Where Were You?

Every generation has an event that galvanizes it.  Defines it.  A “signature” event so to speak.

Some are good; most are bad.  The Depression.  The Attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Kennedy assassination.  Martin Luther King are but a few of the more notable tragedies.  People can often tell you exactly what they were doing when the key event of their generation happened.  Folks will tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard that Kennedy was shot, or when John Lennon was killed.  Events of such magnitude are etched into the very fabric of our being, and literally define a generation.

My generation has been (un)lucky enough to have more than our share of defining moments, but there are two that stand out:  Challenger and 9/11.

I was in high school when the Challenger exploded in January 1986.  I remember where I was and what I was doing as if it were yesterday, and yet it’s been 25 years.  I was in my high school library, studying for an exam.  English, I think.  I recall that the sole TV in the library was tuned to CNN to show the launch.  I looked up just as the shuttle lifted off, and watched in horror as it exploded a minute later.

Yet, as significant an event as Challenger was, I think the most defining moment of my generation has to be the attacks on 9/11.

credit: Getty Images

At the time, I was working for a large insurance company as an auditor.  That particular week, I was in Fayetteville, NC auditing one of our claims offices.  For those of you who don’t know, Fayetteville is home to the Army’s Fort Bragg – one of the largest military installations in the country, and home to the famed Green Berets.  I had just walked into the office that morning, Starbucks coffee and scone in hand, when I got a call on my phone from a co-worker who had heard the news.  We turned the TV on, and the entire office crowded into the conference room to watch the news.  We all saw the second plane hit the tower.

It was as if a dark cloud descended upon us.  Shock.  Disbelief.  Fear.

I still recall that day, the feelings and emotions, the fear, the uncertainty. 

Yes, the attacks on 9/11 are the most memorable tragedy of my generation.  I’ll forever be able to say exactly where I was and what I was doing when it happened.  What about you?  Where were you and what were you doing when you learned about 9/11?

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4 thoughts on “Where Were You?

  1. I live in New York City so I was one mile north, standing on the street watching in disbelief. It seems like yesterday and I can definitely say as a New Yorker I will never, ever forget. I’m racing IMWI on the anniversary Sunday, the ultimate celebration of life. It’s a gift.

  2. I will never forget it. I was in grad school, walking into the office to hand in some paperwork. The office women had moved a TV in and I looked up to see the first building burning. I asked the girls what was going on, and they told me what they knew. Anyway, as we were talking and watching, the second plane flew into the other tower. I sat on the floor and just watched for the next few hours in disbelief. I spent that night alone in my apartment (crying, yelling, watching the updates) with my dog Bailey on the bed with his chin on my knee…

    This is interesting – on that day John (my guy) was leading a guide training class on the Penobscot River. This is a ways up in the woods, it takes some time to get there, and so news travels fairly slow. They went up to the dam for a 3rd training run of the river gorge, and they were met at the gate by armed national guardsmen. How they got there that fast, we don’t know, but I guess it is good. They didn’t tell them much…except that there was a terror attack in the US and NO ONE was allowed near the dam (it is a pretty important dam). They turned on the radio and found out what little was known at the time. But anyway, he said it was surreal, armed men meeting him at the gate he had just gone through an hour before.

  3. I think that 9/11 is a tragedy that defined every generation.

    I was a senior in college on 9/11 and was actually in an 8 am business law class (9 am eastern time) and we all sat through the class not knowing that the world was changing at that moment. It wasn’t until I walked to my second class of the day that I walked into a building and saw groups of people watching TV that I had the first glimpse of the tragedy of the day. I think that fear and disbelief were the only things I could think of for days.

  4. I was in Dallas with 2 others for a client meeting. In the lobby of the hotel we saw the planes hit the towers but then had to leave for our meeting. Afterwards, we were supposed to fly home. We ended up driving all day arriving at a hotel near Biringham around midnight. Since we were in the car all day we didn’t get to watch any of the news. We had the radio tuned in to the news and tried to stay up to date but needless to say, when we finally got to our hotel rooms the first thing we did was turn on the televisions. Although we knew what had happened throughout the day, watching the news footage for the first time is unfortunately something I’ll never forget. The next day we arrived in Atlanta and had to go to the airport to pick up our cars. The busiest airport in the world was deserted except for the military presence. They sure were a little skeptical about us dropping off a rental car.

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