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15 Years After 9/11: Where Were You?

by Abby Thompson
September 6, 2016 | I ❤️ PBS

It was one of my earliest memories. I was four years old. I was at a friend’s house for the day. I remember being in my friend’s mom’s bedroom, sitting on the floor watching a plane on the TV. My friend’s mom was pacing around the room with an off-white cordless landline phone. I have no idea what she was saying, but she sounded frantic. I’ve always had this memory, but I never understood until years later what was happening. 

Sept. 11, 2001 was a day that shook the United States to its core. Inspired by my own early memory and the new PBS documentary "9/11 Inside the Pentagon" which tells the rarely told stories of the attack that took place there, we asked people in the Twin Cities area to think back to fifteen years ago to where they were on this tragic, yet historic day.

Where were you?

I was driving to school, I’m a teacher and I heard on the radio that an airplane had crashed into a building in New York and I remember thinking about how years ago an airplane had crashed into the Empire State building, like in the 40’s or something and I thought just like that, this was a terrible accident. When I got to school and we turned on the TV and realized what was really happening. It was terrible.
"I was driving to school, I’m a teacher and I heard on the radio that an airplane had crashed into a building in New York and I remember thinking about how years ago an airplane had crashed into the Empire State building, like in the '40s or something and I thought just like that, this was a terrible accident. When I got to school and we turned on the TV and realized what was really happening. It was terrible." - Bernice Frisch
"I watched the second tower go down like the first on TV. Like most Americans I was angry, and I’m from New York so I didn’t know until later in the week if my family and friends were okay." - Arnie Seltzer
I was working at the New York Times, which is about fifty blocks away from the World Trade Center. You could see the towers burning, but we weren’t close enough to really be in it. We walked out onto 9th Avenue which is about four lanes wide. When we got there it was just covered with cars and people walking between the cars, everyone was going north trying to get away from it all downtown. Some people were covered in dust, some people had on face masks, but everyone was just walking trying to get away. We walked to this women’s apartment I worked with and stayed there for a while just watching TV, but when the bridges were open so I could get home—I was living in Queens—all the streets of Manhattan were completely deserted. I probably saw only three people on my way to the Subway to get home.
"I was working at The New York Times, which is about fifty blocks away from the World Trade Center. You could see the towers burning, but we weren’t close enough to really be in it. We walked out onto 9th Avenue, which is about four lanes wide. When we got there it was a traffic jam filled with cars and people walking between the cars, everyone was going north trying to get away from downtown. Some people were covered in dust, some people had on face masks, but everyone was just walking trying to get away. We walked up to Central Park West and 95th to a co-worker's apartment and stayed there for a while just watching TV. We waited a while to walk home to Queens after they opened the bridges—it was about 5 p.m.—and the streets of Manhattan were completely deserted. It was like being on a movie set. I only saw three people until I crossed the 57th Street bridge." - Marguerite Darlington
"I was pretty young, I don’t remember a lot of it, but I just remember my dad was home watching the TV and was really upset." - Callia Blake
I was dropping my daughter off at a family friend's house for the day, when we got to the door our friend asked if we had heard what happened. I hadn't, so she invited me to watch the news with her. I stayed for a couple hours. Looking back from today with everything now in our world that is so threatening, 9/11 really seemed like the beginning of it all.

"I was dropping my daughter off at a family friend's house for the day, when we got to the door our friend asked if we had heard what happened. I hadn't, so she invited me to watch the news with her. I stayed for a couple hours. Looking back from today with everything now in our world that is so threatening, 9/11 really seemed like the beginning of it all." - Lisa Dahling

My parents were really worried, my uncle was in New York and they didn’t know if he was okay until a day later. They just kept watching the TV. I didn’t really know what was happening. I just knew it was bad.
I was only like three years old I think. I don’t really remember it at all. My grandpa was supposed to be on the plane that hit one of the towers, but wasn’t feeling well and cancelled his trip. Good thing he was sick I guess.
"I was only like three years old I think. I don’t really remember it at all. My grandpa was supposed to be on the plane that hit one of the towers, but wasn’t feeling well and cancelled his trip. Good thing he was sick I guess." - Matthew Thompson
When the first tower went down, it was like watching a movie—like an action packed Will Smith kind of thing. But when the second tower went down and I saw the pictures and the video it felt a lot more real. Then once I realized this was actually something that had happened—that it wasn't a movie, it felt kind of like the Olympics to me. I'd watch all the coverage on the TV until like two in the morning on the days after, I think everybody was.
"When the first tower went down, it was like watching a movie—like an action packed Will Smith kind of thing. But when the second tower went down and I saw the pictures and the video it felt a lot more real. Then once I realized this was actually something that had happened—that it wasn't a movie, it felt kind of like the Olympics to me. I'd watch all the coverage on the TV until like two in the morning on the days after, I think everybody was." - John Neuman
The teachers had the TV on all day, I was in first grade. They gave us free time where we just got to play, until a couple hours later I’m guessing, then they let us out early. I guess I was a little bit upset that we had to leave early, because we were supposed to make a craft at school. My mom just kept telling me to be quiet, because something really scary had happened.
"The teachers had the TV on all day, I was in first grade. They gave us free time where we just got to play, until a couple hours later I’m guessing, then they let us out early. I guess I was a little bit upset that we had to leave early, because we were supposed to make a craft at school. My mom just kept telling me to be quiet, because something really scary had happened." - Cedar Thomas
People crowded around the TV in our break room when I got to work, I had heard about a plane crash, but didn’t really think it was a big deal. I finally went in to watch the TV and realized the crash was on purpose. By about noon our office was empty, everyone had gone home.
"People crowded around the TV in our break room when I got to work, I had heard about a plane crash, but didn’t really think it was a big deal. I finally went in to watch the TV and realized the crash was on purpose. By about noon our office was empty, everyone had gone home." - Craig Thompson
When I turned on the radio the first tower had already been hit. I was driving to classes. I was in medical school in Chicago at the time. My initial thought was how could a plane hit the tower? I thought it must be an accident because nothing like that had ever happened here. Then about ten minutes later, it was announced that the second tower had been hit and by then it was pretty clear this wasn’t an accident, but that we were attacked.
"When I turned on the radio the first tower had already been hit. I was driving to classes. I was in medical school in Chicago at the time. My initial thought was how could a plane hit the tower? I thought it must be an accident because nothing like that had ever happened here. Then about ten minutes later, it was announced that the second tower had been hit and by then it was pretty clear this wasn’t an accident, but that we were attacked." - Mary Dahling
I was in middle school and I remember on my way to math class this kid running down the hall saying that a plane had hit the twin towers. When I got to math, the TV was on and we just watched it all happening. But later, I was in another class and our teacher kept saying how we were going to remember this day for the rest of our lives and she was right.
"I was in middle school and I remember on my way to math class this kid running down the hall saying that a plane had hit the twin towers. When I got to math, the TV was on and we just watched it all happening. But later, I was in another class and our teacher kept saying how we were going to remember this day for the rest of our lives. She was right." - Maribel Lopez
Abby Thompson
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