"People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around." Terry Pratchett
This was illustrated with crystal clarity on September 11th, 2001. That day changed so many things about our lives. We became more patriotic, but more afraid. More likely to assume the worst of foreign countries, and more likely to protect our own with uncompromising fierceness. For better or for worse, that story shaped us as few others had before.
That’s what happened at a national level. But experiences happen at the individual level as well. Below we share with you where we were when it happened. You’ll see that the experience varies from person to person - but with the exception of Nate who was very young at the time - it’s something we all remember.
Nate (22 years old)
Yeah, I don’t really know. I’m pretty sure I was in preschool.
Tony (34 years old)
I was a freshman in high school watching in the lunchroom on two small TVs. I walked through the door and joined the students crowded around them.
Noah (34 years old)
It’s like a flashbulb memory for me, even though there was nothing memorable about what we were doing. My mom, sister, and I were about to fill up the car with gas when we heard it on the radio. We just sat in the station at the pump, listening to the news.
Amy (38 years old)
I was in my dorm room, sophomore year of college, finishing up my music history homework. It was due at class in an hour and I was cursing my printer for only having green ink left. I wondered if my professor would care. Turned out, it really didn’t matter.
The phone in my room started to ring so I picked it up and heard my mom on the other end of the line.
“Turn on your TV."
I turned it on and saw a terrifying scene: smoke billowing out of one of the towers at the World Trade Center. My eyes teared up. I’d grown up in the New York Metro Area and had been to the WTC many times. I had family and friends who lived and worked in the city. My heart broke for the all people that were clearly going to be affected by this awful accident.
But as I gazed in blurry sadness at the tragedy at the South tower - a second plane slammed into the North tower.
I froze. I remember feeling my heartbeat in my entire body as adrenaline surged through me. I stopped crying and the hair all over my body rose as I realized - the first plane hadn’t been an accident. Someone had done this on purpose. This was an attack on New York City.
Not long after reports began to come in about the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania flight and over the next few days and weeks details of this highly coordinated attack began to surface. But we were destined to be shaped by this story long before we knew the truth of it.
Amy Mertz is our Creative Director, StoryBrand Certified Guide, and copy writer. On September 11, 2001 she was a sophomore at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford in Connecticut and had spent nearly all of her life in the New York Metro Area.