In the event of a government shutdown, American History will remain OPEN through at least Saturday, October 7, by using prior year funds. Visit for updates.

In Real Time

Zucchini banana muffins in a muffin tin

At sunrise, I was making banana bread muffins for breakfast. I lived in SE DC with a housemate, and a friend was visiting from Baltimore. All was calm and quiet. My housemate came into the kitchen and said that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. It sounded awful and I imagined a small private plane that had messed up in the worst of ways.

The friend visiting from Baltimore came into the kitchen, as I was ready to add scrambled eggs to our breakfast. My housemate came back and said that we really should come look at what was happening. The only TV in the place was his and in his room.

The three of us sat on the floor staring at the TV. The muffins were on a plate that no one touched. I remember a journalist reading script that described what was happening as we simultaneously in real time saw another plane crash into the second tower. An anonymous hand passed a page to the journalist, who calmly said, “The second tower has been hit.”

I walked down the street to get some cigarettes, and saw a woman sitting on her porch, crying.

When I got back from the store, the friend visiting from Baltimore was silent and crying, stranded because all transportation had been closed down. My housemate got a call from his partner who worked at the Pentagon, telling him only that he probably would not hear from him again anytime soon. I got a call from my boyfriend who worked at one of the Smithsonian museums on the mall. He had been told to leave, go home, and stay away from the Capitol and any national monuments.

At one point, my housemate stepped out. That's when his mother in west Pennsylvania called to see if he was all right. I said that he wasn't there and she said, “Well, tell him that his mama loves him.” I never met her but with those words I fell in love.

I heard and saw the helicopter bringing the president back to DC pass over head.

At sunset, I looked out the back door and watched, over the alleyway and across the Potomac, smoke rising up from the Pentagon.

Story Campaign: 
Stories of September 11