Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 Years Ago, Today.

I'm sure most bloggers today are posting about their experiences on September 11, 2001. And while you may have already read dozens of other personal accounts of what happened on that day, I suggest you read mine for a fresh perspective on the events. I was on my mission when it happened, and thus experienced the entire thing with a sense of disconnected torture. I could call no family or friends, nor did I have the day off. It was just another day of missionary work. Sort of.

I remember waking up that morning, showering in our little concrete bathroom and going through the rounds of personal and companionship study/prayer. It was nice, clear day. My companion headed out of the apartment and over to the local tienda to get some pan dulce for breakfast. We walked in and the little grey-haired lady was watching her humble 13 inch tv. Most mornings were host to the sounds of a telenovela (soap opera) or one of Mexico's gosh awful morning shows, but this morning she was watching the news.

There was a great deal of smoke coming out of the ground. I remember thinking that Popcateptl, Mexico's most active and dangerous volcano, had erupted again, as it had done so a few months before. But then, as the camera zoomed out, I saw the Pentagon. I just stood there on the polished floor of this little tienda in the middle of Mexico, gazing blankly at the Pentagon as it burned. In that fleeting moment my mind couldn't comprehend the entirety of what was happening.

We left the tienda to eat breakfast at the apartment and then headed out to our first appointment. Her name was Marta, I think. Or Maria. Anyway, the first words out of her mouth were, "Your country is under attack." Whoa! What!? "Come see."

We went into her nicely decorated home and watched tv with her. It was CNN. In English. (Thank you, Heavenly Father!) Hearing the news in the sweet, familiar phonetics of English was a blessing, as it connected me, in a way, to those who I loved and thought of that I could not call or communicate with. We watched the first tower smoldering against the baby-blue New York skyline. We saw the second plane smash, full-fury, into the second tower and just sat there in awe at the chaos that was taking place across the border. It was really scary. Was this the beginning of more for the rest of the United States? Was LA going to be hit? Chicago? Denver? Salt Lake?

After an hour or so of watching TV with our investigator, we put the news aside and taught our discussion.

We ate lunch, like usual, with a family in our ward (sidenote: the dad was a candy salesman by day and a professional Mexican wrestler by night!) We watched the towers continue to burn and then gasped as they fell like vanquished titans, into their billowing, ashen graves. It was so awful, knowing that in that instant so many lost their lives. And yet there was a strange disconnect to the whole thing, as if it were all a farce, like some replay of war of the worlds in modern times. Call it shock or divine protection, but I wasn't quite sure if it was all real or not. It's hard to explain.

Life as a missionary went on like usual after that. We'd get the occasional comment from people about how sorry they were for the tragedy, and, on occasion, some ass would tell us why the US deserved what it got. The Mexican people were generally very understanding, though, of the whole thing.

So that's my story.

Where were you when the towers fell? If you've written about it in your blog, please post a URL. Thanks.



  1. i was on my way to school. shock went through me as i heard it on my favorite station as my mom drove me up to the school. we watched it in algebra 2 that day. 10th grade. crazy....that's about all i remember.

  2. I blogged about it too- I was at school, my first year! I was watching coverage of it last night on You Tube and floods of emotions from that day came back!

    Thanks for sharing the story!

    P.S. Did the pro wrestler ever wear stretchy pants? You know, for fun?

  3. I remember I was getting ready for work that morning and my little brothers were watching TV like they normally did before school. I walked past them at one point expecting to see them watching cartoons, instead I saw footage of the Twin Towers; one appeared to be on fire. I asked my brothers what was going on and they told me a plane had flown into one of the towers. For a moment, I admit, I thought it was kind of amusing. I didn't know it was a terrorist attack. Then I thought of all of the people in the building and what they must be feeling...and those who would have been killed in the crash. That realization had an immediate sobering effect on me. A few moments later I was still glued to the TV when the second plane struck. My brothers and I just watched in complete shock. I soon had to go to work, though, and at the time I was working for Barnes & Noble. Whenever I had a free moment I would sneak off to the stockroom and listen to the news over a radio that we kept back there. When my shift ended I raced home and watched the news some more. It was all just very surreal and horrifying. Peter was in a similar situation as you, Barry. He was serving a mission in Japan when he heard the news about the terrorist attacks. He got all kinds of mixed reports about what had really happened, and he, too, felt cut off from everything. Most Japanese people were horrified by what had happened, but I'm sure there were a few jerks who thought we had it coming. Seven years later I still can't understand how some people can be filled with so much hate that they would wish to inflict pain and death upon their fellow man.

  4. I was actually in school when I heard about it. It was during standardized testing, so we weren't allowed to stop or watch tv because of the state laws. One a water fountain break, an upperclassman told me about it, but I thought it was some sick practical joke they were trying to get the sophomores to believe, but then during lunch the tvs were on, and I saw it on the news. I felt sad for those who had lost loved ones and worried about my dad's best friend who worked near the trade centers, and mostly spent the rest of my day reassuring my friends that a small city in Indiana would not be in immediate danger and that there was life after death. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. I remember Steve had his TV on while getting ready for school and he called to us that a plane had crashed into a big bldg in New York. We had visions of a small plane, freakishly crashing accidently into a bldg. We hurried and turned on every TV in the house to see what had happened and the whole thing unfolded. I was teaching school then and wondered if they would cancel school? Were we going to be attacked? Would things start happening in cities around the nation? would we be safe at school? Don stayed home to watch the news all day. I went off to school, we were told to downplay it as to not upset the kids. Most of my kids hadn't heard much about it,guess the Spanish speaking stations were slow on the draw. It was very surreal and heartbreaking.