At 8:46 a.m. in New York on September 11, 2001, the first airplane hit the World Trade Center North Tower.

I was at my desk in Providence, RI, when I heard the first reports of a “small plane” hitting the World Trade Center. Seemed odd, but not out of the realm of possibility.

Morning news shows interrupted coverage as the murky facts began to emerge.

Slowly, it became clear it was no accident, as the South Tower also was hit (at 31:20 of video below).

And then the Pentagon was hit

And then the unthinkable, the Towers collapsed:

As passengers on United Flight 93 heroically fought to gain access to the cockpit, without success as the hijackers crashed the plane in Shanksville, PA:

My memories are now, as they were then, 9/11/01 and Memory:

Memory is a strange thing.

There are many things I remember about the attacks on 9/11/01:  The first announcement when I was at my desk in Providence that a “small plane” had hit the World Trade Center, the announcement of a second “small plane” and then the reality; the collapse of the buildings, something that was unimaginable; the films of people jumping from windows above the flames; and the images of medical staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital and elsewhere who waited for thousands of injured who never appeared because there were so few survivors.

But three things keep coming back to me.

First, the missing persons flyers posted throughout downtown New York City.  Whether on walls or held up by relatives on the street, each poster represented grieving families and friends….

Second, the sound of the PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) alarms worn by firemen, whichcontinued chirping after the buildings collapsed, each one representing a life lost.  I never have been able to erase that sound from my memory:

Third, the farewell messages from people trapped above the flames or on Flight 93 left onanswering machines of loved ones.

The one I remember most vividly was that of Melissa Harrington Hughes who was visiting New York on business.  Melissa did speak to her father, who recounts the events here, and then left this message for her husband who was asleep in San Francisco and didn’t answer the phone in time.  When he tried to call her back, the call didn’t go through.