#NeverForget - The FTF Media Crew's Collective Thoughts on the 19th Anniversary of 9/11

Where were you when 9/11 happened? Were you at home, in school or at work? Did you happen to be near where the planes hit, or were you much further away, soaking the awful news in from a distance? Many of the members of the FTF Media family were in school -- some of us were even infants at the time. But even though we weren't adults with the ability to fully process the fateful events of this attack when it happened, we'd still like to share where we were 19 years ago today. I'll start with myself: I (Haley) was ten years old and sitting in my 4th grade classroom when the Towers were hit. I remember my teacher being called out of the room, coming back in a short time later and slamming the door shut behind him. We thought we were in trouble because he seemed so angry. He then turned on the classroom TV and we all watched the news. It was really hard to grasp what was happening at the time, since I was so young, but I could definitely tell my teacher was really distraught.


Looking back now, I remember my teacher having a New York Yankees poster featuring Derek Jeter and the Twin Towers taped to the wall of his classroom. Obviously, that city had a ton of emotional meaning to him, so he had to be going through a lot. At lunchtime, my Mom came to the school to pick both me and my brother up and take us home; when we got there, we immediately turned on the news. I remember hearing that United 93 could be headed for Three Mile Island (a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania) and that we may need to evacuate our house as a result; we lived in Harrisburg, PA at the time. United 93 wound up crashing in Shanksville, PA instead, due largely to the actions of the brave passengers aboard the plane.


9/11 changed the lives of my entire family, really, but not because we knew someone who passed that day or because of the pure gravity of what happened. Following the events of 9/11, my Father decided to re-join the Army and, as soon as my Brother graduated from High School, he chose to join the Air Force. Between the two of them, my Mom and I have gone through about 7 deployments. Thankfully, on one of their deployments, my Father and Brother were stationed together and wound up being able to spend the Holidays with each other. When I was in College, I had the privilege of touring the Pentagon; it was a surreal experience, because there were still burn marks caused by the crashing plane's jet fuel present around the building. They're almost like battle scars in a strange way.


When visiting one of the offices that was hit by the plane, we were told a story about the employee who used to work there. He was supposed to work that day, but his co-workers had convinced him to finally take a vacation. As fate would have it, he was on the plane that hit the South Tower. That story gave me chills and I honestly think about it every year on the anniversary of 9/11. There are a number of stories about people who either missed work that day for odd reasons or ran late, which obviously saved their lives. Those stories, along with the recordings of passengers calling their loved ones from the planes, will also give you chills.


Before I move on to my colleagues' thoughts, I want to make sure to mention that today is also the 8th anniversary of the attack in Benghazi. I was in College at the time and was actually studying over in Washington D.C. for the semester. We had a speaker coming to address our class that day, but he had to cancel and fly to Libya instead right after the attack happened. I also remember having to do extensive research on the attack for an internship; the details I learned were frustrating, because I felt like we could have done much more to protect Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods that day. If you haven't already seen the movie '13 Hours,' I definitely recommend it. With it being a movie, there's obviously a lot of Hollywood drama added, but there's also a lot of truth behind the events included in the story as well. It's a really well done movie -- both 13 Hours and United 93 still manage to make me emotional to this day.


One of the co-hosts of our Stealing Second podcast, Lauren (@lalalalaurrrren), wanted to share where she was on 9/11, as well as a story about a family member of hers who had worked at the World Trade Center:


"I was in the sixth grade and my school decided not to tell us. When I got home, it was very clear something was wrong. Everyone looked stressed and distraught. My Brother was a Junior in High School and watched the news after it happened. So I walked into my house after school and had no idea what was going on. My Mom did the best she could explaining what happened to an 11 year old and constantly kept saying there are unfortunately bad people in this world who don't care about the lives of others. My Grandma kept asking if we had heard from my cousin Santo, but I had no idea why. I was only 11 and had no idea what Santo did for work. Turns out he worked on one of the top floors of one of the buildings. He didn't go to work, though, as he got home late from a business trip the night before. His wife basically had to beg him not to go to work and eventually he agreed. They had three young kids and if my cousin had ignored his wife and went to work, he wouldn't be here."


Co-host of One For The Girls Pod, Carly (@cgreenbartlett), also shared her thoughts:


"I was in 4th grade at a private school and the headmaster opted not to tell us about 9/11 when it happened. I remember he came to our classroom and asked my teacher to step out into the hall. After a few minutes, she came back in looking very solemn and continued class. When my parents picked me up, they were really stressed out and told me what happened at that point. I remember feeling really shocked, but the significance of what happened didn't really hit me for a while. I was sad that so many people had died and been traumatized, but making the connection to 'terrorism' didn't happen until a few months later, honestly. I was 9."


Our colleague of both Girls Pod and NerdPod fame, Candi (@Candi_Lee_Bell), stated:


"I was the one who told my parents what had happened. I was in 3rd grade. We got a call that they had cancelled school that day and at least a couple days after. By the time we went back to school, none of our teachers talked about it. I don't know if the school told them not to, but we did a lot of 'team building' and feelings workshops after that."


The Snipe N' Celly podcast's own Jake (@Jksnake20) said:


"I don't even remember much, I think I was about 2 and a half. All I know is that I was with my Grandmother and I just watched her break down crying. That's my first memory, to be honest. I didn't understand or know why, but seeing my Grandmother cry was something that stuck with me. Took me a while to put it together and understand what happened."


NerdPod's own Austin (@Austin_Whittel), one of FTF Media's youngest members, said that:


"Now, my memories of this tragic day differ from my colleagues in the sense that I don't remember what happened. I was told the story of what I did on this day by my Mom because I wasn't even one yet (it was a day before my first birthday). The day started off like any other in the Whittel household; my Dad was getting ready for work, my Sister for preschool and my Mom getting me all settled. When we took my Sister to school, My Mom and I started to do our errands. Then on the radio, they said that the North Tower had just been hit, so we raced over to get my Sister from school. My Mom then started calling all of our family that lived in New York at the time to see if they were alright; when she got no response, she began to worry. Luckily, it turned out that my family was fine. Ever since that day, our world has changed. We honor the lives we lost by remembering them on this day every year. In school, we would always watch something to reflect on that fateful day and you could just see the look on our teacher's face. No one wanted to re-live those events. We also can't forget the lives we lost in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of 9/11: Christopher Stevens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith. We must keep their memories alive, too."


Host of the True Crime & Chill podcast, Gabby (@moneybagsgabs), reflected on the day:


"I was in elementary school at the time and I had just gotten to school shortly after the first plane hit. When I was in school, I recall the staff feeling uneasy, as we didn't participate in any schoolwork that day. When I got home and my parents explained all of this to me, I remember being scared because I wasn't sure what would happen to everyone. At the time, I was living in Chicago and many people were concerned about the (then) Sears Tower being a potential target for an attack. It's crazy to think that all of this still comes back to me 19 years later."


Our colleague of both the True Crime & Chill and NerdPod programs, Mich (@mich1128), remembered thinking the following:


"School was in session the day the planes hit the towers. I, however, happened to be at home at the time because I was still getting over a cold. I remember watching TV in my Mom's room while waiting for her to finish getting dressed when there was a breaking news alert. Something happened to the Twin Towers, which I'd finally seen in person not even two months prior. There was smoke, debris, and unease. It seems like a plane had hit one of the towers and no one understood why or how it happened. As the news anchors tried to make sense of this, an explosion happened in the second tower -- a second plane had hit and now the picture was clearer. Two planes didn't 'accidentally' strike the towers, it was deliberate.


My Mom quietly stood next to me gripping my shoulder in fear and I think that's when I finally realized that something terrible was happening before our very eyes. Up until that fateful day, you would usually hear of how tragedies unfolded, you'd even see the aftermath. But you had never seen it unfold right in front of you. Even now, my stomach slightly turns when thinking about the fires raging in the towers, the sight of people in the windows asking for help, the man who fell and, finally, the collapse. Seeing something like that stays with you, which is why I always sort of shake my head when I see people say 'Never Forget,' because trust me, there's definitely no forgetting that."


Host of NerdPod and member of One For The Girls Pod, Kristian (@itsmeKristianG), shared the following:


"Looking back now, I realized that I didn't understand the severity of what happened on 9/11/2001. We were outside playing when our teacher called us in. I remember noticing the worried expression on her face. When we got back to our classroom, there was already another class there with their teacher watching the TV. Another teacher tried to keep us occupied by reading us a book, but many of us noticed the huddle in the corner around the TV. I remember when my Mom came to get me, I thought it was weird. We still had time left in school. When I got in the car, she seemed stressed and emotional. On the way home, she cried and listened to the live broadcast on the radio. As soon as we were inside, she turned on the TV, which is where I'm not sure as a child I fully understood exactly what was happening. I saw the bloody faces, the people covered in dust, first responders scrambling through the streets, even people in the windows of the buildings.


None of it seemed as real as it does now when I think back on those memories. I can distinctly remember the feel of all of the people around me as they experienced it. I remember my Mom hugging me as she cried. I remember my normally peaceful teachers nearly panicked as they tried to get us safely back into the classroom. What I didn't realize then was that, because we were so close to a military base, there was concern that we'd be attacked next. Everyone around me was concerned that we could be in danger at any moment. We were a military family and lived in military housing. I remember my Grandma calling and telling my Mom that we needed to leave immediately. And my Mom, already worn thin, arguing that my Father hadn't even come home yet. I remember him rushing home and holding me in his arms, relieved to know that we were all alright. There are memories I can feel as distinctly now as when they were happening; I'm sure I'm not the only one."


As for another member of our FTF Media family, Mark (@MarkPiselli13), he offered his extended thoughts below:


"Like everyone else has said, I remember exactly where I was on 9/11 and how I was feeling, both on the date itself and the days and weeks that followed. Things were a lot more simple back then; I was days away from turning 11 years old and my biggest problems were homework and the Saturday morning cartoon lineup. I went to a Catholic Middle School -- yup, complete with the khaki pants and shirt and tie look. I was actually in Church when the first plane struck the Twin Towers (we had morning mass once a week) and after our class walked back across the shared parking lot to the school building, we could all tell that something was up. This was obviously 5 or 6 years before social media would take the world by storm, so teachers had all found out the attacks the old fashioned way: radio, the small TV in the teachers' lounge, phone call, etc.


Even though my classmates and I all knew something was up, none of the teachers would tell us what was going on. We later found out that they had been instructed by our Principal not to, that he wanted all children to be informed by their parents in whatever way they saw fit. I remember taking the bus home; our bus driver always had the radio on with the worst music playing, but that afternoon, the radio was off. We didn't exactly ride in silence, of course, as a bus full of children can still get noisy quick. But I still remember the uneasy, almost panicked look on our bus driver's face. I got off the bus and walked home, where I found a large stack of newspapers at the end of my driveway. I had a paper route at that time and delivered the Metrowest Daily News to my entire street -- why was I getting a bunch of papers at 3 in the afternoon, though? We only delivered mornings, so I was extremely confused. I only got more baffled when I looked at the front page and saw a massive explosion.


I remember my parents trying to explain things to me in as delicate a way as possible, but nothing really resonated with me. I didn't get why someone(s) would do something like this on purpose. I remember being scared that more attacks would happen, especially because New York wasn't that far away from me over in Framingham, MA. I remember having some bad dreams for a couple weeks after that -- I just didn't feel safe. Looking back, that was definitely my first taste of the real world, even if it was from a distance. My life wasn't directly impacted like many others' were and I'll always be grateful for that, but I definitely lost a little bit of my naivety and innocence that day, as I'm sure many my age did."


Those are our thoughts and memories of that fateful day -- I'm sure that if you're reading this right now, yours are along those same lines. It may be a tough thing to dwell on, but it's important not to forget the brave men and women who rushed into those burning towers 19 years ago today. Each and every year, we say to "Never Forget," but we need to make sure that this doesn't become just some empty catchphrase. We all need to ensure that we always remember what happened and keep the memories alive of the 2,977 innocent people who tragically lost their lives that day.


- Haley (@CSIHALEY)

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