ON THIS DAY    Witness      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
2001: Your memories of America's day of terror

American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 0825 EDT on 11 September 2001.

News of the disaster in New York spread around the globe within minutes, via television, radio, telephone and the internet.

Millions of people tuned into 24-hour news channels and watched in horror as it became obvious this was not a tragic accident, but part of a deliberate attack.

The hours which followed were some of the darkest in US history. Around 3,000 people died and one of the world's most famous city skylines was changed forever.

Your stories of 9/11:

My wife and newly born son had come home from hospital on the morning of September 11 2001.

My wife was watching TV as I came home from a shopping trip and she told me that "a" plane had gone into the WTC.

As we watched, there were continuing replays of the first plane going in - then there was a picture of a second plane going into another tower - I just remember saying "That's another one" as we watch in horror.

I remember the reporter going quiet as he was trying to work out if it was indeed a second plane.

I think the worst thing was seeing the towers collapse and hearing the stunned reporter.

My wife and I looked at each other and wondered what kind of a world we had just brought our son into.
Colin Davies, UK

I had that day driven from Huntingdon to deliver a Land Rover to the Queen's house at Balmoral.

I could get no radio reception for the latter part of my journey. And I then had to get by bus to Aberdeen to get the train to Edinburgh. Whilst on the train I recieved a phone call from an office-based colleague about the twin towers being hit.

My first reaction was disbelief, so I rang my eldest son who was at home, and he confirmed what was happening and kept me informed.

After obviously hearing my end of the conversation, many more were using their mobiles to update themselves on the situation.

A day that changed the world and not for the better.
David, UK

My wife and I were at our home in the US, packing a few last boxes for our move to Scotland, when we heard the news of the first plane's impact at the WTC.

We turned on the TV just in time to watch the second plane hit. Needless to say, we were numb. And of course, our scheduled flight to Glasgow on Sept 12 was cancelled.

We did make the move a week later, on Sept 17, although it was hard to leave home during a time of such deep national mourning. I will never forget, on my first or second day after settling in Airdrie, just outside Glasgow, when I walked into the Airdrie post office.

Hanging above the service windows was a series of American flags. It nearly brought tears to my eyes to sense that comraderie and support while so far from home. We've been here three years now this coming week.

Thank you, Scotland, for warmly welcoming us in such difficult circumstances.
Michael LeFebvre, Scotland/USA - September 2004

I've just watched the online recording of the BBC report of the day itself and yes, three years on I still find myself with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

It was the most powerful, disgusting, tragic event of my life and I hope such an event never takes place ever again.

It sounds evil to say but I actually hope that those that orchestrated this rot in the fires of hell. To me, the very moment the first plane hit the north tower the world changed - for the worse. It is a day I'll never forget.
Stan, UK

I was at work in Crystal City, VA, just up the road from the Pentagon.

We were watching the replay of the plane crashes into the Towers online and on TV when someone came inside and said there was smoke coming from the Pentagon.

The phone lines were jammed so we could not get a land line out. I was only able to get one call out of my mobile phone to my family to let them know I was coming home as fast as I could.

When I left the parking garage under the building in my car there was a GIGANTIC plume of smoke coming from the Pentagon. The plume went on for a few miles over the road I was traveling. As I sped home I passed a few of the first response emergency vehicals going towards the Pentagon.

Reports from the various radio stations just added to my terror so I played a Gospel cd for much of the trip home. When I finally made it home, and turned the radio back on I heard the news of the second Tower falling. It was devestating to think of how many lives were likely lost and what the resulting US response to the attacks would bring.
Dana, USA

I was in Darwin, Australia, on deployment with the US Marine Corps. We had just finished our training and had a day of liberty in port. I returned to the ship early that night and was woken up by another Marine and told about the attacks.


" The next day we left port and went in the direction of Pakistan "

US Marine Jesse Smith

I didn't think it was anything more than rumours but at about 0200 that night the Marines of the Battalion Landing Group were called together in the hanger bay of the ship for accountability, and it was then that I found out what happened.

It was hard to believe. It's still hard to believe. The next day we left port and went in the direction of Pakistan.
Jesse Smith, USA

I remember I had been painting the hallway of my house that morning with my brother. My mum had made us a cup of tea. I switched on the telly for what should have been a quick five minute break.

I flicked up the Ceefax headlines which had a brief report of the World Trade Centre on fire. I quickly scoured the 24-hour news channels to see live pictures of the apparent "accident".


" I thought it was going to be one of those televised American rescues, and that people would be air-lifted off the roof by helicopter "

Kevin Grist, UK

I thought it was going to be one of those televised American rescues, and that people would be air-lifted off the roof by helicopter. I couldn't comprehend at that point that this was a deliberate act.

Soon all the mainstream channels were running live images too - it was clearly a big deal. Ten minute later and suddenly, the second explosion - was that an airplane? I choked on my drink and my jaw dropped. I think I said "Oh my God" continuously.

That one explosion changed the course of everything. No words could describe the hours and days that followed. Truly horrific.
Kevin Grist, UK


" What I saw chilled me to the bone "

Ben, the Netherlands

I was asleep on the couch, drifting in and out of consciousness. I had fallen asleep with one of the Dutch TV channels on and the background noises from the telly started to blend in with my dreams and thoughts.

The words about a plane hitting the WTC were not strange at first as they became part of my dream. Then some five, 10 or perhaps 30 minutes later I woke up properly.

I remembered having heard the telly in my sleep and a very strange and somewhat disturbing sentence about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. That wasn't true of course, I had mixed up some things in my sleep. But to rule it out or to see what had really happened I switched on CNN. What I saw chilled me to the bone. I sat perplexed and frightened.

After about three minutes I witnessed the second tower coming down. By then I was wide awake. I had to think about all those poor people trapped inside. I watched for several hours.

I went shopping for groceries before the shops closed. It was eerily calm, people spoke in hushed voices, shocked and well aware that this would change the world as we knew it, but uncertain in what ways.
Ben, the Netherlands

On 11 September 2001, my wife and I were in Washington DC We had just had breakfast and went back to our hotel room to collect our camera before heading for a tour of the Pentagon. By chance, we switched on the TV and saw the burning image of the first tower of WTC on fire. At that point, no-one knew it was terrorism, it was thought to be a tragic accident. Soon after the second tower was hit.

We were stranded in Washington for three days more than we intended. The overwhelming memory was being told not to leave the hotel as a state of emergency was declared in DC. Phones lines were jammed and the streets were filled with people. There were Military Police at every corner. Thank goodness we had forgotten our camera.
Steven, Scotland


" Suddenly the subject lines on emails were blurting out 'SWITCH TV ON NOW' "

Cait Hurley, UK

I was on holiday in the south of France, it was baking hot outside and I was downloading my email, expecting to spent a few minutes chatting with mates before going off for another delightful trek in to the Pyrenees.

Suddenly the subject lines on emails were blurting out "SWITCH TV ON NOW" and other more blatant exclamations of shock. I called to my Dad as I went in to the front room, "There's a rumour that the World Trade centre has been hit by a plane".

Finding CNN my jaw dropped to the floor, and all of us were gripped in horror until some time later - I realised we'd been watching the television for five hours without a break. CNN had their camera live when the second tower went down and I gasped a sob, it was as thousands of souls had been snuffed out in that moment. Truly unbearable misery and shock.
Cait Hurley, UK

I remember I was in school (it was about 1100). I had just sat down for biology class, the bell was about to ring and my friend Brittney came in and sat her things down and said, "Ya'll know they bombed the pentagon don't you?"

We asked questions of course, and my teacher went online to see if she could find out what was going on. About a half-hour later my mom called my grandma to come and pick me up, because she didn't know if there'd be anymore attacks, and we lived close to the area.

It's weird now, but I remember I was scared to go outside. I didn't know it wasn't bombs until I had gotten home and turned on the news. I remember I fell asleep watching those planes.
Crystina, USA

As I watched the smoke billow from the fallen towers 20 miles south, counted the fighter jets that buzzed overhead and began to accept that terrorism had placed its putrid paw on my front lawn I kept thinking "this too shall pass".

So many catastrophic events involving our country have led pessimists to forecast our downfall yet none have done so. America is not just a group of citizens; American democracy is a precedent for the future of all people.
Amy, USA


" They closed the school that day and even evacuated the 22-story dormitories on campus, fearing that more planes might be coming "

Maggie, UK

I was in my final year of university, living about halfway between Boston and New York at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I came out of my first class and met up with some friends, one of whom declared, "We're at war. Somebody just flew a plane into the World Trade Center. We're going to war."

Those of us assembled didn't quite believe it and I just chuckled and headed off to get some breakfast. In the car I turned on the news and heard the earliest reports - so early that nobody really knew anything - and it chilled me to the core.

As I was queuing in the local Dunkin' Donuts I watched the first tower collapse. I will never forget that sight. The second tower came down, and I just couldn't believe the sight of it... One of the most enduring images of the New York skyline, those towers that I'd stood on top of, vanished forever.

I went to my next class and everyone just sat in shocked silence. They closed the school that day and even evacuated the 22-story dormitories on campus, fearing that more planes might be coming.
Maggie, UK


" I flew back to the UK the next day over Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East - that was a LONG flight "

Gordon, Sweden

When the second plane hit the tower I was passing a TV in the hotel I was staying in Delhi. Like everyone who was there I became transfixed. Experiencing the event surrounded by Americans (some with relatives working in the WTC), Indians, Israelis and people from all over the world gave what happened a very raw and immediate impact.

We all sat and watched the slow chain reaction take place. I never felt so far from home or so far removed from my family.

I flew back to the UK the next day over Afghanistan, Iran and the middle east. That was a LONG flight.
Gordon, Sweden

I was sitting in my class in grade six (I was 12) when another teacher came in and said that a commercial airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers. As the morning progressed I learned that the other tower was hit. I then knew that it was not an accident.


" Bush is still trying to get revenge which may just hurt the world more "

Peter, Canada

My teacher began to talk about terrorism and trying to soothe us. I had no idea of the seriousness of the event. When it was recess another grade six class seemed not to care at all about it and were gossiping about boyfriends and girlfriends. My friends and I were disgusted at their behaviour.

At lunch I watched on the TV screen as the first tower crumbled. The day progressed with an eerie feeling in my gut. I had no idea of how it would change things for me, for it is my generation that will be affected the most. And now Bush is still trying to get revenge which may just hurt the world more.
Peter, Canada

I was about to leave for my duty on 11 September 2001, and I saw the terror attack on the US through the TV and stopped and watched. I prayed God to rescue all the people who were trapped in that building.

I will never forget such a tragic event in my life. I advise US defence force and people of US to watch out for every possible attack attentively to avoid such an accident in the future.
Gurung Lab Kumar, Hong Kong SAR

I was in my study when my girlfriend said "hey, look at this fire!".

I assumed it was of a local factory which had gone on fire the day before but I couldn't believe it was the World Trade Center. I explained to my girlfriend I had been at the top of it back in 1989.

Then, astounded, we saw live footage of the second plane hitting. We were simply mesmerised by TV like never before.

Then, it got even more surreal when the towers came down. I have to admit it scared me like never before - I could not comprehend what I was seeing.

I felt the need to go to my local and talk with my mates about it, and I've never ever known a single news story create so much interest and fear. It may sound macabre, but it will be the defining day of my entire life here on earth.
Andy Lillie, UK

I am from Northerm Jersey and the college I went to for my undergraduate education has a high point where you can see the Manhattan skyline.

On the morning of September 11, I was sleeping until the first plane had gone in. A family friend had phoned me to go and see the towers as they had been attacked by a plane.

I couldn't comprehend the degree without seeing the destruction, until I saw it myself.

Within a few minutes of the first attack, while we were watching the tower go in ashes, the second tower was hit by the plane. I couldn't understand why two planes would miss in a morning and thought it was slightly unusual.

It was very scary as a lot of students from my college, some even friends, were interning in the WTC for the semester. We had no know-how of these students and parents of so many others that we went to school with.
Payal, USA

It was just a regular day at school and I was at the University Library. Someone walked up to me and said that a space shuttle had crashed. I looked at the computer screen and I just saw some explosion.

I thought it probably they are remembering the people from the earlier shuttle (challenger) disaster. Then when I read the news, there was an alert that a plane crashed into the WTC.

The school had just announced that it would be closed and I still remember a young girl behind me jump with excitement that it was going to be a holiday. Personally, I was horrified.

Went home and turned on the TV and they were covering the incident live. I saw a small plane at the back of the building and to my surpreise it crashed into it too. Then came the comments: "Oh my god, this one crashed into it too" or something on those lines. Thats when it occured to all of us that it was a planned attack.
Prakash Krishnamoorthy, USA

Witness: Kevin Ivers, US
Kevin Ivers was in his Washington DC apartment, about 10 blocks from the White House, when he saw news of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center.

"I called my mother in New York, where I was born, and she was also watching. We both knew people who worked at the World Trade Center. Then I saw a massive explosion in the second tower, live on TV again.

"The balcony doors of my living room were open - it was a beautiful, perfect day. I began switching channels to try and get more information quickly. I then heard the sound of a distant explosion, like an echoing thud. It sounded like a garbage truck many blocks away dropping a dumpster hard on the ground.

"Minutes later, I saw live video of a plume of smoke rising over downtown Washington, and it was reported that there was a fire at the Pentagon. What began as concern for my family and friends in New York turned into panic as now there were attacks in Washington.

"The TV reports were now becoming feverish - there was a fire on the Washington Mall, an explosion at the State Department, and then live video of people - some of whom were undoubtedly colleagues of mine from political campaigns - running out of the Pennsylvania Avenue gates of the White House. Scores of people in suits and ties, running and crying. Men with machine guns screaming at them: 'Run! Run!'

"I slid onto the floor, having not moved an inch for almost an hour, in a complete panic. Washington is a very small city. My sister, who lives in Maryland, reached me on my mobile and started screaming at me to run out of my house. I told her I had nowhere to run to.

"I was hearing loud booms in the city (we later learned they were sonic booms from fighter jets arriving overhead around 1000 EDT). She was crying. I was crying. I said that I loved her and hung up."


Search ON THIS DAY by date   

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |