I was in Holland, for a good friend’s wedding. I think it was a day or two after the wedding, and I was in Utrecht (it was afternoon in Holland), in a television store, looking for a VHS player that could play international VHS settings. The guy in the store had just told me that they don’t sell those, but I could buy a Dutch one and just get someone who knew about these things to open it up and change it illegally. I was debating this while aimlessly wandering around the store, when I heard two people in the next isle go “Oh my God, is this real? Oh my God!”
I wandered over, just in time to see the second plane crash into the second tower on live TV. These two people and I were the only people in the store when it happened, but within minutes the place was packed with people watching the footage in horror on the many screens, as it was playing over and over again.
After about 20 minutes I walked out in a daze of disbelief, not being able to wrap my mind around it yet. Outside I had to make my way through throngs of people watching the news on the TV screens in the store window–passersby who saw it out of the corner of their eye and stopped to see what that was.
As I walked toward the train station, to go back to my brother’s place, every cafe was packed with people watching TV. In the train, strangers were talking with one another about how unbelievable and shocking it was.
Back at my brother’s, I immediately called T, who was at home in the U.S. with the kids, then four and two years old. T was also finding out if all our friends in New York were okay.
In the meantime it had become apparent that these were well-coordinated attacks, and we also learned about the attack on the Pentagon and the White House. I admit I was freaking out and I wanted T and the kids to come to Holland immediately, but of course that wasn’t feasible or even rational. But it was my first reaction. And T, of course, wanted me home with him and the kids as soon as possible.
My brother, my sister-in-law and I were glued to the TV for the next few days for news. No planes were flying from Schiphol to the States, and thousands of people were stranded at the airport. People who lived near Schiphol were inviting Americans to come stay with them until more was known about when they could continue their flight home.
I was scheduled to fly home myself a few days later, and for a while it looked like that wasn’t going to happen, but in the end my plane was one of the first planes to fly from Schiphol to the States after the attack. It was almost completely empty. I got to stretch out across an entire row of seats.
I had tickets to Houston and from there to McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley, but Tony was too anxious to see me, so he drove the kids to Houston to pick me up there. We were so happy to be together again!
Since we were in Houston anyway, and T didn’t want to drive straight back again, we went to the aquarium, but it felt weird and our hearts weren’t in it. Of course B, who was four, was oblivious and thoroughly enjoyed watching the stingrays swim overhead.
So where were you on 9/11? What were you doing? How did you first hear about the attacks? What was your first reaction? Let me know in a comment.