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I Remember – 9/11

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On September 11, 2001, the world lost its innocence when terrorists crashed hijacked airplanes into The World Trade Centre, The Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania.

This is my story of where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news.

I was living in Sydney.  It was around about 11pm and I was preparing to go bed when my best friend Dave called me and told me that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York.  I didn’t even know what the World Trade Centre was.

I turned on the television and was confronted with both buildings on fire with smoke billowing out of each building.  The reporters were explaining that terrorists had crashed commercial airliners in each building.

Images of people crying and watching in horror at the scene unfolding before them occupied the screen.

My mother was staying with us at the time and she had just gone to bed.  I decided pretty quickly that this was the biggest story in the world for the last 50 years so I woke her as I felt she would want to be watching this event as it unfolded.  I tried waking my wife but she was too tired and couldn’t be stirred with some gentle persuasion.  She slept through the night.

Reports were saying that there was another aircraft uncontactable and another hijacking was possibly taking place.  I remember thinking that this is just the media sensationalising an already sensational event.  Not long afterwards the news feed from the US was showing an explosion at the Pentagon which ended up being one of the hijacked planes reported not long before.

Then images I thought I would never see in my life filled my screen.  At first I couldn’t believe that people were jumping from the buildings.  I remember thinking why the hell would someone jump from a 110 story building.  What terror were they experiencing to not even wait for rescue?  What were the conditions like in the bulding that they would rather jump to a certain death?

It was heart wrenching.

Not long after, one of the buildings appeared to be getting swallowed up in a dust cloud.  I said to my mum that it’s collapsing.  She said that it couldn’t be.  Within seconds it was confirmed on live TV.  One of the buildings was collapsing, floor by floor and in no time at all the building had completely collapsed and all that was left was a dust cloud and a pile of rubble.

The images of people running and screaming from the collapsing building are permanently imprinted in my mind.  I’ll never forget it.  Their looks of anguish and horror and uncertainty.  These people on the streets didn’t know what was happening.  They weren’t watching the news like we were.  Most wouldn’t have known that this was a terrorist attack.  They were running for their lives, uncertain that their next step could be their last. They weren’t running from the buildings.  They were running to their future.

During the first hour or so of watching this destruction I was on the phone talking to family and friends, sharing our fears about what was going on.  Fearing for those still in the buildings and acknowledging those who had died.  Talking about what must be going through the minds of the people on the planes as they smashed into the buildings and for those who saw the planes coming their way.

Then the second building collapsed in the same way the first had done earlier.  New York was now a war zone.  A huge pillar of smoke and dust and grit covered the iconic city.

People were covered in dust.  They looked like they were from an alien planet.  Some were injured.  Most were simply scared.

Then news came through that a plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.  At the time we didn’t know if it was connected or not but it had to be.  As history tells us, the passengers on this plane fought back against its hijackers and paid the ultimate price but they saved thousands of lives in the process.

I eventually went to bed around 3am.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer but watching this historic event unfold was too important to miss.  The replays of the planes smashing into the World Trade Centre had been permanently seared into my brain.  Even nine years on, as I write this article, I can still see each image as though it was being replayed in front of me.  It is something I will never forget.

I woke at 6am after a few hours of shut eye and went straight to the TV for the latest news.  Hoping that there were no more hijackings.  Luckily there wasn’t.  I woke my wife and told her what had been happening.  She was shocked and appalled at the news.

The next few weeks all anyone could talk about was the tragic events of 9/11.  The images of George W Bush when he was first told while reading at a school.  Mayor Rudi Gulliani fronting the press each day.  The scene of the firefighters hoisting the American flag amongst the rubble.  The pride of the Americans for their firefighters, when so many of them and many police officers died in the line of duty trying to save those in the buildings. 

These are images I will never forget.

The thing to remember from this is that while almost 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, thousands more have died since in the War on Terror, both those from the Coalition of the Willing lead by America, Britain and Australia but also those Iraqi’s and Afghan’s who have died as well.

Australia has lost 21 diggers in the war in Afghanistan including Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney who died last month.  His funeral was held yesterday in Brisbane and on the same day, his wife gave birth to their son.  A son, that Lance Corportal Jared MacKinney will never see.

The impact of the attacks on 9/11 will be felt for many generations to come.  I will never forget and I would like to dedicate this post to not only the people who died on that day, but to all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice since then and for those who will unfortunately pay that price in the future.  My heart goes out to your family and friends as well.

Thank you.

Do you remember where you were when you first found out?  What did you do that day/night?  What were your initial thoughts?


  1. I was at home on maternity leave with my first baby, he was 6 weeks old. I was up late at night feeding him, my husband was still asleep and back at work so I didn’t want to disturb him, I wish now I had, I felt very alone watching it unfold on TV. I remember thinking “I’ll never see my baby walk, surely this will start the war to end the world”. My best friend rang me first thing in the morning, she knew exactly how I’d be thinking, she told me to have faith (funny, I’m the Christian and until she met me she didn’t believe…!). I remember how long it took us all to process, how could anyone even think of something like this? The next stark memory for me was the power of humanity banding together, it restored my faith! I watched the service with all the names of those who died, I was so so tired, J1 only sleeping for an hour or two at a time, but I didn’t want to go to bed til I had seen and heard all those names, it seemed like it was the least I could do. 9 years on I still watch the TV shows about it, it is still hard to fathom; and whilst I may not in principal agree with the war on terror, I am eternally grateful to those men & women who ensure I have seen all three of my babies walk and that I get to live a life of safety & freedom. That is the important part of the story, humanity can not be terrorised out of us, indeed the terror makes us stronger. In memory of those who have lost their lives and their loved ones, you are never forgotten…

  2. Natasha Gillatt says:

    As you know I’m not a big TV watcher, I had the tellly on the following morning early while I was vacuuming, & doing other house work (so not really watching or listening). I wasn’t taking much notice as I hoovered past the TV I just assumed it was a clip from an upcoming movie with special effects. Then a minute later my father calls on the phone from the holiday home informing me of what’s really happnening (his voice was that distraught I thought something terrible had happened to our family). I think I went into shock at what I then saw & heard. 9 years later, this god damn war is still going on. I can still hear (but cannot repeat on here) what my elderly (since passed) WW2 veteran neighbour’s response to this regarding those who were responsible.

    • jackmcclane says:

      “A clip from an upcoming movie with special effects.”

      Don’t we wish that is what it was. Hollywood will never be able to come close to captivating the world like the events on this day did.

      I hope there is never a sequel……oh wait. Bali!

      It will never end. While there is religion there will always be war.

  3. Lisa says:

    Wow. It doesn’t matter whose account you read of that day, it’s always bone chilling.

  4. Heather says:

    Thanks for this post Jack. Amazingly enough, I was so busy on the 11 that I didn’t even know the date and didn’t realize I’d missed it until the 12th when status messages on Facebook popped up from back home.

    Reading your account definitely gave me some chills!

    It happened during my last year of college. I was getting ready to leave the apartment for my first class of the day when one of my room mates called me into the TV room. The first plane had just crashed into the tower and the first speculation was that it was an accident. After a few minutes with no additional information, I left and went to class, thinking it was an unfortunate accident. When I returned a couple of hours later, I found my two room mates staring at the TV and learned everything that had transpired in the time I had been gone. So much had changed! I had literally seen the very first few minutes of the first crash before leaving.

    We sat there together for hours watching and wondered what would happen next. Where it would happen next. As you know, Washington, DC is only 2 hours from where I lived at the time, and about 1/3 of the students lived within minutes of the city and had parents and loved ones working in DC. One girl I knew lost her dad in the Pentagon.

    Thanks for taking a moment to reflect on this and help me do the same.

    • jackmcclane says:

      I can only imagine what it was like for all Americans. We felt what happened in Bali very much and that wasn’t even in Australia but because 88 Aussies died there, well it was an attack against us.

  5. Jenna C says:

    I remember I was watching a DVD and when I turned it off there was news on one channel so I switched channels.. the same picture… each channel had the same thing on. That’s when I realised something big was happening. This was just after the first plane had hit and no one was really sure what was going on. They were still saying it was an accident – I think that’s what everyone was hoping it was, because the alternative was too horrible to imagine.

    I watched the second plane crash into the second tower live. It was the most shocking thing I have ever seen, and likely will ever see. I’m in tears now just remembering it. Jack, I agree that the sight of the people holding hands and jumping from the buildings still chills me to the bone.

    The loss of the firefighters was also awful. I work in emergency communications, and I am on the radio with firefighters every day – I can only imagine what their comms centres must have been like that day and how horrible it must have been. I hope I never have to deal with a day like that.

    • jackmcclane says:

      Thanks Jenna. We will never forget it. It was so chilling and scary. No one knew what was going to happen next.

      Thanks for commenting. Hope you are well.


    • Mark says:

      Jenna – unfortunately the comms centers were mostly unable to communicate at first since the telephone switching center which also handled a lot of that communication was destroyed along with the twin towers. First responders had hand held walkie-talkies but coordination was almost non-existent.

      Many fundamental changes were made to the system since then. Hopefully we will never have to test those new systems as we did on 9/11.

      My son and I both lost friends who were first responding firefighters that day.

  6. I had been awake all night, as I tend to be, and was just about to go to bed at sunrise here in California, when I made one final journey through the TV channels before turning it off. And that’s when I saw CNN’s Aaron Brown standing there with one burning tower behind him. I went into the bedroom woke John up, and asked him where the New York offices of Marsh, the company he works fo,r were located in the WTC, and he said “99 to 103”. I said “Oh. S***.” and left the bedroom to go back to watching the news. John then got out of bed and asked what was going on. The rest of the day has been recounted here. Marsh told its employees across the rest of the country to stay home for that day, but to come back to work on Wednesday the 12th.

    John came home from that first day back and said an unusual thing had been happening; the comfort food had disappered out of the vending machines. The savory snacks like jerky and peanuts were there, but the soft sweet chewy stuff like the cookies and cupcakes had vaporized due to everybody needing a sugar fix. So for the rest of that week and a couple of days into the next, I baked a dozen cookies a day and sent them to work with him.

    On that Friday, we also invited John’s friend Bruce over for beer and pizza and we expressly kept the radio and television off.

    Marsh lost around 300 people, including about half a dozen computer guys and one executive that John was personally acquainted with.

    Since then, on every September 11th, I have made certain to be doing something like travelling, or going to a baseball game, or spending time with friends while wearing makeup and a dress. To do any less, as an American, would in my eyes be letting the bad guys win.

    Thanks for the post, Jack!!

  7. Mark says:

    Not sure when you wrote this Jack, but I am exploring the back contents of your blog. I saw this last night, but needed some time before I could write this.

    I had called in sick to work that morning about 6:00 AM. Nothing serious, just not feeling 100% – would be fine after some sleep. I went back to sleep and then my cell phone rang. It was my daughter from Florida. She wanted to know if the world was coming to an end. I had no idea what she was talking about. She told me to look out of the window. The sky was filled with more black smoke than I had ever seen in my life. I turned on the TV and stared in disbelief. I had watched those towers being built – and now they were gone! It reminded me of a special effects sci-fi movie … only it was real! And I knew people who worked in those buildings or would be in them in the morning!

    After that phone call, I couldn’t get or make any more. The landlines were out and the cell towers were overtaxed. I depended on an online chat to talk with my kids. My son was 200 miles (322 km) north in college, while my daughter was 1100 miles (1800 km) south where she lives.

    I went to help at the school where my wife was working, which was placed under lockdown. So many of her students did not yet know they had lost their mothers or fathers … but they had.And if they hadn’t lost a parent, most had lost some other family member or friend of their family.

    Four of NYC’s 5 boroughs are islands, and immediately all of the bridges were closed. And with the ferry shut down there was no way on or off Staten Island (where I live). If I had gone to work (in New Jersey) I would not have been able to get home for three days. As it was I wouldn’t be able to get to work until the bridges were reopened three days later.

    Watching the news I saw a high speed chase of a suspected terrorist taking place in my neighborhood, soldiers with automatic rifles walking the streets, and military helicopters flying down my block at rooftop level. Americans were patriotic. I never saw so many American flags flown and displayed. And this went on for weeks.

    There is a lot more to this story, but the bottom line is my life – and those of people around the world – changed drastically that day.

    In the weeks following 9/11 I visited my daughter in Florida and spent time in Walt Disney World. In the American Adventure at EPCOT, the Voices of Liberty performed a patriotic medley which ended with this number from which I made this clip and dedicated it to those who lost their lives that day …

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