Where Were You?

Some events occur during our lives which have a significant impact on us. I still remember my first kiss, and the slap that followed. I was living in Lamesa, Texas, and was in the second grade. What was I thinking?

I remember the first time I saw some kid hit another kid in the face with a fist – Ozona, Texas, eighth grade. I could not imagine doing that, and never have.

Then there was the very long drive from Waco, Texas to Lubbock, Texas in a blizzard – December, 1961. The trip took twelve hours, and the heater in my car was not working. I was moving home to attend Texas Tech.

More important events  I remember include the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was pulling into the parking lot of the Music Building at Texas Tech for my one o’clock choir rehearsal, when I heard the report on the radio. We were all in shock.

More recently, and on this day 13 years ago, I distinctly remember where I was when the twin towers in New York were destroyed by terrorists.


My wife and I had taken a twelve day cruise of the British Isles and Norway. It had been a delightful, magical trip, but, as usual, we were ready to get home to our family and animals.

Cruising through a fiord

Cruising through a fiord

Our cruise ship in Norway

Our cruise ship in Norway

On September 11, 2001, we departed Dublin, Ireland, and were scheduled to land in Newark, New Jersey, where we would connect to our flight home. About half way through the flight, we felt the plane slow down. I said, “Something is wrong. We shouldn’t be slowing down yet.” Little did we know how wrong things really were.

The Captain came on the plane’s intercom and explained to us that there had been an incident in the United States, the airspace had been shut down, and we were being diverted to Gander, Newfoundland. Wait! What? That was a long way from home, and not on our itinerary. The details were sketchy at first, but little by little we were told more about what had happened.

After landing in Gander, (we were the first plane of more than 50 that would eventually end up there) we sat on the tarmac for 16 hours. The two reasons for this delay were the fact that we were on an American owned airline, and that Gander authorities had to figure out how to handle over ten thousand unexpected guests.

Gander airport with 50+ planes

Gander airport with 50+ planes

At three o’clock in the morning, we were finally able to disembark. There was food and water available for free in the terminal; school bus drivers had come off strike, and were waiting outside to take us to our destination; and we were finally deposited in front of the Riverside Pentecostal Church in Glenwood, a small town outside of Gander, where we would spend the better part of the next four days. The members of the church had been preparing for our arrival for several hours, and had food, clothing, blankets, pillows, toiletries, and a big screen TV for our use. As we watched the collapse of the twin towers on the television, it was our first look at what had actually happened. It was a jaw-dropping moment.

HP0003                                  HP0004

We were very grateful for the hospitality shown us. Had it not been for the fact that we were bone weary, and possibly a little in shock, it would have been a pleasant diversion. There were a lot of congregational members present to ease our concern, but I distinctly remember one young member who has stayed in my mind. He was the pastor’s son. He was about ten years old, red headed, freckled faced, and with ears that stood out like satellite dishes.

Since it was a school night, I started our conversation by asking, “Shouldn’t you be in bed? Tomorrow is a school day.”

To which he replied, “Oh, no sir, school has been cancelled because of this event.”

“Well,” I said, in the most sincere tone I could muster, “We really appreciate everything you folks are doing for us.”

He stood tall, looked me in the eyes, and proudly said, “Ah, you’d do the same for us.” I certainly hope he was correct.



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15 Responses to Where Were You?

  1. shutterpug says:

    Amazing story of that fateful day and I think that little boy spoke eloquently and I too hope he is right. We were in southern France on vacation when it happened and actually did not know until the next day when we turned on the tv to see planes flying into the buildings. It was horrific and so frightening. The French were very good to us and expressed their sympathies and a French friend said his house was open to us for as long as we needed to stay. We had several more days of vacation and were fearful of flying home but desperately wanted to get home. On the flight home, American Airlines upgraded us to first class to our surprise. When the plane landed in Dallas, everyone burst into applause. A very emotional moment, to say the least!

    Thank you for sharing your story and bravo to the people of Newfoundland!

  2. Kiki says:

    I love your story Troy of “Mans’ humanity to man,” after the dreadful case of ,”Mans’ inhumanity to man.” It shows that there are so many decent and courageous people in the world. When the 9/11 attacks occurred I was living in a small town in the UK called Frome, Somerset. I had just come in from work at my college in Wiltshire and was watching the 6PM news. Teaching all day, I had heard only snippets but was not fully aware of the enormity and horror of that terrible day. Our town collected for the firefighters and invited some of them and their families over for a vacation. Our firefighters hosted the families and shared their homes with them. There is a memorial dedicated to their fellow firemen and they hold a minute’s silence around that, every year on this day, outside the tiny fire station.

  3. Doobster418 says:

    Yours was, under the circumstances, a heartwarming and reaffirming story.

    I was at work and one of my co-workers ran into my office. “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center” he said. We ran to the cafeteria where a crowd had already gathered in front of the TV. The only sounds that could be heard were those coming from the TV and the sniffles coming from those watching, as most of us were crying. Even me, a typically stoic, unemotional male. No one was speaking. We were all shocked into silence.

    I spent a lot of time that day…and much of that week…crying.

    • As I reflect back on those days, I remember the feeling of frustration, stemming from the fact that we were not at home on American soil. I’m not sure if I cried, or just cringed every time I saw the replay. However, we were surrounded by so much love and caring. That alone made this one of the most memorable events in my life.

      • Doobster418 says:

        I think, no matter where we were, at home or away, we all came together that day; we were all there to support one another on a day of unspeakable horror and tragedy.

  4. Wayne Barton says:

    Really nice blog. I think most people have milestone memories. Like yours, mine are not all attached to tragedy. In the 1st grade, my friends dared me to kiss Nedra which I already thought was a good idea. Immediately after my first foray into romance, she walked up to the teacher and revealed my advances. In a voice that insured everyone in the class would hear, Mrs. Bennett said,”Wayne, would you kindly stop kissing the girls in this class. It was the first of many social embarrassments I was to experience. It also taught me what the true color of red looks like.

  5. Aunt Beulah says:

    Wonderfully told; one of the best pieces I read on the anniversary of that terrible and sad day.

  6. jennkcreates says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and highlighting the good in humanity experienced that day. People forget now, 13 years later, how important it is to see that humanity. So many people are trapped in their own busy affairs, that they forget to notice others and offer that kindness you speak of.

    I myself was a senior in high school in my first class of the day, theater. During the morning announcements, they switched all the TVs in the rooms to the local news channel and we all as a school watched the events unfold. Classes didn’t happen that day, we spend the whole time in our first class of the day, even eating lunches in the classroom. Everything stood still as we all watched and cried together as we watched the coverage. This was our generation’s first experience of a world changing, life changing tragedy, and it changed all of our lives immensely. I will never forget that day and how much it changed my life. It created a level of compassion and awareness of individuals that to this day has never gone away. It showed me the importance of personal relationships and overall kindness to people I do not know. It taught me to be aware of those around me and offer that little bit of kindness and humanity to all that I come in contact with. Thank you for writing about this. 😀

    • Sadly, the initial feeling of loving kindness spawned by this event has faded during the last 13 years. I don’t want us to experience another such event, but I would like for us to experience a new surge of love for all humans and animals. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Mom says:

    I haven’t been able to wrap my head around this one well enough to write about it yet in my own stories. There was just so much that happened in those days. What a complete transformation of our lives! Some day?

  8. It was, indeed, an event that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The worst thing about the days we spent in Newfoundland, was the fact that we were not at home. It was very disconcerting. Thanks for the comment.

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