Where were you on 9/11?

Where were you on 9/11? It’s a common question we ask every year on this day. A tragedy ingrained in our memories and wherever you are in the world you will likely have that recollection of place and time.

Looking Back – Coincidences

There are some coincidences in my recollection of that fateful Tuesday 20 years ago. President George W. Bush was here in Sarasota, Florida, where I live. I remembered this as I was driving to work and passed some protestors on the corner of a main intersection. On that morning he was talking with a class of elementary students at a local school when the first attack happened at 8:46 AM. I was a few miles away working at a job fair. I was on the opening team of a luxury brand hotel that was due to open two months later and we were just getting ready for our second day of interviewing potential staff. Some of us were sitting together in the break area prior to opening the doors. One of the other team members put their head around the door and said “Come and see what’s on the TV. A pilot has just crashed a plane into one of The World Trade Center buildings.” We all looked at each other thinking it must be a small 2 or 4 seater private plane. There is no way a commercial pilot would do that.

That was just the beginning of the awful events that would unfold throughout that day and the following days, weeks and months and years. You know the rest. Sadly, it did not end on that day. Thousands dead and then we went to war with Afghanistan for the past 20 years and even more dead to mourn. To this day there are still people dying from the fallout of 9/11.

We also discovered in the days following 9/11 of another local coincidence. Several of the terrorists who hijacked the planes had been receiving pilot training at a flight school just 20 miles south of Sarasota in Venice, Florida. Why this part of Florida was front and center of that horrific day, I don’t know.

Fast Forward – 20 Years On

This week our local bookstore sent out an email to its subscribers to share a beautiful poem by Billy Collins, a New Yorker, who was the U.S. poet laureate at the time of the 9/11 attacks. A year later, he wrote a poem,The Names, in honor of the victims. He read the poem before a special joint session of Congress held in New York City in 2002, and here he reads it again. I had not heard it before and it is really quite moving. It is so beautifully written and you will likely want to listen to it or read it more than once. The poem is also listed below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Rest in peace all those whose lives were so tragically taken on 9 /11/2001.

Where were you on 9/11?

The Names by Billy Collins

 Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
 A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
 And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
 I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
 Then Baxter and Calabro,
 Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
 As droplets fell through the dark.
 Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
 Names slipping around a watery bend.
 Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
 In the morning, I walked out barefoot
 Among thousands of flowers
 Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
 And each had a name --
 Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
 Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
 Names written in the air
 And stitched into the cloth of the day.
 A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
 Monogram on a torn shirt,
 I see you spelled out on storefront windows
 And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
 I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
 Kelly and Lee,
 Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
 When I peer into the woods,
 I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
 As in a puzzle concocted for children.
 Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
 Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
 Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
 Names written in the pale sky.
 Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
 Names silent in stone
 Or cried out behind a door.
 Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
 In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
 A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
 A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
 And the names are outlined on the rose clouds -
 Vanacore and Wallace,
 (let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
 Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
 Names etched on the head of a pin.
 One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
 A blue name needled into the skin.
 Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
 The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
 Alphabet of names in a green field.
 Names in the small tracks of birds.
 Names lifted from a hat
 Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
 Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
 So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

—Billy Collins (c) 2002
*This poem is dedicated to the victims of September 11 and to their survivors.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday - Where

  23 comments for “Where were you on 9/11?

  1. September 15, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    I was at the hospital. I’d just been given the “all clear” regarding Breast Cancer, I wanted to celebrate but no-one was in party mode that day.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 18, 2021 at 2:20 pm

      Wow, what a day for you and everyone. I can imagine how elated you were and understand why everyone else didn’t want to celebrate. I’m happy you were OK ☺️💕

  2. September 11, 2021 at 3:34 pm

    I didn’t see this poem the first time around. So glad you shared it today.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 11, 2021 at 11:25 pm

      Thank you Laura. I found his words so beautiful and soothing ☺️❤️

  3. September 11, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing, Christine.


    • Christine Bolton
      September 11, 2021 at 2:28 pm

      My pleasure David ☺️💕

  4. September 11, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    A moving poem you have shared Christine, thank you 🙏 I was working at a telephone directory enquiries call centre (in the UK): for a few hours, the whole switchboard fell silent. Then the calls started coming in for embassies and airlines.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 11, 2021 at 12:31 pm

      I can imagine those calls coming in Ingrid. New York is so international with people from everywhere. No wonder people were calling in for numbers of embassies. You must have received some very emotional and disturbing calls that day 😢

      • September 11, 2021 at 12:44 pm

        Actually it wasn’t too bad – I think because we were based in UK, I didn’t speak to anyone directly affected.

      • Christine Bolton
        September 11, 2021 at 1:19 pm

        That’s a relief in a way 😢

      • September 11, 2021 at 1:20 pm

        Yes 🙏

  5. September 11, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Apparently it was 9:03 am when the first one happened. I remember exactly where I was. Readying the day and opening the Floral Shop I managed in Toronto. My Boss had gone across the street for coffee and suddenly I saw him running back yelling The Trade Centre has been hit as he went up stairs to his apartment. I had no idea what it meant, I put the radio on listening for a bit and customers started to come in and talk. All I knew was this was a disaster and horrific.
    I remember trying not to think about it and knew when I got home I’d be glued to TV watching horrible outcome, It was then I felt the true impact of 9/11. Disbelief, shock, confusion. 😔.
    I’ll never forget. How could anyone. 🌺

    • Christine Bolton
      September 11, 2021 at 9:42 am

      Yes that was the time the second tower was hit. That whole day was mind blowing, confusing and numbing. Watching the memorial service in TV right now and it is very moving 😢

      • September 11, 2021 at 2:49 pm


      • Christine Bolton
        September 11, 2021 at 11:25 pm


      • September 11, 2021 at 11:37 pm


  6. September 11, 2021 at 8:57 am

    I read, but have not listened yet. I will come back after a few hours and try again. Such a difficult day to remember.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 11, 2021 at 9:06 am

      Thanks Maggie. When yOu hear his voice it is very soothing. ☺️💕

  7. September 11, 2021 at 8:52 am

    Thanks for sharing. I was in high school when it happened and I remember the teacher turning on our small classroom TV. We all watched in silence. It was very surreal. Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since that day.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 11, 2021 at 9:00 am

      Yes Nick. It’s as if those 20 years skipped by in a heartbeat. Thanks for reading and commenting ☺️💕

  8. September 11, 2021 at 8:40 am

    Such a heartfelt and moving poem Christine. Thanks for sharing

    • Christine Bolton
      September 11, 2021 at 8:59 am

      Thanks Sadje dear. I thought it was very moving and I loved his choice of language. You’re right, it was heartfelt ☺️💕

      • September 11, 2021 at 9:24 am

        You’re welcome ☺️

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