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Where were you on 9/11? ‘Jerusalem Post’ staff weigh in

CM 08/09/2021 2

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Some world events leave an indelible mark. Like those who remember JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963, we will always relive our experiences of where we were and how we learned the news of September 11, 2001. (Incidentally, my birthday is November 22, so I have a measure of sympathy for those ‘celebrating’ on September 11.)  — stories compiled by Erica Schachne
I WAS in school in New York and pulled aside with a dozen other students who had family in the city. Students were allowed to leave once the teachers were given notice that the family members were OK. I was pulled aside because my aunt was working in the hospital next to the towers. All the students had gathered in the school’s theater to watch the news.
– Anna Ahronheim, military reporter
I was on a bus going to Jerusalem’s Museum on the Seam, where US ambassador Daniel Kurtzer had been scheduled weeks earlier to deliver a speech on that day. The volume of the bus radio was turned up full blast so that everyone could hear updated news reports of what had happened. Passengers were in shock. Some were crying. I expected the museum event to be canceled, but it wasn’t, and Kurtzer turned up as arranged, telling us that at this distance there was nothing of value that he could do other than to give us the latest updated information as he received it on his cellphone. He was amazingly calm, and this transferred itself to his listeners. 
– Greer Fay Cashman, reporter and columnist

I covered a press conference at the King David Hotel that day of an unemployed fellow named Benjamin Netanyahu, who wanted the world to know that he had predicted the attacks.
I also broke the bad news to a solidarity mission from the Jewish Federation of MetroWest, New Jersey, which included former senator Frank Lautenberg and other dignitaries. They had come to Israel to show solidarity with the people here, at a time when restaurants were being blown up by terrorists. It ended up being their Israeli friends who showed solidarity with them, proving that the living bridge of the US-Israel relationship goes both ways.
       – Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent

 A GIANT American flag flies on Flag Day on the George Washington Bridge, June 14. (credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS) A GIANT American flag flies on Flag Day on the George Washington Bridge, June 14. (credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)

I was with my newborn son, a couple of days after his brit. It didn’t take me long to break my promise not to watch the news while holding him. He’s now in the army. 
– Liat Collins, ‘International Jerusalem Post’ editor
I was 30 meters above the ground in a guard tower inside Megiddo Prison overlooking Route 65 to Afula. Tedious work, but someone had to do it. At one point a car stopped on the road below and a man got out to change a flat tire. He spied me up above and yelled out something about “New York” and “World Trade Center,” and spread his arms pantomiming a bird (a plane, I realized later). I shrugged and waved.
Only three hours later, when I was relieved of my post and climbed down the ladder to solid ground, did I make my way to the hamal (operations room). There was the rest of the unit gathered around the one small TV watching images of the buildings on fire and collapsing.
I stared in disbelief for a few minutes, then hustled off to eat, shower and nap. Four hours later, I was back up in the guard tower, and September 11 turned into September 12. 
– David Brinn, managing editor
I was packing my knapsack in an empty apartment in Ramat Gan. I went to the living room to find my mother nervously talking on the phone while staring at the television screen, where you could see pillars of smoke. I asked her what’s wrong, and she told me we couldn’t move to America yet because our flight was canceled, and no one was allowed in. I didn’t understand what was happening until much later.
We took the second flight into the US after the attack, two or three days later. 
– Tamar Beeri, Jpost.com managing editor
I was at my job at a start-up here in Israel when my dad called and told me that a plane hit the Twin Towers. I was busy though, and didn’t have time to think about what he said. A minute later, a guy from down the hall burst into our office and shared the news.
I spent the rest of my workday trying to find news websites that worked. All the big news sites were crashing because everyone in the world was trying to access them. Finally, I found that the Chicago Sun-Times wasn’t crashing, and I updated that every minute as we waited for updates about who, what, why. After work I watched more news at a friend’s house. Everyone in the street was stopping to talk about it. It was clear to everyone immediately that the world we knew had changed forever, even if we didn’t yet know all the details on how. 
– Zev Stub, business reporter
I was a graduate student at New York University, not far from the World Trade Center. I woke up that morning in my parents’ house in Queens and clicked through AOL while checking my email (I’m dating myself, but it was the source at the time for breaking news). Apparently, a small tourist plane had crashed into one of the towers, nicking it – no biggie.
Having made plans to meet a friend in my master’s program for lunch, I was confused when she anxiously canceled, saying she hoped our classmates were OK. I then went to the gym and was a bit nonplussed that they were closing early, the receptionist practically in tears.
Only when I returned home – hearing many sirens in the distance – and turned on CNN, watching the towers fall, did it begin to hit me. It took weeks to really sink in. I’ve never gotten over the hole in the skyline.
I regret that as a lifelong New Yorker (until aliyah), I never went up to the top or visited Windows on the World. I thought it would always be there.
I’m haunted by how, a few weeks prior to the attacks, I was walking near Washington Square Park one night after class and glanced through the famous arch to see the towers twinkling prettily in the distance. I stopped to gaze at them for a minute or two. It was the last time I ever saw them. 
– Erica Schachne, ‘Magazine’ editor
While driving home after my day’s work at Comverse (an Israel hi-tech flagship enterprise that has since imploded), I was talking by phone with my sister-in-law in New Jersey who told me a plane crashed into a World Trade Center building. I couldn’t believe a pilot could be so inept. A few minutes later she said the news reported that a different plane had just hit a second building there, and I remember thinking, “What are the odds?”
It didn’t even occur to me that it could be terrorism, not incompetence. Eventually, I made it to a TV screen, and finally, even I understood.
(And yes, I also remember being in class when our teary-eyed teacher told us JFK was shot.) 
– Yakir Feldman, copy editor 
I awoke on the morning of September 10, 2001 to news of yet another terror attack in Israel. 
It was close to a year since the start of the Second Intifada and just a month since the suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, which killed 15. 
I lay on a pull-out sofa in the book-lined den of my friend’s suburban home in Newton, Massachusetts. I pulled a sheet over my head as if the thin fabric could drown out news of the attack. 
It was my birthday and I was grateful to be back in my home state, where a terror attack seemed akin to a Martian landing and the lazy summer feeling still lingered as fall approached. It was the same feeling I had when I landed in Logan International Airport on September 4, grateful that one could flee violence by simply boarding an airplane and arriving at a destination continents away from the conflict in which so many Israelis and Palestinians were losing their lives.
I could not have imagined then that I entered the US precisely at one of the airports chosen by terrorists, from which to hijack two planes and fly them into New York’s Twin Towers.
While I hiked at a quarry in Rockport and later sat with friends at a birthday dinner, terrorists who were already in Boston were preparing for an attack that killed 3,000 people.
I awoke into a chronological new year, on September 11th and one that marked a new era. 
I sat in my friend’s kitchen drinking coffee and listening to radio while waiting for her to return from dropping the kids off at school. 
It was the most normal American morning scene I could imagine.
Then a newscaster spoke of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. There wasn’t an immediate sense of panic. He made it seem as if a small plane had hit the building through pilot’s error. 
It was only when the second tower was hit, what seemed like minutes later, that it became clear in one horrifying second: the US was under attack.
It was a long before-and-after second. Nothing in the kitchen had changed but we had been changed. The enormity of what had happened was cemented throughout a long day glued to radio and television.
It was like a replay of an Israeli terror attack but on a much more massive scale and one that underscored the obvious. Terror was not an isolated event and there was no real escape. It had been folly to imagine that the US was a safe harbor from its global tentacles.
– Tovah Lazaroff, deputy managing editor 


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