Where Were You That September Morning?

September 11, 2021

We publish this piece on an annual basis, and we encourage you to comment below, answering the question ‘Where Were You That September Morning?

September 11, 2001. It’s been 20 years.

Life, at least when that morning began, seemed good. I’ve always been a work at home dad, so I was home with my two girls. The youngest was almost four months old, and the oldest was approaching her fourth birthday. It was a normal morning. The little one was asleep, “fat and happy” as we used to say, after a morning bottle. The oldest was in the living room just a few feet from my office watching PBS Kids on the TV as I worked on a project for a client.

Then this arrived in my inbox:

Subject: CNN Breaking News
From: BreakingNews@CNN.COM
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 08:52am

– World trade center damaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane has
crashed into tower. Details to come.

I got up, walked to the living room and flipped the TV to CNN. They were talking about how a pilot could make such an error, hitting such a large building. They were speculating that it was just a small plane. But then as the TV news helicopters zoomed their cameras in closer, the anchors were beginning to notice what I had already thought….those holes the tower were to big to have been a small plane.

(continues below photo)

I called my wife at work in Atmore. She had seen the breaking news email, and had tried to visit the CNN website to see the story. If you remember trying to use the internet that morning, it was near impossible to get a news website to load; they were all overloaded. She was unable to see the pictures. I was describing what I saw on the TV to her.

I managed to grab a picture from CNN via my web server and then download and email it to her. We were speculating about how it could happen when the second one hit.

I remember saying “wait, hold on, wait…”. I told her what I just watched on the TV. The second plane had hit the other tower. We quickly decided that we were at war as the anchors on TV speculated again that perhaps there was a problem with some navigational system, causing jetliners on a beautiful, clear morning in New York to fly into some of the tallest structures in the world.

Another breaking news email arrived:

Subject: CNN Breaking News
From: BreakingNews@CNN.COM
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 09:21am

– Second plane crashes into World Trade Center.

She and I began to speculate ourselves that we were at war. What would we do? What should we do? What about the kids? It was not panic, understand, but just that protective momma and daddy instinct, I suppose. Prayer. That was a good idea. Maybe go to the bank and get out a little cash. That seemed like a good idea. How would you prep for a war on American soil? We were not sure.

I continued to relay information about what I was seeing on TV to my wife at work, who, in turn, would relay the information to her coworkers. They had a TV, but no cable service or antenna. They ended up fashioning a homemade antenna to see a fuzzy picture.

Meanwhile, the breaking news emails kept arriving…

Subject: CNN Breaking News
From: BreakingNews@CNN.COM
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 09:32am

– Sources tell CNN one of two planes that crashed into World Trade
Center was an American Airlines 767.

Subject: CNN Breaking News
From: BreakingNews@CNN.COM
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 09:42am

– President Bush calls plane crashes at World Trade Center a
terrorist act.

Subject: CNN Breaking News
From: BreakingNews@CNN.COM
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 09:45am

– Significant fire at the Pentagon. Details to come.

Subject: CNN Breaking News
From: BreakingNews@CNN.COM
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 09:46am

– White House evactuated. Details to come.

The Pentagon on fire? The White House evacuated? Notice that in CNN’s email they were in such a hurry that they misspelled “evacuated”. One sentence at a time, the situation became more grave.

Subject: CNN Breaking News
From: BreakingNews@CNN.COM
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 09:55am

– CNN confirms a plane hit the Pentagon

Subject: CNN Breaking News
From: BreakingNews@CNN.COM
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 10:03am

– One of World Trade Center towers collapses; fire forces
evacuation of State Department

Subject: CNN Breaking News
From: BreakingNews@CNN.COM
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 10:30am

– Second World Trade Center tower collapses in Manhattan

Over and over, we watched those towers collapse on TV, and we watched our Pentagon burn.

Our almost four year old asked a lot of questions. “Were people hurt? Did they need a Band-aid?” The magnitude of the event was lost on a four year old. Looking back at those first few hours, I think the magnitude of the event was lost on all of us.

Like many Americans, I sat glued to the TV that day, continuing to watch the video of the towers falling. Our almost four year old asked if another building fell down or if it was the same one. It was time to change the channel on the TV.

You might remember that many of the entertainment TV stations ran network news feeds. Others just simply ran screens about the day’s events. There was no USA network, no ESPN, no MTV. But on PBS, we found children’s programming at a time it was not normally on. For a little while, sitting in the living room floor holding my kids, the world stopped turning that September day, as we watched Big Bird and the Cookie Monster.

Country artist Alan Jackson later wrote a song “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?”.

Some of those lyrics:

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the site of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry

Did you weep for the children
Who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don’t know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below

But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where where you when the world stopped turning that September day? Your comments are welcome below.

NorthEscambia.com photos by Bethany (Reynolds) Landis, click to enlarge.


20 Responses to “Where Were You That September Morning?”

  1. 9/11 on September 14th, 2021 9:29 am

    Active duty Navy stationed at Saufley Field. Watched the events unfold from a B&W TV in my office.

  2. SRCitizen on September 13th, 2021 12:56 pm

    Was on a bus headed to Parris Island to being USMC boot camp.

  3. NavyDave on September 13th, 2021 8:00 am

    I was active duty Navy, on temporary duty in Washington DC about five miles south of the Pentagon. We were in a meeting with defense contractors. Several times during the meeting a receptionist interrupted to tell us of first one, then another aircraft hitting the WTC in NYC. Word then started circulating that the Pentagon right up the road was on fire. We wrapped the meeting and attempted to get back to the hotel we were staying at. The acrid smell of the fire as we passed the burning Pentagon is still clear in my mind to this day, and I knew we were going to war.

  4. Charlie on September 12th, 2021 7:55 pm

    I had just gotten up from bed after working the four to midnight shift at NAS Whiting Field the night before, my first year of working there. My wife yelled at me to come quick to watch the TV, & we watched in disbelief as the second one hit on live TV. Needless to say, I didn’t go to work that day, as they locked down the base to all but essential personnel, & I think it was at least a few days until they opened again, & security was super tight for quite awhile afterwards.

  5. Amanda Leck on September 12th, 2021 3:59 pm

    I was in Northeastern University’s paramedic program. We left class early for a break & the program director was watching watching TV in her office which we thought was strange. I remember thinking it couldn’t be real but then when I saw the towers collapse shortly after so many rescuers went in I remember the horrible realization of how large the death toll would be. As an EMT seeing so many brothers & sisters killed while trying to rescue others was unbearable. In the days that followed so many in my class wanted to go to NY to help dig our brothers & sisters from the rubble. Our instructor said “I want to go as much as you do but they don’t need EMTs, they need search & rescue & morticians.

  6. CL on September 12th, 2021 8:57 am

    I was working at what was Barnett Bank/Nations Bank on Nine Mile Rd. We pulled our TV out of the break room into the lobby and stood around it and watched in horror all day long.

  7. Citizen on September 11th, 2021 9:34 pm

    I was about to start a lab procedure at the Air Force Research Lab, dealing with Bio logial weapons when we heard a plane had hit the tower. We stopped what we were doing and went to find out what was going on.

  8. Robert B on September 11th, 2021 7:29 pm

    I was with my family at a hotel in Panama City, FL. We were getting ready to go out on a pontoon boat with a couple other families, when my mother called me and asked was I watching television. I quickly turned on the TV and saw the one tower on fire and then saw a plane crash into the second tower.

  9. Bonnie Exner on September 11th, 2021 7:05 pm

    I was teaching 8th grade Civics/ American Government at Ransom Middle School in CANTONMENT…was checking into thr front office when all the administration was gather around the tv.. .thats when I saw live the plane hit the South z
    Tower…threw out my lesson plans and my students and I were glued to my classroom tv…watching HISTORY IN THE MAKING
    that day…even during that tragic event,I saw all walks of life give aid and help save strangers.

  10. Greg S on September 11th, 2021 2:09 pm

    I was on duty , Escambia County Fire Rescue

  11. Richard on September 11th, 2021 12:45 pm

    I had just finished a 24 hour shift at the Pensacola Fire Department. I was talking to my wife on the phone when the first tower collapsed. I said all those firefighters are dead.

  12. Scott H. on September 11th, 2021 11:03 am

    I was working at the new sawmill in McDavid. The internet was almost immediately jammed up with traffic and we could only get scant information for most of the morning.

  13. Paul on September 11th, 2021 9:52 am

    I was on a deep sea tug in Fourchon La..
    I just came out of the engine room and the Captain told me a plane hit the first tower.
    We were watching the TV when the second one hit.
    It was obvious the first one was an accident then.
    They also shut down our ports then. We couldn’t move for a few days.

  14. ThePreachersWife on September 11th, 2021 9:30 am

    Thanks for posting this. We need never forget.

  15. Gabriel on September 11th, 2021 9:05 am

    It was our last day of vacation in the US (we were in KY at that time) and we were due to go back to Europe the next day changing planes in New-York. Because of the attacks it delayed our return for 4-5 days if I recall.

  16. brenda on September 11th, 2021 7:36 am

    Working at Alto Everybody went to the Flag pole.

  17. Retired Navy Vet on September 11th, 2021 7:29 am

    Sitting on the 24th floor of the Freeport-McMoran building in New Orleans working on a manual for a water purifier for the Army. A fellow co-worker who was a former Marine ran up and told me. I tried to log on to various National news organizations only to find them inaccesible. Had to use the BBC website. This day always is a “bad funk” day for me. I was wishing I’d not retired and was still serving and regret to this day having retired when I did.

  18. just sayin on September 11th, 2021 7:09 am

    on that morning i was on my way to pensacola for a dentist appt i had the radio on in the suv my husband and i couldn’t believe until we got to the dentist office i cried and begin to pray God is good protect us

  19. Richard Coffey on September 11th, 2021 3:59 am

    I was working out at the Golds gym on nine mile road. I was on the elliptical watching television and saw both air planes hit the buildings.

  20. Randon Watson on September 11th, 2021 2:29 am

    When the first tower was hit and the news broke I was at school. Senior year at Northview, 1st block, Mr. Byars Ag class.

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