What I remember most about the Twin Towers was how very windy they were from the top, and how very long their shadows stretched across the streets of Lower Manhattan. 

I was eighteen when they fell. I was going to college in Utah, and I turned on the TV on a whim that morning on my way in to make breakfast. I didn't make any of my classes that day; I didn't even make it to the kitchen for breakfast. I just sat there, cross-legged on the floor, staring at the TV in disbelief. Later, I numbly got dressed and went on campus. In the Humanities building TVs had been wheeled out from classrooms so students could watch the news in the hall. The silence was deafening. We were all overwhelmed and emotional. I've never felt so close to complete strangers in my life.

A friend of mine spoke in church today. She described walking uptown in a daze after the planes hit. She walked for blocks, next to barefoot women holding their high-heeled shoes, and businessmen covered in gray dust with bewilderment on their faces, as emergency vehicles screamed past them heading downtown. 

When I worked at the Merrill Lynch offices across the street from Ground Zero, a coworker told me she watched the second plane coming closer and closer on CNN, before realizing she could also watch the plane coming closer from out her own office window.  They evacuated the building and then she ran uptown through the falling debris as hard and as fast as she could before realizing somewhere around 20th Street that nothing was chasing her, and she had no idea where she was going.

This friend who spoke in church today shared a story. She gave me permission to share it on the blog, thanks, Ena!

Mychal Judge was among the first to enter the North Tower after the planes hit. Mychal Judge was a Franciscan priest, and a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department. On his way in to the towers that morning he met Rudy Giuliani, who asked him to pray for the victims and the city. He went in to administer Last Rites for the injured and dead. When the South Tower collapsed, he was killed by falling debris. He was carried out by firemen and civilians, and was later certified as the first fatality of the attacks.  The passage below are excerpts from his eulogy, delivered by Fr Michael Duffy.

"Mychal Judge's body was the first one released from Ground Zero. His death certificate has the number "one" at the top... Why was Mychal Judge number one?... I think I know the reason.
Mychal's goal and purpose in life was to bring firemen to the point of death, so they would be ready to meet their maker. There are between 200 and 300 firemen buried here. Mychal Judge could not have ministered to them all. It was physically impossible in this life but not in the next.
In the next few weeks we're going to have names added, name after name of people, who are being brought out of that rubble. And Mychal Judge is going to be on the other side of death to greet them instead of sending them there. He's going to greet them with that big Irish smile... he's going to take them by the arm and the hand and say, "Welcome, I want to take you to my Father."
And so, he can continue doing in death what he couldn't do in life."
Ena closed her talk with this quote from one of my favorite movies (quoting a rated-R movie in church, Ena is so my kind of girl):
"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that.  It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there--fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends,  old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge--they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."
I wrote a little bit more about 9/11 from a parenting perspective here.


  1. That was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you, Natalie!
    Smoking Crayolas Blogspot

  2. Little bit teary eyed first thing on a Monday in work, but worth it to never forget.

    Kate x

  3. what a touching story. i can only imagine the thousands more. Thanks for forwarding that.


  4. when i worked at merrill lynch and looked over ground zero everyday and heard about my co-workers' experiences it gave me a new perspective on the devastation, too. such a beautiful thing to think of that priest greeting the dead as they enter into heaven.

  5. i wrote a little bit about it also on if ya feel like reading

  6. If have to admit that reading this made me feel very uncomfortable. I question rather or not living in New York for the past year should warrant you to post such pictures and write such words? Your friend lived it. You did not! Everything i've read on GOMI seems true. You're no better then the attention seeking cast of New Jersey Shore.

  7. Uh...we all lived Sept. 11th. And no matter how many thousands of miles away we were when we watched those towers fall, we were a part of it as Americans. So, thanks, Sarah.

    Anyhoo, I, too, was a sophomore at BYU that day, and I rolled out of bed that morning feeling terrible. No joke--that's the first feeling I had that morning, and it seemed so out of place. I thought maybe I was homesick and decided to turn on the radio to cheer myself up, and it took a long time for me to realize why there was no music on. I remember running down the stairs and over to the Cannon Center in time to watch the second plane hit the towers. I was so scared for myself and my family's safety (my parents were supposed to be on an American Airlines flight to San Fran that morning), and then I discovered that a boy a few seats away from me had a father and a brother who worked in the Trade Center, and he couldn't reach either of them on their cell phones. I never found out whether they were okay, but it was a sobering reminder that my grief was only a drop in the bucket and that thousands were suffering even more than me, in an inimaginable way.

  8. Sarah, I am sorry to tell you, the woman who told the story wasn't here at the time either. Neither were many of the reporters who ran the photos or covered the story for their local newspapers. But if we're being the Jersey Shore, can I be The Situation? I've always wanted a six pack.

  9. I must add that I TOTALLY was thinking of "Love Actually" this weekend, and that wonderful quote. I love that movie something FIERCE!!!

  10. It's hard to believe that it's been ten years, and that 9/11 is history. I feel like it happened a couple of years ago. I was a brand new freshman in college, and this event has shaped my entire adult life. It unified us as a country, and hopefully we will never forget what it means to be American. I love the ending of Love Actually. It's so true. Love actually is all around, and there is hope in the world!

  11. I owe you an apology Nat. I'm sorry that I read this post as if your friend was in New York on 9.11. I'm standing buy my original statement that these pictures of Father Mychal Judge's body may not be appropriate for this blog. They are uncomfortable to look at. Did you ask his families permission to post these? How would you feel if you clicked onto someones blog and saw a picture of you husband dead from the 9.11 attacks? I LOST MY BROTHER THAT DAY!! I would feel so confused If I came across someone writing a post trying to prove that we "all lived in New York city that day." When honestly it feels like you're writing to promote that you live in NYC now. You should have stopped writing after your memories in college. No, I'm wrong. I guess you have a right to prove what you need to prove.
    Sorry again for thinking your friend was in NY during the attack.

  12. they have those pictures posted all over the place in memorials. im sure the family has approved them.

  13. This is the last time i'm going to respond. This post has opened a can of worms for me. I feel like I have been set back in my grieving recovery processes. My question is are you "sure" that the family approved of the pictures? Or, do you know for a "fact?"
    Again this post does not feel like a memorial. It reads more like a Nat the Rat promo...(after her college memory).

  14. Honestly, I love Nat. All of her writing. But I remember a story about a mother and father asking that the picture of their three year old daughter dead in a firemans arms from the Alfred Murrah building bombing not be used. It was painful for them to see it used all the time as a memorial of that day. The mother says that the photo is the worst thing that has happened to her besides actually losing her child. The photo won a Pulitzer for some photography thing, but the baby is dead. I don't think images like that should be posted anywhere. Other than that the post is beautiful. Just because we were not in NYC or OKC when their respective tragedies took place does not mean we feel less about them.

  15. i saw a lot of awful things that day and the days that followed..with my own eyes and on tv. to me the photo of fr.judge being carried by the fdny is a picture that speaks loudly to what that day looked like. a great man of God who gave his life trying to rescue people. he didnt have to it wasnt his job he was a hero.
    but that is what makes america a great place. we can think differently and it is ok.
    sarah, i am sorry about your brother . i cant imagine. i pray you find peace and healing.

  16. I gave a talk this past Sunday, too, and that quote was totally running through my head the whole time I was preparing it. Unlike your friend, I wasn't bold enough to use it. Love that movie, though.


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