GCSV Interviewers, Editing and Transcription:
The September 11th Project was initiated by GCSV in order to better understand the reactions of adolescents and young adults to the events of September 11th.
We were especially interested in how people discovered ways to cope with the fear, anger, and despair which these events evoked—to understand the naturally occurring strategies that people discovered in order to deal with these events, often in the absence of previous experience with this degree of threat or perceived threat, and often without professional intervention or recommendation.
The sample of interviews from the September 11th Project
below capture a wide range of reaction, reflection, strength, and courage.
“Things like that just make me feel numb”
Describe how you found out about the Sept. 11 attacks.
I had just come out of the bathroom and my roommate came
in and said,
"Turn on the T.V. because the Pentagon and World Trade Center were just hit
by planes and I thought she was joking.
What was your first concern?
I thought about my uncle who works in the World
Trade Center but for some
reason I knew that he would be okay, it wasn't such a concern. I was more
concerned with who did it.
How would you describe your initial reaction?
When I realized what happened ... I was really skeptical
at first, the
pictures didn't even look real. I don't want to say that I was untouched by
it but things like that just make me numb.
How much were you actively thinking about what happened after Sept. 11?
I think about it again but I keep myself
emotionally distant from it. I
guess I would describe myself as "removed" more than "numb." It's mentally
there, but I haven't ... I don't know.
Did you talk to your uncle that same day?
No, his cell phone wasn't working. I heard from my mom that he was okay.
Was he there when it happened?
Yeah, he watched it. He was on his way to work and he
was a couple blocks
away when the plane hit.
Do you know how that affected him?
It was really emotionally crippling for him because he
works in the city,
he loves the city. I mean, I was born in Brooklyn but he, my parents,
everyone in our family who has come over from Europe has lived in New York
City. It was just devastating for him.
Did he lose any of his friends?
I don't think so. He doesn't have an office there. He's
engineer so it just happened that at this time he was posted in that
building. His associates weren't in that building.
What is your reaction to Anthrax?
I'm taking them seriously but not too seriously. I think
cats because if these really were terrorists, I think they would be doing a
better job of it. So as cruel as that sounds ...
How often do you watch the news since this has happened?
Between 15-30 minutes a day. I usually read the New York Times online.
How do you feel about the media's coverage of everything?
I thought the media would have been more muckraking and
trying to be very
anti-terrorist and trying to incite fear in us and possible anarchy but I'm
surprised that the media isn't doing that. I think they are treating it
How have your parents responded - especially having you in D.C.?
I guess they're okay with it. For a while, my mom kept
telling me to buy
a map and find an escape route. Even though D.C. is a target, along with New
York, it is probably the most heavily guarded. We're relatively safe.
What concerns do you have now that you didn't have before Sept. 11?
Just how big this war is going to be - that's really scary
to me. And
just the fact that I know now that they want to reinstitute Muslim religion
as it was in the Medeival world. That's the fundamentalist aim to flush the
Western influence out so that the Muslim religion will reign supreme. That's
a really scary thought. I just found out about it - it's really scary.
So would you say you are most concerned about the war?
I was just discussing this with my dad and he said that
what would be even scarier - and he works in the hospital so he kind of
knows what to watch out for - so, not to induce fear or anything, but how
scary would it be if someone infected themselves with smallpox? That would
scare me more than Anthrax because it's a virus. And if they were going to
infect us, I think they would do something like that - something that we
don't have a cure for.
What about other people's reactions - such as your younger siblings?
The 6 yr-old doesn't even know. I think she knows that
the towers fell
but she doesn't know the magnitude. The other one, I'm not really sure, I
can't read her that well, she's 14. She doesn't have the tie to New York as
much as me and my cousins who lived there.
What about your friends? You said one of them was pretty affected by it.
Yeah, one of them is nuts about it. I think that it's
really making her
depressed. She wants to just leave and go somewhere else. It has made her
really disillusioned. But she's nuts anyway. And then my hometown, there are
all these American flags - I mean 2 out of every 5 cars will have one. It
has produced a lot of patriotism ... and anger. Everyone is angry. Everyone
who has these American flags up, seems overly eager to attack Afghanistan. I
mean, what did bin Laden expect we would do? He thought we would bomb
Afghanistan so we're feeding right into his hands and I think we're creating
even larger tensions between those countries. So I think they're showing
patriotism but I think they're also showing a bit of ignorance.
How did you find out about the Sept. 11 attacks?
Rico came running, hysterically yelling that
someone had crashed into the
Were you in your room?
A: No, I was walking from one class to the other. I sort
of thought he was
joking but when I came back, there it was on T.V.
B: I found out that the Pentagon had been hit at the beginning
of my 10:15
class. At the dorm, there were a bunch of people running around saying,
"Call home, tell everyone that you're safe," and then I turned on the T.V.
and found out that it was the World Trade Center too.
And how did you initially react to it?
B: I thought it was a joke. It was very surreal.
What were your initial concerns? Did you know anyone
directly affected by
A: I didn't.
B: Personally, no, but I knew my parents knew some people
unaccounted for for a while.
A: Actually, a friend of mine lost a sister in one of the plane crashes.
How is your friend doing now?
A: I'm actually not really good friends with him. I stayed
with him over the
summer. His older sister was a professor here who was on the plane that
crashed into the Pentagon. But he seemed to be okay.
So how much would you say that the attacks have affected you?
Then and now - with all the Anthrax findings too.
B: It was kind of hard to ignore for the first week and
a half or so. Now
I'm just paying attention to new developments but I wouldn't say that my
life has been completely changed. I don't travel a lot. I could see how it
would affect a lot of other people. I glad that people are a little more
self aware and the only other thing I have noticed is a much greater sense
of patriotism. American flags everywhere - more national identity I think.
What's your take on the increase in patriotism?
B: I think it's genuine. I'm glad people reacted that
way rather than trying
to be revolutionary or anti-patriotism.
Do you have any concerns now that you didn't before?
A: You always worry about what's going to happen next.
Is this Anthrax thing
being done by the same people who did the World Trade Center. Is it a
distraction while something bigger is being planned? I don't go around
worrying about everything but I think about it more I guess.
B: Because I have lived around here, it's not something
I sit around and
think about all the time, but if someone decided to drop a nuclear bomb on
the White House, the Pentagon, CIA or even the FBI, that's it. I'm here.
But, you know, I can't let that get to me. I had thought about that even
before Sept. 11 but that was a sort of reality check. But I think we're able
to deal with something like that.
With everything that has happened, what would you say
A: My biggest concern is that Anthrax is
being used as a distraction while
something else is being planned.
B: I think war is my biggest concern. I'm a pacifist more than anything.
Do you know anyone who is over there right now or who may be called over there?
B: I know someone who might be. One of my best friends
from a long time ago
is in the Naval Academy so he might be going over if this doesn't blow over.
How do you feel about the media's coverage of it? How
often do you guys
watch the news?
A: I watch the news at night and a little
bit during the day just to check
things out. I don't sit around at stare at it all day.
Do you think the media is treating the events fairly?
A: I think a lot of it, especially this Anthrax thing
is getting overblown.
But I'd say the rest of the coverage is pretty good.
How have your parents responded?
B: I went home just to sort of check in.
A: My parents prefer that I drive back and forth though
it's more of a
convienence issue since I can only fly from Baltimore now.
Do either of you have a younger sibling?
B: I have one 16 yr-old brother. He has been a little
more indifferent than
I thought he would be.
“It was like a movie or something”
Describe how you found out about the Sept. 11 attacks.
Actually, I was interning for my representative on Capital
actually, I had just gotten off the Metro and everyone was watching the T.V.
in the office and that was when the first plane had hit. And then the second
plane hit and then when we heard that the Pentagon had been hit, it was
chaos. Everyone started running out of the building. That's when I left the
building. I got on the Metro and came back to Georgetown. And while I was
walking over the bridge, I could look over and see the Pentagon burning.
What was the mood on the train as you were coming back?
Everyone was afraid of everyone else. The guy in charge
on the train
reminded everyone not to leave any bags and if we saw anyone leave any bags,
to report it.
What were your initial concerns when you heard about what happened?
That my mom would be worried about me.
Were you at all worried about your own safety?
Not really. It's kind of weird - I guess I should have been.
What was your mom's reaction?
She said she was trying to get through but she couldn't.
She wanted me to
come home - rent a car and drive back to Wyoming.
How long did it take before you were able to get in touch with her?
A couple hours maybe. Because the GUTS buses weren't running
so I had to walk across the bridge. When I got back here, I used our phone
and I got through.
What was your initial response to the attacks? I mean,
you saw the
Yeah, it was like a movie or something. It was so close,
it didn't seem
Did you know anyone who worked at the Pentagon or in
New York that you
were worried about?
What is your response to Anthrax?
I think the media is making a bigger deal out of it than
it is. People
just need to be careful. People in places where it could just turn up seem
to be less worried about it than others. I talked to my friends in Wyoming
and they're really worried about it.
How often would you say you watch the news?
Everyday. I keep up.
Would you say you watch the news more or less since Sept. 11?
I would say more because I work over there [Capitol Hill].
I see what's
going on everyday - it's like I'm kind of in the news too.
What's your biggest concern right now?
My biggest concern right now is that either an Iraqi or
Al Queda has some
rogue nuclear weapon and if they wanted to attack somewhere, it would
probably be Washington, D.C.
How do you feel about the war?
I support what we're doing. I think the Taliban needs to be destroyed.
Do you know anyone who is over there or might be called over there?
I don't but I was reading some Wyoming news today and
I guess one of the
army special forces people who died, in the helicopter crash over there, one
of them was from Cheyenne.
“Shock, disbelief, and confusion”
Describe how you found out about the Sept. 11 attacks
I was walking across the Leavey Bridge and ran into an
old friend of mine
and I told him I was off to work and he said, "You haven't heard?" And I
said no. He told me that two bombs had just gone off in the World Trade
Center and to be sure to stay on campus today. I thanked him for the warning
and came back to my room, turned on the T.V. and started getting more
What was your initial reaction?
Shock, disbelief. I really didn't know what was going
on and it was more
confusion, like, "what the heck is going on?"
And while you were watching the news, what was your reaction?
I think it continued to be disbelief and just not fully
what was going on and just trying to get as much information as I could. And
then, I'm an R.A., so talking to residents and making sure they called home
and that everything was okay with them. So first, confusion, shock,
disbelief and then the realization that it was really happening and making
sure everyone else was okay.
So what was Sept. 11th like for you?
Hectic. I called home immediately just to tell her I was
fine and warning
her not to call because she wouldn't be able to get through. I spent the
rest of the day either on my floor talking with residents, making sure
everyone was okay or that everyone's families were okay or going to staff
meetings and other meetings on campus.
What was your mom's reaction?
She was glad I called. I think in the same way, she had
a lot of
disbelief and just glad I called more than anything. She wasn't really
worried. She knew the Pentagon was a ways away from me. She was just
grateful for that communication line.
What were your initial concerns?
I never really thought about my own safety. I guess I
put a lot of faith
in authorities and I guess I was really lucky because I don't have any
family or friends who work up in D.C. but I do know people here who were
What changes have you noticed in those who were affected?
In the weeks right after that, it was very interesting.
A couple nights
after it happened, a lot of kids locked themselves out of their rooms - just
not thinking about it. There were a lot more violations - nothing big - just
people were really loud, students were acting out. Just little things that
normally there would be one or two but the whole building just kind of
erupted and I think it was just a general reaction. We talked about it a
lot as a staff and how we were going to deal with it and what to look for
and then there were some outward emotional changes where people weren't even
realizing what was happening or that they were doing it. And then, every
once in a while there would be people who just completely withdrew. And I
had other residents who came and sat in my room for an hour or two and said,
"I need to talk." This started it and then everything else just sort of came
out - everything that was bothering them - this was just a catalyst for
What are your reactions to Anthrax?
It's really scary. The whole idea of bio-warfare, bio-terrorism
just because we're not prepared for it as a nation. They have clearly said
that, they don't know how to deal with it.
What is your opinion about the media's coverage of everything?
I can't watch it anymore. Around Sept. 11, the T.V. was
always on, I was
always trying to get more information, I was trying to understand what was
going on and what would happen next. That weekend, I was going to Delaware
with a group of friends. As a group, we decided not to be glued to the
television. We saw that there weren't any new developments. I don't usually
watch T.V.. I read the Wall Street Journal every morning for class so since
then, the T.V. hasn't been on. I know there's only so much I can take -
specifically with Anthrax. The media is saying that certain drugs aren't
going to help but at the same time, they're giving them to Congress members
as a precautionary measure. I think they need to be more careful about what
What concerns do you have now that you didn't before Sept. 11th?
Bio-warfare and just the idea of being at war. It's interesting
was talking to some of my international friends and they're not nearly as
concerned as Americans because they face stuff like this much more
frequently than we do.
"Vulnerability… just knowing that anything could
happen when you least expect it"
How did you find out about the Sept. 11th attacks.
My roommate, Lauren, woke me up and we started listening
to the radio
because we don't have cable T.V..
What was your initial reaction?
Did you have any initial concerns?
Not really because we didn't know what the extent of the
damage was. We
heard that something happened, but I didn't know that buildings were going
to collapse or anything like that.
Did you know anyone who worked around either of the two areas?
No. I knew people who knew people but I didn't actually know anyone.
How has it affected you?
Just kind of like ... vulnerability, just knowing that
happen when you least expect it. It kinda puts you on edge.
How have you responded to the Anthrax threats?
It's really scary knowing that it's happening but at the
same time, I
think it's terrible that people are blowing up that fact even more - like
sending out mass e-mails and stuff like that. I wish people would just stick
to the facts so that we know what's really happening - distinguish between
fact and fiction.
How often do you make an effort to get the news?
I usually see the news on my computer and watch it once every 2 days.
How do you feel about the media's coverage of everything
specifically, of Anthrax?
I think the media's coverage has been really good and
presenting things as they come and not trying to hide things from the
How have your parents responded, especially having you in D.C.?
They've been pretty worried. They will call me sometimes
when they find
out something new but it hasn't been a hysterical reaction. My mom will send
e-mails saying that she hopes I'm okay.
Do you have any younger siblings?
What concerns do you have now before Sept. 11?
Just concerns about bad things turning up where you least expect it.
Have you stayed on campus more than you normally would have - what about traveling?
No, I haven't been afraid to leave campus. Obviously I
didn't the day
that it happened but I still go into D.C.
And how do you feel about the U.S. being at war?
I think it's pretty scary but I think that we have to
do what we have to
do to defend ourselves. But at the same time I realize that a lot of
innocent people are being killed as they were here.
Do you know anyone who has had to go or might have to go?
Not anybody that I directly know.
“I was just in complete disbelief about it.”
How did you find out about the Sept. 11th attacks?
I was getting ready for class and I guess it was around
9 o'clock or so
and one of my friends IM-ed me and asked, "Have you heard that someone
bombed the World Trade Center?" and I just didn't believe it. And the T.V.
in our room didn't work so I checked the online news and that's when I found
out about the first tower being hit. And then I actually went and watched
the news and saw the second tower being hit.
What was your initial reaction to it?
At first I didn't believe it. I didn't know exactly what
it was. I just
heard that someone had attacked the World Trade Center. I didn't know if it
was a bomb or airplane or what. I was just in complete disbelief about it.
Even while you were watching the news?
Yeah. I missed most of it because I had to get to class.
Once I got back
from class is when I heard a lot more.
Did you have any initial concerns about someone you
knew or your own
Not really, not any of my family or anyone I know closely
works in the
city but coming from New Jersey in a town that's like 20 mi outside, I know
a lot of people from my town who work there and I was a little concerned
about that and about friends' parents and stuff but not really firsthand - I
wasn't really worried about that.
So how did you spend Sept. 11th?
I went to class first and then eventually I went to my
apartment, which is off campus. We just stayed there and watched the news
coverage and just stayed close and tried to get in touch with my parents.
How did your parents react?
They were really worried actually - more so now with the
threat of more
attacks. They were trying to get in touch with us when the phone lines were
How do you feel about Anthrax?
The whole thing is sort of unbelievable. There isn't too
much we can do
besides just recognize the symptoms and then deal with it. It's just scary
that something like that could happen. And it's growing every day it seems
How much do you think the media's coverage of Anthrax
affects how you
feel about it?
I think they're doing a good job or reporting all the
emphasizing how important it is to get checked out if you get any of the
What concerns do you have now that you didn't have before Sept. 11th?
Just how vulnerable we are because there's only so much
we can do to
defend ourselves. Really just all we can do is keep our eyes open and be
safe and be able to react when something happens if it does happen.
Has your life changed directly in any way because of it?
I've realized how lucky we are that no one I knew was
by it, or got hurt in the attacks.
And do you?
I have one friend who I graduated with who was just sent
Afganistan, I believe. He just enlisted in the Marines or maybe the Army and
his boot camp got cut short. I think he went over there to stabilize land or
“I remember the fear of not being sure what would
How did you find out about the Sept. 11th attacks?
It was actually really embarrassing because I found
out pretty late. I
had an 8:50 and I went there and then I had a 10:15 to 11:30 and the teacher
didn't mention anything about it, which was really weird because it happened
at like 9:15 or something. So I had just been in class and then I was
walking back to the dorm and I passed my friend, Mike, and I was like, "Hey,
Mike," you know, all cheerful and he looked at me and was like, "Did you not
hear what happened?" and then he told me.
So no one from your second class knew?
No, it was really weird.
And what was your initial response?
I was shocked and I don't think that I quite grasped how
serious it was
at first. I knew that a lot of people had died but I didn't connect it to
terrorism right away. Because I had just found out about New York and then I
went back and found out about the Pentagon. It sounds pretty stupid because
at first I thought it was an accident. I was like, "Man, was the pilot drunk
What was your initial concern after the reality of it sunk in?
I remember the fear of not being sure what would
happen next, like, "oh
my gosh, I'm in Washington, D.C." My parents were calling, my sister called
me and she was crying. I remember the scariest thing being what would happen
next and I also remember being really sad. I remember going to church and
everything and just being blown away by it.
So what was Sept. 11th like for you?
I spent it trying to get in touch with people except it
was so hard. The
phones were all busy. So, I remember just going to a friend's apartment and
watching T.V. and not really knowing what to do. And studying ... I almost
felt like I should just go to the library just to get my mind off of it but
it just felt kind of wrong. It was really weird. I watched T.V. a lot and
just kind of sat around and talked.
You said you went to some of the church services. What were those like?
I went to the 2:15 service and it was beautiful. The president
there was lots of singing, inspiring songs and it really calmed me and it
was really good.
Do you know anyone who was directly affected by the attacks?
My next door neighbor at home, back in St. Louis, their
daughter had gone
to a school in St. Louis, had gone through college and everything and she
was working in the towers on that day and I knew her pretty well and she got
out. And my uncle, my god father had actually just gotten fired from his job
in August or July and it was this horrible thing - we were all so upset
about it because he had had this great job.
Have you talked to him recently?
No, but my roommate from last year, who I'm still kind
of friends with,
her father is a New York City fireman and she said that they had lost a lot
of friends of the family. And her father was working on the scene all the
What are your reactions to Anthrax?
I'm really scared, really scared. Especially at Georgetown
because a lot
of students are interning on the Hill and stuff like that.
How often do you watch the news now in comparison to
when the attacks
It's bizarre - but almost less. I used to read the news
CNN.com but it's like, "I just can't take anymore." Some times I don't even
go online but I still try and skim the headlines every morning.
How much of your fear, do you think, is partially in
response to the
I think it's more the politicians, you know, Ashcroft
getting up there
and saying, "Another attack is definitely going to happen." Things like the
that and the media just covering that. Oh, I don't know, I don't think the
media is really handling it all that well. Like a lot of the things about
going to Afghanistan and the shots of all the people celebrating and stuff -
I think that was a little unnecessary.
How have your parents responded to having you in D.C.?
At first they were really scared but they have really
calmed down a lot.
Actually, I'm the one freaking out more than they are right now. It's the
Anthrax thing - they're not really concerned about that, which is comforting
What concerns do you have now that you didn't have before Sept. 11th?
Public transportation, definitely. Not even flying because
I took a train
to Boston a few weekends ago and I just noticed that there was no security
whatsoever. You just got on the train and it was this huge rush of people.
So, I think I would almost feel safer flying because security is so high
now. And taking the Metro, you know, no security.
Has your life changed at all since the attacks? Do
you go into the city
No, I still do stuff like that.
How do you feel about the U.S. being at war?
At first I was against it but I think it's necessary now.
Except I think
it's wrong to call it a war on terrorism. I don't think you can ever end
terrorism. And I don't think this is going to be such a short thing, like
they're advertising. I think it's going to stretch on and on.
What would you say is your biggest fear right now?
Probably Anthrax because it doesn't seem like we're able
to stop it or do
that much to prevent it because it just keeps happening. That's definitely
my biggest fear - biological warfare.
“I had no idea what was going on.”
How did you find out about the Sept. 11th attacks?
I was actually asleep because on Tuesdays I don't have
class until noon
and so I was alseep and then the phone rang and I sort of stumbled out of
bed and missed the call. Then about 15-20 minutes later the phone rang again
and it was my roommate's dad asking for her and wondering if she was okay.
And I was like, "What are you talking about?" He told me to go find a T.V.
and explained that two planes had gone into the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon. He was like, "Go find a T.V. and have Kate call me." She was in
class. I went down the hall into this kid's room where a bunch of people
were watching it. And we just watched the news for a long time.
And what was your initial response?
Complete shock ... and sort of disbelief. And I had no
idea what, like if
it was a terrorist attack or what. Just really complete shock and
bewilderment and confusion. I had no idea what was going on at all.
How long was it before you realized that it was actually happening?
It might have been a couple of days for it to really set
in that it
happened. I mean, I knew that it happened but it didn't really set in for a
couple of days.
And what were your initial concerns?
The first thing that I thought about, and this is sort
of weird, was that
world order was going to change - that's things were never, ever going to be
the same for America, that is was never going to be at the top of the world
again. And in the time that we have grown up in, we haven't grown up in a
time when America was even at war with anyone that was a real threat. When I
was really little, there was the Gulf War but I never really remember being
concerned about it - it was always just a side thing. And not such a
complete confidence breaker.
And how has it affected you?
Honestly, it hasn't really - except for when I think about
it. It hasn't
affected my everyday life. It hasn't affected where I go or what I do - just
what I think about, really and what I talk about. I just talk about it a lot
more and it comes up in a lot more things and everything sort of relates to
it. But in terms of my activities, it hasn't really changed them at all.
When it comes up in your thoughts, what do you focus on?
After it first happened, I got really angry at the way
a lot of America
was reacting to it. When I would read about masques in Illinois being
marched on, having rocks thrown, I would just get so angry. It just made me
realize how discriminatory we really are. Even though we think we're so
diverse and accepting, we're like, "Yeah, we think we're so diverse except
for you - you're not American." I just started thinking about that a lot.
Did it directly affect anyone you know?
And what are your reactions to Anthrax?
It's scary. I have always thought that biological warfare
is the scariest
kind because it's really impossible to stop. I mean if someone were to drop
a bomb with Anthrax in it, I mean, weapon Anthrax in it, it would take
ten minutes for it to spread through the entire city. It's not something
that can really be controlled. It's also kind of amazing what has been
happening, just like in letters, small amounts. Not weapon Anthrax, it's
just natural Anthrax, which makes me feel better in a way but I know there's
the possibility of more. So it's really scary but I feel like I'm kind of
jaded and not really paranoid about it. I'm just sort of waiting, I guess.
How much do you watch the news now and how much did
you around Sept.
Well, I don't have a T.V., so I don't actually watch the
news that often.
I go online pretty much everyday or every other day to CNN or the Washington
Post. I have CNN send me headlines every morning and I click on the ones I
want to read about. And then I watch the news, just sort of catch it when
it's on, but not very often. Right after it happened, I watched it a lot for
the latest developments but I ended up just turning it off because they
would say the same things over and over again. Right before it, not that
much, I would look at the newspaper occasionally.
So, overall, what do you think of the media's coverage?
I think at first, it was a lot of sensationalism. I don't
know if the
media was trying to get people really riled up or that people were getting
really riled up but the media didn't really help. I think that for the most
part, it was pretty good. But I think a lot of it is really, really
pro-America, which I guess is good, I don't know. I have studied a lot of
Anthropology and a lot of times when a culture is faced with a crisis, they
rally together and sort of reject cultural relativism, which makes the group
stronger and they use ethnocentrism. So, we're in a crisis now, but at the
same time, I don't think ethnocentrism is the way to go in most cases. So, I
think it definitely has a pro-America bias, which can be expected because
it's all American sources.
How have your parents responded - especially having you in D.C.?
My parents are really relaxed, not worried people so the
day it happened,
my mom called and just told me to call my dad at work. He thanked me for
called but he knew I wasn't anywhere near the Pentagon. So, they don't seem
too worried. The thing they were worried about was flying home for
Thanksgiving and they just reminded me not to take my pocket knife on the
plane because I could get in a lot of trouble. They weren't really that
concerned about it. For Christmas, I'm traveling over to Ireland with my
friends and they were just like, "you have to get on with your life. You
have to just go and do it." So they're not too concerned. They were actually
joking around about it the other day. My dad is a doctor and he asked me if
I wanted him to write me a prescription for that anecdote that cures
Anthrax. I told him I didn't think I'd be needing it.
What concerns do you have now that you didn't have before Sept. 11th?
I'm concerned about going to war, I guess we're
kind of at war, I mean,
they deployed ground troops, which is scary. Just because I have never
really been alive when there has been a war. With the gulf war, maybe it was
just because I was so young or because it didn't get much coverage but I
really just didn't think of it as that much of a war. I have a feeling that
this one is going to be long and drawn-out - sort of like Vietnam or
something. I really just think that it'll last a long time because there's
no real enemy, there's no real target. It's just like so vague and all
across the world. You know, how do you attack and who do you try and kill?
And after them, who else? There's going to be more people. I'm just
concerned about being in a war for a long time.
What long-term effects do you think this will have on America?
I think it will definitely change the world order of things.
we're still at the top, we're not so far ahead of the rest and we're
definitely more vulnerable. And we definitely can be hurt and people didn't
always think that. I think it has definitely spread a huge patriotic
movement, I mean I don't know how many American flags have been sold since
it happened. I really hope that it doesn't perpetuate racism and things like
that and I think that it is. But I hope that we figure out a way, that if it
does because a long drawn-out war, that we figure out a way to make sure
that we teach little kids that this isn't a war against Arab or Afghani
people. I hope that that doesn't happen.
"You hear so many voices and you realize that there's
no real authority."
How did you find out about the Sept. 11th attacks?
I was in my room and I was doing work and I finished it
and I turned on
What was your initial response?
Actually, the radio announcer didn't say what was going
on. He was just
talking about how to evacuate the city. So my response was utter fear. I was
like, "what's going on?" And then when I finally found out, I think because
I was initially so afraid, I was still really afraid. Things were flying
into the Pentagon. And my dad works for the fire department and he has told
me all about terrorists and biohazards, so I was really scared ... I'm a big
What was your initial concern?
I don't know. I didn't feel threatened specifically
but it was sort of
like you were alarmed for yourself in a way. But I was just really concerned
that something else would happen, the whole day, you thought that something
else was going to go on.
Do you know anyone who was directly affected by it?
Not really, my best friend, she goes to NYU, they had
to evacuate the
dorm, my dad had to fight the fire. My uncle is a D.C. fire fighter also and
my other uncle is a New York policeman. So my whole family was there but
nobody was hurt.
How did you spend Sept. 11th?
I don't know - just with people ... in crowds.
What are your reactions to Anthrax?
I think it's freakin' scary. It's really scary. I think
it has the
potential to get out of hand. It's so shocking to realize that these are
public figures that who have never had to do anything this important. I
mean, your life is on line and it's just people that are there for you.
How much do you pay attention to the news now?
Too much. I watch it too often.
What's your take on the media's coverage?
Well, I watch CNN and CNN has to do stuff constantly and
I feel like
they're doing too much ... and I'm probably just paranoid but the way that
they talk about Anthrax, it's like they're saying, 'oh, it's not that bad,
we can handle this. But guess what they could do that we couldn't handle?'
It's sort of like, why are you telling us this? I heard that one of the
letters said, 'blah, blah, blah, Allah.' It's just kind of weird. I wonder
what their intentions are.
How have your parents responded?
They try to calm so that I'm calm.
What concerns do you have now that you didn't have before?
Obviously Anthrax. I didn't know anything about the conflict
Middle East before this. I didn't know anything about politics, so that's a
concern that has developed.
How do you feel about being at war?
I think we have the upper hand over there. I'm really
about the domestic ... front. I don't feel like they're moving fast enough.
I feel like they are letting things happen that don't need to happen. Or, it
seems like they have to wait for things to happen in order to respond. I
don't feel like that has to be.
Do you know anyone there now or someone who may be sent over there?
One of my friends just married a guy in the air force.
Was the marriage partially in response to what has happened?
No, it was because she got kicked out of the house.
After I turned off the tape recorder, J. asked me if other people have
mentioned being scared too. I told her that many of the females I have
interviewed admit to being scared but males are more reluctant to show fear.
We talked about the media's coverage so more and I jotted down the following
"You hear so many voices and you realize that there's
no real authority."
Anthrax: “People are making it more dangerous than it is.”
What are your feelings about Anthrax?
People are getting too excited about it. Because, just
from a biology
standpoint, the more antibiotics people take, the more resistant it'll
become and it will become more deadly. So right now it's not a big deal -
you can get treated real easily. People are making it more dangerous than it
is. Honestly, if there were a really hard core strain of Anthrax, then I
would be worried especially being in Georgetown. I mean I'm not crazy
worried but it's a reasonable threat if it comes through the mail or whatnot
but right now I just think there's too much craziness about it.
"They made it out to be this giant panic that the
whole world is going to get Anthrax”
What do you think about the media's coverage of Anthrax?
I think they've gone a little overboard. It's somewhat
necessary but I
think they've done a horrible job of explaining Anthrax and how it's spread
or at least they did initially. I guess they've done a better job because
people jumped on them for it. But initially they made it out to be this
giant panic that the whole world is going to get Anthrax ... it was one guy.
How soon after the 11th did you go back to work? [he
has an internship at
the White House]
And how was that?
It was crazy because I got evacuated straight out of the
building as soon
as I got in there because of a bomb threat.
And how are things now?
Well, things are very different. Security is a lot higher.
We had to move
our offices because the National Economic Council's offices - the Executive
offices building is on the part that borders the street and they were scared
of a car bomb, permanently. They literally shut down the all the floors on
the entire side of the office building and we had to move into different
offices in the interior part of the building. They kicked a bunch of
departments out - they had to use different federal office buildings.
“It was like a Kafka short story”
Well, what I will always remember is the night before. Before going to sleep, my roommate and I were talking about how there hadn’t been any major news in like three years, since the war in Kosovo. And, I remember the next morning, going to take a shower and coming back in and my roommate telling me to turn on the news. But we didn’t have cable at that point so we had to run over to these friends of ours across the way, we turned on the news and we watched it all happen, and we both looked at each other like whoa, ya know, we just said last night that there have been no major news in like three years. And then, I just remember franticly running across campus looking for places to watch it, seeing what everyone was doing. And I think the other thing that I will always remember is watching the first tower collapse because, I mean, it was just surreal. It was like a Kafka short story that this gigantic, the fourth largest building in the world, had just collapsed. I mean it really was surreal, I don’t think I will ever forget where I was when I was watching it. I mean, it’s just one of those, I mean, this is like the Kennedy assassination for our generation, when everyone will know exactly where they were when it happened. I also felt on the one hand, nervous and on the other hand grateful, for actually being in Washington DC because we were there, we were so close, literally two miles away from the Pentagon. And, I mean, obviously, you really didn’t, I didn’t know how to describe it at first, like everyone, because I was as much in shock as everyone else. And, it really did take a few days for it to sink in. And, well, once the chaos had cleared, when everything was being explained because obviously when it first happened no one knew what was going on at all. But when it all started to be explained and I think we could really take it in and contextualize it. But I think one thing I will always remember is the feeling I had as I watched the two towers fall, knowing that I will always remember where I was when I saw that.
What have you been thinking about it since then?
Um, I have actually been thinking how, after the first few weeks after it happened, everyone was glued to the news every day. But now, and people then didn’t believe that several months after everything would be back to normal in the sense that they wouldn’t still be fascinated by it. But I think that’s actually happened, and other events are taking up space in the news, and people are thinking about other things now. And I think everyone knew it would happen, but they didn’t, they just couldn’t, well they knew it would happen abstractly, but not, but they didn’t believe that the day would actually come when they would, say, go an entire day without thinking about it. But I think that’ starting to happen now. And it’s still amazing to think that it was only I guess three months ago, it does seem like a long time ago now, but it was only three months ago yet there are days that go by that I, and I’m sure many other people don’t even think about it, which is sad in a way but also very necessary.
What kinds of reactions did family, parents, brother, sister have?
Well, my family’s reaction, because my family doesn’t live here in the United States, but they know what I am at University in Washington, their first reaction was to try to get in touch with me, first by phone, which was impossible, and then by email. So, I spent a great deal of time that evening responding to emails from various members of my family. They, I mean, they were in just as much shock as everyone else, but concerned as well. I think because they were so far away and knew probably less than we did here in Washington. I think we were lucky in a way in that we were so close to, we were so close to the news base and, I suppose because we were in so much danger, being where we are, we were kept abreast of the situation quite well, whereas my family in Scotland really weren’t. So their first concern was for my safety. My immediate family, my mother and father, felt the same way. They tried to call me but couldn’t so they emailed me. But I think once I got in touch with all of them and let them know that I was fine, that everyone here was fine, that settled them down a little bit.
Any other thoughts?
No, just that I, just that I don’t see any, I don’t well,
hopefully, nothing else will be of such magnitude to replace this as our
generation’s Kennedy assassination. And I really think that this, that
fifty years from now, all of this of this generation will be talking to
each other at some reunion or something else and say to each other, ‘yeah
I was here I was there I was sitting with this person on my couch watching
it happen, in my basement apartment in Village B’, which of course has
happened with the Kennedy assassination and then I suppose the bombing
of the World Trade Center, the first one, as well.
“It was so incredible; You see the pictures all the time, but to be at Ground Zero, or to see it face up, it takes your breath away.”
Any reactions, like how you felt about September 11th?
Can you be more specific than that?
Um, I don’t know, what were you thinking right after as opposed to now, over the last couple of months?
Well one thing I think is interesting is the fact that, like for the first month after it happened everybody was all gung-ho about like “yeah, go patriotism” and all that, and now pretty much, as predicted the American public has lost interest already.
Do you find that you have lost interest in it also?
No, I haven’t lost interest in it, I still watch it and stuff. And, one thing I will tell you, and I hear this from a lot of people too, is that people have turned more conservative since that, meaning that people who were more liberal who tended to side with the left wing, have turned more right. And I think that’s true of me also, especially with regards to, people are more inclined I think to sort of give up, well not to give up, people are more inclined to, people who advocated before about civil liberties and things like that, and respecting rights like wire taps and things like that, all of a sudden those people have sort of changed a little bit and I think I am one of them. Does that make any sense, I wasn’t really wording it correctly...
Don’t worry about it! What kinds of reactions did your parents have?
Ok, I can tell you that, well first of all, I have a lot of family who lives in Mexico, a lot of my family lives there, and my mom said that each and every one of them called her up the day that it happened. Like, they wanted to know what was going on with me and everything because they know I am in Washington. And I hadn’t spoken to her yet, so she didn’t know and she was very upset. And, one thing that everyone in my family said in Mexico was that they couldn’t believe that something like this could happen in the United States, that they were just shocked by this.
They said they see this happen all over the world, but it just took their breath away, they didn’t think that this could happen in our country. And, so my mom was freaked out, she wanted my dad to come pick me up right away and drive home. And we have friends that live in Virginia, and my dad’s like “Go over to their place in Virginia”, and I was like “Dad, the subways aren’t working” I was like “there are no cars on the road, how am I supposed to get over there?” and he was like “walk across the Key Bride, a car will meet you there and it will transport you to a secure location.” I was like “Dad, I am just going to stay here”, and then he’s like “well go to the lower floor of your building, I don’t want ay planes crashing into your building.” I was like “Dad, relax”.
Do you find that they are still worried about your safety now?
Oh, yeah, they definitely are, my dad won’t give me a cell phone, but they are still worried about it. I can tell you a story that one night I was out, just, it was within the week that it happened, and I was walking in the Georgetown neighborhood, not too far off campus, but it was really late and it was around two, three o’clock, and I heard a helicopter flying overhead. And then all of a sudden, I’m walking back, and a huge search light pops down on me, and I looked and the helicopter was no more than maybe a hundred, two hundred feet above the ground, like flying very low. It really startled me, and I just kept walking, and the helicopter moved on and continued flying around the neighborhood. It was pretty scary there for a minute.
Wow. What else have you been thinking?
There was something else I was going to mention, um, the moment has passed, I had a good point, I had a great point. I was talking about my parents…maybe it will come back to me.
Take your time, just any other general reactions? Maybe friends from home, did you talk to them?
Well actually, the high school that I went to, I went to a pretty small high school, there were a hundred kids in my graduating class. Five fathers of the kids who were in my graduating class died. I just remember what I was going to say and this kind of leads into it. The fact that I think people, especially from my area, like in New Jersey, I feel like I am part of, not to say that people in the Midwest or people outside of the Northeast don’t’ experience the same thing we do. But I think that we relate to it differently because it was so close, being in DC and also my area in New Jersey. Because, like I said, five fathers who were in the World Trade Center, like a lot of people in New Jersey worked in that area so we were directly affected by it. Like my mom, she goes every week to the hospital in New York, and she went the Wednesday after the attacks, she went on Wednesday, and she said she was driving over the George Washington bridge and it was still smoking, and she said it was just so eerie not to see anything there. So, I think it’s very different for people who live around the areas where it happened. I remember one night, I was with a friend, and I drove past the Pentagon, and we stopped and our first inclination was to turn the radio off and we just looked, and we were just silent as we drove past it. And it was so incredible, I mean you see the pictures all the time, but to be at Ground Zero, or to see it face up, it takes your breath away. I just couldn’t believe the size of it, just the monumentality of the disaster.
Do you feel fear for yourself still? Or has it passed?
No, I don’t feel, I was scared the day that it happened, because there was so much uncertainty, like I didn’t think the news did a good job reporting it because they spread a lot of rumors which I think fueled public panic. So the first day I was definitely concerned. Before I knew that classes were cancelled, it was sort of an eerie feeling walking through Red Square and having jets fly overhead. So that was one thing, I don’t think I’m scared anymore though I guess. Every time I get in the subway, I can’t help but think about it a little bit, but it’s definitely not going to stop me from doing anything. Just because, like I said, I m not going to let it control my life, I am not going to do anything differently. What’s the point of living in a city like this if you’re just going to live in fear the whole time? I’ll tell you a funny story with my grandma, who, my grandma’s neighbors are also pretty older, in their seventies and eighties. She was telling my grandmother she’s afraid to go to the supermarket, she’s like “well, what happens if the terrorists are in our town or something?” and my grandma said “listen to me”, she’s like “Gail (Gail I think is her name), yeah, the terrorists really want to come and get you.” She’s like “I hate to tell you this, but you’re not important enough for them to get you.” And then my grandma actually, she came down to visit me in, it was actually the first time since I have been here that her and my grandpa and my aunt came down to visit me one weekend. And it was only about three or four weeks after it had happened and I was like “Grandma, aren’t you scared, like coming down?” and she goes “Are you kidding me?”, she’s like “I’m eighty years old, I get up and I face grim death every morning, something like this isn’t going to stop me.” So that was kind of funny, like my grandma wasn’t fazed by it at all. She was concerned for me and everybody else, but in terms of herself, she was like “I’m eighty years old, I face death everyday, this thing doesn’t scare me one bit.
That’s great, I like that. What other reactions have you heard, maybe from your aunt?
Well, my family has a long history of overreacting to things like this. My parents, they open their mail with gloves now, and outside. No matter how many times I tell them that Anthrax can go through the gloves, they continue to do that. I think that just like logically it helps them feel better. Let me think what else, my aunt is actually coming this Thursday to Washington, so she hasn’t been, ya know, she’s worried about it, but not fazed by it. I remember what my dad said after it happened, that he had felt a great sense that the government had let him down, that he didn’t think, again, that something like this could happen. Ya know, they keep telling us that we’re the greatest country in the world, we spend all this money, and yet something like this can still happen and on such a scale. And he really felt let down by the government, he said that. And he was getting concerned the first couple weeks of the bombing campaign that he wasn’t noticing any results, he was afraid that it was the same old thing. That we were the ones who created this problem, we were the ones who created the Taliban, then we created a foreign policy problem by, he thinks that we had a biased, I agree with him, that we had a biased foreign policy. Here we go, creating the problem, we’re trying to do another short-term fix, which is just going to come around and get us again. So, he felt very let down.
And you agree with that?
I agree, I think we were let down a little bit by them. I am very pleased with what is going on now, and I think we’re doing the right steps, and I think the president is doing a fantastic job. And I think now is not the time to let up, like I said, it’s not surprising that after two months, three months or whatever, that the American people are starting to lose interest, it doesn’t surprise me. But now is the exact moment when we can’t start losing interest, and we can’t start going back. You know, everybody like I said was more conservative in the ways that they really wanted to go after those terrorists, that we were going to have to look at things in a new way, in sort of the mentality that we were in a war, so we were going to have to do things differently. I think now all of a sudden the liberals are coming out f the woodworks, especially with this deal about military trials. And I feel very strongly that people who are not US citizens do not deserve the same rights that I do. And, just because the fact that they weren’t born in this country, well that’s just a cruel fact of life. That’s my personal opinion.
Why do you feel that way? Why should being born in a different country make them different?
Well, one of my friends who is very liberal says that he feels we should hold a higher standard than that, that we should treat all people equally. But, as an American citizen, people who pay taxes, who fight for our country, who give blood for our country, we have certain, yes we are responsible for the loss of the United States. But other people, who are not citizens, I don’t feel deserve the same types of protection that we do.
But they still have to abide by our laws?
Well, when I go to a foreign country, I have to abide by theirs. I will give you the flip side of this, remember the kid in, where was it, Singapore? Who was beaten and caned, and of course the US wanted to intervene and stop, but I said “go ahead!” I was all for it, he knew what the laws were in that country and he disobeyed them, so he doesn’t get the same civil liberties that people in my country do.
Has that changed at all since the events, or have you felt like that always?
No, I always thought that he should have been beaten (laugh)...
But this is, I mean, we don’t like, again, we have to keep in mind the mentality that this is a war. And that it’s very easy for us to say, ‘what about civil liberties, let’s hold these people to a higher standard, and offer them the same rights’. But something tells me that people wouldn’t have been so receptive to extending the Nazis the same civil liberties that we extend to people now. We tried them in criminal trials and nobody seemed to object to it. You know, this is as much a war as that was.
Interesting. Anything else you have on your mind?
Not really, even for someone like me who is really into the news, and people around here who follow it very closely, I’m starting to feel a little impatience, like it’s starting to set in about how long this is going to be, that like, we’re not even through with the fist phase of the war. And it’s going to take a long time, and I’m starting to ask myself questions, am I sort of prepared for such a long, drawn out war. I can’t think of anything else.
“I am wondering how you can forget about it so fast.”
I need to hear your experience when you heard about it and how you feel about it now. So, just tell me how you feel about it. Do you still think about the September 11th events now?
Well, not as much as that first week, but I still do think about it sometimes.
So, what goes through your head?
Um, sometimes I am like wondering how you can forget about it so fast, because you just start going on with your regular life and don’t really remember…and then you feel guilty about all those people that still searching for somebody. But at the same time you are just glad that things are getting back to normal and then you hear about all the bombing in Afghanistan and stuff, and it is almost seems like totally unconnected sometimes.
Unconnected to what happened to us? So, do you feel that the bombing is wrong?
No, I don’t think it is wrong because I think there should have been some kind of retaliation. But it just seems like it has been forever…almost.
So, the focus has shifted from what has happened to just now…Are you afraid of the biological warfare?
Not too much because…I’m not worried about anthrax.
It isn’t that easy to get. I figured if they are going to do something
like that it isn’t in my control. So, I should not worry about it
“This incident solidified in me that I wanted to
do something involving public service.”
I just need to hear your thoughts. Do you still think about it? If you do, what are your thoughts on it? Or are you not too worried about it anymore?
I do still think about it. It is hard to express now. I’ve always been a really patriotic person but this really brought it to the forefront. This incident solidified in me that I wanted to do something involving public service. I want to be the kind of person that works to prevent this sort of thing from happening. I think I always wanted to do that but this made me 100%…I know I want to do that.
And how was that done?
I can’t really pinpoint exactly why. My personal reaction was…it sounds so simple... but we were asked to go the Middle East. We were asked to oust Saddam from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and then for this guy to turn around and say that we defiled the holy land when we were asked to by countries where the majority are of this religion…and then attack us because of it. I just see it as really underhanded, as a double standard against the United States and 6,000 innocent people died because of it. I was really pissed off for about a week…at the world in general. I couldn’t even think….[inaudible] To an extent I think it is a form of self-defense. They’ve proven that they can hurt us and they have a will to do so.
So, the attacks, you think, were forms of self-defense?
I mean us attacking them was a form of self-defense. I think it is justified.
So, how do you feel about the threat on the US right now? Is there one?
Oh definitely. I think it is very real. I mean, I think there has been a positive link determined between all the anthrax cases. The FBI came out and announced it. Otherwise I think it is pretty intuitive. It seems to me that they are related. They are trying to disrupt us in some way…to terrorize us. Clearly, our government thinks it is a big deal because Congress left session. The scheduling of Congress is a big deal and for them to take five days off so they can fumigate or search for anthrax is a big deal.
How does that make you feel, being in the middle of everything?
It doesn’t bother me that much.
So, you don’t feel like you are in immediate danger?
I don’t think that my person is in any immediate danger. It doesn’t really change what I think I have to do to be a student…but it is on my mind a lot.
So, other than anger what else do you feel? Are you still angry about it?
Oh yeah, very angry. Fear also. Even though I don’t think there is going to be another September 11th size event…little things like the anthrax letters can go anywhere. And even though they are not as huge of a deal, you don’t know when or where. It could be in a pizzeria across the street, even though I know that isn’t the kind of target that terrorists want…
What do you think they want then?
I think they want some [inaudible]. And I don’t think academic institutions like Georgetown are going to get hit. That is the surest way to get the entire world pissed off. So, I don’t think that I am in immediate danger, but at the same time I fear the unexpected, that there is a threat out there, somewhere and there are people out there that want to kill, not just people like me, but want to kill Americans.
So, what you are really afraid of is the fact that you don’t know where it is going to come from or what it is going to be. It is so unpredictable right now.
Yeah, exactly. And the anger aspect comes from the fact that it is so underhanded.
What do you mean by that?
I mean…think about a declaration of war: Our principles are in conflict, we are fighting over a piece of land or whatever; it is formal. These people just attacked civilians with a damn airplane. It is underhanded. It is unexpected. The civilians didn’t have any course in choosing…
Did they ever formally admit to it?…the Taliban?
Well, Bin Laden never came out and said, “I did it.” But have you seen his little video?
No, I didn’t…
It was a little before all our bombing started, before our response…when all the diplomatic stuff was going on. The Taliban kept saying, “We want proof, show us proof…” Well, Bin Laden had a little video talking about how America brought this on itself and rejoicing in it. The thing that he said that struck me the was when he said, “there will never be peace in the United States until we have peace in Palestine.” He said, “We.” You know, even if he didn’t do it, that is the guy. So, I think it is pretty intuitive that he is responsible.
What if he is not? Do you still think we are justified?
Well, I am not the State Department. I haven’t looked
at the evidence they claim to have gathered, but every country that they
show it to, like the UN, Britain and every foreign power we share it with…they
say, “yeah.” And at some point you have to trust your government.
That is what I do.
“I never thought that was possible”
How did that make you feel seeing that [the Pentagon]?
Well, when we were walking up to see it, we were getting off the subway…this is kind of what I was thinking…this is what my dad said, “it is like going to a race to see a car wreck, nothing else at all.” But that wasn’t it at all. It was more like…I don’t know. I don’t have any analogies for it at all. Well, it was awing…not in the “aww” kind of way, but in the “Oh my God” sort of way.
Did you ever think this would happen in the United States? Because that was my first reaction…how could this happen to the strongest nation in the world?
Well, I did debate in high school. And one of the
events was called “Youth Congress” and you could propose legislation and
get it passed, you know, with all the people in Congress. And mine
last year, was to reformulate our anti-terrorism policies. That was
my reaction to the USS Cole bombing. And lots of people kept saying
that terrorism was a thing of the past…”how is that a relevant thing?
The USS Cole is just going to be abroad. The American mainland is
never going to be attacked.” I heard a lot of that. And, in
the back of my mind, I never thought that was possible. I never thought
6,000 people…Pearl Harbor was 4,000. My God, it is more than the
entire Pacific Fleet.
“It is really upsetting that they could tear a piece of my life away from me…”
I just need to know your reactions. How did it make you feel? What thoughts were going through your head? Do you still think about it? Well, lets start with when it first happened. What thoughts went through your head?
Well, when it first happened I was in Chem lab actually. My teacher came in and told us that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center…
And you live in NYC?
I live in Long Island, but my family and friends work
in the city. My first thought was that my dad works in the city on
some days…I don’t even know where, but that was my first thought.
So, she said that whoever had family there, or whatever, that they could
leave and make a phone call. So, I left and got my cell phone and
I went to call home, but definitely it was not working at all. Plus,
I was trying to call a cell phone in New York. But then I did remember
that when I talked to my mom, she had said that my dad had worked last
night and that he was sleeping when I had called earlier in the morning.
So, I was like all right with that, but I still knew I had other family.
But I was like “whatever”…I am just continue with my lab. It was
just that I couldn’t even believe that it happened in one way. To
me, it was just like seeing a movie.
Then after a little while we heard that there was another plane that had crashed and then we looked out the window and we saw all the smoke coming from the Pentagon. That was just insane. I couldn’t believe it. And at that point we had finished the lab. So, then I made a mad dash to the dorm.
Were you afraid for your own life at that point?
No, I really wasn’t thinking about myself really.
I was just thinking about all my family at home. So, when I got here
all the phones were just busy. I couldn’t get in touch with my family.
At that point I saw that I had a voice mail message on my phone, but I
couldn’t even check my voice mail because you needed to use the phone.
I have a New York cell phone too. So, that was really upsetting.
And then I got beeped too. And I just couldn’t get in touch with
my family. I was trying everyone’s cell phone and everyone’s regular
phone. It just wasn’t working. It was probably one of the scariest…well,
it was probably about an hour, I guess. And finally I went online…and
my brother had in his away message to call him. So, I kept calling
and finally I was able to get in touch with him. He told me that
my immediate family was okay and that my parents were just worried about
me. And that is why they were calling. They were concerned
because I was in DC. So, that was good, but then at that point I
found out that there were three members of our family that work in the
Trade Center, who were unaccounted for at that point.
So, I think it just went on like that for the whole day…just not knowing, pretty much. I think that is one of the scariest things in the world…just not knowing. You don’t even have the closure. It is just more like, “maybe or maybe not.” And turning on the TV was really upsetting. And seeing other people rejoicing at the fact that we didn’t have classes was probably one of the worst things ever. Because I was hysterically crying at one point in the day, and two girls by my cluster were just jumping up and down that we didn’t have class. And then they looked at me and they were just like, “Oh.” And I think that is just really like…like I think some people are a lot more removed from the whole situation.
So, eventually I found out that one member of the family was okay. She actually had been off from work that day but she was shopping in the Trade Center that morning. So, it just goes to show that other than those three family members that we knew worked there…it is so insane people could have just been there, that we know. So, she had actually felt the first plane hit and she said that everything had just start shaking and lights were flashing. She said she just ran like hell, basically. And she got out of there immediately. And later in the day I also found out that the other two members of the family…one of them was off that day and the other one had gotten out okay. But I also found out that my brother’s girlfriend’s uncle was the pilot of the first plane that hit into the first tower of Trade Center. So, that was definitely a really bad situation. She has been his girlfriend for close to over a year, so she is really close to my family. She stayed with us during the summer. She is like my pretty good friend and he just told me that she wasn’t expecting it. She was in total denial…totally denying the fact that it happened. I actually talked to her that night, and she said, “Oh, Erica you must be so scared being in DC. It must be so hard for you. I feel so bad for you because you have so many family members in New York.” And I was like, “No no, I feel bad for you. I am really sorry about your uncle.” Then she said, “No, if you need to call me to cry or something, by all means, you can do that.” And that was terribly upsetting to me. Talking to her…Wow. Just seeing how close to home this whole things was hitting…and at that point being from New York…all day, I kept finding out about family, friends, or someone else that was just missing or unaccounted for or they were okay. So, many people. I had no idea I knew that many people that worked in the Trade Center.
One story that is particularly sad right now…my aunt’s best friend…he worked in the Trade Center during the ’93 bombing. He ran downstairs and there was a woman there who, I don’t know, she had a breathing problem…anyways, while he was running down he saw her walk off at the 103rd floor or something. So, he followed her. She had gone out to call her mother to tell her that she wasn’t going to make it out and she wanted to say goodbye. So, he had helped her down like 50 flights of stairs and then she just couldn’t walk. So, he carried her. So, that had happened during the ’93 bombing. He had saved somebody’s life and now basically now he is dead. So, it is really upsetting. That woman right now has a family and everything. She is just terribly struck by the whole thing because she wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for this man…and now he is dead.
So, it is just a lot of things hitting close to home and even the whole first week afterwards was just so hard finding out about different people. And about a week and a half later when I thought it was all over, I found out that the mother of my friend from grammar school had died. And another friend from grammar school, her older brother had died. The friend’s mother was just the nicest person in the world. She was the first person that I had totally put a face on her. I had regular contact with her. She was so good to me. She couldn’t do enough for you. And then just knowing that she was dead is horrible feeling…even now. And my friend…she was like best friends with her mother. It is so heartbreaking.
So, I guess to this day I still think about it a lot. It upsets me in one way that…well, I feel that we need to move on, but I feel that some people have just moved on so much that it is….well, I think we need to pay tribute to these people. It isn’t just like some ordinary day. That is the thing…I think the people that are more removed from situation can see the good that came out of it, while I look at it and I see my brother’s girlfriend and what she went through. That is not something good that came out of it to me. All the pain, uncertainty, people crying, family members, friends dying and losing their family, that is not good to me. I definitely don’t doubt my faith in God, because I definitely don’t think he caused it, but I don’t think he could have prevented it. So, I just see it as something really tragic.
Do you feel that you can even move on? Or is this going to be something that is with you for the rest of your life?
I’ll always remember it. I will always remember
where I was. I’ll always remember what it felt like…not knowing for
that hour about my immediate family. I spoke with my mom’s cousin,
who was the one shopping in there, and she just said that she thinks that
all our lived will now be marked as “before” and “after.” Or at least
for her, she definitely feels that. It is the biggest to ever happen
in my lifetime. I think everyone’s lifetime.
I definitely still think about it, but I have moved on in some ways. There are a lot of other things to focus my attention on, although it seems that lately like scares like anthrax…
How do you feel about that?
It is rather scary. My mom is freaking out about it. She doesn’t want me going to my mailbox. I guess I feel like that we can’t be beaten by them. I just don’t feel that we should change our entire way of life. But it is scary that you could just open mail and die. Or that you have to be afraid of every white powder. Like at my brother’s school, on his floor in his dorm, there was a white powder found in front of every American flag. So, he called the cops, just to check it out. It turned out to be nothing, but just that there would be Americans that would pull a prank like that is really disheartening. I think the country needs to come together in a time like this, instead of doing something like that.
Some people are saying that the whole anthrax scare isn’t even from the terrorists…
Yeah, I head that too. That is incredibly upsetting as well. Because I was thinking, you can’t really wage a war against an entire country with a substance like anthrax.
What scares me is that you don’t know where it is coming from, or who is doing this…
So, how is everyone now in your family?
Well, I think one thing is, in DC, although we had the Pentagon and everything, the effects aren’t as widely felt as they are in my home. I went home two weekends ago for Columbus Day weekend and my mom had said how upsetting it is there and how somber. But I really hadn’t believed her until I turned on the local news. There are so many news on funerals and memorials. I just started crying my first night home. You don’t even realize that. People here in DC don’t care about the local schoolteacher that died in the WTC. So, it is definitely much more upsetting back home.
What was it like seeing the city without the Twin Towers?
It is definitely noticeable. You think that there
are all these big buildings, but you totally notice it. It is really
upsetting. My brother had come down the weekend before with my father
and they had passed by it. He just kept staring and my father said,
“You know, it isn’t going to appear.” So, it is just really upsetting.
It was a huge part of the city. I have been there so many times.
I eat in the restaurants that were on the top floor, “Windows on the World.”
It was just a really cool place. I have some good memories there,
hanging out with friends and stuff. So, it is really upsetting that
they could tear a piece of my life away from me…
“Those people were working there, just like I was
here… I was doing the same thing they were doing at the same time that
These are personal accounts of individuals. We want to know how you felt, how you reacted, what you thought. The whole story. So, my first question is, where were you on September 11th?
I was in the office working in my country, Argentina, when I heard the news from a co-worker that two planes crashed…actually, when I heard the news, only one plane had crashed into the Twin Towers. When he said the Twin Towers, he said it in Spanish of course. I didn’t realize that he was talking about the towers in NY. I thought he was talking about some towers in Argentina.
What was your first thought?
It was weird because my first thought was that
it was happening in Argentina, and not in the States. So, I was confused,
thinking it was these towers that we have here. I think that my first
thought was that…well, my first thought was pretty complex: There
is a very important businessman that lives in Argentina, who lives in those
towers that I thought were being crashed into by planes. This businessman
happens to be the owner of the airport in Argentina. So, my first
thought was that someone was attacking him with planes because he is the
owner of the airport.
So, when I finally found out that it was the Twin Towers in NY, I felt pretty stupid, because of my misunderstanding that it was happening in Argentina.
When you realized that it was in the United States, how did you feel?
Well, first, embarrassed for having all these stupid thoughts
that didn’t make sense. Then, I think my first impression was that
I wasn’t really aware of what was going on because I was just in the office
working and I heard form it a guy there. It is not like I watched
the news or heard it on the radio. So, I had no idea how big it was
or how important it was until more people started talking about it.
Then I got online and started reading about it and getting into websites.
Finally, I started getting worried because I have friends in the United States. I have friends in NY and in DC. I started getting really worried about them and I didn’t understand what was going on. I went to another floor in my office building, which has a TV and I started watching the news. Then I was shocked. That is when I finally understood what was going on…when I saw the news.
Why is it that you finally understood then…when you saw the news?
I saw the images of plane crashing into the buildings.
How did it make you feel?
I don’t know. That is one of the feelings I got. Those people were working there, just like I was here. And then all of the sudden, the most ridiculous thing happened. You don’t think you are going to die working in your office, and that a plane is going to crash there. I don’t think anyone has ever imagined their death like that. You can be in a plane and have an accident, but you don’t expect it to crash into your building.
So, you could relate to the workers in NY?
Yeah, I guess so. I was doing the same thing they were doing at the same time that they died.
You felt vulnerable. Did you feel anything else?
I was very worried about the people that I know there. I didn’t understand what was going on. What kind of attack was it? I don’t know. I heard about planes crashing in DC, too. I was so worried.
How did that affect the rest of your day?
I didn’t work for the rest of that day and the next day.
I would just be online, reading about it and writing emails to my friends in the States. I wanted to hear from them. I was shocked and my mind was busy thinking about all those things going on. Also, my girlfriend lives in DC. I was wondering how this would affect our future. I was planning a trip to DC and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I would be able to get on a plane to come to the states.
You said you were shocked. At what?
I was shocked by the images I saw on TV…of the planes crashing into the buildings. I never imagined anything like that happening.
What other feelings did you have?
I felt…well, this is something Americans probably didn’t experience, which is anger…but not against people who did it [the attacks], but anger toward the people from my own country. During that day, and the days that followed, most of the people’s reactions from Argentina were sadness and shock, like everyone else. But also there are a lot of people who don’t like the United States, and you could say that they almost hate the United States. They hate the government, not the people. So, I heard people saying things like, “they deserve it”…for what they had done to other countries, and their foreign policy. I completely disagree with that opinion, because I don’t think anyone deserves what happened. The attacks weren’t against the government, they were against the people. So, it made me really mad to hear things like that, and you heard them a lot, even from people that you love
Why didn’t you share those feelings…the feelings of other Argentines?
I just don’t. I just don’t think like that. I especially remember one of the partners in the office. The day of the tragedy he was very worried because his son was supposed to take a plane from NY to Argentina. He was freaking out that day. He was going crazy because he couldn’t contact his son. The next day he was reading an email to the whole office about why the terrorists attacked the US and not Argentina. It was a whole joke mail. The day after the incident he was laughing about it, while the day before he was almost crying for his son. But when he found out that his son was okay, he was telling jokes about it. That made me really mad because a lot of people died there and I am sure that if son had died he wouldn’t have ever read that email to anyone. He would have never found it funny.
Did you feel any other feelings, besides anger?
Towards those people? I probably felt sorry for
them…for how blind they are…blaming other countries, especially the United
States, for the problems we have. It is our government…ourselves.
It is complicated. They put all the blame on the United States when
most of the blame should be put on us. Also, even if the US government
is responsible for a lot of bad things happening in the world, I don’t
think what happened is something that they deserve. It is far from
something they deserve. Thousands of innocent people died.
Also, our government is probably doing things even worse than the US government….well, I wouldn’t want thousands of innocent Argentines to pay for that with their lives. Even the people that are not innocent, I don’t think they deserve to die.
Did you feel that everyone in the office had those feelings that you described?
No, not everybody. It is hard to say if it was the majority of the minority. What I can say is that there is a hidden anger toward America. A lot of people will not say anything but they will probably feel like, “Finally something bad happened to the United States.” I think most of the country felt sorry. I don’t think anyone was happy about it, but I think there were a lot of people saying the wrong things. They were not as angry or sad, as you would expect people to be with something like that.
Did you expect people to be angrier or sadder?
No, not really. I would have liked it, but it isn’t what I expected because I know what a lot of people there know about the US. It made me angry what people were saying, but it didn’t surprise me.
So, how did this affect your interactions with other co-workers or other people that you talk to?
I don’t think it affected it because…well, I don’t usually interact with those people…those who had those views.
Did it affect how you interacted with other Argentines?
It didn’t affect my interaction with them. I did have some arguments and discussions with different friends and family, but it didn’t affect us more than any other political discussion we’ve had. You would have dinner with your friends and that was the topic of the month. You couldn’t go anywhere without people mentioning it. I would have a job meeting with people that I don’t know, and I would end of talking about the tragedy. So, of course, I had a lot of conversations with people that I know and people that I don’t know.
Did you opinions or views ever change?
About the way people were reacting or the way they felt towards the attacks and the US.
No, I don’t think so. It is my opinion and it wouldn’t change by others, especially if I think they are wrong.
How did they attacks affect your view of the United States?
I don’t think it did. Everything just proved to me that anywhere you are you are vulnerable. You are insecure anywhere in the world.
You mentioned vulnerable a couple of times. Why did you feel so vulnerable in Argentina?
Well, in the last couple of years the crime rate has increased
a lot. It is a country that is very insecure. You could get into
a cab and get robbed or even killed. It is something that is always
on my mind.
It is weird…because while I was planning my trip to the States, the cities that I was planning on visiting are only DC and NYC, which happen to be the two cities that were attacked. And, a lot of people from Argentina would tell me, “Wow! You are brave. You are going to those two cities after what happened.” And every time someone told me that I was like, “What are you thinking?” I think that Argentina is more insecure than the United States. So, I had all these people telling me that they were so surprised that I was coming here. But what surprised me is that they are surprised since they live in this country that is so insecure. Anything can happen to you there.
So, did you feel even more vulnerable after those attacks on the United States?
Yeah, I guess so. I felt that in Argentina my vulnerability would be the same. I don’t think we would have terrorist attacks, even thought we had them in the past. I think that if something bad would happen to me Argentina I feel that it is going to be somebody robbing me or something…and not having a plane crash into my building. So, it didn’t change how insecure I felt in Argentina, but it change how I felt about other parts of the world. I think it proved that you could be anywhere and terrorists could plant a bomb…
You mentioned that people were telling you that you were “brave” because you were going to come to New York and DC…did you think of changing your plans?
No, not at all.
Because I was planning to come to the States…like, I bought my ticket to come to the States at the end of August to come on the 21st of December. So, you can tell how much I really wanted to come here. I don’t think many people normally buy their tickets four months in advance. If you gave me a free ticket to get on a plane September 12th, I would have gotten on that plane. There are people here that I really wanted to see here, no matter what.
Why weren’t you scared?
It wasn’t that I wasn’t scared. It was that I am not willing to live in fear to sacrifice what I might have here in the States.
You mentioned that the September 11th attacks didn’t change your plans to come visit the States. Also you mentioned moving here…have the attacks changed your plans of moving to the US?
No, they haven’t. I still plan on moving here.
Basically, I have three options: Live in the US, live in Argentina, or live somewhere else. And now living in Argentina is not an option. The economic situation is devastating. I think I have a better chance living somewhere else, like the United States or Europe.
Now, a couple months after September 11th and you came to visit the United States, do you feel safe?
I don’t know…maybe I live in a bubble or something, but I don’t think anything else is going to happen. Maybe I just desire nothing bad to happen that I convinced myself nothing else will occur. I don’t think it would be sane to be worried about having terrorist attacks all the time. There is nothing I can do to avoid them, no matter what Bush says, “Be careful and continue with your lives…” Whatever that mean – should I be looking out for everyone with a turban? So, I just live my life…like there is nothing I can do to avoid anything happening. I just don’t think about it. I don’t even try not to think about it, I just don’t. I am not worried about it.
Have you seen Americans differently after the attacks?
It has been many years since I have been to the States. Sometimes I wonder if they are really different. I think they are. But sometimes I wonder if they really are or it is just because what everyone else is saying is affecting me. Like the media is saying that Americans are different, so I probably think that they are. Also, I see a lot of American flags, and I don’t like it a lot.
Because I don’t like this nationalism. I don’t think people should be thinking that their country is the best one. They should be thinking that their country is the best one for them to live in. That is a nice thought, you know. Sometimes it isn’t even like that. Sometimes your country isn’t even the best place to live in. But just thinking that your country is the best country in the world is just cockiness.
Why don’t you see it as patriotism?
Well I never liked patriotism either.
Well, what does it really mean to be patriotic? What? You are proud of being American? What is that suppose to mean? Are you proud of everything…everything that your government does? I don’t think so. I don’t think you should be. I am not patriotic, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love my country. I do love it, but I don’t love every human being in it. I don’t love the government. I don’t love the whole country. So, why would I say that I love it better than all the other countries? So, being patriotic…I don’t understand what that means. Now, after September 11th a lot of countries of the world gave support to the United States. You don’t have to be patriotic to do that. So, I guess it is a question of what patriotism means. I don’t know. It is just an idea that I never liked, no matter what country you are from.
So, what is your first thought when you see all those American flags?
I wonder what people are thinking. I don’t like
it. The feeling that I get is dislike. I wonder what people
are thinking by waving a flag. I am sure it means different things
to different people.
I think they should have come up with something different, like a flag that represents “unity,” and not the American flag. For example, if you all had come up with some special kind of flag for September 11th I would probably be waving it. But I will never wave an American flag. I never waved an Argentine flag. So, everyone waving the American flag and being proud of being American, it scares me because I think they are going to let the government do anything. I am scared of what this government is capable of doing.
So, this government scares you?
Well, I should have probably used the word “worried” more than “scared.” It makes me worried about what Bush is going to do. I think Americans shouldn’t lose their power of criticism. Just a few months before this incident people were questioning Bush because of the weird election. So, you have a president that won a sketchy election, everybody was criticizing him, and then this thing happens and he is a hero. I think that he needs the support of the country but I don’t think that Americans should support him at any price, at any cost. I think they should still be critical to make sure the government does the right thing in this delicate situation. That is what I am worried about…people are giving him a lot of support and that he will lead country into a bad situation.
For example, what kind of “bad situation?”
Well, I think he already did some wrong things…like telling the American people to be alert. It is not only stupid but it is irresponsible, because what does being “alert” mean to a common citizen? What do you have to be alert of? Arab people? I think that speech only provokes racism. I don’t know, I don’t think having the citizens being alert can really prevent a terrorist attack. So, that to me seems irresponsible. So, that could be a small mistake in a series of larger mistakes that could happen. That is what I am worried about.
What are some other bigger things that you are worried about?
Well, this whole “war on terrorism.” They are already killing innocent people in Afghanistan. I just don’t want the United States government to end up doing the same thing that the terrorists did. It can happen. It happened before in other countries, like mine. It is a thin line between justice and revenge. It could lead to state terrorism
So, you think that is possible in the United States after September 11th?
Because of the small mistakes that Bush has made before and all the support that people are giving him without being critical of the government. It seems that a lot of people here are seeking revenge and not justice. And I understand that, I understand how they feel. It is like they say…I might translate this wrong, “The law of eye for an eye leaves the man blind.”
Do you feel as someone who is not from the United States that you are more critical?
Well, I have run into people from the US that shares my thoughts. However it could be that I, and people from countries like mine, are more critical of the US government…I could have my roots in that.
Overall how have the events of September 11th changed your outlook of the United States and/or of Argentina?
Well, it didn’t change my point of view of Argentina or the Argentine people because I was already familiar with the anti-American feelings there. So, it didn’t change that. It just put them in my face and that is what made me angry. And my views of the United States…well I don’t think they have changed them either.
It was just something unexpected that happened and the reaction wasn’t unexpected. The American reaction was not unexpected. So, I think it didn’t change my view. On the other hand, while what happened on September 11th totally shocked me, after it happened when you think about it and you think about everything that the US government has done it probably isn’t as crazy. It is far from being something they deserve, but when you are dealing with crazy people you have to be careful. I don’t know…this is an opinion I have that is totally different from the opinion that most of America has, but the state has done something wrong and there is a reason why this has happened. Even thought it is a crazy and unjust thing it does come from somewhere. It isn’t that it comes from nowhere with no reason. So, it was unexpected but once you think about it…it was not so unexpected as it seems.
So, you said for you it was shocking but afterwards everything didn’t seem so surprising?
Well it surprised me that when you watch it on TV and you see a plane crashing into a building. Even if they would have told you that was going to happen it surprises you. It is going to be shocking. What I am trying to say is that terrorists attacking the US…forgetting about how they did it or about seeing it on TV from every single angle, when you think just about terrorists attacking the US it doesn’t seem as crazy.
Because of the US foreign policy.
Looking back on September 11th, how do you feel now?
I feel recovered, I guess. I think man has the strange ability to go back to normal life after almost any bad experience. I think time heals almost anything…leaves wounds, but you still heal. I haven’t changed that much.
You said “recovered”…recovered from what?
From the feelings that I had right after September 11th, right after I realized what happened. I still feel…well, when I think about some people from my country, I still feel the anger and I would feel embarrassed if you were doing this interview with one of those guys from Argentina. I don’t want them representing my country.
So, do you feel proud to represent your country when talking about September 11th?
Yes, I do.