‘It hit me like lightning’
I was in Japan, and had been there for a couple of days. It was about midnight and I was asleep. When the second plane hit, they woke me up. I was groggy because of jet lag but I turned on the TV and was watching CNN most of the night. My first thoughts turned to my family. Then it hit me like lightning, we insured the New York City firefighters. I was talking to the office to make sure we were doing what we had to do to take care of them. The next few days I continued to work making business calls in Japan, and the whole mood changed. I was getting a lot of condolences. It so happened, I was on the first flight out of Japan coming home. There were a lot of nervous people. -- Dan Amos, 60, chairman and chief executive officer Aflac
‘I was puzzled and shocked’
I was in the office working and a co-worker said they heard a plane hit one of the towers. ... Then the second plane hit. I was puzzled and shocked. We were speechless. I didn’t know what to think or what to say. My in-laws were here with us, from Pensacola. We all had a tough time. Later I talked with my family in Iran and they were also sad and amazed and confused. It was my niece’s wedding a few days after, and they couldn’t be that happy. They had it, but they couldn’t have as good a time as they could have had. -- Farhad “Ali” AliFarhani, 55, an engineer with the city of Columbus
‘The rumors started to come out’
I was in a jail... I watched the second plane crash. It was 64 miles outside of the city. It just hit so fast. You didn’t have time to think of anything. When that second plane hit, I knew exactly something ain’t right. When the building started to fall, we went into lockdown. Then the rumors started to come out. We shut down the jail. ... We had no phones in the jail. I had to wait until 5 o’clock before I could contact any of my family. -- Phil Neucall, 40, an officer with the Columbus Police Department who was working at Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, N.Y., on 9/11.
‘No one said anything’
I was at home and was getting ready to leave; I was running late. I stopped to watch the television, and when I got to work, I told everybody the second tower fell. We all went down to the youth room where there’s a TV. We just stared at it. No one said anything. -- The Rev. Cindy Bennett, 52, chaplain at Magnolia Manor of Columbus, was working at Wynnton United Methodist Church on 9/11
‘I’ll never forget it’
I was at home, but I lived on the north shore of Staten Island, just across New York Harbor from lower Manhattan. It was actually my mom who called me and told me what was happening... I just sat there staring out the window for the next few hours. They stopped running the Staten Island Ferry, which was right in front of my house, so all the people commuting to work were just stacking up. There were probably a couple of thousand people standing around the ferry terminal along the shore watching it happen. The noise that rose up from the crowd when the first tower actually fell I’ll never forget it. Just thinking about it gives me chills all over my body. It was kind of like a moan.
-- Jim Rutland, 45, programming director for the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts
‘Everyone was on alert’
I was at Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia, stationed there at Sewell Point Safety Office. We had a radio on... then they started talking about terrorist activity. Obviously, being in a safety office at the time our ears perked up. So we turned on the TV and started to watch as the second plane hit the towers. Everybody was on the phone at the time making their calls to respective commanders, and we were making our calls to be on the highest alert... Everyone was on alert. They were sending jets off the aircraft carriers and making sure the Norfolk area was locked down. My mom was the first to reach out to me and try to find out where I was and what was going on, to make sure that her little boy was OK.
-- Chris McCoy, 35, general manager of Peachtree Mall ,quarterback for the Columbus Lions
‘It was just panic’
I’m an engineer. I was at work in a textile plant, Fieldcrest. My wife called because I have a daughter who worked across the street from the World Trade Center at World Financial. The first thing I did was load up and go home. We were trying to contact her all along. She would normally be coming up through World Trade and walking across the street about that time. We could not get in touch with her... It was just panic, an ineptness because I didn’t feel like I could do anything.
-- Ron Gibson, 60, senior vice president of National Security Associates in Columbus
‘I knew I was going to war’
I was lecturing in an algebra class here at Central and the media specialist told me I needed to turn the television on. She knew I was a captain in the Alabama Army National Guard. We turned the set on in time to see the second airplane hit the tower. I was angry that someone would attack us. I was also concerned for my wife and my son who was then just a year old because I knew I was going to war somewhere. Several students were crying.
-- Tommy Vickers, principal at Central High in Phenix City, served in Iraq 2007-2008.
‘I wanted to know if I was safe’
I was in the second grade at Ridgecrest. It was a regular day up until the attack. It was very emotional in the room and some kids were crying. I wanted to know if it was safe to go outside. Other students did too. When I went home I just sat on the couch and watched. I knew it was history in the making. I just sat there trying to figure it all out. My father Anthony Wallace works for KBR and went to Iraq.
-- Jonathan Wallace, 17, a senior at Central High in Phenix City
‘I came down as fast as I could’
I was at the state Capitol in Atlanta waiting to meet with the governor. It came through the halls when the first one hit. We looked at the screen for the second one, and I just got in my car and came back. I came down as fast as I could to get back to Columbus. That’s exactly when we increased the security in the Government Center that’s still in place today. (As mayor), you’re responsible for the safety of everyone, so you try to get the best people you can find around you... First responders were working 18-hour days and responding constantly to one call after another. I call them our domestic soldiers because they’re on the front lines just like the military is in Iraq. After 9/11, for the next 12 months, our public safety calls increased by 300 percent.
-- Bobby Peters 62, a Superior Court judge and former mayor of Columbus
‘I never took my job for granted’
I remember it as clear as day. It was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I have a fire science degree. Automatically in your mind when you see something like that you say, “Uh oh, it’s damaged.” You know how that fuel burns. You know it’s going to compromise that structure. I never took my job for granted because I knew when I left my house that I may not return to see my family any more. You never know what’s going to happen when you sign on to be a fireman. I sympathize with all of those people and their families.
-- Wallace Hunter, 51, city manager of Phenix City and former fire chief
‘Our country was under attack’
I was just beginning my second year at Mercer Law School in Macon on 9/11. I remember the morning of 9/11 very clearly... All of the students were frantically discussing what terrorist group could have been responsible. Several students called family and friends in New York. One student had a family member that worked in the towers and luckily they were not present during the attacks. Our classes were cancelled for the day. I immediately called my husband, Tony Nguyen. He was a first lieutenant stationed with the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo. Since 9/11, he has been deployed six times to Afghanistan and Iraq for the war against terrorism. He is now a major. -- Linda Nguyen, 34, commercial real estate attorney with Page, Scrantom,
‘I was real emotional’
I was in school, at Benning Hills Elementary. I was in fifth grade. My mom came and got me out of school and explained to me what was going on. She said the country was under attack and she took me home. I was real emotional. I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew our country was under attack.
-- Brannon Harris, 19, employee at Brother’s General Store
‘I thought it was somebody pranking on the radio’
I had just gotten home. I had worked the graveyard shift to 8 that morning. Actually, I first heard it on the radio in disbelief. I thought it was somebody pranking on the radio... I turned on the TV. I think I did call in at work. I didn’t know what was taking place. Then I just more or less stayed available if they needed us to come back. -- Frank Ivey, 56, captain with the Phenix City Police Department