James Paul Zaworski
Ten years ago, I was still married and living in southern Illinois. I remember September 11, 2001 as a morning that dawned very bright and with a lovely blue sky; the evening before was the first cool evening for months. My then wife rose first, to walk the dogs one by one. I got up, about 9:15 central time, and brewed some coffee. After a quick shower and a cuppa, the phone rang. I blearily made my way to pick it up: it was my eldest brother, Bernie, calling me. He told me "turn on the television". I did. I tuned in to ABC and there was live coverage of one of the two towers of the World Trade Centers on fire, with smoke billowing outward and upward. As I watched and listened, I talked with my brother. They recapped and played video of the jet airplane flying into the north tower. At that point, it was still possible that this was an accident, some tragic malfunction that allowed the jet to accidentally crash. Just after they replayed, the scene cut back to live. As the announcer was recapping, I watched as a second jet crashed into the second tower! My brother and I witnessed this on tv, he in Wisconsin and I in Illinois. We both knew that this was no accident!
I recall my brothers words, as he spoke of this event to me: "I can't believe this! Oh my God! If dad was alive, he would be fascinated by this, and I can't believe it! This is War!" He was right. I responded with some expletives and words of agreement. I had to let him go, and tell my wife, Monica. I hung up the phone, ran out to tell her, and she came in. She couldn't believe it too.
I tried to call my mother, but couldn't reach her. I tried my brother again, but the same thing. Too many people were calling each other across the United States, and the lines got tied up.
So, we watched the live coverage and we both opted not to go to class that day, so riveted and so struck we were as Americans by these tragic events.
As the day progressed and we did go out, we learned about the other hijacking/suicide attacks on the Pentagon, and vague details about the one in Pennsylvania that crashed. I recall the guy in the Hardee's drivethru in Carterville, Illinois telling us that he heard 'that jet was shot down by the Air Force'. The rumor machine was well at work by then.
So, that is my 9-11 story. I didn't know anyone that was killed on that day, but later worked with a guy whose sister had perished in the attacks.
As an aside, I remember going outside for the subsequent two weeks (we lived in rural southern Illinois east of Carbondale), and near a small airport. We were also on the flight line from St. Louis to D. C. and were used to seeing jets and airplanes overhead as a routine. However, all flights were grounded and I remember those few weeks following 9-11 as quiet, and peaceful in the skies; almost spooky.
--James Paul Zaworski