I am a Canadian living near Ottawa, our national capitol. The events of September 11, 2001 affected hundreds of thousands of people in all of North America, although not as directly or painfully as American citizens.
Passengers on planes that were grounded in Canada that day, were taken into the homes of strangers near the airports, until the planes were airborne again. Fire, emergency , and medical teams from as far away as our Western provinces, drove down to New York City to help as best they could. Plumbers, electricians, construction crews, drove down from hundreds of miles away to help look for survivors in the rubble, although sadly, there were few.
I worked on the night crew of a local department store, stocking shelves. I got home a little before 8:00 am that morning, tired and achy. I can't remember what I did before 9:00 am, but I'll never forget what I did after!
I was upstairs getting ready for bed, when the phone rang downstairs. We didn't have a bedroom extension then, nor did we own a cell phone. I thought the caller would have hung up by the time I got downstairs, but it kept ringing. I got a scared, nauseous feeling in my stomach. I remember worrying that something had happened to a friend or family member. The people I knew, generally didn't have the patience to let it ring that long unless it was an emergency.
“My husband was shouting on the phone before I even had a chance to say “Hello.”'
“Turn on the TV!”
“Why? I'm going to bed.”
“A plane just flew into the World Trade Centre. It's all over the radio.”
“Pick any channel, it doesn't matter. There won't be anything else on.”
Of course those weren't the exact words, but the conversation was probably pretty close.
He worked in the office of a large local contractor, and he was listening to the news on a little pink Barbie radio that the owner's young daughter had left in the office. He told me there were a few big guys gathered around this dainty little radio, while they listened to the horrendous events in New York City. That image in my head was the only thing that gave me a little smile, on that horrible day.
I turned the TV on, a few minutes after 9:00 am, Just in time to see the second plane fly into the South tower, as it happened! I remember screaming and crying into the phone that another plane just hit the other tower. My husband kept trying to calm me down enough to describe what was happening on TV. I remember him telling the guys in the background to shut up so he could hear me. He had to go back to work, so I hung up. I continued to watch TV, instead of going to bed. At about 10:00 am I called him back.
This time it was me screaming into the phone when he picked up.
“One of the towers fell down!”
I was almost hysterical. By that time I had seen an hour of terrified people running out of the buildings, and descriptions of people falling or jumping from the towers, as well as all the emergency vehicles and personnel that were involved in trying to save lives.
“What do you mean it fell down? It's a great big building. It can't fall down.”
“Well it did, and the other one is still on fire.”
Again, the conversation ran along those lines.
He told me later that he still didn't believe me until he heard it on the radio. It was too inconceivable to accept. He was in the building trade, and he knew how office buildings were constructed. Something as big as the World Trade Centre couldn't just fall down, in spite of being hit by a plane. I was still on the phone when the second tower went down, about a half hour later. He still didn't believe it. I didn't go in to work that night, because I didn't sleep all day. I just cried and watched TV. I don't think I even ate anything. My heart bled for all those innocent office workers.
Similar experiences were played out in thousands of homes all over North America, that weren't directly involved in the events. It was a horrible, horrible day.