Seventeen years ago on this day, a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries. It cost New York City billions in property damage, the safety and protection of citizens, and a little of our sanity.
Those who survived would forever be subjected to the bittersweet memories of making it through, because what about those who did not? Images of people jumping from falling buildings, dust, buses tipping over, firefighters putting their lives on the line, photos of planes flying smack dab into the Twin Towers, New Yorkers running—the mere mention of 9/11 and our minds are plagued by it all.
This day is hard, for New York City especially, but also for millions around the world, too. It was a difficult lesson in how hate can spread like the plague if you let it, but also a beautiful lesson in how love can heal. It’s been nearly two decades and our resilience is more sound than ever—but we’ll never forget. Read our memories, thoughts, and reflections below.
“My life changed on September 11, 2001. My city was attacked and my father was almost lost. I gained the greatest gift when he finally made it home, but with that relief is the sobering realization that thousands didn’t. I was reminded of that every day for months, as I walked by the missing person signs that covered the subway stations at West 4th Street on my way to class at NYU. I felt it every time I had to be in large crowds, as panic crept in and sometimes left me paralyzed. I’d freak out whenever a subway car stopped for too long, and skip rush hour whenever possible. It was the first time I felt my safety—and that of my loved ones—was not in my hands. But even with that anxiety, which I still struggle with, I could never imagine leaving. I endure it, because that’s what New Yorkers are taught to do at a very early age.” – Jada Gomez | Former Deputy Editor, CASSIUSLife.com
“What I remember most about September 11, 2001, is my father taking a flight across the country to Los Angeles the day before, my mom working downtown at an ad agency, and my grandfather being a New York City cab driver who spent his days within a five-mile radius of the Twin Towers. I remember sitting in my high school law class thinking, ‘This does not look good at all!’ I started to panic when my calls would not go through to either of my parents or to my grandfather. Because I went to Catholic school, we all gathered in the gym and started to pray for all our family members, loved ones, and friends, and hoped that everyone would return home safely. They asked me to sing the National Anthem before beginning the prayer service. Even doing that felt different and emotional. I knew that some things would never be the same. Deep down I knew some parents of close friends of mine in one way, shape or form, would not return. And, things in this country would, sadly, never be the same.” – Nicole Toro | Former Client Services Associate, iONE Digital
“I was living in Florida, where I’m from. I was a sophomore in college. I got up, turned on the tv, and saw the second tower drop and was like, ‘Holy shit, this is real.’ I got in my car and went to school, and they told us all classes were canceled that day in light of the tragedy. Everywhere we went, that was the only thing that was on television and the only thing people were talking about.” – Reynard Ali | Studio Manager, iONE Digital
“As I walked into health class, our teacher had the news on and we all just sat there in complete disbelief as both buildings burned, and then collapsed one by one. It was at the moment that the second building collapsed that I suddenly remembered that my aunt worked at the World Trade Center. I quickly told my teacher and he excused me from the class to join the other students with parents who worked near the WTC. I ran to my locker and called my aunt, but got no answer. I called my mother, still no answer. At that point I started packing up my things. Then my phone rang and it was my mom. She reassured me that my aunt was okay. She was working the night shift and was actually packing up to leave the office when the first plane hit. She was on the third floor of the building when the second plane hit. She was able to get out and far away from the scene before the buildings collapsed. I was relieved, but also pissed that I could have lost a loved one over such a senseless act. I started thinking about the thousands of people who died as a result of what happened. Playing it back in my head over and over again, using my imagination, putting myself in the shoes of those who were in the buildings running for their lives, attempting to escape but couldn’t. All these people did wrong that day was show up for work. It just wasn’t fair to me. I couldn’t make any sense of it at all. I remember traveling home from school that day, and I swear every conversation you heard in passing was talking about what happened at the WTC. It was just a very surreal day. When I got home, I literally sat in front of the TV and watched the news for three hours. I felt helpless. I felt like something else would soon happen, and began to think about what life would like if my country became a battlefield. The thought alone put the fear of God in me.” – Jason Freeman | Client Services Associate, iONE Digital
“I remember I was in ninth grade at Central High School in Philly when 9/11 happened. It was in-between first and second periods, and I walked past the security desk and saw footage of what I thought was a big office building on fire. My classmates told me planes were hijacked. My father was supposed to be flying that day, so I instantly checked on him and he later told me he changed his flight the night before. As a kid from Philly, I didn’t understand the importance of the World Trade Center, but 9/11 would serve as a day I’d never forget.” – Cory Townes | Former Associate Entertainment Editor, CASSIUSLife.com
“While it’s amazing to see the way New York City has turned the corner and prospered since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, it’s equally stunning that most of the rest of the country is still playing catch up. Islamophobia, which has flourished since 9/11, and overall racism against Black and brown folks are at an all-time high. If there is one reflection I would encourage on this 16-year anniversary, it’s one of the unity the U.S. showed in the wake of those attacks. We should all strive for that level of human compassion and love each day.” – Bruce Wright | Managing Editor, NewsOne.com
“I was shocked on 9/11, but what resonates with me most is the consistent fear that someone will attack the city, again. I was afraid in the subway for months following the attack. And every time I’m in the train, riding over a bridge, or at a tourist attraction I’m still hyper aware of the possible danger.” – Tia Brown | Senior Lifestyle Producer, CASSIUSLife.com
“I was in middle school when the planes hit. While I could see the fear on my teachers’ faces, I had no idea what had actually happened until my mother picked me up from school. She told me she walked all the way to Harlem from her job on 51st Street and Sixth Avenue to get me, because buses were so full of people they were tipping over. She described the mayhem, but at 11 years old it didn’t resonate—until I got home. I lived in a 20-story building in the projects, and being in a tall building—or any building remotely similar to the Twin Tower—made me feel like I was in danger. I remember going into the hallway, away from my family, to cry for about 30 seconds, then I pulled it together as best I could at 11 years old.” – Sukii Osborne | Associate Entertainment Editor, GlobalGrind.com.
“I remember sitting in my 7th grade math class in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn (IS 383)— like any other school day when an announcement came on the PA system stating that a plane just crashed into one of the Twin Towers. At first, no one believed it and took it as a joke. What we didn’t know at the time was on the other side of the building, students and teachers had a clear view as the second plane crashed into another building and created a plume of black smoke that stayed in the air for what seem like months. From there, school was over. Teachers stopped teaching and went straight to their phones, trying to get in contact with loved ones. I was scared for my mother who didn’t work far from the World Trade Center and wasn’t answering my cell phone calls. Thankfully, she was safe and finding a route to get back home to Brooklyn. I was scared for my classmates’ parents who worked in the same area. I remember two of the tallest buildings I would see everyday were now replaced with black smoke that filled the NYC skyline. At home, they kept replaying video footage of the crashes over and over again like a movie. From that day, nothing was the same.” – Melinda McLauren | Former Client Services Associate, iONE Digital
“I remember being around 10 years old in fourth or fifth grade. My principle randomly walked into the classroom and whispered in my teacher’s ear. Although i couldn’t hear the initial comments, I could hear my teacher yell ‘Oh my God,’ before shaking his head. He then whispered ‘Both of them?’ to the principal, who nodded, then left the classroom. As us little kids kept asking each other ‘Both of what?’ We found out later what two things they were talking about.” – Bruce Goodwin II | Mens & Lifestyle Editor, CASSIUSLife.com