and I do), the subject of the events of September 11, 2001 came up. We were talking about what we remembered of that morning, that morning that seems like a million years/just 15 minutes ago.


Here’s what I remember:

Back in ’01, my friend Bonnie Keen and I had written a book proposal and landed ourselves a Real Live New York Literary Agent to represent us and shop it around. She had brought us one offer, a really lousy offer, and we had passed on it with her blessing, but the relationship was kind of deteriorating and Bonnie and I were becoming increasingly disenchanted with her. As much as we loved saying we had “an agent in NY”, the truth was she was ineffectual at best, in the midst of a career crisis (possibly leaving the professon altogether) and seemed to be rapidly losing interest in her job and our book. Bonnie and I may have been inexperienced, but the lack of contact and a seeming inability to return emails or phone calls was starting to indicate even to two naive Southern blondes that the shelf life on our Real Live New York Literary Agent had probably expired. We had been taking turns trying to contact her, and that morning, September 11, it was my turn. I settled into my roll-around desk chair in the ‘office’– it doubled as a guest room and cockatiel habitat (Hi Skybird!)– and prepared myself to make the call. I took a deep swig of coffee and did a little yoga breathing. The possibility of impending rejection always gets me a little breathless and queasy–also, it makes me talk even faster than usual, so I was trying to get a grip so I could sound all calm and professional-like when she dumped us.  (Thankfully, I’m an expansive, forgiving soul and not at all bitter. Stupid passive-aggressive weenie agent.)

So I dialed her number and waited for her answering machine to pick up so I could leave yet another message she wouldn’t return, when to my great surprise I heard her voice urgently say, “What? What have you heard?” into the phone. I stammered my name out and hurriedly shuffled papers around on my desk looking for the notes I had made with Bonnie on how we were going to handle this conversation, when she interrupted me by saying, “Listen, I can’t really talk right now. A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center and I have friends who work there.”

I asked a couple of rudimentary lame questions, crestfallen that I finally had her on the phone and she was blowing me off yet again. She said, “I think it was a private plane, maybe the pilot had a heart attack or something, but anyway it’s all over the news here and I’m waiting for a phone call from my friend.” The very real fear in her voice finally penetrated my selfish agenda, and I quickly got off the phone, but not before telling her that I would pray for her friends and hoped she would hear good news soon. After I hung up, I tried to call Bonnie to tell her, “TAG– YOU’RE IT! Your turn to call the agent now!” but she wasn’t home. I emailed her instead, changed the food and water in the cockatiel cage, and fixed myself another cup of coffee. As I wandered back upstairs to change clothes and start my day, I turned the TV on to CNN and tried to listen from inside the closet to see if anything was mentioned about the New York private plane incident. I remember stepping back into my bedroom and standing open-mouthed and half-dressed as on the screen, right in front of my eyes, a huge jet plunged into the side of the Tower and exploded into a fireball. And then I heard the raised, shocked voices of the newscasters as they said things like, “That’s another plane! The South Tower has now been hit!”, and I realized I was not watching a replay of what had happened earlier, but a live broadcast of another deliberate attack on U.S. soil– the first in my lifetime.


The rest of the day is kind of a blur. We turned on every television in the house and kept them on for the next 24 hours. Russ and I sat side by side on the bed, glued to the screen, holding hands and wondering if we should go pick the girls up from school. Madi Rose was a third grader and Charlotte was in kindergarten at our neighborhood school a few blocks away, and there was no good reason to go get them except for the fact that I just wanted them with me within hugging distance, safe and sound. I remember being on the phone off and on all day to my parents, my brothers and sisters, my friend Lynne down the street– all of us shocked and unbelieving, endlessly speculating as to why, and who, and what would happen next. I mostly remember the pictures flooding the TV screen, instantly iconic and seared into my consciousness…

Plummeting bodies of trapped workers, silently falling and tumbling through the air like autumn leaves.

The collapsing towers, pancaking down floor after floor, ending in a Hiroshima-like cloud of dust, debris and vaporized human beings.

Grey, toxic-ash-covered people looking like extras in a zombie movie, dazed and wandering or panicked and running through the canyons of the financial district.

Anguished rescuers carrying the broken body of Father Mychel Judge from the ruins of Tower One.

The steady stream of people fleeing their city on foot over the Brooklyn Bridge.

A gaping fiery hole in the Pentagon, the foam-covered brick wall buckling and crumpling to the ground.

The image of three firefighters raising an American flag in a scene eerily reminiscent of Iwo Jima.

Ground Zero, the smoking, shrouded, cathedral-like facade of all that was left of the towers


As we talked around the table last night, it all came flooding back to me; the fear, the anger, the entire nation in shock. Then Charlotte piped up and said, “You know what I remember about September 11? That’s when I asked Jesus to be in my heart.” There was a moment of silence, then all three of us turned to her and said, “What?” “Yeah,” she said, puzzled by our surprise. “Don’t you remember, Mom? That night when it was bedtime you were telling me all about what happened, and you were really sad and we were talking about praying for people, and God loving everybody, and then we talked about God living inside of us…”

I had completely forgotten.

I had not connected my memory of Charlotte’s sweet prayer with my memories of that horrible September 11th. But she was right, it was exactly the same day. “Wow,” I finally managed to say. “That’s right. I remember you asked a lot of questions and I could tell that you were really serious, even though you were so little. I just forgot that it was the night of the 9/11 attacks.”  “Well, it was,” Charlotte said as she picked up her plate to carry it back inside. “That was the good thing that happened that day.”

So thanks to Charlo, I have another memory, another picture to add to the ones I already carry in my heart of September 11, 2001– because that night as all of America cried out in pain and grief, there was also one small voice being raised to heaven full of innocence and faith. And I believe God heard all of them.

In sacred memory of all who lost their lives and their loved ones on September 11, 2001.

10 Responses

  1. gracelynn

    I remember 9-11 very well. I had just resigned from my job literally minutes before the first tower was hit. In fact, I was officially typing up my resignation letter to submit for the file when the phone rang at my desk. The rest of the staff was in the weekly meeting at the back of the office. It was the wife of one of our agents calling. All she said when I answered was, “Go turn on the TV”. I explained to her that I couldn’t do that because the agents were in their meeting and I could not interrupt them. She told me, “Go tell them I said turn the TV on and do it now.” Well I had no idea what had gotten this woman upset but I knew it had to be major. And since her husband was one of the owners of the business, I told her ok – I’ll go interrupt them. I went back, knocked on the door, apologized for interrupting and told them who had called and what she said. After having a room full of people look at me like I’d lost my mind, the lady’s husband shrugged and said, “Turn it on.” So they did and we all sat there in shock, watching what we saw. Then the second tower was hit while we were watching it and everyone was literally in shock then. One agent ran out of the room, screaming that she had to call her brother and see if her sister-in-law was at work that morning in the towers. It was definitely a morning I’ll never forget.

    I am so glad that Charlotte was able to see the beautiful side of this day. And what a blessing to know we gained that precious little sister-in-Him on that day.

  2. auburn60

    I was like Tori that day,blissfully going about my business and unaware the world was changing. My husband was in Pennsylvania in business meetings for several days. He called me and told me to turn the TV on. I watched as the newscasters tried to keep up with the action,going from scene to unbelievable scene.My husband said people with him were scared,scared in a way he had never seen before. Men had pulled their Bibles out and were sitting in conference rooms praying and trying to call their families. They had no way to get home–some were trying to rent cars as quickly as possible and the car rental companies were running out of cars. Air and train traffic was at a standstill.We didn’t think he would be able to get home for several days.
    Here in this part of TN ,due to our proximity to Oak Ridge,we were being told we might have to evacuate. I was frantically trying to think THAT through–how to get myself and 3 kids ready to leave EVERYTHING at a moments notice and where to go? My in-laws? Nashville?Or just get in the car and drive? The girls were in high school and Matt was in first grade. I didn’t know how much they knew about what was going on.
    I ended up doing what I think everyone else that day did–sitting in front of the TV,watching in horror,wondering if there were more attacks to come.
    When I went to pick Matt up from school I took my American flag out of the storage closet and defiantly planted it in the corner of my front yard.Not out of some ‘rah,rah’ sense of patriotism,but because I was so VERY ANGRY. I was livid that some group used our own planes and dared to destroy our security. When I returned from my short trip to school,my neighborhood had BLOOMED with flags. People were putting flags in their yards and there was a big one in the park in the neighborhood.
    That still makes me smile.

  3. rockin robyn

    Skybird! Kewl name but shouldn’t that be a seagull instead of a cockatiel? Sorry! Neil Diamond fan here… (John L. Seagull)

    My memories of 9/11/01 take me in so many different directions. On that day I was getting settled into my office after a quicky 8:30-9:00 meeting that lasted 20 minutes.. So I had time to fuss with the radio (I like talk radio in the AM) and was awaiting Glenn Beck to come on at 9AM. Something had pulled me out of my office for a spell and by the time I got back to my desk all hell broke loose on the radio… the local radio had pulled Glen’s show and had gone live with the news and what I was hearing I just couldn’t believe. I headed upstairs to one of the VP’s offices because he had a tv in his office. (this is backward, shy, introvert – Robyn) I don’t even remember what I said but I think we both were just so shocked at me busting into his office like that – he turned his tv on by my demand. As I stood there (numb) watching this, soon others heard and through-out the building everyone was clustered around the offices with tv’s. It was a short work day. After the towers fell, and D.C. was hit and we heard a place not far from here – a plane had gone down, we started hearing talk that they wanted the city cleared out for security reasons… downtown Harrisburg was closing up and sending workers home.

    But this is what I remember most about that day. Wow! the World Trade Towers are gone. Lives lost! The skyline of NYC changed for ever. Here in America! This kind of thing just doesn’t happen here… Calling family to “see if they are o.k.”, gathering at Mom & Dad’s house hugging each other, talking about what just happened and what does this mean… My mom bringing a post-card out for me to read… It was a post card I had sent to her that I bought from the gift shop on the Observation Deck of the World Trade Center circa 1983. My brother was just out of highschool (three years earler I was just out of highschool) but I had a “good” job so I took my little brother to The Big Apple and we walked all over that city and we walked down to Lower Manhattan just to say that we were on the top of those towers… Now they’re gone.

    Fast forward a year… My brother wanted to go back. Only a year later they were still cleaning up debris. It was more like a construction site with fencing keeping you out but he wanted to do that walk again so we headed to New York for the week-end. We did the walk from mid-town Manhattan to lower Manhattan, this time with two more siblings. Two of our sisters joined us. As we approached the neighborhood in the area of were the Towers should be, something just came over me. This is quite a walk but I’m a walker and I love to tour and site see when I travel… all of a sudden I just felt ill in my heart. My legs got shakey like I couldn’t take another step. I called out to my brother – “I can’t do this”. They all just kept on walking and talking… I called out again that I couldn’t do this and we stopped. I explained to them (I’m weeping now) that I can’t go back down there. They all wanted to continue so I convinced them that I would be o.k. but I was going back to the hotel. Just the images of those very streets we were walking, just a year before people were running for there lives… all the emotions just overwhelmed me! I will never forget the pain I felt in remembering 9/11.

    I am a sound tech at my church and I have been doing a “Gaither Video” nite series for a few months now. Just once a month on a Friday night I play a dvd Gaither Concert. Tomorrow nite… umm (it’s late) tonight I am playing “Let Freedom Ring”. It sounds like it might be a good turnout. I would hope I have the Gaithers blessings. It’s all in the up-and-up… no copyright infringement or anything. I’m not collecting any money or anything. Just a bunch of us gathering in His name to listen and watch these artists sing His praise.

  4. themema

    I can’t remember where I was, who I was with, how I first heard.

    I can not remember any feeling…. anger, fear….. only numbness, nothingness, and the image of that second plane crashing into the second tower. I watched, but could not accept in my psyche that it was real. It was just another picture on the TV.

    Even I find that strange.

    In retrospect, if anyone did observe me, I wonder if they might have thought that I was untouched by it.

  5. MostlySunny

    I still can’t watch the images without tears.

    At work – the news – seeing the horror as it happened. “Terrorists” –that was the first thing out of my mouth!

    Co-workers calling from 3 different airports – being taken off of planes – calling to find out what’s going on – “Go home to your family right now! You’re not going anywhere today.”

    My kids calling from college (Chicago and Huntington, WV) – “Mom, what’s going on?” My son in WV at Marshall University – “We’re (most of the school) are crowded in the student center glued to the TV; no classes.” (normally followed by “Yeah!” But not this day). My son in Chicago at Moody Bible Institute – “Mom, we’re being told to go to the underground tunnels; they’re evacuating the Sears Tower.” I would have loved to have had them within hugging distance…that was hard.

    The boss coming back from the Pittsburgh airport – no flights going out – PIT monitoring a “stray” plane that won’t respond to the the calls of the flight controllers – more images – people running from the White House – the Pentagon on fire – a plane down in Shanksville, PA…that’s so close.

    We all went home – more images on the TV – people in other countries dancing in the streets – “they” finally hit us! Like you, auburn60, that’s when I got my flag out and put it up…it’s been there ever since – I’m on my 6th flag now.

    I didn’t cry that Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, but I stayed home on Friday and watched our President and Billy Graham lead us in mourning. That’s when the dam broke and I cried myself out. And I still cry when I see the images now, and I cry whenever I hear Michael W. Smith’s song “There She Stands”.

    But, you know what? I cry now because we made it through.

    Thanks, Tori, for helping us remember the things we forgot about that day. Charlotte – for helping us remember the things that are most important.

  6. tori

    I really love hearing these stories– thanks so much for sharing them.
    (WELCOME MostlySunny!)

  7. CarolynR

    It was about 2 pm UK time. I was on a weeks vacation and was shopping – well it’s what I do! and was in the queue at a huge retail outlet when my mother called and said she couldn’t believe what she was seeing on the tv. Being a bit slow and also thinking she was losing it and watching a movie, I didn’t hurry until she rang again and said come, now!

    Like everyone else we watched it on tv the rest of the day, totally mesmerised and horrified by what was happening.

    It was an absolute miracle that thousands more people weren’t killed, though. I also think for the Americans the biggest shock is that something like this could actually happen in your country. But of course the biggest miracle is the one that occurred in Charlotte’s life that day. I do wonder how many more came to know the Lord on 9/11? Atrocities like that do have a way of focussing the mind. Tori your post was sobering.

  8. Barbara M. Lloyd

    My morning started out like most every other day. Left the television news to go in and check my e-mail. Someone posted that an airplane had struck one of the twin towers…and I remember thinking to myself that there must have been something wrong with the pilot of that plane….and I hoped no one in the building was hurt. I hurried out to the tv in my front room and watched as the second plane hit the other building. It was unbelievable! I mean, I could not believe what I was seeing. Ithought surely it was a replay of the first plane. My telephone started ringing as family and friends called to tell me what was going on. Without exception, everyone was in shock. It wasn’t long until we knew it was terrorists.

    I couldn’t watch as people threw themselves out of those buibuildings. Then we were hearing stories about cell phone calls from people in another airplane that had crashed in Pennsylvania….that was headed for another destination in Washington; as well as phone calls from a few on the plane just before it crashed into the petagon. Oh how tremendously brave the callers were.

    There were heroes on those planes….and those firemen and policemen who lost their lives going into those demolished buildings trying to rescue people…they were heroes, as well as those who managed to live through it all after dragging out people and then bodies. For a time, childrenlooked to firemen and policemen as their heroes, diminishing the role of favorite superheroes..

    And, for a time, we all were united with that special bond of pride in being Americans. Politics faded into the background. Congress even managed to work together for the good of the country. American flags flew proudly on almost every house.

    Too soon we forget. But then the anniversary rolls around and I am reminded again of the day I sat for hours staring in disbelief at my television set frequently with tears streaming down my face as each call came in and we mourned together what was happening right here on American soil and those thousands of lives that were lost. Oh my, we need to be reminded….because we should never forget.

  9. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Oh my goodness, I meant to mention Charlotte….as someone said, I wonder how many others gave their hearts to Jesus on that day? Well, we know of one and we know that the angels in heaven rang those bells that night when that precious little face asked Jesus into her heart. This is the most important and rewarding time in a parent’s life…when their child, no matter the age, becomes a member of the Family of God.How positively wonderful!

  10. LindaB

    I just returned from four days in Chicago. On the Sept. 11th anniversary, Alanna and I visited the John Hancock Building and looked out over the city from the 96th floor. As I looked down from that incredible height, my first thought was of those nightmarish moments before scores of terrified people chose to jump to their deaths from the windows of the Twin Towers than to remain in that hellish inferno. It made me sick to my stomach, and then it made me angry! It made me angry that there is an army of “religious” zealots in this world that would not hesitate to put me and my family…….and my fellow citizens….. in that horrendous predicament and feel no pity whatsoever. And if one still didn’t believe that, they need only to watch in foreign countries on their own news programs where there was cheering and jeering crowds who enjoyed our mass tragedy. I think we all know there is evil and evil men in this world, but that day in September, 2001 made it undeniable and real.

    Another incredible few minutes of torturous “rip your heart out” thoughts was when the fourth plane was taken over by terrorists, but a group of a few brave men met in the back of the plane and used their cell phones to call their loved ones! What anguished and painful conversations they must have had. What a day of senseless death, dying, and bitter hatred. What a nightmare.

    Why, oh why can’t we build a gentle compassionate world for those sweet and ramdom hearts like Charlotte’s? God help us all. OR, come quickly.

    Oh, and, WAY TO GO, CHAR!!!!

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