On a Friday afternoon two days before the 15th anniversary of the Sep. 11 Terrorist attacks, the Loudoun Tribune sent a reporter to the Dulles Town Center to ask one simple question: where were you on 9-11?
Some were in elementary school. Some were running companies. All of them remembered.
The best way to tell their story, and perhaps the story of that day, is to let an arbitrary group of shoppers at the mall tell their story in their words on the most infamous day in generations.
“I thought it was an accident at first, but I remember seeing the second plan go in, it was deadly accurate, and then watching the smoke from the Pentagon that was hit. I was on the phone with one of my people who was late for work talking to him, ‘what the hell are you doing?’ and he said ‘I think a plane went into the Pentagon’ and then I remember seeing the smoke. The thing I remember most the next couple days was you couldn’t hear a sound from the sky. You’re used to hearing the airplanes and then nothing.”
“I was in Ashburn. I had my first meeting ever meeting to go to the Pentagon to meet a client. I was scheduled to have a meeting there at 11 a.m. At 9 I was watching the opening of the stock market and I’m going ‘this doesn’t look like one of those scams.’ So I talked to my wife and said ‘honey I think you should come here’ and sure enough the second plane came and hit the second tower. I said ‘wow’. It was really surreal. At that time there was a rumor that there was an attack on FFA in Leesburg as well. It was like ‘grab the kids, get the guns’. It was the most weirdest day. I just remember watching that and thinking ‘be calm’. My wife was like ‘what do we do’ and I said ‘we don’t do nothing. We wait, watch the news’.
“I was in San Francisco and I had just woken up. I turned on the TV and I saw the World Trade Center and I saw the first plane hit, and I saw the tower burning in the middle. I went back to bed. I didn’t understand it. I remember some years before that a little plane had run into the empire state building. I thought some stupid guy had run into the building and I didn’t think about it. When I got up later, I saw the second plane hit, then you’re in disbelief as the building starts to implode. You wouldn’t expect that to happen.”
“I remember when the TV’s came on, sitting in Mrs. Calhoun’s class in sixth grade in South Hill”
“I was on my way to seminary in Richmond, crossing the James River when I heard it on the radio. I got on my phone with my wife. We had two kids in school at the time and they were at a private Christian school. I told them to go get the kids. I figured what would be a more attractive target to an Islamic terrorist than a Christian school? Then I got to school. Everyone was glued to the TV.”
“I was in Arizona driving to work. I heard it on the radio. It was three hours earlier (in the day) than it was for (the east coast). I had to be at work at 6:30 in the morning. I remember the DJ said — obviously I missed the first tower — and the DJ said there were reports that the plane has hit the second tower. They said something about how they thought the first one was a small plane or an accident. I remember saying to myself it was terrible. We got stuck with all of our guests at the hotel I was working at because they couldn’t get out to the airport.”
“My wife called me on the phone to tell me that a plane had run into one of the towers in New York City. At that time we thought it was a Piper Cub or something like that. In the meantime I was with my staff in Falls Church and I was having a meeting with them and the second plane ran in and my wife said “Oh my God, it’s like a big TWA”. I thought ‘that’s unfortunate, that’s a mess.’ It was no more than 15 minutes later the whole building shook and the plane aiming for the Pentagon hit the antenna on our building, shuttered the building and about 20 seconds later it ran into the Pentagon and rattled the windows and all that. Everybody took off like their hair was on fire. At that point I figured the safest place was where I was, so I hung around till 4:15.
I started downstairs in the high rise and I went to where my car was in the parking lot and there was no way you were getting out there. It was the biggest traffic jam I’d ever seen. So I said ‘to Hell with it’ and I just went back upstairs and finished up some work and when I came back down around four the traffic was still bad. It was like being in Fallujah or a combat zone. It was quite traumatic.
It was interesting to see some of the reactions on the part of the staff. Some of them weren’t predictable. You thought ‘oh that’s the Rock of Gibraltar nothing is going to shake them’ and they’re shouting. And then some of them were looking at things analytically. Some people were thinking ‘we have to get the Hell out of there’ and some of them were thinking ‘we better wait til we get a dismissal’. We waited for a dismissal and it never did come so I said ‘get the Hell out of here’. But they were staying till the end. The reason we didn’t get the dismissal was because the director took off as soon as it happened.”
“I was homeschooled, so I woke up and my Dad raced up stairs to turn on the TV which was in their room, the only one with the antenna and turned it on”
“I was in third grade. Mr. Bowman’s class. I just remember everybody being pulled from school. It was elementary school so they didn’t turn the TV on or anything and you see people getting taken out of classes and you’re of course just like ‘what’s going on?’ Everybody in that community was just like ‘they’re not going to tell them.’ Our teachers sat us down and said ‘something has gone on. You can’t go outside for recess. Something bad has gone on. You’re parents will explain it to you. None of you are in trouble. You are not not getting recess because you’re in trouble. Just something bad has gone on and we can’t tell you’. But then you’re eight and you’re thinking ‘why can’t I go out for recess?’ I think there was just four of us left (at the end of that day). My dad worked for the government at the time and I think he was supposed to be at the Pentagon that day and he didn’t go for some reason and it’s just crazy that it worked out that way. I remember going home and crying with my mom. I remember seeing the footage over and over.”
“I was in Arizona. I had just moved there and I had gotten up at 5 a.m. because of the time difference. Something felt weird. As soon as I saw the second plane I knew something had gone horribly wrong.”
“We sat there for about half a day and I had to get my wife, who was in Roslynn. I had to calm down her father, who was 86 years old, living at home by himself. We were talking about that last night at dinner. The women next to me, she remembered where she was at, at a hairdresser in Fredricksburg, and she wondered why no one was coming out to her. They were all watching, glued to the television.”