'Turn on the TV!' 'Which Channel?' 'Any Channel'

Everyone has their own stories about where they were, and what they did on September 11, 2001 — this is one is mine.

At about 6:45 a.m. Pacific time, we were awakened by our phone. On it was a friend from Britain, whom we had met when he was a senior employee in a San Jose dot-com start-up, but was forced to move back to England after the inevitable layoffs of his start-up began.


“Turn on the TV”

His message to my wife? “Turn on your TV.” Which channel? “Any channel.” As she blearily talked to him, I fumbled for my glasses, fumbled for the remote, couldn’t find it, and crawled out of bed to manually turn on the set.

The results were the images the nation spent the day having seared into its collective brains, beginning with a split screen of the World Trade Center in flames, alongside a replay of one of the planes going into the second tower to be hit. We managed to wake up just in time for the announcement that another plane had just been flown into the Pentagon.

We then turned on our laptop, plugged it into one of two LAN jacks I had installed a year ago in our bedroom (to my wife’s amusement, back then) and alternated between watching the news via satellite, and getting what information we could from the Web, which we also to check in with friends via instant messages, and on two of our three phone lines to make sure they were OK. Like many Americans, we have a friend who works very, very near the World Trade Center, and several members of my wife’s family are scattered about Manhattan.

Although phone service to all of Manhattan York was terribly slow to non-existent, we were able to find a cousin via email and a friend in an online forum. He had gone online hoping to find someone to “report in with” and we were online at the same time, looking for him.


Our friends and family were all very, very lucky—it just took a while for some of them to check in or for us to reach them, due to the terrible chaos and outage of phone service to Manhattan. Our friend who’s office was located far too close to ground zero for comfort managed to walk back to her apartment, call another friend in Boston, who called us soon with the good news, soon after we watched the World Trade Center implode with our chins located somewhere near the floor.

Related: Bruce Bower on the PJM homepage, on the media coverage from that day, which plenty of YouTube clips from Howard Stern, David Letterman, and other broadcasters. And Kathy Shaidle, who’s in New York today, features a clip of a businessman who called 911 from inside the WTC, which abruptly cuts off as the first tower disintegrates. It is, needless to say, utterly chilling:


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