It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a moment that changed the trajectory of America.
No matter how much time has passed, everyone seems to remember where they were when they found out the Twin Towers fell.
Some of the WSLS 10 staff shared their stories of the day we’ll never forget.
Lindsey Ward, Anchor
The attacks happened in my first week of college. I was a freshman at Ferrum College. I was heading out the door to an academic advisor meeting that morning when my roommate told me a plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Thinking it was a prop plane or something small, I went about my way.
When I arrived at my adviser’s office, he told me to immediately leave and go turn on the news. I remember spending the whole day in front of the TV with friends, trying to make sense of what was unfolding.
It was the first time as an American I had ever felt so insecure and vulnerable. Something unimaginable had happened, poking holes in our false sense of security and control. In the following days, it was clear life would never be the same.
Jeff Haniewich, Chief Meteorologist
9/11/01 is a day none of us will ever forget. Such a sad, horrendous day it was for all Americans. I was at my alma mater Elon University talking to the communication majors that morning when one of my most beloved professors rushed into the room and said an airplane flew into the World Trade Center in New York. At the time, I remember thinking it was just a freak accident. It all was just a horrible mistake. That’s what most felt watching the big-screen TV in the lobby of the Communications building. Oh, how wrong we were. Little did I know, that among the 2,977 killed that horrible morning was Christina Ryook.
I was an eighth-grader at Lee Burneson Middle School in Westlake, Ohio. It was the fall and it was soon time for the Sadie Hawkins dance. That is a dance where the girls asks the boys to attend the dance with them. I frankly was not sure if this shy, braced-faced kid (me) would be asked to go. Fortunately, this beautiful, out-of-my-league girl asked me to go. Of course, I said “yes!” And we went and had a great time. That spring, we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. That summer a friend of mine sent me my 8th-grade yearbook. And the nicest note (that took up the entire back of the yearbook) was from Christina Ryook. Unfortunately, over the years, we lost contact with each other. But, through mutual friends, I heard that she went to the University of Michigan and had an incredible job working at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York City, working in the World Trade Center.
I left Elon and went back to work at WNCT, my first job in TV in Greenville, North Carolina. A couple days after the tragic events of 9/11, I got word that Christina was at work early that day on one of the highest floors of the WTC and did not make it out alive. I was stunned, shocked and so sad. Yes, I hadn’t talked to her in years, but it conjured up so many great memories of one of the nicest people I had ever met. I went home and read the back of my eighth-grade yearbook. She told me I would be successful in everything I would do in life. I hope I have done that... I hope over the last 20 years I have made you proud, Christina. Continue to rest in peace, my friend.
Annie Schroeder, Reporter
I was five years old on Sept. 11, 2001. I grew up in McLean, Virginia which is about 15 minutes away from the Pentagon.
We had only been in our kindergarten class for an hour or so when they sent everyone home because word of the attack on the Pentagon got out quickly, as a good portion of my classmates’ parents worked there or had some kind of government affiliation.
All major highways in my hometown were shut down for hours, maybe even days.
We went home and sat in front of the TV as my mother, a native of New York City, watched her hometown and new home be attacked all at once. I also had an aunt and uncle who worked in the NYPD at the time, so things were tense and confusing for a few weeks.
9/11 is probably the earliest memory I have, and while I feel fortunate enough that no one I knew was hurt or died that day, I know many others cannot say the same. We will never forget.
John Carlin, Anchor
I was watching TV when the second plane hit the towers, and then the Pentagon. I was scheduled to teach my class in News Writing at Virginia Tech that day. I called and canceled the class and rushed to the WSLS station.
At that time, the extent of the attacks was still unknown, and we worked to find out if there was any local threat. As I recall, the Poff Federal Building was closed as a precaution, as was the airport.
After that we just watched the horror unfold along with the rest of the world.
Brittny McGraw, Anchor
I was in school at UNC Chapel Hill when 9/11 happened. I was getting ready for my first class of the day when a friend who lived in the room next to mine in our dorm said I needed to turn on the TV because a plane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.
I then remember watching as the second plane hit the south tower and being bewildered, confused and naïve to what was happening. I thought it was some terrible and tragic coincidence of piloting errors and miscommunication. At that point, it didn’t seem possible that these were intentional acts that were a part of a planned terrorist strike.
When reports started coming in that the Pentagon had been hit, that’s when reality started to sink in: America was under attack. My professors canceled their classes for the rest of the day, and I remember being glued to the TV, waiting for any information about why this was happening and who did this. There was so much fear and uncertainty at that time because it felt like no place was safe, and any community could be a target.
We’d love to hear your stories as well. Tell us in the comments: Where were you on 9/11?