Welcome to a very special edition of #DoubleFML FatDarrellPalooza!
Regulars may be confused by The Flash t-shirt since Batman is my favorite superhero. However, my favorite TV show is The Flash.
As for the relevance to this 9/11 post? Well, The Flash can run so fast that he’s able to time travel. However, any time he makes a change to his past, it creates a separate timeline. As a result, he’s able to see how different life could have been.
For those of you who are lost, it’s like Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” but with spandex onesies and superspeed.
Better yet, it’s like scrolling through Facebook to see how life turned out for your grade school crush!
On “Earth 2” it’s entirely possible that my doppelganger is married with 6 kids already! We may never know.
…and that’s the point.
The “what if” game has always fascinated us, but we don’t get many chances to peak at our alternate timelines here in the real world.
That brings us to today’s post.
If you have a moment, I’d recommend reading last year’s 9/11 tribute. You can do so by clicking here.
In that post, I shared my personal 9/11 story since I commuted to the World Trade Center every morning. I missed my regular train that day but always wondered how different things might have been.
Well, I used to travel with a tight-knit group of commuters from the Middletown, NJ station every morning and many of them did make it to work that day.
Among them, was one of my best friends Allison.
Allison and I were inseparable, so had I made my train, I would have been seated right next to her. Although we worked in separate buildings, her story is essentially my “alternate timeline.”
Most of our “commuter-family” stopped going to NYC after the tragic events of September 11. It was a very difficult and traumatic time for everyone. It still is.
Allison and I continued to commute to NYC together, but we never fully discussed that day…until now.
This is her story:
“The first thing anyone says about 9/11 is what a beautiful day it was. And it really was. Blue skies, perfect temperature… just the kind of day you hate going to work. I was supposed to be at work early, to cover for a coworker. I failed miserably and ended up walking into my office my usual time. We worked in an open room of about 20 desks, and I was the first to arrive.
We were a few blocks from the Trade Center, and had an amazing view of the towers. We’d just moved into this building, and were talking about the view just the day before.
I was getting my day started, running and printing reports, when I heard the first explosion. I looked up and saw a huge fireball, followed by a massive amount of paper flying through the air. I’ll never forget the paper. Perfect, whole sheets of paper hitting the windows of my office. My (now ex) husband and some of his immediate family worked in WTC4, so the first thing I did was call him. He picked up right away and I heard lots of commotion behind him- he worked on a trading floor, so that was not unusual. I said, “a bomb went off in your building and you have to leave NOW.” He said ok and hung up. I counted “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” up through ten and called him back, relieved when he didn’t answer. I then called my mom, who was watching my almost 4yr old son, at home. She assured me I was overreacting, since there was nothing on the news channels. Almost immediately, as we were talking, the news caught up and the first images were available to her, and the world.
I walked into the next room in my office, and they were conducting business as usual. The room was loud. The blinds were closed. It was like stepping into another world. I felt like I’d imagined what I’d just seen. You’d think I would have ran into the room yelling, but I was at a loss for what to do. I told someone, quietly, that there was some kind of explosion at the World Trade Center. He walked over to the blinds and pulled them up, and everything stopped. The entire room was looking out the window. It was really happening.
Some of the people I worked with started arriving at work, in shock. We talked about what to do. The second plane hit. Lots of phone calls- people looking for their friends, family members. Some getting through, and some not. I was on the phone with my mom when there was a loud rumbling, and everything started shaking. Our office windows pushed open on the bottom, and someone ran to close them. There was a cloud of something coming straight at us, fast. We ran to the stairwell. We were on the 25th floor, so we were in the stairwell for a little while before reaching the bottom. I remember that someone said one of the towers collapsed, and I didn’t believe them. It seemed impossible.
When we got outside, the world was different. People were covered in white. We’d missed the big cloud of debris that you see in the videos… but some people were still panicked and running, and others were in a daze. We hid in the parking garage of our building and were there until after the second tower came down. We joined the crowds in the street and started walking toward the Brooklyn Bridge. As we were walking, people were talking about what was happening elsewhere, and there were all kinds of rumors. People were saying the Sears Tower was hit by a plane, the White House, the Space Needle. It was the end of the world, and I was at work. At some point, we heard what sounded like planes overhead again, loud and low. The sky was now so thick with smoke that you couldn’t see anything. Some people, myself included, started running, and others recognized it for what it was. The US military was here.
Standing at the base of the bridge, we were watching thousands walk over at once. A few of us didn’t want to go, and decided to walk towards the boats instead. I caught a ferry from Pier 11 to Highlands, NJ. Some people on the boat were injured, some were crying. Many were nervous and wearing life vests. I remember hearing that someone jumped off the boat when we heard planes overhead. The boat stopped, and the crew was running and yelling.
When the boat docked, there were people there to take statements, I’m assuming police or local FBI, but I don’t remember. They were also hosing people off. My father picked me up and drove me home. It took him forever to get to me- I remember an endless line of cars coming down from Hwy 36 to the waterfront. My (ex) husband arrived home awhile after me. He’d taken a boat to Jersey City and was offered a ride home from a couple looking to help someone. That night, as the others came home, they gathered at my apartment and we sat outside and talked about the day. I half expected to go to work the next day, but we didn’t return until the following Monday. The city was forever changed, and everything felt wrong. I was panicked at every sound and didn’t want to be there. For a while, you live differently. You have more patience and love for people, and less energy for the things that don’t matter. As you get some distance from the day, that sadly goes away.
It’s been 17 years and some of it is as fresh in my memory as ever. Some of it is fading. People have reminded me of little things I’d forgotten. Last year around this time, I wrote down absolutely every detail I remembered. It was pages long and included other people’s stories as well. I tried not to do that here out of respect for their stories and their privacy. But I think it’s important to remember.”
Wow. Her story literally gave me chills. I know how difficult it was for her to share this story so I sincerely thank her for doing so.
When people ask why we should “never forget” her story is one of the many reasons.
Allison will never forget that day. The families who lost loved ones will never forget that day.
17 years isn’t that long ago. Many people are still healing, so please reach out to anyone you know who was personally affected by the traumatic events that day. If they needed you back then, they need you now. You never know what someone is going through.
The world truly changed on September 11, 2001. There are very few events in history that everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing at the time.
I asked several others to share their stories as well. Here are their responses:
Christina Evans – Buford, GA
“I was at home sick that day. I lived in a third level apartment complex, where my building was part of the landing path of the airport in Wichita KS. I woke up to plane after plane coming in for landing. I mean it was give or take every 30-45 seconds a plane was landing. I immediately turned on the news and felt my stomach knot as I flipped to a news station. There it was. Tower one. I was literally in NY just a few months prior to 9/11 for business. Went in the towers. All of it. I was mortified. I was mortified watching people jump from the buildings. I couldn’t take it all in. I was trying to sort through all the details the news was giving but it just wasn’t sinking in. Terrorism is real. Years of planning, and only hours to make it all happen. So many people lost their loved ones that day. Something like this incident will stick with you regardless of how you lived through it. Still hard to look at pictures from that day… I did have friends there that died on that day. And it never feels right talking about it. One friend did live through it and to this day, he cannot talk about it. So instead of talking about who/where/what, I pray. I pray for all families, their loved ones, the rescue teams, nurses – just everyone involved. Every year, on 9/11.”
Don Coates – Orlando, FL
“I was home asleep and my girlfriend (now wife) called to tell me that one of the towers had been hit. I woke up to see the second one get hit and drove down to the beach (*he was near Ideal Beach, NJ that morning). I watched from across the bay as the towers burned, then eventually fell. A sight I can never get out of my head. I ran home and immediately and tried to call a few people who I knew were going into the city that day. Darrell was one of them. So thankful when I heard back that you never went in that morning. I had only been out of the military for a few months. I thought for sure I was going to get called back. I knew that the world as we knew it had forever changed. It’s important (to remember) because it is history and changed the footprint of America, it’s the day that truly started the political divide in the country. Far worse than it has ever been. I could only wish that America could go back to the way it was on Sept 10, 2001. I truly wish all Americans could act and carry their lives like they did the days and weeks after 9/11. When we we’re all Americans. Not Liberals, Not Conservatives. Just Americans who care about everyone of all races, genders religions. God Bless America.”
Vanesa Bianchi – Kearny, NJ
“September 11th is a day that will live forever in my mind and heart. I was a senior at Saint Peter’s College (Jersey City) and distinctly remember sitting in my English class when another student walked into our classroom, shouting “A plane just hit the Twin Towers”. As we looked out the window, we saw clouds of smoke and the room was silent. Shortly after, a security guard walked into our classroom, informing us that a second plane had hit the towers and that school was shutting down. Since my college was a Jesuit school, they immediately opened the church for prayers. I found my two best friends on campus and we went to pray, although at that moment, we didn’t quite understand what was going on. When we left the church, we tried to reach our loved ones but no one had cell phone reception. Thankfully, I drove in that day, whereas normally we took the Path train into Jersey City, and the three of us drove back to Harrison (NJ). The drive back was morbid, we were able to hear the tragic news on the radio. The days to come seem like a blur, I recall all the homes in Harrison seemed so sad, the town coordinated a candle lighting ceremony in our park area, and the feeling that for the first time, in a long time, all Americans were united and together in mourning. Every year, we remember those who lost their lives in such a tragic event. 9/11 will never be forgotten.”
Fran Tartaglione – Norcross, GA
“I was on the island of Mykonos in Greece. It was very scary to be so far away from home after the attack. For the first time while traveling abroad I felt uneasy about being an American. On the night of the attack we took a late ferry back from Mykonos to the island where we were staying. It was surreal because they had TVs on the ferry and 95% of people were watching a soccer match while 5% were turned into tv showing aftermath of attack. I was scheduled to fly back to JFK a week after the attack. I ended up having to buy another ticket since I couldn’t fly through NYC. I was on one of first planes back to Atlanta. It’s important to remember because it taught me that we are more vulnerable than we thought we were and that many people going through their daily routine on a regular day were not able to return home to their families. Taking no day for granted.”
Cynthia Butler Vieth – North Providence, RI
“I was on my way to the towers actually for a college assignment with some classmates. We were all up late the night before and we all overslept so I missed the 6:00am train to get there. I was rushing around getting ready and while in the shower the first tower was hit. My phone had 30 missed calls from everyone trying to reach me assuming I was there. Had I not overslept I would have been on the observation deck looking down. While trying to let everyone know I was okay and trying to contact my classmates, I watched the second tower get hit. I am beyond fortunate that everyone I knew at that time either called out of work that day or were running late like myself. My college, NJCU. was shut down for a few weeks as 2 of the terrorist cells lived only 1 block away from my school. They also used the campus to sort through bodies and debris. It’s important to remember because it’s a part of our history. Not all history is a glorious fairytale but for better or worse it’s shapes people into who they are and how they perceive and chose to react to things. This event even of for a brief moment in time brought our nation together in amazing solidarity. That’s something to be proud of. It’s heartbreaking to remember that day and the events and months that followed to see how we came together only to be so divided today.”
Rashatta Daugett – Dacula, GA
“On the day of 9/11, I was downstairs making breakfast for my 3-month old daughter who is now 17 and my 1-year-old niece who is now 18. My husband was awakened by a phone call from his mother who was in North Carolina at the time. She was hysterical because the majority of their family live in New Jersey, just across the water from New York. Her words were, “Turn on the news now!” My husband began to walk through the house and wake his sister and brother- in- law up and they all headed downstairs and demanded I change the channel to the local news station and that’s when we saw the second plane hurdling towards the second building and we immediately understood her hysteria. Shortly after, my mother called with the same hysteria in her voice and the phone calls from family and friends poured in over the course of the day. We were glued to the television the entire day; I can’t remember doing anything but watch the news that day. This one event revealed to the American people that the bubble we thought we lived in, can be infiltrated at any given moment. I believe until that moment, at least for me, America was somehow off limits to the destruction and terror seen around the world. War and acts of war didn’t touch us, we are Americans. This event showed just how vulnerable our country really is and that we are actually no different than any other country in this small world. Remembering 9/11 is super important for us. It’s a reminder that we are vulnerable and must be vigilant and not get too comfortable in our bubble. Yes, other nations praise us, but for the ones that don’t, we must be on the ready to protect ourselves against attacks. It is also important to remember the many Americans who lost their lives that day and the families whose lives were changed forever. May God grant wisdom to the leaders of our nation to protect us.”
Although this collection stories all originated from The East Coast, 9/11 was truly a global event that changed the world forever. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts and experiences so please continue the discussion below in the comments section and on my social media pages by clicking the logos on the side panel.
Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z ft Alicia Keys
Flash – Queen
Welcome To New York – Taylor Swift
Thunderclouds – LSD
Safe in New York City – AC/DC
Unforgettable – French Montana ft. Swae Lee
One – Mary J. Blige ft. U2
One Love – Bob Marley
Do you have another song that fits today’s themes or that doesn’t but is just so great we should check it out anyway? Tell us in the comments below!
I know today was a little different but don’t worry, next week it’s back to our regularly scheduled bad puns and crazy foods! In the meantime, I hope you got as much out of this as I did. It was truly an insightful and powerful experience.
I want to sincerely thank all who contributed stories for this post. This subject is difficult but necessary. Aside from honoring the legacies of those who lost their lives that day, it’s important to remember our history or we’re destined to repeat it.
September 11, 2001 was one of the most horrific days I’ve lived through however the days that followed were some of the most peaceful. There was a beautiful optimism that everything would be okay and we all united as one.
Our nation feels more divided each day, but we don’t need to wait for another traumatic disaster to fix it.
Open communication and dialogue are a great start to closing the divide.
The stories above demonstrate how much we all have in common so don’t let the media, politicians or closed-minded simpletons tell you otherwise.
If you’ve been searching for a time to make a change and get to know your neighbors, today is the day.
Everyone has a 9/11 story, what’s yours?
Until next time my friends, May the Fork be With you…
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”