The memories from Sept. 11, 2001, are vivid. For many people who lived through that day, it’s difficult to believe that 20 years have passed since that horrific Tuesday morning that changed America forever. On 9/11 the United States came under attack as four commercial airliners were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists and targeted U.S. landmarks. Close to 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks that day.
In New York City, two planes struck the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center, one plane hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and another, United Airlines Flight 93, went down in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Flight 93 is believed to have been headed toward another Washington, D.C., landmark. The heroes of Flight 93 had heard what happened in NYC and Washington and took action to fight the terrorists and defend our country. Passenger Todd Beamer famously said, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” Passengers then stormed the cockpit to attempt to regain control of the plane. The hijackers responded by crashing the plane into the ground. The Flight 93 passengers sacrificed their lives but saved countless others as well as our historical landmarks.
A lot has changed since Sept. 11, 2001. Of course, we now have social media networks to keep track of the latest news events and share our thoughts. LinkedIn would launch two years later in 2003 and Facebook a year after that. The social channels are valuable communications tools for our clients, and now we have many ways to mark life-changing events—the good and the bad—in real time.
On this anniversary, the BOCA team is thinking of the 9/11 victims and their families as well as the brave men and women who have kept America safe in the 20 years since 9/11.
Here, BOCAteers remember where they were on that day 20 years ago:
1) Kathleen Shanahan, Founder
As a West Coaster, I was dead asleep. I got a phone call from my dear friend and work colleague that we were not going into the office, everything was shutting down and to turn on my TV, immediately. The United States was under attack. I couldn’t believe what I was watching — my beloved Twin Towers were on fire, smoke everywhere, people running — it was crazy. My friends came over and we were glued to the TV, crying. We were stunned. Terrorists entered our country and executed a calculated attack with a mission: mass casualties of American citizens. As Gracie Hart (aka Sandra Bullock) said at the end of “Miss Congeniality,” “I really do want world peace.”
2) Anthony Lam, Account Supervisor
On the day of 9/11, I was in second grade and remember arriving at school only to be told that I need to return home for safety purposes. The next day, I remember going back to school and having the teacher explain what happened in New York City.
3) Brian T. Horowitz, Content Strategist
The night before Sept. 11, 2001, my sister and I stood outside Madison Square Garden watching a parade of stars go into Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary concert. There was Michael holding the arm of Elizabeth Taylor. We saw Toni Braxton, Phil Collins and many others. The next morning as I was traveling to work on the Long Island Rail Road, a train conductor pointed out the black smoke coming from the World Trade Center. As we approached the East River Tunnels, out the window I could see the North Tower encircled with black smoke, but the people in my railroad car didn’t react.
When we got to Penn Station, I turned on my Sony Walkman and heard the radio DJs Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill on the now-defunct WPLJ. They were broadcasting from upstairs in Penn Plaza. I heard them react live as the second tower was hit. (WPLJ replayed this tape on their last day on the air in May 2019.) At first, I was unsure what to do at that point. Do I go to work? Go back home? I decided to walk toward Park and 28th, where I was working as a copy editor at Computer Shopper magazine, a CNET publication at the time. I saw the towers on fire as I looked down 5th and 6th Avenues. I also saw fire trucks and first responders racing downtown (they were our heroes that day).
When I arrived at the office, I saw my coworkers glued to the news, and we watched the Twin Towers come down on TV. We were in shock and in tears. Some people went home after that, but the city was under lockdown with no trains operating, and I didn’t feel comfortable walking over the 59th Street Bridge back through Queens toward Long Island during a terrorist attack. We were afraid to go outside because we didn’t know if chemicals had polluted the air from the hijacked planes. Some of us remained in the office as a shelter to monitor the events and check in with family members throughout the day. As we looked out our conference room windows, we saw the smoke from Ground Zero. That afternoon, my sister joined me at my office, and then we were able to get an LIRR train back home at the end of the day.
Commuting to the city was never quite the same after that, but two days later, I returned to the office. Life goes on as we honor the 9/11 victims and first responders.
4) Lauren Brown, Writer
I was a sophomore in high school on Sept. 11, 2001. I remember being in my computer class, and my teacher came in with a very worried look on her face and she was crying. She turned on the television that was hanging on the wall, and we all watched the news and tried to make sense of what was going on. As the day progressed, I had some teachers that talked a little about what had happened and some who insisted we carry on with our regularly scheduled plans. I don’t think anyone knew how to correctly handle such an unbelievably tragic and scary situation. That night I went home and attended a prayer service at church with my family. It was such a sad day that I will forever remember and honor by teaching my own children about the lives lost and those who gave so much helping others.
5) Wendy Brittain, HR Director
I was living in San Francisco at the time and woke up to the terrible news on TV. I spent much of the day absorbing the horror of what had happened and trying to make any sense of it with family and friends. My dad was a firefighter here in the Bay Area, and my heart immediately went to the first responders at the scene as well as their families who must have been so worried about them. The loss and pain for everyone directly impacted was just unimaginable. At some point during the day, I made my way down to the Marina district to take my friend’s dog for a walk and, as I walked through the neighborhoods, I noticed how empty the sky was. There were no airplanes in sight until I saw one large jet come into view from the north, flanked by two United States military aircraft. I later heard it was a commercial flight arriving from China and was one of the last planes to touch down at SFO. It was pretty surreal, and I could only imagine how odd and, perhaps, frightening it must have been for those passengers on that flight.
6) Michelle Andersen, Account Director
That day is so clearly etched in my mind. It was so strange because I remember thinking how beautiful it was outside. I was supposed to be on a conference call from home but couldn’t get through, and I was thinking about how much trouble I was going to be in for not joining. Then my cousin got through to me by phone and told me to turn on the news. It was shocking like nothing I had ever experienced. I watched everything unfold in the news as the second plane went into the World Trade Center and then people were shown jumping to their deaths. Those images haunt me to this day.
The story of Mark Bingham also had a profound effect on me because he was in PR and from the Bay Area, like me, and my colleagues knew him well. By all accounts he was a wonderful person. According to SFGate, “Mark Bingham, 31, of San Francisco was a passenger on Flight 93. A leader of the charge into the cockpit of the doomed flight, Bingham was a 6-foot-5 public relations executive who had played rugby at UC Berkeley. He was gay, and after his death his mother, Alice Hoagland of Los Gatos, became a vigorous advocate for gay rights, airline safety and cultural understanding.” Even though I did not know him, he has been in my thoughts.