For all of humanity, there are certain events that stick with us throughout our lives. These events contain something so world-shattering or groundbreaking that it becomes a part of each and every one of us – never to be forgotten. On September 11, 2001, came a catastrophe that shook our society to its foundation and left each of us with a memory etched forever on our mind and soul. We will never forget the horror of that day and will continue to honor the lives lost with grace, goodwill and peace.
For the 20th anniversary of the attack, My City Magazine sent out a call to notable Flint and Genesee County citizens asking for their memory of the tragedy of 9/11. Here are the answers.
I vividly remember that morning. I was working at ABC12, finishing the morning show when the attack was announced during the newscast. We all watched in disbelief when the Towers were hit. I remember praying that this attack on U.S. soil wasn’t real. I will never forget the day that changed America and many lives forever.
I was working for the Flint Community Schools doing social service field fork, which was basically a teacher of special assignment. When the first plane hit the Twin Towers, I was on my way to our monthly meeting, and listening to the radio as it was happening. When I arrived at the meeting, I informed my colleagues of the news. We adjourned the meeting and I returned to Martin Elementary School where staff had been told of the attack. This day I will never forget – the great concern that staff, parents and students had for the balance of that day.
Friends of Berston
We all remember how beautiful the weather was across most of the country that particular Tuesday. What a contrast to the dark horror unfolding in New York, Shanksville and Washington D.C. I was at work, like most everyone else, probably on my first coffee break. Back then, we had the old style CRT TV monitors in the break rooms and cafeterias. A crowd of colleagues were watching the attacks, jaws open, eyes glued to the screens. It was hard to tell if we were watching a recorded tape or live feed. Nothing made sense and I felt a dulling sense of tremendous sadness. A foreboding of dread followed for days afterward. 9/11 convinced me that the only way to fight hate and fear is to connect the diverse communities in our cities, villages and counties, in order to put an end to the misunderstandings and mistrust. This conviction continues to inform my daily actions and the community engagement initiatives I choose to be involved with, even to this day.
Co-Founder International Center of Greater Flint
When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, I was in my car on my way to work, listening to the radio. I remember thinking, “How horrible for all of those people to see that coming and be completely powerless to do anything about it.” I called my mother, as I often did when something big happened in the news. By the time the second plane hit, I was at work at UPN50 in Detroit, watching the aftermath of the first crash on newsroom monitors. It felt like the world stopped spinning. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was clearly an act of terrorism. The first thing I thought of was my ex-husband, a special agent with the Secret Service, and his family. “Was he in danger? What would be attacked next?” Then, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. I immediately panicked, worried my brother-in-law, who frequently flew out of Washington D.C. might be on that plane. Then, the towers collapsed. Already crying, as the enormity of what was happening truly hit me, I began sobbing. I watched as people jumped out of the buildings. I never felt more terrified. I never felt more bonded to my fellow Americans. I called my family members one by one to tell them I loved them, realizing for the first time how truly fragile life is. That day changed me forever. I think it changed everyone who witnessed it forever.
It was a typical morning, watching the news while getting ready to leave for the office. I could hear the news report that the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. Then, the unthinkable happened as I watched in horror when the second plane hit the south tower. Our world changed forever, and terrorism changed from a news story to becoming a real part of every American’s life. I will never forget the overwhelming fear and sadness I felt about the thousands of lives lost on that awful day.
Director of Marketing
Dort Financial Credit Union
I was due into the office late that particular day; so before going into the office I decided to water my plants on my front porch. When I re-entered my house to lock up and turn off the TV, I saw the smoke and the chaos. I stared at the screen in disbelief and suddenly, I caught a view of an airplane traveling into frame headed toward the second tower. In utter shock, I witnessed the bombing of tower 2. Stunned for a moment … I continued to close up my home and upon arriving at work, found my colleagues huddled around the office TV in complete silence. My next concern was to get to my children at the end of the school day to gather them and explain as best I could what happened, so they would not panic.
The Foundation for MCC
We were in North Bay, Ontario, Canada with the OHL hockey team. Our first daughter had just been born. I remember being glued to CNN trying to figure out what had just happened.
Flint City Bucks FC.
I was in Canada on a high school field trip. They shut down the borders while we were there and we watched the attacks on a TV in a storefront in Stratford, Ontario. All of us kids had to stay at a hotel and it took us about 16 hours to finally get across the border. The news crew was waiting for us when we got back to the U.S. We had food brought out to us by helicopter while sitting waiting on our Greyhound bus which, at this point, had a broken A/C unit and the bathroom inside was no longer working. Crazy day and I will never forget it!
Nadeem Gebrael Group
I had just got to class at UM-Flint and it was surprisingly empty. There were only about six of us waiting for the professor when there were usually about 12-14 students. I hadn’t peeked at the news before I left home that day. The professor came in with tears in his eyes and said that in light of today’s events, all classes were canceled. He told us that we should all head home. Bewildered, I found the nearest TV – a large group of students were huddled around it, sobbing. I was absolutely shocked. I never would have imagined that something so terrible could ever happen.”
My City Magazine
I was at my home in Fenton with the TV on gathering my culinary equipment in preparation for a culinary competition at the Novi expo center. The competition was part of the Michigan restaurant association food show and it was a two-man mystery basket competition as I recall. I remember being shocked and saddened and a feeling of helplessness as I watched what was going on. Watching that day and display of all the loss of life and that someone would attack our country’s innocent citizens was truly heartbreaking.
MCC Culinary Institute
I remember the exact step I was taking when I heard the news. I was at the old Fenton location on Adelaide St. when a friend called to tell me something bad was happening. I ran upstairs to the office to grab a portable TV that had only two working channels – which didn’t matter because all the stations were the same that day. I sat at my bench, watched in disbelief and to be honest, I cried.
Owner Sawyer Jewelers
I was on my way to work in Flint, listening to the radio (WWCK) when I heard that a plane had crashed into the North Tower of the WTC – there were no details, it was sounding like an unfortunate accident. I got to work just in time to learn that it was a commercial plane and that the South Tower had just been hit by another plane. Everyone in the office was in shock; it was completely unreal. We tried to watch footage on our computers. What would happen next? Were we all in danger? I called my significant other, who was in Florida (as was President Bush) – of course, I wanted him to come home immediately. He was worried about me and our daughter but would be unable to get a flight home for several days. Our daughter was in 10th grade and they sent all the kids home soon after both towers had collapsed. My sister worked near my office, so we met for lunch at Bubba’s, knowing they had many TVs there. The place was packed, everyone staring at the screens watching silently in disbelief.
My City Magazine
I was on the airfield at PIT parking planes that were ordered to land. Flight 93 flew through PIT airspace before it crashed.
CEO Bishop Airport
I was 22 years old and had just graduated college that May. I was living at home and working at a credit union in Oscoda, MI prior to beginning graduate school. The credit union opened at 9:00am but I had to report for work at 8:30am. I remember my mom calling me at work when the first plane hit the World Trade Center at 8:46am. I thought it was probably an accident involving a small, private plane. This was dispelled when the second plane hit at 9:03am. We turned on a TV in the boardroom at the credit union to watch the events unfold. I remember standing there with my boss and seeing both towers fall.
Dr. Christopher Douglas
I was on my way to work when the news came over the radio. I hurried in and turned on the television and the office staff huddled over the screen, aghast. Ironically, my daughter Flo, who was in Israel (which some people associate with rocket and bomb attacks on civilians) called us to make sure we were safe!
Flint Jewish Federation
The day before, I had just returned from Toronto, having attended the Toronto International Film Festival. I was all happy and giddy because I had such a great time. The morning of 9/11, I didn’t turn on my radio or TV and I stopped at my favorite coffee house, “Good Beans,” for my morning java, and Ken told me about a plane that crashed into the Towers. My initial reaction was, “Oh, my! How could something like that happen?” Leaving the coffee shop, I proceeded to a morning meeting and during that meeting, we got word about the plane crash at the Pentagon. There was a person present who had a son who worked at the Pentagon. It was a roller coaster of emotions that day … a really dark day.
Co-Founder International Center of Greater Flint
I was quite young, still in elementary school at St. Pius X. I had a general awareness that something bad had happened because of the way the teachers and administrators were acting. Around mid-day, my mom came by the school and picked up both my brother and me. She was extremely nervous and we could both tell, but we didn’t know why. She took us back home and we stayed there for the day. Years later, I learned she was so scared because not only had we experienced the shock of having our country attacked as Americans, but we were also Arab and she was terrified of our family being imprisoned, deported or attacked because either the government or the American public would hold us responsible. Forever after, I’ve lived my life as an Arab child of 9/11. For the rest of the decade and a half I spent in school, I was repeatedly harassed, bullied and targeted because I was an Arab. I was frequently called a terrorist, camel jockey, or “Osama.” I had to hide my identity and my culture for years to blend better and was repeatedly forced to “never forget” the attacks of 9/11 while I witnessed those same students hold people like me and my family responsible. It forced me to confront the misinformation and lies told about my family and my people. It also forced me to learn more about my own identity as a Palestinian Arab American.
Arab American Heritage Council
I was in the airport meeting with a radio sales rep when I learned about the attacks of 9/11.
Director of Marketing
Flint Bishop Airport
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was working for the local newspaper as a reporter and I was busy writing my stories to meet the 10am deadline. One of my coworkers came to my desk and asked if I had seen the news. She told me a plane had crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in NYC. The entire staff gathered together in the publisher’s office with our eyes glued to the television screen, watching in horror as the second plane hit the other tower. As the events of the day continued to unfold, I was worried about my family who lived in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Phone lines were jammed but I was finally able to speak to one of my brothers who was in shock but assured me everyone was safe. My sister, who lived about 60 miles away from Shanksville, PA., was cleaning the barn when she heard a thunderous boom that was so loud she ran outside, wondering what had just happened. She did not know at the time that it was the sound of United Airlines Flight 93 crashing to the ground. The events of that day will always linger in our minds.
MCM Staff Writer
I was in bed sleeping, since I was working the overnight shift at NBC 25. My wife came into our bedroom and woke me up. She said Peter Jennings had cut into the “Regis & Kathie Lee Show” with breaking news about the attack. When I first started watching, it didn’t hit me. It wasn’t until later in the broadcast I realized the magnitude of it. Such an awful tragedy for our country – hard to comprehend, really. A few months later, I went to New York City and viewed an exhibit of photos from that day. You could hear a pin drop in that room. Everyone was in stunned silence.
Director of Development
The Disability Network
September 11th, 2001, was my first day of preschool. I was raised in an educator’s household, and my mother was a high school teacher who planned on dropping me off on my first day and then heading to her school to start her first day of classes. I do not remember a whole lot, but I do remember being very upset that she was leaving because I was a huge mama’s girl. Right before she was about to leave, the news came across the TV in our classroom, and educators across the county were told to cancel classes for the day.
Randy Wise Automotive
I will never forget where I was on 9/11. I had just opened my first mortgage company in Fenton and I was in the office alone. I first heard about the attacks from a coworker in another location. I immediately called home and my wife was watching it unfold on TV. She explained everything that was happening. I had tickets to a Tigers game that night, which was quickly canceled. I closed my office for the day and went home to be with my family.
Level One Bank
My sister and I were driving to Grand Rapids to take our grandmother to lunch. We had WCRZ Cars 108 on in the background and I noticed a national network voice, so I listened more carefully and heard the report of a plane striking a tower. Then, when the report came through of a second plane, I said to my sister, “this has to be a terrorist attack.” As the day progressed, we learned more and were saddened and frightened by the news. Margaret and I will always have that drive as a remembrance of that horrible day.
Owner Action Water Sports of Fenton
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I dropped my daughter off at preschool. My toddler son and I then went to Target, where the cashier asked if I had heard the news. She said the World Trade Center was on fire and they thought a plane had hit it. We went to another store, where the clerk was watching the news. She told me it was believed to be a terrorist attack. By this time, reports from the Pentagon had come in; I was then worried and anxious to go get my daughter, thinking the USA was under attack.
Senior Librarian Fenton-Winegarden Library
On September 11, 2001, I was in my 9th grade Spanish class when we found out a plane hit the North Tower. A news banner and video clip came across our school student news station called Channel One similar to a missing child alert. At the time no one knew it was a terrorist attack until the second tower was struck. Then, watching them both collapse, I remember being overwhelmed with feelings for all of those who perished and the individuals and families that were never able to see or speak with their loved ones again.
General Manager Todd Wenzel Buick GMC
I just had my first baby and was in the kitchen washing her bottles as she slept. I had the “Today” show on. I remember the tone of the anchors changing and started watching again. I saw the second plane hit the south tower; held her even tighter knowing her life was forever changed.
Director of Marketing
Hamilton Community Health Network
I was at work at Davison High School Channel 19, what is now DTV. We had just finished the morning announcements news program when one of the computer tech workers asked if I had heard about the plane that hit the World Trade Center, and I told her “No, we just finished and I sent the kids to class.” She then turned the TV in the control room on to ABC12 and we saw the smoke coming from the North tower. At first we didn’t know that it was a commercial airliner that had hit, we both assumed it was a small plane in distress that happened to crash into the building. I typed a message on the school’s TVs and we went to the library and watched it unfold on their large screen with the other students who were watching. While we were watching the second plane hit the other tower. At that moment, I felt scared.
I had class at MCC later that day so I left the high school and drove home to get ready for class listening to the news on the radio. I got home and turned on the TV just as the North tower fell. I was just stuck in time. I remember I called my other job and the school asking, what to do. I got ahold of my parents who were out of town and just felt like a moment of surreality. The reality of the destruction still has never been fully realized.
It was a normal morning (or, as normal a morning as any feels in high school.) The first plane hit when I was sitting in my second period class – study hall. The teacher received a message on her computer and gasped aloud. Most of us looked up from the various assignments we’d been frenziedly trying to finish. Without a word, she grabbed the remote control and flipped on the classroom TV.
It took a moment to register. Smoke. Smoke billowing into the sky, sirens on the TV playing in the background like the music of the inexpert fumbling of a children’s orchestra. Confusion, that was my first reaction. We watched, eyes squinted, students looking around at each other and murmuring, waiting for the teacher to explain, for the scene we were watching to make sense.
Class ended and we filed out into the halls. The usual cacophony that accompanied passing time was slightly subdued.
Third period began, but the television was off. No amount of pleading changed our English teacher’s mind. A few minutes in, another teacher barged into the classroom. “They’ve crashed into the second tower,” he said, his eyes wide, bewildered. The room was instantly quiet, eerily so, as our teacher put her hand over her mouth, and turned away. And for the first time, I wasn’t confused. I was scared.
MCM Contributing Writer
On September 10, I traveled to Florida on business with one of my management staff to visit a key advertiser in one of my international B2B publications. I was able to stay at my Florida home and my employee stayed in a nearby hotel. On 9/11, I woke up early to grab a bite and then head to the local gym for a workout before our late morning meeting. Throughout the gym, TVs were tuned to the news networks. I typically wear headphones to stay focused on my workout, but didn’t have them that morning. Suddenly I heard someone scream – unusual for the gym. Turning toward the sound, I saw about 20 people standing under one of the TVs, watching (I soon learned) the first plane strike the World Trade Center. I couldn’t take my eyes off the TV and when the second plane hit the south tower, I quickly left the gym and called my employee. She was watching the news and I could hear the fear in her voice – she had a young son back home in Michigan.
I remember calling home to talk to Sherron and our daughter, Courtney. I was not only worried for America, but also scared I may not see my family again. All flights were canceled and I spent the next two days trying to rent a car to drive home to Michigan – no luck. My employee tearfully told me she did not want to get on a plane, but flying was the only option. On day three, the U.S. government started allowing a limited number of flights and we were able to book one from Tampa.
Arriving at Tampa International Airport was disturbing; I’ve flown over 1,000,000 miles and the security level was unprecedented. There was an eeriness, everyone looked at each other – maybe thinking, “are YOU a terrorist?” or looking for some assurance that things were going to be okay. EVERYONE was crying and reluctant to fly … I’m sure most had no other way to get home to their loved ones. I remember saying a prayer when we boarded the plane and another on takeoff. It was in God’s hands.
Yes, the horror of 9/11 is unforgettable for all of us. God Bless America.
My City Magazine