Family Stories: 911 Remembered… 20 Years Later

911 Remembered… 20 years later (September 11, 2021)

Today is about remembering what happened… and remembering those brave hero’s who ran into those burning buildings, never stopping to think will I come out… and remembering all who lost their lives in The Twin Towers and the hero’s on United Flight 93 as they fought the terrorist… bringing that plane down in an empty field in Pennsylvania… possibly averting the plane that was destined to crash somewhere in Washington! I can’t even imagine what ran through the heads of those brave firemen and police as they raced to the scene… and even though trained for times just like this… but never thinking they actually would have to!

These are the times that will always be remembered for years to come… It was these times that changed history… changed the way we live today… and has changed America for “forever.” I feel privileged in that I was given the opportunity to have grown up in a safe America as a child… free to play on the streets without a parent’s watchful eye on me every minute… free to go to sleep at night without worry about terrorists assaulting our country… our land… and free to have been a child without worries. My granddaughters do not have that privilege! It saddens me immensely… my generation is the last generation to truly have grown up free.

It took 10 years to build the “Twin Towers”… and only seconds for it to collapse!

I’m sure there is “no one” who doesn’t remember exactly where they were on the morning of September 11th, 2001! I was working when I first heard that a plane (American 11) had hit the Twin Towers in New York… but never thinking that this was a terrorist attack. Those thoughts soon changed as I walked over to view the TV playing in the bank area at Stop and Shop… then seeing the second plane (United 175) hit the Second Tower, just 17 seconds later. It now was clearly more than just a plane hitting a tower… and I soon began hearing words like Osama Bin Laden, Al Quida, and Taliban… words I never heard before, but now words that I would hear daily on television over the next month… and even years after. Soon Television programming that we knew before… came to a screeching halt, as there was only “news” on 24-7. My husband and watched the same scenes… over and over… and were glued to it. We didn’t watch anything else… and if you tried to get away from it… it just didn’t feel right… we felt compelled to watch every detail of what had happened, and what was happening. It was over a month before any regular programming began to inch its way back on television… but it was difficult in making the change back to what once was our “normal.”

The first thing I did upon leaving work, was call my mother in Georgia. I knew she probably had been burning up my home phone when she saw the news… as we are only a two-hour train ride away from Manhattan. After assuring her that we were all accounted for… and just like a mother, she said, “you tell them to all come home with you and stay there.” And being a mother myself, that’s pretty much the same thing I told my husband, son and daughter… as I wanted them home with me.

Manhattan was soon locked down! There was no way in or out… but yet thousands of people needed to be evacuated. I remember seeing hundreds of people walking over the Brooklyn Bridge in trying to reach their homes. And until this year I did not know, or possibly not remembering how hundreds were evacuated by boats. It was organized through the Coast Guard with a call out to everyone with boats to help transport the people who made their way to the sea wall. It was called later the “Great Boat Lift” and known as the largest sea evacuation in history… transporting everyone out of there in less than 9 hours.

The National September 11th Memorial & Museum is a memorial and museum built in New York City to commemorate the September 11, 2001 attack, which killed 2,977 people, and also the February 26th, 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six. Construction began on March 13, 2006… and opened on September 11, 2011; it is built at 180 Greenwich Street in New York City

There has never been a year since that I am not glued to the television to watch the ceremony on September 11th and listen to the names read… and never without tears. On today, September 11, 2021, many loved ones affected stood bravely reading those 2983 names.. reading the names of their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers and sisters.

Besides the 911 Memorial in Manhattan there is also another Memorial Plaza situated in a field in Shanksville, PA. where United Flight 93 crashed into an open field after the passengers and crew stormed the cockpit to derail the plane from its intended target somewhere in Washington, D.C. A 17-ton boulder sits at the final resting place of that plane, just before the grove of eastern hemlock trees which were damaged in the crash. The area is kept closed except for one day… opening only on September 11th.

As I reflect on the worst attack on American soil… I think back to that morning and how I could hardly believe my eyes of what I was seeing. Everywhere you looked, someone was on their phone… calling their loved ones, or calling to tell tell someone to turn on the news. No one could actually believe what they were watching. All I wanted to do was go home and gather my family under our roof.


© 2021, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

More stories on 911 can be read HERE.

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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