Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Never Forget

This will be pretty straight forward and direct. No fancy (or not-so-fancy, given my skill-level) banners, nothing. Just me and some memories, and a few books that I would recommend on the anniversary of a terrible day when the world changed forever.

I was eighteen and a freshman in college. Only three weeks earlier my mom, grandma, and aunt had dropped me off, helped me unpack, then tearfully left me behind to head home - a seven hour drive away. I had been slowly but surely finding my way, enjoying my classes (I was a news-ed major at the time), and making new friends.

On a bright and sunny summer day, a bright blue sky (it seems like this is something everyone remembers. The blue sky. I remember it in the videos of the aftermath, and I remember it as I walked to class that morning. I remember it as I stumbled back from class in a daze, wondering what the hell had just happened. I remember it as I found my way toward the Union. I remember the doomsday pastor standing there, up on the ledge of the water fountain like always, screaming at everyone who passed that we were going to hell, and we'd brought this death and destruction on ourselves because of the gays and the abortions. Seriously, fuck that guy. I couldn't even get the words out and I just stared at him as he ranted. Luckily another young woman found her voice, marched right up to him and got in his face, screaming back that why doesn't he do something more productive, like pray for those who had lost their lives, those who lost loved ones, for our world that was so suddenly and markedly different.

As I had been getting ready for my intro to journalism class across campus, I had the t.v. on and was only half-listening as something was said about a plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers. I had to get to class so I turned off the the t.v. and left, thinking it was a small plane, maybe the pilot lost control or there was a mechanical failure, or weather had contributed to the accident.

By the time I got to the building, students were crowded around the huge television in the lobby, right outside my classroom. Class was supposed to begin at 8 am and so I walked in and sat down. Three minutes later, the second plane struck.

Our professor turned on the television and we sat there, silently watching the tragedy unfold minute by minute for what seems like ever. I can only now re-create that timeline of my morning (or correct my previously incorrect thoughts about what I knew/saw and when), thanks to the timeline of events that have been laid out. I watched in horror with my classmates as the South Tower came down. There were gasps and tears.

Our professor, who I greatly admired otherwise (and was my adviser), then did the unthinkable when he could not get our attention as he decided to change our assignment for the day: he TURNED OFF THE TELEVISION. A few kids got up and walked out. For the longest time, I thought I had been one of those students. I could've sworn up and down that I walked out. But a few years ago I realized no, I had not. Because the assignment our prof gave us was to look at how countries around the world were covering the attack on the United States. I remembered talking to my partner about a friend who lived in Australia, and I could get the info from him. What I mis-remembered was that class was let out early. not that I had walked out. Funny how we can be so sure of something, especially on a day like that, and end up being wrong, isn't it?

September 11th has always held a special significance to me for many reasons. I had long been in love with NYC, or at least the idea of NYC portrayed by FRIENDS. I loved learning all I could about the city and its long history, something I still enjoy deeply today. And I loved that skyline, so much. In fact, I loved the skyline so much, just weeks before the Towers fell, my grandma and I had gone back-to-school shopping (the last time we would do so since I was technically an adult, being in college and all), and I found this shirt that I had to have. Though it no longer fits, it will always have a place in my closet.

Mostly though, what I loved about the skyline were the Twin Towers standing as sentinels in Lower Manhattan, guarding this magical place.

(Image from Wikipedia)

And then they were gone.

It is special for me also, because of the huge changes already going on in my life. There I was, an eighteen year old kid, far from home, in a city where I knew no one except my new friends, who were equally as lost. It was a time of great upheaval as I moved from child to adult, and 9-11 embedded itself so deeply on my heart, under my skin, that I will remember that day as long as I live and all the emotions that went with it.

It took me years to be able to read anything about that day. Fifteen years, to be exact. But I finally started reading books on the subject a few years ago and thought I would share those now, for anyone who is interested. Links go to my reviews.


A hauntingly beautiful picture book that I recently read with my daughter, about an aspect of that day I'd never thought about before.


A survivor's memoir. If you have watched footage over and over like I have, you will recognize this man in a heartbeat.


The best, most heartbreaking book on the subject as a whole. I cried. A lot.


I can not imagine anything much worse for the survivors than someone taking those last memories of their loved ones and twisting them to their own advantage. Disgusting.


I'm glad a book was written specifically for Flight 93. I feel like sometimes this is the one that gets overlooked because we are so enamored with the Towers. Maybe because there was literally nothing left, no wreckage, no twisted and broken metal and concrete to revere?


I ended up not writing a full review of this one, it was just too difficult. A good read to include if you are looking for books on the subject.


This one snuck up on me out of nowhere as I browsed the shelves one day at a local bookshop. Many times I have watched the ESPN segment on Welles Crowther and here suddenly was his story and I knew I had to own a copy (link goes to a Top Ten Tuesday that includes this book). It is one of the truly heroic stories of the day. I cried so much that at times I could hardly read the words on the page. What a tribute to a young man who did what I could only hope I'd do in the same situation. Please take a few minutes and watch the ESPN segment. I promise it is worth your time.

Have you read any of these titles? If so, which one(s)? Have you read any books on 9-11 that I need to add to this list? What memories do you have of that day?



  1. Thanks for all these reviews. I am feeling so lucky after getting a huge collection of great books. i will get eBooks download online and read all the books one by one.

  2. The anniversary caught me off guard this year -- not the September 11 bit, because I knew we were approaching the date, but the calendar recycle. "Tuesday, September 11" has an entirely different impact than any other day of the week can. I was in tenth grade on the day, in a class discussion on The Grapes of Wrath. An aide came in and asked our teacher to step into the hallway, and then when our teacher returned she told us the news. We went to the next period shortly after that, and everyone was speculating what it meant -- World War 3? The Endtimes?. My next class had the television on, and we saw the towers fall, live. That was crushing for me because I had taken some bizaare pride in the fact that the WTC had been hit, but was still standing. This was EASILY the most monumental historical moment I'd experienced: I wasn't really aware of the world when the USSR fell, and nothing else has come close. We didn't really have classe that day, we just sat watching the news (or listening to it, depending on the room). I can still remember that we had hot dogs for supper that night.

    The only book I've read on 9-11 has been one about flight 93, that "Let's Roll" biography, but that was YEARS ago. I think I read it during the Bush administration.

    A few days ago I saw a video posted on reddit of a photojournalist (Mark LaGanga) who approached ground zero immediately after WTC-2 had fallen, but before WTC-1 had. It's 30 minutes, but it's something worth experiencing -- his brief interviews with people, the spectre of Manhattan streets COVERED in ashes, the air filled with smoke, the sirens, the sight of dazed but professional people making sure peoples were evacuated.


    1. I felt the same way! I think this was of only maybe two/three times September 11th has fallen on Tuesday since the attack? Not positive but I feel like that is somewhat accurate. Hearing those words "Tuesday, September 11th" definitely brought back big emotions for me.

      Isn't it amazing what we can recall with such clarity? The fact that you remember the book you were discussing in 10th grade - it is like these memories are physically imprinted in a special 'auto-recall' part of our brains. I also agree on it being so huge. I have memories of the Berlin Wall falling and remember seeing the videos of people dancing on top of it (with David Hasselhoff. He's weirdly popular in Germany I guess), but like you I didn't grasp what it MEANT.

      I did read Let's Roll by Lisa Beamer and I feel kind of bad for saying this, but I really did not like it very much. Something about her struck a negative chord with me and I have never been able to figure out exactly what it is. I mentioned this to my pastor (he went to college at Wheaton with Todd and Lisa Beamer and knew them) and he had nothing bad to say, just that Lisa was not someone he socialized with. He knew Todd also, weren't buddies but acquaintances.

      I will give the video a watch, thanks for the link. I haven't had a chance to view it yet but will soon - I don't watch any 9/11 videos when she is home, I don't want to traumatize her.

  3. I was @ work that day when one of the team came in and said that something had happened in New York (he'd seen the start of it in McDonalds). We didn't have any TV's in the office area so went online to find out what was happening. Naturally the Internet was overwhelmed that day so I actually had very little information until I got home and watched the whole thing on TV for hours on end........

    I've never read anything directly about it. Too harrowing I think......

    1. I remember thinking that the internet wouldn't work because there would be so many people trying to get online, but I can't remember what I looked at once I'd gotten home. That was still at a point when internet access meant tying up the phone, though, so if I got on it was probably only for an hour.

    2. @CyberKitten - Agreed on the 'harrowing'. It took me a long, long time to be able to read anything about it. It has only been the last few years that I have worked up the courage to do so.

    3. @Stephen - I remember watching broadcasts more than going online. I had CNN on non-stop that whole day. And that was in a college dorm room, where the phone line was not tied up when online. But aside from going online for that assignment my professor had assigned, I just stared at the television and watched for hours.

  4. I have 102 Minutes and a few other books on the subject that I've still to read. I've watched a ton of docs too including ones about the liars who claimed to have been there or lost relatives. They are sick and twisted.

    1. 102 Minutes is one of the best, in my opinion. Are there other books about the crazies who pretended they were there or lost loved ones? I only knew of the one mentioned above. So disgusting that people would ever dream up a scam like that.

  5. I've read novelised explorations of how lives have changed both in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and in the longer term. That day is such a defining moment for America and across the world.

    1. Interesting, I have never considered it from that perspective of novelized depictions. Any that you liked more than others?


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