Pretty much everyone knows exactly where they were on Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York.

I know I do.

You see, I work at a major New York hospital and I have images in my head that will never leave me.

I recall going up to the roof of our building, not too far from the towers and seeing the dust on the rooftop.

Worse, you could SMELL it.

I can’t even describe what it smelled like. If I could explain what death smelled like, I imagine this would be close.

I can never forget the hundreds if not thousands of people crossing the bridges in New York on foot, unable to get transportation out of the city. Some of them almost staggered towards home after a day they will never forget.

I remember crossing the George Washington Bridge on the days following the attack and gazing to my right, expecting to see the Twin Towers in all their glory. Yet. all there was to see was smoke covering lower Manhattan, a painful reminder to what had happened.

When asked about her most significant memory of that day, my wife Rosemary tells of the ride home from work (also at our hospital, before we were married) on the train the afternoon of the attack. There were businessmen and women, covered with the white dust and debris that exploded through the streets after the towers fell. They sat in the train, numb and unable to talk of what they’d seen.

In fact, Rosemary related that no one talked on the train, no one at all.

Dead silence.

And this continued for days after the attacks.

My Most Lasting Image of Sept. 11

Of all the images imprinted in my brain from that fateful day, none compare to the sight of friends and relatives standing outside the entrance to our hospital, holding pictures of loved ones, hoping against hope that they were taken to the hospital from Ground Zero and someone would recognize them.

You could see the anguish in their faces and the fading hope in their hearts.

It was palpable.

You could hear the quiet whispers of “have you seen my husband?” and “help us, our daughter is missing“. Yet there was nothing I could do to help.

Every night as I exited the hospital after my shift, I struggled to control my emotions as I passed by those that waited patiently for someone to recognize their loved one. It was one of the most difficult times in my life, yet nothing compared to what they were going through.

This went on for days, until eventually everyone realized that there would be no recovery, only the grim task of identification.

The Goodness of the World Shines Through

It’s hard to find any good in this tragedy.

But there was good.

Shortly after the tragedy, letters and hand drawn pictures started showing up in the mailroom of our hospital, from all over the US and the world.

Letters from kindergarden classes in the midwest. Hand drawn pictures of nurses and doctors helping patients drawn by young children, with the message…“Thank you for being brave.”

Posters from other medical staffs around the world, praising the dedication and courage of our doctors, nurses, and Emergency Room personnel.

The goodness of the American people and the World shined brightly through these letters and pictures.

In fact, our hospital administration mounted them on bulletin boards throughout the hospital, and they still stand today as a living memory to those who served and those who died.

You Can’t Keep Us Down

I can tell you from personal experience that New Yorkers were shaken for weeks and months after the attacks. A feeling of despair hung over the City.

But gradually, things started getting back to “normal” and people began the process of picking up the pieces and moving forward in their lives.

It made me especially proud of the people of New York, to witness their ability to persevere over pain and misery.

Even on this worst day in the history of New York City and the country, they were able to pick themselves off the floor and show the terrorists that they had not won.

What We Can Learn

9-11 was an unspeakable tragedy, yet out of it came amazing stories of strength, courage, recovery and unstoppable spirit.

The amazing resiliency of the American people is what stands forth today as we rebuild the WTC site and commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the attacks.

It will be a sad day of remembrance, but also a day to acknowledge our strength in the face of tragedy and our ability as human beings to move on and even grow from our experiences.

This is something we can all learn from as we deal with the troubles and obstacles in our own lives….

Never give up!

Keep moving forward!

Don’t allow anyone to stop you!

Don’t let the bastards win.

 

More Thoughtful Posts on Memories of 9-11

Be sure to check out these great 9-11 memorial posts as well:

Ken Pickard, the Network Dad’s Tribute to the Heroes

Emma Tiebens, The Relational Marketer – Make 9-11 Count for Something

Clifton Hatfield– September 11, 2001

Kelly Baader – Remember September 11, 2001

Crystal Curtis – 9-11, Theme Parties and Resilience

VaNessa Duplessie – 9-11 A Tribute – Do You Remember the Moment?

Janet Callaway – Remembering By Paying it Forward and Thanking

Bob Clarke
Dr. Bob Clarke teaches Part Time Marketers how to better leverage their time, effort, money, skills, and other people's knowledge in maximizing their business success. Don't forget to grab your Free Training Grow a Thriving Business in 30 Minutes/Day or Less -- an essential resource for anyone struggling to build their business Part Time.
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Showing 35 comments
  • Emmalyn
    Reply

    9-11 was the worst tragic incident ever 🙁 and i feel sorry for all the victims and their families. thanks for sharing your story.

  • gold
    Reply

    I can relate to what other people felt, especially to the family who suffered because they lost their loved ones during the 911 tragedy. Because I do have a close relative too who happens to be a victim of the said tragedy and his body was not recovered too. We’ll just pray for his soul.

    • Bob
      Reply

      Sorry for your loss. I think we as a country have grown stronger in many ways, but we will never forget.

  • Jeanne
    Reply

    I love watching NGC or Discovery and everytime the 911 incident is featured, I always felt very sad upon seeing those loved ones left by the victims, crying and still grieving for the loss of their loved ones 🙁

    • Bob
      Reply

      Yes, Jeanne it was a devastating time for the entire country and world. But as I watch the determination and fortitude of those rebuilding the WTC site, I feel a sense of pride that we have not let the bad guys win. We are coming back stronger and better than ever!

      • Jeanne
        Reply

        I recently saw the program about Rebuilding Ground Zero, most of the people working there really did the very best and show the bad guys that we can still rise and rise again no matter what may happen

  • Kimberly
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing. It really touched my heart..

    • Bob
      Reply

      Thank you, Kimberly.

  • Kennedy
    Reply

    I can relate to these people of what they really feel, We had a neighbor who had lost their son on that horrific day and until now, his mother always had a very sad day when september 11 comes.

    • Bob
      Reply

      We will all never forget that day, but I am so encouraged by the people who have gotten back up and are determined to move forward in their life, not letting the terrorists win.

  • Cheyenne
    Reply

    My heart goes with you and I’am so sorry and feel your pain…

    • Bob
      Reply

      Thank you , Cheyenne!

  • Tiffany
    Reply

    Hi Dr. Bob,

    I wasn’t near NYC during the 9/11 tragedy but I could feel the fear and the loss of the innocent victims. One thing I appreciate during that time was the unity among people all over the world. Nations pray all together for what happened and helped each other to build what was destroyed during that day. Reading stories like this can really be very inspiring. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Bob
      Reply

      You’re welcome, Tiffany…. its true what you say — the pain and suffering felt that day was world wide.

      And the support I experienced over the days and weeks that followed were truly from people around the Globe. I found that inspiring!

  • lanalavigne
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing this sad story. I was 24 when that tragedy happened. Until this moment, I really cant imagine how big is that tragedy. Even America has already surpassed that tragedy, the pains of those families affected by it is incomparable. My heart went out with them.

    • Bob
      Reply

      The support that people in NYC and Washington (and Pennsylvania) felt from others around the country and the world was nothing short of amazing. It brought the world together at a time when we were being torn apart. Nothing was good about that day, but it did serve to remind us to care about each other as people, regardless of where we live or our social status. And for that I am grateful.

  • Trevor Barrett
    Reply

    Hi Bob and Rosemary, that is a truly moving story from two people who were so close to that horrible event.

    I am from the U.K. and my parent’s were in London during the second world war when there was bombing almost every night for a while. They too used to tell some horrific stories but they also said that there were positives that came from it.

    The people seemed to become more united and the camaraderie was brilliant. They were fighting a common enemy and forgot about their own neighborhood squabbles. It sounds like New Yorkers reacted in the same way.

  • Steve-Personal Success Factors
    Reply

    Dr. Bob, it’s incredible to read the account of how up close and personal this event was for you. I was working in a hospital in Chicago when 9/11 happened. To this day, all I feel is numbness. At the same time, it’s really heart warming to read the stories of kindness and courage in the midst of such tragedy. Thank you for all the work you did on behalf of survivors and their families.

    • Bob
      Reply

      Hi Steve, everyone did a very small part in helping others that day, and in some ways maybe some good came out of the tragedies.

  • David Paul
    Reply

    Hi Bob,

    Thank you so much for sharing your insights and Rosemary’s story of 9/11 with us. Although that day and the many days that followed where heart wrenching, I would like to express my deep gratitude for all of those who gave their lives to save and support others and their families.

    In many ways, the American Spirit was reborn on 9/11/01, but more importantly we have found to and more lasting ways to be of service to each other and to humanity.

    Peace,

    David H. Paul
    the Follow Your Bliss guy

  • Andy Nathan
    Reply

    That sounds at once you like a horrible experience and the way you describe the rebound a rejuvenating one as well. It was never an amazing day, but it is one that we can all take away lessons from. Thanks!

  • DebbieLattuga
    Reply

    It was an awful day. Ten years later I still choke up about it. I lived in Southern New Jersey. Although I didn’t know anyone personally, I can attest to the fact that you could smell it even that far away.

    My sister lives about an hour and a half outside of New York and went to funerals for weeks.

    But the resiliency of the American people was inspiring.

    Debbie

  • Julieanne van Zyl
    Reply

    Hello Bob, even though I live many many many miles from New York, I remember that day also. It was a day the whole world will remember, even if we weren’t there.

    For people like yourselves who were so close, I’m sure it’s something you’ll never forget.

    Regards from Julieanne

  • Sally Thompson
    Reply

    You have a very inspirational blog.. You hit my heart with the misery for those who had lost someone.. Thank God that all you had recovered form the tragedy.. Keep moving forward!

  • Stevie
    Reply

    Hello Bob,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It was very moving and I can appreciate what you tried to convey in terms of desolation, destruction, and even smell, having been in the aftermath of a war zone myself.

    The thing about this terrible even is that if affected all of us, not matter where we live and whom we usually give our allegiance to. Like other posters before me, I remember being at my parents house, here in South Florida. I remember that morning as if it was yesterday. I remember seeing the second plane crashing into the tower and wondering if I was dreaming it all up.

    And then I saw the people jumping down and falling… I will never forget that day.

    Stevie

  • Mavis Nong
    Reply

    Hey Bob,

    What a tragic day. I had no idea that you also witnessed this terrible event. Thank you for sharing your very personal story with us. 10 years on, but it feels like yesterday.

    It was really heart-breaking watching the ceremonies yesterday – seeing the sad faces of those who lost their loved ones 🙁

    I think it does help a great deal to talk about it. Well done.

    Have a great week!

    Mavis

  • Ken
    Reply

    Bob,

    Thank you for sharing an amazing story. I know how hard it is to put just a few of the emotions on a post like this, but as you said it does feel good to get it out. I know many others have incredible stories from the event’s of that day and the days to follow…but your direct relation to that city is profound.

    Thanks again for helping all those you did.

    Ken Pickard
    The Network Dad

  • Donna Merrill
    Reply

    You have touched my heart. I was 15 miles away from ground zero. I too will NEVER FORGET that smell. There are no words for it. I went to my office and two people came in that day from the city asking if there were any available apartments in the area that I knew of. They were dazed and confused and scared. I sat with the young women and talked them through.
    I lost some loved ones and clients of mine. There is always a tear in my eye and a prayer in my heart every time since that day that I would pass ground zero in the car.
    Do you remember the sky? It was the most beautiful sky we had in NY ever! Then it turned black and the dust spread all over NYC and up the Hudson River.
    The difficult part for me was to go through the process of Forgiveness. It is easy to get into military mode, like a mother who’s child was victimized. But the process took a long time. The words I chanted to overcome this anger in my heart were:
    “Forgive them FATHER for they know not what they do.” JC
    Blessings,

    Donna

  • Herbert
    Reply

    The 911 tragedy is the most tragic and horrifying event that ever happened on recent years. Its been 10 years now but most of the loved ones of the victims haven’t moved on yet. I feel so sad for them.

  • Adrienne
    Reply

    Thank you Bob for sharing this with us.

    I had no idea you were in that area at the time, I can’t even imagine how that must have felt. I remember watching the entire thing on TV that day and my heart breaking for all those people who were involved. It made me very proud though of all the people who stepped up that day as well and came to the rescue to lend whatever hand they could at the time.

    I’m sure your staff was an emotional wreck. I’m sure you all were trained to see really horrible sites but something of that magnitude is hard to prepare for.

    Thank you for sharing this personal experience with us and such a wonderful tribute for the 10th anniversary. I also love the way you ended this post too! Never let them win!

    Adrienne

  • Ilka Flood
    Reply

    Hi Bob & Rosemary,

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story of that tragic day! I cannot even begin to imagine how you must have felt being right there and witnessing all that heart break.

    My heart goes out to all those affected by this terrible tragedy. “We will never forget!”

    Blessings to you,

    Ilka

    P.S. I too love your ending of this post. It’s perfect!

  • Jayne Kopp
    Reply

    Hi Bob & Rosemary.

    You know… it doesn’t matter where you live (country wise) I think we all felt it. I can remember precisely where I was, I have clear snapshot in my mind of my friend phoning me and yelling “turn on the TV – one of the twin towers has been attacked”…… then for the second one, driving to work, numb…. I was driving down a farm road past some greenhouses (the ones I passed every day) and heard on the radio the second tower had been attacked.

    When I got to work, I called many of may suppliers and contacts in and around New York and New Jersey. I know what you mean about stunned silence.

    Oh Bob, what a terribly emotional time walking past all the people waiting in hope to find their loved ones.

    I too am proud of America (New York & surrounding particular) for rallying together and staying so strong.

    Huge Hugs to you both and all those affected by this horrifying event that changed the ‘world’ for ever.

    Jayne

  • Janet
    Reply

    Bob, aloha. Thank you for your heartfelt post. Working in a hospital as you and Rosemary did, I cannot even begin to imagine what you saw and experienced. No doubt what touched you during those days is still deeply within you and that shared bond is another layer of your relationship.

    Bob, your ending message is perfect. Thanks so much for the links to the other posts which I look forward to reading.

    Wishing you a wonderful week ahead. Bob, let’s roll. Aloha. Janet

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