Recalling 9/11/01- The Day in My Life

From the archives. A post from the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.

One of the often asked questions of my parents generation was, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”  I remember hearing my parents talk about where they were when they heard the news that the president was shot while riding in a motorcade.  The question for this generation will probably be, “Where were you when the planes struck the Twin Towers?” It was such a tragic moment in U.S. history,  that it’s not hard to remember where one was when they heard the awful news.

I was at home, getting ready for work. I was a single mom of a 3 year-old. I woke up early,  and as usual, tried to keep quiet around the house as I took my shower, made breakfast and got dressed, while I let Nico sleep as long as he could.  When he finally woke up I turned on the TV so that he could stay occupied while I made him breakfast,  and got his clothes together.  Shortly after  7:00 am pacific time, my phone rang. It was Juan. We had just started dating a few months earlier, so it wasn’t that unusual for him to call me in the mornings and say hello.  He seemed frustrated and asked me where I had been and why I hadn’t answered the phone.  There was an urgency in his voice. He told me to turn on the TV. By this time the planes had struck the first tower.  He told me he would be right over, that he was going to drop Erica  and Olivia off at their grandmother’s house. Olivia was in the 1st grade. It was her 6th birthday and she was supposed to have a pizza party at school that day, but Juan and Olivia’s mom decided not to send Olivia to school after all.

I hung up the phone and turned on the television, just after the South Tower collapsed.  Juan arrived at my house shortly after that. I wanted his company. I did not want to be alone. Nico was still watching television in the family room, while Juan and I watched the North Tower go down from a small television in my room.  We weren’t sure if we should report for work.  Our office has a command post to call for such emergencies. We called in and were told not to come into work because of the threat level.  Juan’s workplace was downtown, while mine was just outside the civic center.  We were riveted to the television, watching in disbelief what was happening. I had visited New York a couple of times and I loved the city.  I was a native Angeleno and I lived in Southern California all my life, however, at that moment, I was a New Yorker. I felt the horror that those in New York must have been experiencing.

NYC Skyline in 2000 - Twin Towers in the background.

On the ferry from LIberty Island in 2002. The Towers are no longer part of the skyline.

Juan and I sat there all morning, watching the television reports, reliving the horror of those planes crashing into the towers.  Around midday we realized that even though Olivia had not gone to school that day, her classmates were counting on their pizza party.  Juan decided to take the pizzas to Olivia’s school.  I went with him. It seemed surreal to be walking through a grocery store picking up a cake, plates and napkins and getting pizza, on a day that America was attacked.  We went to her school and had the party. Olivia and her classmates were totally unaware of what had happened. They were happy to have pizza and sing Happy Birthday to Olivia. Olivia, with her beaming smile, was happy to be the center of attention.  Juan quietly told me how sad it was that for the rest of her life her birthday would be shared with such a horrible event.

Olivia at her birthday pizza party on 9/11/01.

Olivia's 6th Birthday - 9/11/01

After her pizza party, Juan and I wanted to do something other than go home and watch more news reports.  But we didn’t know what to do.  We decided to to a local pub, to be around other people. The pub had some other customers, but it was eerily quiet. Of course, the television was on and we watched more news reports and replays of the planes colliding. At the end of the day we had to go about our routines, picking up kids from school and daycare, and getting ready for the next day at work.

New Yorkers were dealing with the aftermath.  The President came on TV and asked us to go about our business.  The next day I went to the office. I tried to get on with business as usual. My brother was getting married 4 days later.  The bride’s grandparents from Illinois couldn’t get a flight out to the wedding. Some of the wedding guests had to cancel or make other travel arrangements. The wedding went on anyway, but even during the ceremony the priest made reference to the week’s event.  Two days after the wedding Juan and I decided to take the kids to Disneyland. We thought those wedding guests from out-of-town would want to go too. It turned out that most guests wanted to return home. It seemed like everyone else stayed home too. Disneyland was almost empty.

Olivia and Erica get an autograph from Mary Poppins in an almost deserted Disneyland.

California Adventure nearly empty one week after 9/11/01

Ten years later I can still vividly recall the days events from September 11th.  It was a day that changed America, and a day which I will probably always remember. It’s a day we should never forget.

A cross where Twin Towers used to stand.

Where were you when you heard the news that a plane struck the Towers, the Pentagon, or crashed in a field in Shanksville?

10 thoughts on “Recalling 9/11/01- The Day in My Life

  1. mhedd says:

    Thanks for sharing Diana, it is a day that, as FDR once said, “will live in infamy.” I too remember where I was and the tears, going grocery shopping and the erie atmosphere that was predominant everywhere I went. 10 years later we still feel the ripples, however, what was meant to destroy ushered in a new level of compassion and and unity for most. Goes to show that good does indeed prevail over evil. For all of our “issues” I, for one, am proud to be an american…..keep writing, you are gifted!

    • Thanks Mel. I, too, feel like we have a greater sense of patriotism after this event, but unfortunately I don’t think that translates to “unity.” It does seem that there are those who have a more divided America, Dems v. Republicans, muslims v. christians, haves and the have nots. I hope this anniversary of 9/11 will do what the initial event did, remind us that we are all Americans! Thank you for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it!

  2. Norma says:

    Diana– you are such a wonderful writer! We were just at ground Zero in july and I was so overcome by emotion. I can’t explain why the events of 9/11 have had such an impact on me. We got our 9/11 Time mag today and I was only able to get two articles in before nearly losing it. Needless to say I turned it over to Yung and said I just couldn’t get through it. What an amazing show of humanity in the moments and years that followed that horrific event! It all still seems so surreal.

  3. Thank you Norma. How did your kids do at Ground Zero? Diego was too young but we went in the museum next to the firefighter’s memorial and he was pretty moved by the pictures of people covered in debris. Nico was stunned. He really didn’t “get it” until the exhibit brought it home for him. He visited the Museum of Tolerance with his scout troop last year and that really impacted him. He told me that the Ground Zero exhibit had the same impact. We plan on going to a memorial tonight. The whole event still resonates with me, even though I only saw it on TV. Bless you.

  4. Lisa says:

    Loved your story, Di. This is the first time that the kids have been asking so many questions about that day. I try to tell them what happened without scaring them, but Ava keeps asking, “But…WHY?” It chokes me up when I see her puzzled little face. On a happier note, I DO remember where I was in your 2002 NYC pic – somewhere in the background, waiting to see you for dinner that night! I’ll always think of you guys when I remember NYC :)

  5. Diana; You continue to reach into your father’s heart and memory. 9-11 is constantly in my mind, mostly as I remember receiving a call from Anthony who was living out of state and was urgently asking me to turn on the Television as the First Tower was in flames and saw the second plane hit. I was in shock than immediately went into anger when the news came over of the Pentagon..etc.. You are so correct in your mention of JFK’s assisnation and its impact to us older folks, however I think I was as puzzeled as NICO was recently when we all went to Ground Zero as I recalled at 9 years of age on Dec. 7 1942 when we were attacked and the nation came TOGETHER… Thanks for reaching out again…’!LEST WE FORGET!” GOD BLESS YOU…
    DAD.

  6. Anthony Carbajal says:

    I too remember that day. Watching the news while getting ready for work as usual and then realizing what had happened I just sat in stunned silence. Just minutes before all I wanted to do was get through work to be with my family for my brother’s wedding. After watching the reports all I wanted to do was be with my family wedding or not. I remember Jim calling me and asking me if I’m ready to enlist and get payback for those responsible. So many thoughts and feelings that day and the weeks, months and years to come. I have never forgotten and continue to be reminded as I think about those I know and don’t know that are currently serving in the armed forces and are over seas due to this event that 10 years later we are still fighting over.

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