Stories From A Life

Been there. Done that. Writing about it.

Sally Swift

Sally Swift
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
June 14
VP, Repartee
Swift Retorts
sally: a journey, a venture, an expression of feeling, an outburst, a quip, a wisecrack ... me


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SEPTEMBER 11, 2009 12:19AM

My 9.11 Anniversary, The View From Here

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"The anniversary is more for people who were not there. For anyone who lived through it, the anniversary is pretty much every day at 8:45 in the morning." Jules Naudet, 9/11 documentary film maker, 2006

9/11 used to bring me horrific memories pretty much every day. Because I lived through it. Not on the ground. Online. Communicating with victims.

Accounts of 9/11 are filled with heart-rending descriptions of final cell phone calls before the towers fell. They don't say much about all those who went online to connect, find answers. Seek help. Comfort. Contact.

"Are they coming for us? Do you know? The fire department, are they coming? Should we go up or down? People are arguing."

I talked to hundreds of people in the Towers --and in nearby buildings-- live, as it was happening, through IM's, chat rooms, emails and message boards on AOL. I talked to their families too.

You know what it's like online. People connect. Get in each other's heads. Strangers become instant friends. 

"I still can't reach my wife. They're sending us to the roof now, I might get better reception. Tell her I'll try to call from there. That I love her. And the girls."

On many days, but especially 9/11, I still have a tiny frisson of survivor guilt. I will never have the chance to meet those people or even hear from them again ... in person or online.

Because they're gone. I watched them perish. We all did.

It's impossible to describe the other-worldly sense of helplessness and rage I felt talking to so many hopeful souls on the upper floors, all the while seeing on TV that they were doomed. Some didn't yet know it. Some were frantically calling for help. And I couldn't help them.

Nobody could help them.

Although, sometimes I think, I hope, I pray, maybe I gave a little comfort. A sense of human contact. A virtual hand to hold, shoulder to lean on. And a bridge to home.

I took down phone numbers, addresses, messages for loved ones. So I think, I hope, I pray, maybe they took some small comfort knowing someone was there. Listening.

Delivering those messages was heartbreaking. And yet, such an honor. I think, I hope, I pray, maybe I gave some small comfort to devastated survivors.

America Online

How did I get there? Why was I privileged to communicate with those tragic victims?

That Tuesday morning I was preparing for my weekly commute from Philly to my office at AOL headquarters in Northern VA, just outside DC, where I'd stay til Friday.

My television tuned to the Today Show, I signed online around 8 am to check in before leaving. And didn't leave my computer until the middle of the night.

All routes and all transportation in and out of Washington, DC were closed. New York city was in chaos.

Those of us who couldn't get to our AOL desks in Virginia or Manhattan worked virtually around the clock from our home computers.

We answered IM's, emails, joined chat rooms buzzing with fear and shock. We scoured the message boards, finding dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of terror, agony, loss, heroism, faith ... humanity.

"People jumped online and they IM'd me and said, 'Are you okay? Is your brother okay? Do you know anybody who's missing?'"

The first post I read that September 11 is one I'll never forget. Not because it was a horror story. What haunts me instead is its very ordinariness, the irony of its reality -- and its hopelessness.

And especially its embodiment of the power of online community. The woman posting didn't comprehend the enormity of her situation, hadn't a clue her fate was sealed.

She simply went online to seek answers, reassurance, contact ... clearly assuming she could stay there, or come back, to get them.

Here's her post:

"Something's wrong in our office, there's smoke outside. I can't find my supervisor. Does anybody know anyone from Cantor Fitzgerald in New York?"

Dozens of replies: "GET OUT OF THE TOWER!"

"Run! Take the steps!"

"Hurry! Get out!!!"

She never responded.

Cantor Fitzgerald, an accounting firm I'd never heard of before 9/11, lost 658 employees that day -- the most of any company in the World Trade Center.

So that one small message board post haunts me even more, because its author is surely gone. Cantor Families Memorial


"I just remember lookin' up, thinkin' how bad is it up there that the better option is to jump." FDNY Firefighter after 9/11

Internet technology has grown enormously since 9/11. While on-the-scene reactions were telecast in stunning live and film TV footage and in standup interviews, the most horrific firsthand stories came to us secondhand.

Unless you knew someone at the scene, you were cut off from the immutable reality of the event -- the individual, personal accounts of the victims. At AOL we weren't cut off, we were living the horror together with victims and families.

Blogging was in its infancy in 2001, barely understood. "Social Media" was called "Community," constantly redefined and reinvented as technology evolved. Online community allowed people to congregate, reach out, chronicle and exchange experiences and personal realities with strangers who readily became friends.

And, during the horror of 9/11, a critical venue to frantically search for missing colleagues, friends, family members, to seek information and share their grief with one another, person to person ... all in real time. 

Especially on AOL. In chat rooms. IM's. Emails. And by the hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, people turned to AOL Message Boards.

Each message board post was a kind of mini-blog, a firsthand narrative of shock and confusion and fear. And, as time went on, of outrage and grief ... and memorials.

"About 9:30 PM I heard a plane, and my body froze, waiting to see the news of another target hit. Fifteen minutes later I heard another one. Again, I froze."

In all my years creating "Community" for AOL, I believe we reached the pinnacle of its inherent value and purpose during the hours and days, weeks and months following 9/11.

Even while communicating with victims and family members, taking messages for loved ones, I starting copying postings from AOL message boards that spoke to me, moved me, angered me, made me cry. 

Pasting them into emails I sent to AOL's then Editorial Director, Jesse Kornbluth, (now Head Butler). "We have something here," I told him.

Jesse got it. And how. Along with many others, I continued to supply him with quotes from the message boards for weeks. It was hard reading through so much personal grief and anger and pain.

"I was breast-feeding my three-month-old son and crying. What kind of world did I bring my son into, and will he ever be safe?"

It was also very necessary. And in the end, rewarding and uplifting. Jesse put many of those posts together in a book: Because We Are Americans: What We Discovered on September 11, 2001


Anniversaries of tragedies are sorrowful reminders of the loss of loved ones, of fellow human beings, taken from us, many too soon.

Just  as painful in a different way are those anniversaries we recognize as the end of innocence. Of dreams. Of our notion of the rightness of things. The assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a far reaching and significant impact on the  lives and futures of millions.

Our eyes were opened. We got a good hard look at the havoc blind hatred and twisted ideology can wreak. Or so we thought.

In this century, young as it is, we now commemorate a bitter yearly anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. And what have we learned?

Much of  Western civilization's sense of safety and superiority has been upended by the chilling, brutal reality of global terror. Our future, our children's future, is seriously at risk.

For those connected to its victims, 9/11 marks a painful personal observance of the loss of family, friends, commrades.

For the rest of us, it's a cold, hard reminder that our world has changed forever. And so have we.

 * UPDATE: The Voice of a Victim

I am staggered. Stunned. In the eight years since 2001, I have never again heard directly from someone who survived 9/11 or who came online to AOL seeking a loved one.

Now here, in this space, a familiar and chilling comment, as if a posting on an old AOL message board. From one of our own bloggers, a woman who, oh god, is a 9/11 widow? 

I want to ask, did we speak to each other, did you find a message from your husband? What is his name, maybe I spoke to him. What's your name, maybe I called or emailed you.

I want to say, it's possible he got your message on AOL, we were hearing from people in both towers on floors above the fire. Unbelievably they didn't lose power right away. Their cell phones didn't work, but their computers did.

I want to believe, I think, I hope, I pray, maybe he saw her message, even if he couldn't reply. 

I want to highlight her comment here. I hope that's okay with her. It tells my AOL 9/11 story --the 9/11 story-- far, far better than I ever could.


I was home that day (playing hooky from my job in the city, but my husband went into work as usual -actually a little earlier, to his job on the 94th floor of the north tower. I was in the grocery store at 8:43 thinking about buying eggs so I could make him chocolate chip cookies when the clerk ran down the aisle yelling the news. I remember walking in slow motion towards the checkout counter because I didn't want to dramatically drop the eggs. I walked to my car, got in, and raced home like a maniac, screaming and trying to dial him on his cell phone. I came hone, logged onto AOL and tried to send him a message. I turned on the television, saw the first tower on fire and knelt in front of the screen trying to count the floors. Then I saw the second plane hit the second tower. My sister rushed over from her job, we turned off the television but stayed online. But I knew; I'd counted the floors and seen the black smoke. 1WomansVu (aka Nikki Stern)


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My 9.11 experiences. Share yours if you can.
Wow. Thank you for this . . . another story I might not have heard otherwise, seeing it through your eyes. Well done, Sally.
Thank you Owl and Robin. It will never leave me.
Thanks for sharing your experiences and also for showing that there is a real, sharing, caring community on line.
Zuma, you're right, there is caring online. In tragedy we show our true colors, just as many did for 9/11 and just as we did right here for Dakini Dancer.
This is riveting, and the closeness to the folks who had no idea of their fate. I can not even imagine losing my spouse to the horror of the tower attack. I'll never forget hearing the verbal accounts of people falling......
we must try to connect with one another and stay connected, to love and be loveable. start with your family and if you can get past that then move on to really loving your friends and neighbors. what a better world you can make for everyone.
I was in DC - my job was to coordinate clearing out the airspace around DC - my coworker was on the phone with the Secret Service - he was also talking with someone watching the radar - he counted down the miles 'til the target (plane) reached DC - three - two - one - then I went to the windows and saw the smoke at the Pentagon. I will write about it soon. Not today.
thank you for sharing this. yet another incredible perspective. i was teaching a classroom full of students when we were asked to turn on the television. my best friend's husband was on a delta flight to nyc ... he saw the collapse from the air. how haunting still that you talked to all those people. blessings on you and your memories ... and on their families still.

check out my blog too, if you're interested in my memorium "lest we forget how fragile we are" ... it's not profound ... i just don't want to forget.
This is a perspetive I have never, even after all the years heard. Like gary said, it is riveting. And it builds like a symphony.

But enough on the writing. Here's the important thing. If ANYONE could have given those people comfort on line---I am certain, totally certain, it would have been you.
This was an amazing read, Sally. I wonder if all that communication could be compiled as another memorial.... Very raw. Very powerful. Very grateful you are still here to share it with us.
My own pale compared to your much more direct and closer proximity Sally. i worked at Radisys in Hillsboro Oregon then, We were between a huge intel fabrication plant and the Hillsboro airport. it was parallel to the approach to Portland's International airport. Until the skies were emptied, we were rushed outside whenever a plane made an approach. There was so much confusion and panic.
Sally, this was so haunting in every way. I commend you for your efforts during the aftermath of this horrific event, but I really don't know how many of these posts I can read today. They are just so upsetting.
Thank you for this.

I was teaching an early morning class. A student walked in and said that a plane had hit the towers. I continued teaching. Then another student came in and said that another plane had hit the towers. I stopped teaching. I was stunned. I don't think I handled it very well: no sage advice from me. It was like someone cut my tongue out.

Then after that, I remember all of the helicopters. Helicopters everywhere.

I remember apologizing to my class over and over again about how I should have dismissed the class immediately.

I cannot express in words how this post makes me feel. Thank you for sharing a unique perspective. And thank you for "being there" for some of the victims.
This adds so much to our understanding of the event. As usual, your writing is filled with drama and personal truths, opening our eyes to the world. And I agree with CG that you would be a perfect person to keep people connected and soothed, as much as humanly possible.
Thank you.

For what you did then. For what you do now.

Hugs (but softly, so as not to make the shoulder scream).
I was online that day too. It was awful. I just wanted my husband to come home from work.
Thank you for sharing, this post is truly touching. I can't imagine how hard this must have been for you, both when it happened and writing about your experiece.
I was only in sixth grade when this happened, and I remember being terrified, even though I was in the middle of the country, far from New York. As I get older, I more fully realize what 9/11 means to people, and how important it is to remember.
Thank you for reminding me that people still care.
Thank you for this, Sally. It's hard to imagine what it must've been like for you, and to always have to wonder about that person. I hope you can find some serenity about your having been there for her. It's also hard to imagine how the communications might've been different had there been texting and Twitter, etc.
Many of us have an "I knew someone who was there/ should have been there/ was on the way there" story. But to have experienced so many people's stories in such raw immediacy must have been horrific, and yet an honor too. Bless you for being there for them - many people would have been unable to handle it and would have walked away after several hours.
Sally, this is an incredible story. Thank you so much.
Sally, you gave me chills. Several times. Astonishing.
I remember thinking "Is this really happening?"
I can only imagine what your initial thoughts were.
For me, your post has put a new face on the numerous heroes that day. Whatever messages you managed to deliver, you helped as best you could. Thanks for being there.
Incredbile story, Sally! I like others here, thank God you were there for them and for us now! Bless ya, girl! And thanks for sharing this unique prespective.
A sincere thank you to my friends and all who get how hard it was trying to help so many so quickly, and who give me credit for efforts and compassion you too would have given. It's what we do here every day, in this community.

(I hope it also puts some perspective on how really petty and meaningless bickering and attacks are here).

Thank you for sharing your stories, your feelings, your fears. This was our collective nightmare, it should also be our collective responsibility for universal healing, consolation and resolve.

dragonlady, your story gave me chills, please tell it in more detail when you can.. you were there too.

denese, don't feel guilt, look back and be glad your students were safe, and together. That's what they remember, I'm sure.
In the aftermath, my son -- then 12 -- asked when would things return to normal. I didn't have the heart to tell him that the few years of relative peace we had known in America after the end of the Cold War were not normal, the aftermath was normal, and sadly, it may well be that that normal is all he ever knows.
Thanks for sharing this harrowing experience. I can only imagine how helpless it would feel to communicate with people that you knew would not survive. You were the best possible person for them to reach out to.
Tom, such a hard truth and so poignant. This is the new normal. It could be worse. It was. We can only hope it will get better.

Suzn, thank you for such high praise. I continue to hope I did all I could. You just never know.
Terrible to be so close to the anguish Sally. Thanks for writing.

I remember the sinking feeling inside as the image of the second plane approached. It was too obvious. Some new time was upon us. Only denial of that truth in the moment could make me keep watching.
Heartwrenching account. I can't imagine what you must have felt like then. What you feel like now. My heart goes out to you. Hugs.
Powerful... that day we all became a community! Thank you.
aka, you say exactly what most felt. But some of us were denied the denial.

Gwendolyn, I was only a very small player in the overall tragedy, but it struck me so hard I can really imagine what the families, and the survivors, continue to experience. Especially today.

Chuck, you're so right. That day the country became a community in a way many of us were already experiencing online.
I'm rather stunned. This was by far the most dramatic, compelling story I've heard. I'm not sure I would have been as strong as you during such a crisis. Thank you for being there, and for sharing it with us today.
I was home that day (playing hooky from my job in the city, but my husband went into work as usual - actually a little earlier, to his job on the 94th floor of the north tower. I was in the grocery store at 8:43 thinking about buying eggs so I could make him chocolate chip cookies when the clerk ran down the aisle yelling the news. I remember walking in slow motion towards the checkout counter because I didn't want to dramatically drop the eggs. I walked to my car, got in, and raced home like a maniac, screaming and trying to dial him on his cell phone. I came hone, logged onto AOL and tried to send him a message. I turned on the television, saw the first tower on fire and knelt in front of the screen trying to count the floors. Then I saw the second plane hit the second tower. My sister crushed over from her job, we turned off the television but stayed online. But I knew; I'd counted the floors and seen the black smoke.
The hair on my arms is standing up, I'm shivering and tears are about to fall. Thank you for everything you did that day, and after. I hope you DO have some sense of the enormous comfort you probably provided at the very worst of times.
You are amazing - thanks so much.
Oh, Sally. I never knew. Bless you for being there for the frightened people reaching out. ::hugs::
This is hard to read, but necessary, I think. Thank you for sharing it.
Wow, Sally. Just that. I have no words.
In these comments is a story from one of us. It's heartbreaking. I added it above. 1WomansVu, I hope you don't mind. Thank you for sharing what must still be a terribly painful memory. You and your family have my very deepest sympathy.
To all who've commented with kindness and thoughtfulness about my efforts and distress, I thank you. But please, read the comment from 1WomansVu. I am shivering that a voice literally from the past has corroborated my story so courageously by sharing that one piece of her unspeakable pain.
I am speechless. And once again, this proves that we NEVER EVER know someone else's life experience. To assume so by reading a single (or multiple) posts is simply an injustice. Will pm 1WomansVu. Brave and courageous is she.... I understand your chills, Sally. I feel them too.
We're like blind people in a dark room, Sally, each only a fingertip away from the other and sometimes never even knowing it.

Shared joy is joy doubled; shared pain is pain halved.

Thanks very much to 1WomansVu for sharing her story.
Oh my, Sally. What an amazing, powerful post and sharing of your direct contact with these helpless victims and families. I cannot even begin to imagine what you experienced. This is a valuable and well written post. Mine pales in the shadow of this one. I wrote:
NINE ELEVEN - The Two I Knew Who Got Away, for anyone who wants to read more of today's horrific events. Thanks very much for your account, Sally...painful though it must be for you.
About the update. That is incredibly haunting. I hope he got the message. How very sad. Such a useless waste.
What a great history of 9/11. It's so great that you have this. Should be a major media piece! RF
Very chilling. I was on IM with a dear friend who lived in the city when it happened, she was seeing it out her apartment window and wondering about her husband, who was in a building very close by. I will never forget those moments even though I always felt bad for being so shaken up by it since I was safely out on the West coast at the time "in real life." Her husband came back ok, thank heavens. But I will never forget the terror and the disbelief and the words that she said as she thought she had just seen her husband killed before her eyes.
Cartrish and Bill, you each nailed it in your own unique way.

Thanks to all who came back to see another's story.

UK, while the world was burning you were chanting for peace and serenity. You played an important role. I'm glad you were there.
I would like to celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of Nanothermite. now theres an event with real significance.

only, I dont know when it was. does anyone else?
wow - thanks for adding my story (I'm sorry I didn't hit spell check). I've been offline but return tomorrow. Sally, your account was simply so moving I had to write from my semi-remote location (ie, not in New York or New Jersey). I actually kept a diary of the first ten months. I have some stories about AOL in there - or rather, about the various conversations that went on...anyway, many thanks to all the kindness I feel radiating from these pages. I can't wait to get back to OS!
vzn, what are you talking about? Look down, the comment under yours is from a woman whose husband died in the north tower on 9/11. I'll leave your poor taste up for, oh, let's say, balance.

1WomansVu, I'm so glad you responded, don't worry about spell check, we all speak fluent typo. We're all here for you too (well, aside from the occasional twerp) and very much looking forward to your story. Online community is really something.

Karin, as always, thank you.
huh? KR is the comment under mine.
my sincere apologies. I dont know whose husband died. maybe they can blog about it. I will be sure to write a comment on that one. assuming it isnt deleted for "poor taste"
or maybe you are "outing" 1womansvu as a 911 family survivor. without her permission. that seems like poor taste to me.
ok, hard to follow these nonlinear post/comments. I thought 1womansvu IMed you. ok, ok, 1womansvu "outed" herself. 1womansvu, deserves a blog. and EP
vzn, thank you for persevering, interesting to watch the light bulb go on, but I don't think it's completely lit yet. 1WomansVu outed herself within the comments with a chilling stream-of-consciousness account of learning about the attack, going on AOL, trying to reach her husband, knowing he would be lost.

I updated my post to highlight her comment and included my reaction to it. Her words, in bold, are the last you see in my post.

She's told me she plans to write her own post on the aftermath of 9/11. If necessary, I will hand-carry it to Kerry myself.
I'm slow to comment on this, Sally, but I have to say this was one of the most amazing stories I've read coming out of 9/11, and I am very glad you shared it here. I for one am glad AOL was there for the people who needed it during that time, and hadn't really thought of the impact people working there had until you brought it to our attention, so I thank you for that. I'm knocked back by 1WomansVu's story, knocked back. It took my breath away. I was an ocean away on what was then the world's largest cruise ship en route to Istanbul, and got stranded in Istanbul for nearly a week where I dressed as a Muslim woman during that time until we could return to the United States. I blogged about it elsewhere on OS (Incognito in Istanbul). AOL was one of the only ways I could communicate with family and friends back in the US during that time and was a lifesaver, literally. Those of us stranded abroad had no idea if or when we'd ever get home, with flights grounded indefinitely, and having an online connection back home helped. Thanks for all you did for so many people during that time, and for sharing this story. God bless you for it.
Extraordinary, Sally. Thank you.
Steve, L&P, thank you right back.

Kathy, I am knocked back by your story. I wish you'd included a link to it, but I'll find it. I'm so glad AOL gave you that critical bridge to home.

This is my opportunity for a little soapboxing... everybody seems to love bashing AOL, but for almost all of you, when the Internet was just beginning, it was AOL who got you there and helped you learn how to compute.

AOL made it simple and easy to connect with others, through uniquely designed IMs, email forms, chat rooms and message boards, still the gold standard for intuitive online communication.

Long before Google and even Yahoo there was AOL Search and a technology called Keywords, which is a form of what we use today to search and surf the web without entering long url's, especially the http-colon-backslash-etc... remember those?

AOL made plenty of mistakes, believe me, I know, much better than you. But it introduced the online world and made it home to millions of Internet users for years. It still does.

Look at my post, at 1WomansVu's comment, and Kathy Riordan's here. AOL created online community at its most basic and most sophisticated and most necessary levels. I'm proud to have participated in that. I'm incredibly proud of the tiny role it enabled me to play in giving even the smallest comfort to victims and families of 9/11.

I guess I just wrote another post. Most won't see it. Maybe I'll rewrite it, remind you how we used to connect, what that small world looked like and how far we've all come in joining together on this OS community today.

The very first Web Community outside AOL is here too, btw, connected to Big Salon. You probably didn't even know that.
"Most people, if left to their own personal experience will find their own humanity."

You left this comment on my 9/11 post. I do so believe this.

Your personal account is deeply touching, as have they all been. Removed as Kathy was and as I was, we could not imagine the chaos, the immediacy of it. You lived that immediacy in a way I admire and respect.

Wonderful post, Sally. It gives me a perspective I did not have.
Sorry, Sally, link to mine here:
I have nothing but praise for AOL, particularly during that time. That was long before everyone had a smart phone in their pocket, and there were only two people I knew of on the entire cruise ship who even had cell phone service that worked back to the US from Europe. It was also in the days when cruise ships were first offering Internet cafes and the ability to go online; between that, and then, the next several days, the business center at the Ciragan Palace Hotel, I was online a lot, sending daily updates to friends and family regarding our situation, and contacting agencies on our behalf, trying to get news, and help. Nothing but praise from me about AOL. Nothing but. Online communities were and are important, and AOL was groundbreaking. And it was, most importantly, there.
this story is living history, you tell it with exquisite precision, powerful understated emotion, rare grace and craft

ok look I know, I figured it out, and I apologize for not reading all the comments before I posted. I dont know why you didnt just cite "1womansvu" in your post instead of anonymously citing "the voice of a victim". confusing. she attributed it herself by commenting.

my full respect to the families/victims. note that some have signed the 911 petition that van jones was crucified over. as I wrote in another comment, theres an excellent video/documentary out that shows how the 9/11 investigation might not have even happened if it werent for the 9/11 families pressing for justice.
heres also a 50s NYC CAN video I just ran across with three 911 family members that some might find worthwhile
more stuff in my blog.
take 2: NYC CAN video w/3 victim family members
Here's a direct link to Kathy Riordan's own extraordinary experience Incognito in Istanbul, A 9.11 Memoir
It was painful to read that, but I am glad that I did. Elie Wiesel says that whatever we do we must not turn away from suffering. I know that as hard as it is, if I read things such as your post it will help me keep things in perspective, to feel grateful, to thank G-d for everything and everyone I have.
1womansVu, Sally, and so many, many, many others, the ones still alive, the ones gone, all my love and my respect to you. Hugs to all of you.
Sally, I'm sorry I'm so late to the game on your recent post. It was excellent! And I agree with cartouche...perhaps this could be another type of memorial. Your post is another way to remember and stay connected. Thank you!
Rebecca and Marcela, I join you in your thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families, and in the notion that we must Never Forget.

Mary, just glad you're here. I guess I must have been more vague than I realized, but we did memorialize all those who sought and spoke on AOL, in a book, Because We Are Americans. I put a link to the book in my post, above.

They won't be forgotten.
Accounts of people's personal experiences bring it all back. I pray they never stop reminding us of the heart wrenching events of this day. May we never forget.
I am really late at getting to this, Sally. I wasn't sure I wanted to revisit that day in the detail that I knew your post would provide. I'm glad to be here, though. As always, you've captured the day perfectly. I can't imagine how helpless you must have felt to be receiving so many messages looking for help and answers, none of which you could provide.

The comment from 1WomansVu is one of the saddest accounts I've ever read, even though she is far from sentimental. The image of her in front of the TV, counting the floors of the Tower and knowing the awful outcome, is one that will be with me forever.

Thank you for this excellent piece, Sally.
This was well done. You first published this long before I found OS. On 9/11 I was getting my little girl off to school, my husband going to drive her. Being all news junkies we had the morning talk shows on. My friend who I regularly went to Washington with, who is old enough to be my mother called me frantically. We are bonded in a sisterhood of activism and she did not call her daughters or her husband but me. The enormity of that has always been with me. Her husband was a United Pilot her one daughter a Fed Ex pilot and somehow we experienced the whole event together by phone. Not like your experience to be sure, but oddly shattering. When the water man came to deliver, a man who I had not ever really spoken to, he was obviously shaken. I went out in my pajamas and took his hand and told him that it was going to be okay, we would get through this because we were Americans. His eyes met mine in a kind of wonderment and we talked for some time. We have been friends ever since that moment. It was a time of pulling together. The rest is a blur. But then I started reading books about it as the filtered out and I heard that people went to visit the site shortly after. Our town did a significant memorial as members of the police, fire and rescue volunteered there. I have allowed myself to believe the people who died, some came back to visit their relatives, to say it was okay, to let them know something. I am not sure I will ever get over it. I mean I have, but collectively, I hope that what we felt together as a nation is not completely lost. There was brotherhood. I worry that we are getting too far apart politically now. Well, rated, even though months have passed since you wrote this. It is nice to record my feelings somewhere.
Patriotism should be encouraged. This is very helpful for the country. Nelly from text twist tips.
Sally, I'm glad that someone as steadfast and determined as you was on scene when most needed.
I am soo overcome by this account that I am in tears barely able to write..How truely amazing what you experienced, I am sure you tried so hard to help and be of comfort to these people who are no longer here. You did a great service and I am sure it still haunts you..thank-you for this..I will be writing a tribute on 9/11.
sixty, cindy, thank you. I seem often to be in the right place at the right time when bad things happen to good people. I see it as a test and try to do the best I can. Really, that's all any of us can do.

The best part is it brought Nikki out into the open and I made another friend.
Thank you for your gifts of clarity and comfort to so many on 9/11...and since. God worked through you...and still does. Peace to you today and always. R
Sally, I only just found this. Don't know how that happens, but all that matters is I did find it -- today. It is a gift to all of us and to those who were touched directly by the event. You are a gift to all of us. There's very little I can add to what's already been said here. It's all -- article and comments -- something quite remarkable and yes, as Cartouche and others have said, might well serve as a sort of memorial. Just outstanding. Totally. Thank you.
Oh my God. This post and Nikki's comment...Oh my God. xo

I don't know anyone hurt or injured, but I remember walking into a small, but comfy meeting room in our office, and watching the tv - between my court hearings - with everyone else in our office.

The people in my small office in semi-rural Texas sat and watched, most of us with tears, some sobbing, as we saw the horror unfold in the majesty of New York City.

We wanted desperately to help... Give money, donate blood, whatever. Anything. Sometimes that meant just praying, since there was not much else we could do.

It is sad there is so much division in America only nine years later. We are really all the same.
I don't believe I was here in 2009 and am reading this for the first time. Thirteen years have passed. People's hearts and lives, perhaps, starting to heal. I rarely come back to OS for anything these days, but Sally, this was the most amazing piece. And Nikki, to read your comment there gave me chills. I had no idea you and Sally had the "connection" and didn't know it at the time. Having met both of you wonderful women since then, I'm honored to call you friends both in the "Internet Community" and the real world. Perhaps this is why I miss the old OS so much. Sigh...
what a direct and heartfelt piece of writing, sally. all that is left unsaid must be terrible.

i am sure you did give comfort.