Some voices from 9/11

Below follow some of the more poignant quotes from The Only Plane in the Sky.


Meanwhile, hundreds of feet below the impact zone, people were still going about their day. The World Trade Center complex was so massive that those in the underground shopping concourses didn’t feel the plane hit and did not realize something terrible had transpired until they saw others fleeing.


One of the firemen from Rescue 1 looked up and said, “We may not live through today.” We looked at him, and we looked at each other, and we said, “You’re right.” We took the time to shake each other’s hands and wish each other good luck and “Hope I’ll see you later,” which is especially poignant for me because we all had that acknowledgment that this might be our last day on earth and we went to work anyway.

At the Pentagon:
John Yates: It was pure black. You were in a black room, you didn’t know where you are. What’s the first thing you do? You put your hands out to try to find where you are. Everything I touched burned me.

Last Words:
Mostly, I just wanted to say I love you and I’m going to miss you. I don’t know if I’m going to get the chance to tell you that again.

Rick Rescorla, in a phone call to his wife, Susan: I don’t want you to cry. I have to evacuate my people now. If something happens to me, I want you to know that you made my life.

Constance Labetti, accountant, Aon Corporation, South Tower, 99th floor: I would start to cry, and I’d start to tremble, and I heard my father’s voice. My father had been dead since 1985—and I heard his voice, clear as day, telling me that I was not going to die in this building. I straightened up and kept walking down the steps.

(My favorite part of this story — after Labetti escaped, the people she was with hugged and thanked her. She’d been saying the words she ‘heard’ from her late father and uncle, and inspired them to keep moving.)

Andrew Kirtzman: It was pretty weird that here was the mayor and the entire leadership of the city, and they were as helpless as anyone walking down the street. As a citizen, it was pretty frightening that no one was in charge—or the person who is supposed to be in charge had no way of operating.

Rep. Porter Goss: There wasn’t any plan. You’ve now taken 535 of the most important people in the country and put them out on the lawn.

Pacing President
“Dave Wilkinson: He fought with us tooth and nail all day to go back to Washington. We basically refused to take him back. The way we look at it is that by federal law, the Secret Service has to protect the president. The wishes of that person that day are secondary to what the law expects of us. Theoretically, it’s not his call. It’s our call.”

United We Stand
At 1:00 the phone started ringing, people who want to come and help. I put the names of all these people in an Excel sheet and what it is that they wanted to do. They wanted to help dig out the people at the Pentagon. They wanted to secure the area themselves. They wanted to enlist to go and fight. I had a man who called and he said, “I am 80 years old. I still fit in my pilot uniform from World War II. I can still see. I can still hear. I have kept up with my training as a pilot. Tell whoever you can tell that I’m ready to report for duty.” That broke my heart, this 80-year-old man saying that.

I felt so proud that my community, the Hispanic community, were calling. Suddenly the phones were ringing and saying, “This is the country that we chose to come to. Nobody will destroy our country.” They would say, “I’m not legal in the United States. Do you think they will accept me to do volunteer work?”

John Feehery: I think it was [Rep.] Jennifer Blackburn Dunn who started breaking out in “God Bless America.”
Sen. Tom Daschle: It didn’t take long before everybody began singing along. It was probably the most beautiful part of the entire experience, totally unplanned, totally spontaneous. But probably more powerful than whatever the Speaker and I said. Rep. Dennis Hastert: I remember the chills going down my spine. I remember thinking, This country will be okay. We’ll stand shoulder to shoulder.

He said, “I don’t know what the plan is, but I’m going to be the best husband, father, dad, son that I can be. That’s how I’m going to live my life.”

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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4 Responses to Some voices from 9/11

  1. Marian says:

    Hard to read without tearing up… There must have been so many heroes we’ll never know about.

    I’d like to read this as well; I was young enough to not remember much about what happened. My first thought must have been it wasn’t a normal homeschool day, because I woke up, feeling something was “off,” and wandered into the family room. My mom didn’t even look up, she was staring at the plane and the burning building on our fuzzy TV. She probably had the volume on (maybe that woke me up), but I just remember an eerie silence. Then the world got really noisy after that.

    • One chapter of the book may be of particular interest to you, then, because several people who were varying ages on that day (3 to 16) offer their own recollections. One of them was too young to know exactly what the images on TV meant, but they knew it made their parents and everyone else at home despair. I didn’t realize until recently that I was actually in ELEVENTH grade during WTC, not tenth as I’ve often reported. My journal entry for that period is unhelpful — it’s just a drawing of the towers, and then the word “anthrax” on the next page.

  2. I could not even read all of these, it brings tears to my eyes even 18 years later. I cried talking to my 6th graders about it this year still.

    • I imagine that actually helps them grasp the heaviness of the event, instead of it being a dry thing that happened. You may want to buy a box of Kleenex when you start the book, though — I had tears in my eyes, and I follow the John Wayne school of masculinity!

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