We asked our agents and staff to share memories from 9/11. The responses received were so heartfelt and touching that we decided not to edit them at all, but simply share them. It may be a long blog article, but something as tragic and historical as this should be given the time, thought and reflection it deserves.
JAN ANDERSON – I remember getting Erin ready for school (1st grade). I rarely have television on in the mornings but happened to have it on and saw the news just after it happened. I felt literally frozen upon seeing it. I tried to keep Erin away from the TV though she understood something bad had happened. I turned the TV immediately off until she left for school.
I was terrified as many in my family members are pilots who could be anywhere worldwide at any time. I knew my brother and cousin fly the type of plane that American Airlines lost. My cousin Jess had just been transferred to Logan Int’l as a pilot for American and my sister Pam and cousin Jeff were both pilots with Northwest/Delta.
I spent most of the day trying to track them all down. All were accounted for except Jess. We breathed a sigh of relief when he was finally found in the mountains of Chile where he was vacationing.
All the teachers at Birchview Elementary first heard about the 911 disaster from Erin. I hadn’t realized how much she had gathered during the short time she saw the television- but she grasped it all and also was worried about her Aunt Pam and Uncle Tom. Erin’s teacher told me that she immediately went into the school office to turn on the TV to find out if what Erin had said was true. Unfortunately it was and the news spread quickly throughout the school.
We have visited the 911 Memorial. What a beautiful but sobering place – so quiet and peaceful – everyone showing the respect owed to these victims by remaining silent and reflective. It is very moving and emotional to see all of the names etched into the stone there with the water gently flowing deep into the depths of the ‘hole’.
That day will forever be etched in my memory.
TODD URBANSKI – 9/11 is always a tough day. I was a member of the Hanover Fire Department and like most volunteer fire fighters…heavily involved with our department. I found out about the first plane when my wife called me to tell me there had been an accident in New York. I flipped on the TV and stayed glued to it for most of the day.
The thought that sticks with me is this…when that first building crumpled and fell and we all watched it on live TV…I knew that there were firefighters in that building and that they were not coming out. 343 of New York’s finest died that day. We used to always brag and joke with each other on the department how we would run into a burning building while others were running out…that stopped on that day.
In 2013 we visited the memorial. It’s amazing. It brought back every bad memory of that day, but we also had to stand in line to see it with thousands of others. And as you look around and see that many people lined up, waiting to get in, you realize how that event pulled people together and continues to 14 years later.
That day will never be forgotten nor should we ever forget.
PAM SHEEHAN – I had just walked into the Marsh Health Club to exercise and the check in desk had the TV on showing it. I was in shock and felt disbelief like it wasn’t really happening. It was amazing how the country pulled together.
VALERIE FAZENDIN – I was at home, just getting up and Andy Fazendin called and said turn on the news. I saw the second plane go into the tower. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In remembrance, I always say a prayer remembering those whose lives were lost and thanking God for all of my loved ones.
MOLLY RUBY – 9/11 has defining significance for our family.
I was almost 8 ½ months pregnant with our first child and my husband Scott and I were living in Las Vegas, where I was the Sales Manager for a private membership club on the top floor of Mandalay Bay. The morning of 9/11, I was up early ironing with the news on and as the news footage began to roll with smoke pouring out of the twin towers, I got Scott and said, I’m not sure what’s going on but something is terribly wrong. When the details started to become clear, it was time for me to go into work, on the Las Vegas Strip at Mandalay Bay, which was one of the closer hotel/casinos to the airport. Since they had ordered all planes to be grounded but weren’t all accounted for yet, Scott really didn’t want me be in that area. He said, “Well if you must go, leave the baby here then!”
I did head into work and as it was everywhere, it was an eerily strange day. Everyone seemed to just be going through the day in a fog. We vividly remember waiting in a line of 10 or more cars at each pump to get gas. When we returned home that night, and went to bed, we woke up suddenly as my water had broken and I was in labor!
Although it was the next day, Wednesday, September 12th, 2001 every single news channel and station, every minute of the day was filled with visual images and reports of the attacks, rescue efforts, destruction and stories of searching for loved ones and heroic efforts. Our day and our lives however were forever changed by the miracle of the birth of our son Beau at 4:45 p.m.
Out of tragedy, our family experienced one of the greatest joys we’ve ever known. But we remember too that as Americans, on that day, all of our lives were forever changed.
Each year in preparation for Beau’s birthday and in reflection of the great sacrifice of our country on 9/11, we make time to talk to our three children about the precious gift of life and we offer with respect, our love and appreciation for all those who made the greatest sacrifice of all on 9/11/01.
TAMMY MADDREY – My niece was born in Hawaii right as the planes were hitting the towers. It was a surrogate situation and my brother and sister-in-law, who could not have children themselves, were waiting at the hospital along with their parents to meet their new baby after a very long awaited process. They were all watching TV as it played out. It was tough for them to celebrate and announce her birth given the sadness associated with the events of that day. In the end, they waited a few weeks before sending out an announcement letter describing their family’s joy despite the despicable events. Poor baby Samantha will always have a birthdate that evokes national sadness.
A previous colleague was working in the towers when the plane hit and she was able to get out. Email and the internet were still at very early stages, but I was able to email back and forth with her within two hours to hear that she was safe. The phone lines were all jammed to New York City, but email worked because not many people were using it yet.
A young family friend was trapped in a crowded elevator between floors in one of the towers. They were able to pry open the doors but there was only a very slim opening out to safety. Because this girl was extremely petite, she was the only person in the elevator car able to squeeze out. The others encouraged her to go. She exited the tower with no shoes. A store clerk stopped her on the sidewalk and gave her running shoes from the store and told her to run. She ran far away before the towers collapsed. She was interviewed by Barbara Walters a few days later. I saw her at a family wedding not long after, and she was definitely dealing with serious emotions. I’m sure she is still haunted to this day.
My friend’s sister, Susan Blair 35, was killed in one of the towers. I did not know Susan, but was not surprised that she was as caring as my friend Leslie. As her office was evacuated she opted to stay behind with a woman in a wheelchair to await help. They did not make it out. The chaos after the tragedy was so difficult to handle as the family tried to determine whether or not she got out. Briefly, one website showed Susan on a list of survivors, but sadly that was not correct. Leslie sent out countless emails asking for help in finding her sister. I think of Leslie and her family every year at this time and know their lives were changed forever by the trauma.
BEAU BRUNEAU – I was working for Super America convenience stores. We couldn’t figure out what was going on as we were inundated with people filling up with gas and buying anything food related out of the store, we then found out about the attacks. I worked for 18 hours straight because we were so busy and the store was a disaster. I was able to purchase the first copy of every paper that came in the next morning with the images of the attacks; I still have those papers saved to this day. Very sad, devastating. I even tried to enlist in the Coast Guard, but health reasons would not allow me to join. Still disappointed about this!
ANN BAILEY – I was watching the Today show and saw it unfold. I remember seeing the first plane hit and thinking pilot error and then when the second plane hit I thought the radar control must be out. The thought of people crashing intentionally never entered my mind. Then when the Pentagon was hit I saw the looks on the faces of Matt Lauer and Katie Couric as they were getting the feed and knew it was bad, I thought we were under attack. I thought the Mall of America could be a target. My kids were at school so I knew they were safe. After words I remember how quiet it was with no air traffic and how emotional I was for days. I would start crying while driving in my car to the store. I visited the memorial last year, it is spectacular. I attached a photo of the “Last Column”.
MARLA JEAN AND JERRY ALSTEAD – I was holding a Realtors Open in Lakeville and of course no one came so the sellers and I sat and watched the television and prayed for the victims and their families. Yes, Jerry and I have been to New York and visited Ground Zero and it was very somber experience and brought tears to my eyes.
COLIN SIMPSON – My boys and I visited the Freedom Tower and the 911 Memorial last month with my parents. It was a great experience for me as a transplanted New Yorker and a wonderful hands on educational experience for my kids. Previously they had only heard rumors or seen pictures and video clips of that terrible day in our nation’s history. The Freedom Tower was built right next to the site where the Twin Towers sat. It’s a phenomenal, multilayered experience taking the tour. It starts with the elevator ride, one of the fastest on the planet. The car is surrounded with video screens that portray a timeline of the development of New York City from the late 1700’s until today on the way up and a complete exit of the building/fly around of the Freedom Tower on the way down! We all held on to the walls! The viewing area on top is 3 floors. Including directional lectures on views, a snack bar and Restaurant and of course 360 degree views of the entire city and surrounding area. Unbelievable! Adding to our tour, for $15 each, an IPad preprogrammed allowing the user to zoom in on area features and landmarks. This was, of course, right up the 13 and 11 year old’s alley! We went in the morning around 11am and the lines were virtually non-existent. We gave it 6 thumbs up!
I cannot imagine the challenge of building the 911 Memorial. It’s a tourist attraction, a gravesite and a museum. They nailed it. The atmosphere was pleasant, not morbid like a funeral and every volunteer or docent we approached was informative and cheerful. There was a quiet hum of excitement in the building but not over the top. It takes up the lower 3 floors surrounding the entire footprint of the two towers. It’s a massive excavation. The room at the beginning of the tour exposes the sea wall that keeps the Atlantic Ocean out of lower Manhattan. It’s 3 floors tall and goes well below that. An amazing feat of engineering on display. There are hands on exhibits featuring personal items from the police, fire fighters and emergency crews that were on site that day. Video timelines explain and show the path of the 4 planes including the cockpit and FAA audio. All people that perished in the buildings that day have their photo up and a searchable biography on display. It’s incredibly moving to view having known people that were there that day. After we finished our tour, we walked to a small restaurant nearby and ate a quiet lunch reflecting on the incredible experience we had just been immersed in. My children were curious about the events that day and had some questions but understood the magnitude of what they had just witnessed. Personally, I was a bit overwhelmed but enjoyed the education I had received. We all remember where we were that day. The 911 Memorial enhances my memories and reminds me of how precious life is and how resilient the people of this country and the world continue to be. I would recommend visiting the site the next time you’re in New York City. They’ve done a fantastic job!
God bless the United States of America!
JUDI ROBERTS – On 9/11 I was in my second day of Real Estate school. Pro Source was teaching it at the Earl Brown Farm in Brooklyn Center and there were several TV’s where everyone was crowded around. It was so somber and surreal. I remember feeling the need to call my children and just hear their voices. My daughter was working at a law firm in the World Trade Center in St. Paul and I started crying when I heard her voice. Nothing was more tragic than watching those planes hit over and over, yet so compelling, I couldn’t quit watching. The first responders were incredible. The many stories that came out over the next few days were so heartbreaking and many were unbelievably heroic. The feeling of patriotism in the after math was amazing. I remember tearing up just seeing the American Flag on the freeway overpasses. I was in New York in February 2001 on business in the Twin Towers and couldn’t imagine the city without them. I had an opportunity to go back in 2011 with friends, and it was wonderful seeing the Memorial being built. The city had so many improvements and seemed so alive. It was a good feeling.