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Memories and Musings on the 20th Anniversary of 9-11

Sharings and Musings on 9-11 from our Community

If you would like to contribute your own, just send an email to Rabbishw@cskhouston.com and we will add it here.

  • I was 8 months pregnant, and dropping off Cy (our eldest, then 4 yrs old) at pre-school, when I realized something was very wrong.  A bunch of parents were gathered in the (Beth El - Missouri City) conference room, a room usually empty at that time of day, eyes locked on the tv screen.  I went in there, and saw the news.  It was surreal.  My mind couldn’t gather enough information fast enough.  I had so many questions and needed them all answered at once.  Nobody was even talking, except for the tv reporters.  Can you imagine a room with mostly Jewish parents…...completely silent??  No one had words.  Just processing, and disbelief, and grief, and fear and panic, and questions.  One of those questions was, “Should I really leave my child at school?  Is the world coming to an end?  Can we grab the rest of the family and go hide in an underground place somewhere until we know exactly what and where the threat is?  Will I be able to have my baby in a hospital?  Will the hospitals be destroyed?”  I imagined what people in an earthquake go through, when they don’t know where they can go that’s safe, even outside.  Only more daunting because earthquakes end.  What had just happened, and when would it end?
  • Henry and I were in New York on 9/11.  We had lived in New York for a dozen years and never passed up an opportunity to go back.  Henry was in a meeting at  ABC's Corporate building. I was on my way to meet a friend at 5 World Trade Center.  The rumors were swirling.  I couldn't call anyone, there was no service.  Everything was gray, the sky, the streets, everything. I panicked a bit at not being able to reach Henry and I started walking.  Along with hundred of others, I walked up 7th Avenue in the middle of the street in total silence.  The streets were empty.  The  New York is never silent and the streets are never empty.  And until then, New York had never felt scary.

Henry and I have talked about what we remember.  We both remember the feeling of not being able to reach anyone.  Not being able to call home and let the kids know we were okay.  We remember how the whole city looked and felt gray.  And we will never forget the smell.  We talk about the smell every year on 9/11.

We talk about the drive home.  Long and fearful and filled with really bad jokes. 

But we also talk about the kindnesses.  The kindnesses of New Yorkers who knew we couldn't go home . Of the teachers and principal at Poe Elementary offering to walk the girls home and even move in until we could get home.  Of all the friends and neighbors who checked in on the kids constantly.  Of everyone who helped us find a car to rent and helped us on the long drive home.  We remember how perfect strangers reached out.

I was in my office at HoustonWorks, USA in downtown Houstion with nothing really to do.  A co-worker came into my office and said, "We're being attacked!"  My response was, "Yeah, right.  But he insisted I come with him and watch the television in the lunch room.  So, I did, still not believing anything was happening.  In 1990, when I was 49 and the First Gulf War was ramping up, I received a telephone call from someone who asked if I would be interested in rejoining the military. I replied, "No," because I knew I really had no useful skills and it was obvious we were not really going to have any trouble defeating Saddam.  On September 12th, 2001 it was my turn to call and volunteer.  The response was that at 59 I was too old to be considered, even though my analytical and problem-solving skills were far better then than they were when I was 20 and in the Army.

Truthfully, if I had said yes in 1991 or been accepted in 2001 it would have hurt my wife, Aliza, deeper than anything I could possibly do. Therefore, I consider myself again to have been undeservedly lucky both times.

  • On September 11, 2001 my, then, fiancé and I were huddled in our Los Angeles apartment…glued to the TV…watching the horrific acts before us.  My parents were in Washington, D.C.  But, my sister was in New York.  She was at work just six blocks away from the World Trade Center.  The first building went down.  I tried to call her.  I reached her!  Phew!  She was Ok.  Her building was getting evacuated and she couldn’t talk, but she was fine.  Then the second building went down.  And, silence.  As for many, the cell phone towers were either impacted by the blast or so overloaded with phone calls that only very few could connect.  Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. my mom and dad were all present and accounted for.  Thankfully in D.C. proper itself and far away from the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. We all sat in silence.  For. 13. Hours.  13 hours of my life spent not knowing if my sister made it safely away from Wall Street.  It turns out she walked from Wall Street to her apartment in Midtown Manhattan.  In sandals.   Alone, but for the other survivors she was walking with.  She has never spoken about her journey home.  I have never known quite how to ask.  Other than my own natural curiosity, it doesn’t seem right to ask her to recount that horrific day.  So, we never talk about it.  We just acknowledge how ridiculously blessed we are that all of us are still intact.  We are only affected only mentally by the monstrosity of that day.  But, physically, we bear no markers.  It’s the small blessings that truly end up large blessings sometimes. 
  • Good morning.  20 years ago today, I was at a friends house in St. Petersburg, Florida where I had lived for about 25 years. It was a safe neighborhood, comfortable existence and a treasure of my young adult life. 

My friend had returned the night before. I was awakened by her calling for me to join her in the den for the news.  I stood in shock and amazement. I had this sense of fear that gripped me.  I was to fly to Madison, Wi for the final interview fora new job and begin the search for a new home.My friend, a former Air Force Commander, who had held leadership roles in medical facilities for her career around the world. She was a stable force in this and calmly stated that The protection of the almighty would be with us. She had been a prayer warrior with me for a number of years.Little did I know this time and event in history would represent new beginnings for a number of years!  This would get me out of my comfort zone and look at the world differently.

  • Certain days are etched in your memory. All earning a place based on the significance of the event – some good, others bad. I will never forget 9/11. I was out of town on a business trip and when I called my crew chief that morning to talk about the transport of my race car, he asked if I had been watching the news. Obviously, I had not. And, as I turned on the television, I saw the plane crash into the second tower.

I am not one to be glued to the television – nor am I one to be overwhelmed by emotions. But I could not help watching the news, almost non-stop. Looking back, I think it was because I was trying to make sense out of what I was seeing. Watching with horror and heavy heart as the day unfolded, looking for an explanation.

There are many images that still stand out in my memory. Interestingly, the most vivid ones are the ones that reflect how we, as Americas, stood together as a people. The first-responders rushing in while people covered in dust and debris wandered shell-shocked. Poignant pictures of President Bush at Ground Zero. Firefighters and EMTs from around the country working together.

The American people stepped up to help in whatever way they could. Whether it was donating blood or raising money for the victims and rescue workers. Or, simply prayer. People attended impromptu candlelight vigils and participated in moments of silence. We demonstrated our patriotism and belief in the ideals of our country. Of Democracy. People flew the American flag at their homes and even on their car antennas, while others pinned it to their clothing. Not to mention all the t-shirts.

People gathered together. Sometimes to pay tribute to the dead. Sometimes to honor all the first responders. Sometimes to share their grief with others. And, sometimes because they just did not want to be alone. I was stranded out of town as all flights were grounded but did not feel alone. And, although all of us felt differently in what specifically to do in response to the attacks, we seemed to agree that standing together – a sense of unity – provided hope in this horrible time.

  • On 9/11/2001 I was six months pregnant with our second child. I was glued to the TV and had many questions. I questioned what kind of a world I was bringing him into. Will he be safe? Is the US now at war? What does this mean for Israel? Will there be a draft? How will this change our ability to travel? And Oh My G-d this is a travesty of immeasurable proportions for the thousands of loved ones of the victims whose bodies will be found  and those that will never be found.
  • I was in graduate school in Los Angeles.  I had classes at the HUC campus that day.  I woke up to the Today show and saw the 2nd plane hit the building.  I vividly remember two things….one my mom begged me not to leave my apartment because they were hitting the “big cities” and my father trying to convince me that they will get everyone out of the building.  Then they collapse and something in me did as well.  My parents didn’t know everything and the world was getting very scary.  I flashed back to a day in 7th grade social studies class.  Ms. Degon told us that everyone will live through a war.  This was in 1989..and we told her she was wrong, that we had never lived through a war.  I miss being 12 years old and not knowing the horrors happening in our world.  I want to be in Ms. Degon's class again thinking that I will never live through the type of horror that came on 9/11/2001.
  • Of course a sense of shock. I was home working and turned on my standard the today show to see  Katie Curic and Matt Lauer in disbelief. I was stunned. I also knew the world changed. Changed in way that meant we were not going to get out this without a scar! As Americans we would pull together.  loving each other as one that day. Hurting for each other and gathering in love of our fellow man.
  • I was at the gym … 1/2 an hour before going to Taft… I was always so early… I opened the school( mr Jacobs In English Dept gave me clandestine key for front door) I was on the treadmill., looking at screen.. suddenly went to NY AND suddenly showed plane going into Twin towers… disbelief.. horror .. silence.. I left gym.. drove rapidly to TAft.. opened the school .. went to E125., and the kids started coming in.. I had small transistor radio.. had news on.. a student (Alana Purcell) first in room.. 14 years old .. trembling., I always kept paper cups and water bottle on desk.. I gave her water.. the others started coming in.. absolute silence.. cups and water..all teachers had to stay until each of students picked up by a parent.. I don't recall, Rabbi Scott.. if I taught that day.. suddenly, all these disparate 9 th graders.., were my children.. I had to protect them all.  Bennah was in NY.. running away from her building.. running and not knowing where “ away” was…

She borrowed a phone from Another “ runner” to call me.. she said., in LA with earthquakes.. you would go outside.. in NY .. no One knew where the “Outside and “ away” were..Tiempos (fierce) recios  rabino…

  • I was on my treadmill that morning watching tv when the breaking news came out.  My husband was in the car driving back home when he heard the news.  Needless to say, we were glued to the tv for the entire rest of the day and evening.  Like everyone else, we could not believe that our country had been attacked so ruthlessly, and very sad that so many, many people lost their lives that day.  On the other hand, it was inspiring to know that passengers fought so hard to hold down the terrorists, that people on the streets of NYC were holding on to one another, that in really bad times, many of us can come together as one.  Certainly, 9/11 is a day that none of us will ever forget.
  • My son David and I were in New York the week before September 11th.  We were visiting family and several EAGLE Scouts that had been working in NYC during the summer, including one that was working in the World Trade Center.  We were on Wall street and did visit the WTC and the Stock Exchange that Friday. David returned to Washington DC to American University and I returned to Houston that Sunday before. When the planes hit the Pentagon, I tried to check with David to make certain he was OK and far enough away. It took over 6 hours to contact him. All our family and Scouts were safe and away from the tragedy.  

It was an ominous feeling that we were at that scene only two days before.

  • On 9/11, I was on my way to work which was at the Missouri City Branch Library.  I had the car radio on.   As soon as I got into the building, I turned on the TV.  I was able to watch the TV coverage most of the day.  Our library patrons were as shaken with what was going on as was the library staff.  It was very scary and tragic.
  • I am sharing my memory and direct experience with the tragedy of 9/11. First of all my dear friend Saul survived both WTC incidences, 1993 and 2001 as he was working in the building. He walked down 50 flights supporting his boss all the way. He should have asked for a raise.

Next my personal experiences as I was working and living in NYC and very much involved with 9/11. As a teacher my school is located about 1/2 miles from WTC and I actually saw the beautiful towers burn and then disappear as I  stood on the roof of my school. I have photos this actually occurring. The children were unaware of the disaster outside. 

The fire department instructed the school to evacuate all students and personnel asap due tp the possible of explosion of gas lines. Sept 11 was on a Tuesday and that day was an election primary voting day. It may have saved lives since people came late after voting. 

My responsibility was to notify parents to come to school asap to sign their children out of the building. We had to keep an accounting of each child 

That went home and since our school population was 850 children there was a lot of confusion, nervous parents, and the sound of sirens, etc. 

The children were happy to go home but not sure why. Teachers and staff left the building about 3;00. Outside may people were walking north from the WTC and were covered with soot and debris.Since no subways were working there were many people. Busses were running and very crowded.

I walked home about 5 miles observing survivors and their reactions. 

When I got home I learned more of what had happened. Just to note the next few days I walked downtown to the empty site.  The smell was horrible and there were posters of missing people posted everywhere.Hospital were empty with no survivors. 

My school reopened  week later.  The response of people from around the world was amazing with letters to my school.  The children received gifts and stuffed animals and toys and didn’t understand why they received these items.  My children were mostly immigrants from China. The families are the hard working and poor and received no financial support.  They were proud to work hard in restaurants and factories in the neighborhood, 

The Lower Eastside, which as you know, is the home of many Jews in the 1900’s. It was a beautiful mix of Jews, Chinese, and Italians. 

I was fortunate to work in that School P.S. 42 , Benjamin Altman School located on Hester Street between Orchard and Ludlow. True New Yorkers know about this neighborhood. I taught for 40 years at P.S. 42 beginning 1967 after college and retiring 2007.  I was fortunate and now enjoying my retirement and actually supervising student teachers from State University of New York. 

My prayers are with the families of first responders who ran into the building not knowing or understanding the evil they would meet.

And the families who lost relatives. We will hear the names tomorrow as they are read every year.  

I hope you share this with others who value the true meaning of love and sacrifice.

I was in Los Angeles, sleeping on my sister’s couch. She came in the room screaming that the United States had been attacked. I was supposed to leave that day to return to Houston buy all flights were canceled. 

  • I had decided to do a professional year abroad and I was in a small town called Brno Czech Republic. I was walking into a room in the morning and CNN was on TV showing the towers crashing. I was not allowed to watch and I was ushered into the room. I was in awe and dismay. I was also thankful and blessed because I’m highly sensitive and it would have been difficult for me to handle in my 20’s as I didn’t have the skills yet to manage all that drama and trauma. 
  • I was between jobs (about a month into what would become 18 months) and home (near Cincinnati, OH) at a desk in our living room doing something around a desktop computer.  I don’t remember what I was doing.  Probably about 9:45 after the first plane had crashed I opened the New York Times website but didn’t stop to see what was going on.  I remembered something in the previous few days about a planned security exercise or something.  So I drilled down to another story or opinion column and left the site altogether soon afterward.  About 20 minutes later, I opened the Houston Chronicle website and drilled down to the sports to check on the Astros and perhaps the previous night’s scores.  After a few minutes it occurred to me that the main site page had similarities to what I had bypassed on the Times.  So I went back to the main Chronicle page and found out about the crashes - I believe the 2nd one had occurred by then too.  The rest of the day was taken up with news following on the computer and some on TV (we didn’t have cable but you could get non-cable stations then too).  I found myself really put out with the serial cabinet secretaries and other government officials, perhaps VP Cheney telling me in serious calm voices that things were under control.  Not long into this I decided surely Rumsfeld or Rice or Powell was going to apologize and offer their resignation in disgrace for the administration’s failure to protect the Pentagon and the rest of DC and the financial district of New York.  We were told that President Bush was being flown all over the US in Air Force One on a circuitous path back to DC so he wasn’t of much use to my sense of things.   About 1 pm I became an anti-Republican which I still am.  Before that I had been a registered Republican since voting age and Republican sympathizer for my life since childhood.  The Bush administration obviously didn’t have an adequate aerial defense for DC and New York.  I will never forgive their political party for that.  I expected to hear that 30,000 to 50,000 people would have been killed.  It’s small consolation for the total to be closer to 5000. What a tragedy!  Shabbat Shalom & Hag Sameach from your friends in OH!
  • It was my son's first weeks of kindergarten and he had just settled in with the routine.  I was in family court exasperated with another lawyer who just wanted to argue unimportant points between our clients... he was literally screaming at me in the hallway when all of a sudden the whole world stopped and everyone was glued to their phones and tv...watching the footage repeating over and over, in and endless loop....All I could think of was to rush to my sons school and pick him up, in the hope I could spare him.  And just turned and ran out the door to my car and drove to his school.   Sadly, they had allowed footage to be seen in the classrooms even in K, and were teaching them how to ground on the floor and cover head with hands...like the air raid drills I experienced as a kid in grade school.  My heart stopped cold and jumped out of my throat, or that is what it felt like.  I wanted to just get us home where i had the illusion that we would be safer, at least together.   A huge part of me wanted to chastise the school staff, WHAT are YOU PEOPLE THINKING? however, I knew the world would never be the same and my wound up tension and fear unleashing on them would serve no one.  I gathered my son and we scurried home and talked about what type of cookies we would make when we got home and then we would go play in the sprinklers outside!  bright yellow and red rainbows were excitedly voted upon...and as we iced the warm cookies I could not help but let my tears drip slowly..pondering the connection of color to the fiery hot explosions that were all over the screens earlier in the day.....a good game of water tag and some cookies and milk!!!! 
  • The morning of 9/11 for some reason I turned the TV news on while getting ready.    I NEVER do that.      The first plane had hit.  In shock I immediately called David at work, and as I was telling him, the 2nd plane hit.    Then I said "OMG, Michael, I will call and call right back".    Michael is David's brother.   He and Ellen live in New York State and Michael still worked in the City.  He had not left yet and was safe.  Ellen's sister's wife Beth watched from the next building over. One of my cousins (by marriage) had a brother walking into one of the buildings.

I was scheduled a month later to attend a national Hadassah conference at a hotel at Newark Airport for one of the projects I was involved with. The plan was I would then visit Michael and Ellen after.  I was petrified to go but my son Jonathan, 13 at the time, said "Mom you have to go.  If you don't go they win".  It was his very wise comment and knowing that I did not want to let Michael and Ellen down that got me on that plane.

After the conference and meeting up with Michael and Ellen. Ellen and I took a day to go into the City.  It was her first trip in since...  We were driving down the west side highway (Hudson River on the right) when all of a sudden she was upset. We had reached the point that we should have been able to see the Towers. All we saw was smoke.  Visiting as far south as we could was one of the most important experiences I have and will ever have. I have many photos. It is very difficult to describe it in writing.    Seeing smoke, wreckage, notices posted everywhere. A restaurant set up outside to serve volunteers, police and fire fighters.    Flags everywhere. I have been to the City many times and it was different this time. Everyone was quiet, slow, supportive. When we were returning to her car a man asked us if we were ok, did we need directions, and to be careful.

Mon, September 27 2021 21 Tishrei 5782