In New Mexico, in the Shower

 

About 30 minutes south of Albuquerque, in a little place called Los Chavez in the Rio Grande Valley. We had a couple of acres with some cottonwood trees — and a lawn because we’d put in an irrigation system. (New Mexico gets about seven inches of rain a year.)

I was in the shower in the master bathroom when my wife (no longer with us) poked her head in the door. She said my younger sister Stephanie (also no longer with us) had called to say a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I told her, over the sound of the shower, that the building would be fine, that more than 50 years ago a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building, and that certainly the Twin Towers could handle what I assumed must be a small private plane.

By the time I was dressed and downstairs, my sister had called again to say that the second building had been hit. By the time we found coverage on the internet (we’ve never had television in our home), both buildings and a world were gone.

The New Mexico sky is big, but never as empty as it was that day.

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  1. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    I was in my police car taking my kids to school prior to going on shift.  I had pulled into a McDonald’s to grab breakfast when I heard that the first tower had been hit.  KKOB speculated that it was an accident.  By the time I got to briefing, the second tower had been hit.  I was in the squadroom watching TV with two guys originally from New York when the first tower collapsed.

    That was the quietest day in APD history.  I don’t think there was a single traffic stop, major crash, robbery or other major crime the rest of the day.

    • #1
  2. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    In Lakewood, California, in bed. Since I don’t watch morning news I could have gone to my City College math class later that morning without having heard about it if my sister’s friend hadn’t mentioned it when she picked up my sister. Though I probably would have listened to the radio before I left.   

    • #2
  3. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Heard a morning radio host report the first one, turned on the TV in time to see the second plane strike. Called west coast family, on the same time for this half of the year, and told them to turn on the TV.

    • #3
  4. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Was driving to work on Rte 22 in NJ.    Running late.   Saw smoke coming from the North Tower.    My first thought was a kitchen fire at Windows on the World restaurant which sat atop the North Tower.   Then the radio started talking about airplane hitting the building.    I too thought small plane crash.    Then I heard, one after another that it was a passenger plane and that there were reports of at least one other plane off its scheduled route.    That’s when I thought ‘terrorism’

    I was at the end of the Pulaski Skyway … almost to the Holland Tunnel when the second plane hit.    I know this can’t be real … I was to far away … but in my memory I can feel the heat from the fireball on my face.

    The police were already turning traffic away from the Tunnel and back over into the outbound side of the Pulaski.    So that was as close as I got.    I was fortunate.    No friends or relatives of mine were lost.     But I remember driving past the train station that night.     The parking lot was empty except for a sprinkling of cars.   I remember thinking how sad that was … their owners were probably gone.    Those families ruined.

    That’s one reason I’m so irritated with the Nike /Kaepernick ads.    The slogan …

    Believe in something.    Even if you have to sacrifice everything.

    I’m quite certain the jihadi hijackers would have agreed wholeheartedly.

    • #4
  5. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    I was working in my office on some forgotten program when a co-worker came in and asked me if I had heard what was happening.  I hadn’t, but the first tower had been hit.  I started listening to the radio, but finished my work before I went home.  The office was very close to Dulles Airport, but we lived about 40 miles away.  The traffic was terrible, but what I remember the most was the lack of air traffic for days afterward.

    To this day, I can’t go more than an hour so without checking in with the news.

    • #5
  6. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    I was still a manager at a small systems integration firm in Atlanta and was in my office.  I don’t remember what project I was working on.  One of my team knocked on my doorframe and quietly said “a plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”  I snorted at the “joke”, then looked up at his grave face.  It only took a couple seconds to realize it almost certainly wasn’t an accident.  The staff gathered in a conference room where a TV was tuned to CNN — I watched live as the second plane hit.  The CNN talking heads’ speculation on what kind of freak accident it could have been ceased abruptly.

    The owners sent everyone home.  The office was a stone’s throw from the Atlanta airport — an obvious strategic target, and there was no way to know then just how big an attack it was.

    { Crossposted from Ratburger }

    • #6
  7. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):
    One of my team knocked on my doorframe and quietly said “a plane just flew into the World Trade Center.” I snorted at the “joke”, then looked up at his grave face. It only took a couple seconds to realize it almost certainly wasn’t an accident.

    That was my reaction to the Challenger explosion. I was in junior high and our science teacher, who loved to pull jokes, was the one who broke the news to our class. My first reaction was that he was joking.

    I wonder how many people also had the Empire State Building crash come to mind when they heard the news of the first plane. That was what I first thought of too.

    • #7
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I was in my office in the Loop about five blocks from Sears Tower trying to get my software to communicate with the NYSE over a socket controller program that I had just finished. My office mate told me about the first crash. I was telling her about the B-25 and the Empire State Building when the TV she had just turned on showed the second plane hit.

    The immediate rumor from the floor of both the CBOT and the CBOE was that Sears Tower was next. The boss came in to shoo us out, and I had to walk by the Tower to get to my train station, computing how long it would take wreckage from a plane strike to reach ground level the whole way. (I think that I figured about 9.5 seconds.) Northwest Station looked like the Paris station in the evacuation scene in Casablanca.

    No markets for the rest of the week, ergo no testing, ergo no work. Just sitting in front of the TV watching the video over and over.

    • #8
  9. dajoho Member
    dajoho
    @dajoho

    I was on travel from Hawaii to Fort Lewis, WA.  I had meetings in the AM and as an avid exerciser I had set my alarm for @ 5:40am.  I used the radio vice the buzzer because when at home it is best to minimally disturb my Silver-haired Queen.

    Anyway the radio went off and I hamfistedly smacked the snooze button rolling over for a few more minutes of zzz’s.  Somewhere on tape in the back of my head I heard the voice on the radio saying a jet had just struck the WTC.  And I remember specifically thinking “did he say ‘jet’?”  I rolled over, fumbled for the remote, turned on the tube to see smoke billowing out of the S. Tower and minutes later the N. Tower was struck – watched it happen.  Then, like most, I went numb and watched in horror as the towers fell; the numbness then interspersed with helplessness to be replaced by rage and  a steel commitment to do what my country asked me to do.

    • #9
  10. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    When I woke on 9/11/2001, I turned on my home computer. AOL said that two planes had hit the World Trade Center, and Towers 1 & 2 had collapsed. I called my mother and told her to turn on the TV.

    I was stunned as I watched the TV. Then the Pentagon was hit. Then a plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

    I never went into the office that day.

    I called my estranged wife. We met for dinner. All we had were each other.

    I was a child when JFK was killed. And a young lawyer during the Challenger Disaster. I was now the a 49 year old adult. 9/11 was a searing experience.

    • #10
  11. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    I lived in Alaska (and still do), and there’s a 4 hour time difference with the East Coast.  At the time, my AM/FM radio was set to NPR and the radio started at, I think, 6am.  I was puzzled as to what was going on and it took a while for me to figure it out with the running narrative they were broadcasting.

    At the time, I had some workout equipment at my place, so I did my workout like normal, the usual morning stuff as normal, and then went to work as normal.

    I did not have good television reception where I was at, or cable.  I never watched it on live TV.

    I find, when talking to people, the farther away one was from New York the less affected they were.  A few years after 9/11, I was talking to a chauffeur in Pennsylvania.  He wasn’t in Manhattan at the time, but he could see the smoke in the distance.  He was emotional talking about it.

    • #11
  12. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    A few years after the event, maybe it was the same year, I was watching C-SPAN, and saw Donald Trump talking to a congressional committee.  One thing he said about the towers is that it was fire from the fuel that weakened the structure causing the collapse, not the actual crash.

    He said that if they had built the towers with asbestos, the towers would have survived.

    • #12
  13. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):
    I wonder how many people also had the Empire State Building crash come to mind when they heard the news of the first plane.

    I was a little late to the day job that Tuesday. I heard the news of the first tower on the way to work. I was trying to establish myself as a freelance writer and had sold a couple of pieces to American History magazine. I thought about the Empire State Building crash, and was wondering if I could sell the magazine a feature about it linked to the airplane that accidentally (as I thought) crashed into the WTC. I had pulled into the parking space when I heard about the second plane. I suddenly realized it wasn’t an accident. 

    My family (except for my oldest son, who was in college) were in Indiana, driving back to Texas after everyone had gone up for my parents’ 50th anniversary. I had flown home to save vacation time. My wife had stopped at her parents (in Lafayette) for the night. I called and told her to stay there a couple of days. I was worried about gas shortages due to everyone filling up their cars and did not want her stuck on the road. She started home three days later.

    • #13
  14. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Al Sparks (View Comment):
    He said that if they had built the towers with asbestos, the towers would have survived.

    Probably true. Construction started with the support columns covered with asbestos. The collapse started in the floors above the ones protected by asbestos. Without the insulation the steel heated up to where it lost strength. Once those started collapsing, they pancaked the floors below. If you watch the collapse you will see it start from the top.

    Of course asbestos was a health hazard, so for safety’s sake it could not be used. I mean, you’d need to crash a jet loaded with JP4 to create enough heat to melt the steel. What was the likelihood of that happening? Much safer to leave out the asbestos.

    • #14
  15. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    We were living in Maryland, about 60 miles south of D.C. My husband worked at a Naval Air Station, and as he and some co-workers were discussing in their office how a pilot could be so inept as to crash a big jet into a building on a day with such clear weather, they all watched on live T.V. as the second plane hit the other tower. Oh. Not an accident…

    From my school’s playground, I’d often see Air Force One heading north in its landing pattern to Andrew’s Air Force Base, about 45 miles up the highway. And we saw military planes, and other commercial aircraft all the time. For the next three days after the attacks, nothing but armed fighter jets were seen overhead.

    By the end of the day, on 9/11, I only had two students left in my room. Parents had come to pick up their children early from school, as soon as the news got out about the Pentagon. There were many of our parents who worked in Washington, D.C., and they were all told to get in their cars and get out of town. My son’s high school had two students whose fathers were killed at the Pentagon.

    I can’t believe that it has been 17 years already. It seems so fresh and searing. I try to teach a lesson about it each year to my upper elementary students, because I’m sure it’s as remote as Pearl Harbor, or the Civil War to them. But it will always be so shocking and horrible to me.

    • #15
  16. Chris B Member
    Chris B
    @ChrisB

    Al Sparks (View Comment):

    A few years after the event, maybe it was the same year, I was watching C-SPAN, and saw Donald Trump talking to a congressional committee. One thing he said about the towers is that it was fire from the fuel that weakened the structure causing the collapse, not the actual crash.

    He said that if they had built the towers with asbestos, the towers would have survived.

    He was correct that it was the heat of the burning jet fuel that weakened the steel supporting the towers. Jet fuel burns hot, and jet engines are designed to keep a constant stream of cool air between the burning gas and the steel components of the engine to prevent warping and melting.

    I’m not sure that the issue was necessarily that the insulation lacked asbestos, though. It may have been a factor, but there were other deficiencies that most likely contributed to the structural failure. This link has some interesting perspective from the guy who inspected the fire insulation during the 1990s.

    • #16
  17. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    It was Friday morning in Australia. I woke up and took my shower. When I got out of the shower, I noticed my phone had a message. The voicemail was an Aussie friend, calling to see how I was doing. I called him back, saying, “What are you talking about?”

    He said, “The World Trade Center. It’s gone.”

    “What do you mean ‘gone’?”

    “Just turn on the telly.”

    Two minutes later I called into work and told them I wasn’t coming in.

    9/11 had a big affect on me, because in 1998 I worked on Wall Street for a few months. I stayed in an apartment on the Hudson, and every morning as I walked the two blocks to the PATH train that would deposit me in the basement of the WTC, I’d think to myself that I should get a picture of the Twin Towers. Nah, I thought, they’re not going anywhere.

    Last year I stayed in a hotel maybe 100 yards from Ground Zero. That’s my hotel on the left. That was the first time I’d been back to Lower Manhattan (by choice. I didn’t want to see a hole in the ground.).

     

    • #17
  18. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    I was getting ready for work and had the little TV on in the bathroom watching the Today show.  When they reported the first plane, I thought, “Great! Some idiot flew their small plane into the tower.  It’s going to make things tougher on the rest of us who are general aviation.”  Then the next plane hit and we knew it was something else entirely.

    My mother-in-law called from the UK worried about us.  We both went in to work, but nothing got done that day.  People just kept gathering in groups.  HR went and rented a television and set it up in the main break room so that people could see what was going on.

    • #18
  19. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    Chris B (View Comment):
    I’m not sure that the issue was necessarily that the insulation lacked asbestos, though. It may have been a factor,

    A year or so afterwards, I saw an interview of someone who was either an architect or one of the engineers involved in the design of the towers. He brought up the lack of “insulation” on the steel beams and then broke down in tears.  It was pretty tough to watch.

    • #19
  20. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    EB (View Comment):

    Chris B (View Comment):
    I’m not sure that the issue was necessarily that the insulation lacked asbestos, though. It may have been a factor,

    A year or so afterwards, I saw an interview of someone who was either an architect or one of the engineers involved in the design of the towers. He brought up the lack of “insulation” on the steel beams and then broke down in tears. It was pretty tough to watch.

    As I recall, one of the towers was partially insulated with asbestos, and stayed up longer.

    • #20
  21. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    EB (View Comment):

    Chris B (View Comment):
    I’m not sure that the issue was necessarily that the insulation lacked asbestos, though. It may have been a factor,

    A year or so afterwards, I saw an interview of someone who was either an architect or one of the engineers involved in the design of the towers. He brought up the lack of “insulation” on the steel beams and then broke down in tears. It was pretty tough to watch.

    As I recall, one of the towers was partially insulated with asbestos, and stayed up longer.

    I read that the severity of the impact knocked insulation loose from the steel members, leaving them vulnerable to the heat. I wonder if any conventional building techniques would have been adequate.

    • #21
  22. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    EB (View Comment):

    Chris B (View Comment):
    I’m not sure that the issue was necessarily that the insulation lacked asbestos, though. It may have been a factor,

    A year or so afterwards, I saw an interview of someone who was either an architect or one of the engineers involved in the design of the towers. He brought up the lack of “insulation” on the steel beams and then broke down in tears. It was pretty tough to watch.

    As I recall, one of the towers was partially insulated with asbestos, and stayed up longer.

    I read that the severity of the impact knocked insulation loose from the steel members, leaving them vulnerable to the heat. I wonder if any conventional building techniques would have been adequate.

    At the time, the Australian PM, John Howard, said that because Aussie skyscrapers were built of concrete, not steel beams, they wouldn’t fail so catastrophically. I have no idea if that was true, but I’m 90℅ sure new towers in Melbourne and the Gold Coast have been built with steel beams.

    So, I have no idea.

    • #22
  23. Chris B Member
    Chris B
    @ChrisB

    EB (View Comment):

    Chris B (View Comment):
    I’m not sure that the issue was necessarily that the insulation lacked asbestos, though. It may have been a factor,

    A year or so afterwards, I saw an interview of someone who was either an architect or one of the engineers involved in the design of the towers. He brought up the lack of “insulation” on the steel beams and then broke down in tears. It was pretty tough to watch.

    Sadly, it looks like they put a paywall up on the link I’d included. That wasn’t there when I linked it. The information (as I recall it), in summary:

    1. There were major deficiencies in the application of the fire insulation, such that there were sections several stories high where it had simply fallen off
    2. The Port Authority was aware of these large missing sections since the early 90’s, but as of 2000 (the last time he inspected the buildings) had taken no action to correct them
    3. During construction, Tower 1 had been built with asbestos insulation up to floor 33, when regulations changed and new asbestos free insulation was used instead on the remainder and the second tower
    4. There was no industry validation of those new insulation types, because they had come onto the market to replace asbestos so quickly that standards of effectiveness and application had not yet been developed
    • #23
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