Same Event, Different Memories


L. Jay Meyer

September 11th, 2001. One date. Three words. Seventeen characters. Yet, if this seemingly random date is mentioned to any American over the age of 5, they could tell you exactly  the significance of that date.

September 11th, 2001, or 9/11 as it is commonly referred to, is a date that left a gash on this country as deep as the Twin Towers were high. On that day, a total of 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked 4 commercial airliners with the intent of flying into four different buildings as part of a suicide attack on the United States. The Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the White House were the targets of this devastating attack, which made it blatantly obvious al- Qaeda wanted to hit us where it hurts.

American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into Tower One and Tower Two, respectively. American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon- the United States Department of Defense headquarters- which resulted in the collapse of the western portion of the building. Lastly, the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, which was headed towards the White House, were able to regain control of the plane and crash land into a field in Pennsylvania. In total, these attacks killed almost 3,000 people: including the 227 plane passengers, 19 hijackers, 343 firemen, and 72 law enforcement officers.

No matter how many adults are asked about that day, each and every one of them can remember exactly what happened and how they found out what was occurring in their country. My own mother, Jennifer Anderson, can recall exactly what part of a specific road she was on when the phone call came in from her friend who delivered the news. It was as if every American not directly involved with the tragedy occurring in New York was in a trance on the edge of their couches, focused on what and the video feed playing on the screen next to him was telling them to believe. Many refused to accept that harsh reality, so much so that they continued to watch the video feed for hours on a loop, until they finally broke the trance. Then they were able to tell themselves no, they were not going to allow themselves to be submitted to what al- Qaeda wanted; destroying one of the most powerful nations in the world.

The events of 9/11 was so surreal for everyone, but more so for the people who were where the action occurred.

George Ranch’s very own, L. Jay Meyer was a little too close for comfort that day. Meyer had been in New York for three weeks to the day, and had only been working on the 17th floor in Tower 2 for nine days in a temporary position. On the day of the attacks he was working the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift; his day was just getting started.

Meyer recalls “the building, our building Tower Two, swaying and there was a loud explosive type sound” yet no one in the building knew what was happening just a few yards from their desks. Meyer remembers little about what he said in the events that followed, but his boss told Meyer later that he mentioned something “about planes, but we never saw any. It could have been missiles, who knows, it could have been Godzilla, we had no concept of really what was going on”.

The only thing anyone could see from inside the building was a ripple that streamed through the first tower. Meyer’s desk was next to a window, and he recalls the images he saw next. “I looked out and saw debris falling and… people scattering and then all of a sudden there was paper flying… like someone had just thrown a bunch of paper off the roof… I looked up and there was fire and smoke coming out of Tower One.”

His boss made the executive decision to evacuate his employees down the stairwell and out of the building. “We got downstairs and that’s when it became clear that there was something major going on,” Meyer said. Due to the fact that Meyer was new in town, he was having great difficulty finding his group’s meeting place. He was about 25 yards away from his building when he had looked up to try “to figure out what was going on with Tower One… It was about that point that this ripple went through [the] building”. There was a blast of fire and even more debris falling, and again because of his position, Meyer was unable to see what had hit the building.

At that point everyone scattered and Meyer found himself in a part of town he did not recognize. “I was down there without anybody and not having a clue as to where I was in the city or how to get anywhere else because it was all new to me and so I asked a police officer standing in the street where Times Square was” he recalls. As he was nearing Times Square, he was crossing the street when he assumes the first tower, Tower Two, went down because he can remember the smoke headed towards him.

While everyone who was watching from their homes as this tragedy was occurring can remember every single detail of that day, Meyer, who was directly involved in the situation, has great difficulty remembering the little details of that day. “My building was the second one hit, but it was the first one that went down. Building one was the first one hit but the last one to go down. I don’t know if I was watching the first one actually come down or if I was watching footage that it had happened. I know that when Tower Two went down I was in the area because I was getting away from the smoke” he said.

Many people questioned the decisions made by some of the people inside of Tower Two and ask why most bosses sent their employees back to their desks. Meyer gives us his point of view on the comments and questions:

“We were fortunate, we were in the stairwell when they said go back to your desks [so] we didn’t hear it. I don’t know that we would if we had heard it. But being down stairs and seeing what we saw down there, it made sense, it was the safest thing to do because the last thing they needed was people trying to walk out of the building when there is stuff [flying]. It’s easy to look at that and say ‘Why did you do that’, well because you don’t want people outside getting hit by the stuff and again no one had any clue”.

No one believed those Towers would fall, never less that America would be attacked in such a direct way. al-Qaeda’s goal was to destroy a nation, but they failed miserably. After the September 11th attacks there was an overabundance of patriotism and pride felt in each and every American. Even 13 years later, American’s, from all walks of life, pause in remembrance of those caught in the crossfire.