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#WhereWereYou On 9/11? 13 Elite Daily Staffers Recount That Day 13 Years Later

September 11 was a day that changed the course of all of our lives forever. There will never be a year that we don’t stop to commemorate, honor and pay tribute to the thousands of lives lost and the thousands of individuals who poured in from near — and far — to help restore a sense of peace to the city of New York, Washington DC and a barren Pennsylvania field.

There will never be a day where we don’t hold our breath every time turbulence shifts our plane even a centimeter off its course; there will never be a day where we aren’t terrified of the fear of the unknown, of what’s to come, of what’s lurking behind every corner.

It’s incredible to think that we are raising generations born in the haze of a post-9/11 world. It makes us realize the importance of sharing our stories, of recounting those feelings of terror, chaos and unease. It reminds us that our voices — no matter how big or how small — matter.

So today, like we do on every anniversary of that fateful cool, September morning when havoc and horror roared their ugly heads across our coast, we share where we were on September 11.

Nikki Pagliaro, I was 15; North Brunswick, NJ

“I remember being in my ninth grade biology class when my teacher rushing out of the classroom after getting a phone call. I remember him rushing back in, asking if anyone had family that worked at the World Trade Center buildings.

A good friend of mine was one of the students that raised her hand, and she was immediately escorted out.

She learned later that day her father had not been in the first tower at the time since he'd randomly decided to get coffee and was running a little late. It’s such a lucky story. To this day, that memory still gives me goosebumps.”

Elizabeth Baugh, I was 12; Virginia Beach, VA

“I was in my seventh grade history class in Virginia Beach and I had never been to New York City before. I had no idea what the buildings were, and was naively concerned about what would happen to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade because I had no concept of what was happening.

It wasn’t until the second tower went down and my best friend (whose dad was on Seal Team 6) was called for early release that I knew we had a problem. She left school so fast, it was almost as if her family knew this was about to happen.

Her dad was deployed the next morning. Living in a huge Navy town was scary for the next few days. Many of my friends’ parents immediately left to go overseas, and many suspected our area would be a huge target.”

Serge Efap, I was 9; Manhattan, NY

“I was in fourth grade on the day that the Twin Towers were struck by the airplanes. One by one, students in my class and other classes were getting picked up by their parents, so we knew that something was going on, but we weren’t sure what. My mom picked me up crying and when we got home, I saw the tragedy for myself.

I was in awe at the fact that something so cruel could happen, but I was also surprised at how quickly our nation banded together during this crisis. While I watched the news for the rest of the evening, I called every family member and friend I could think of, hoping that they were okay.”

Joana Pizzirusso, I was 11; Long Island, NY

“I was sitting in my sixth grade science class when the 9/11 tragedy first happened. Our school office called me down for early dismissal. My mom was always the ‘cool mom’ who would let me come late and leave early whenever I wanted, so the surprise early pick-up was nothing out of the ordinary.

Walking into the main office and seeing the look on her face, though, was totally out of the ordinary. When we left the office, she said goodbye to the fellow moms waiting to pick up their children, all telling one another to “stay safe.” Stay safe? Why would we need to stay safe? I kept asking my mom what was going on, but she refused to tell me until we got in the car.

I sat there in awe as she explained what happened. She turned on the radio to lighten the mood, but there was no music playing that day; only reports of heartbreak and utter confusion for the tragedy that took place in our beloved city.

My naive 11-year-old mind couldn’t wrap itself around what was going on, and even though its been 13 years since the tragedy, I still can’t.”

Emily Arata, I was 9; Eagan, Minnesota

“When I heard about the first plane, I was in my fourth grade classroom in Minnesota. I didn’t understand what was happening or why all the adults were so scared. I remember coming home from school and my mom had the TV on — something that never happened during the day.

She told me that some very bad men had crashed planes into two skyscrapers. New York felt like a world away and I was only scared because I’d never seen my teachers or parents frightened before that day.”

Edin Veljovic, I was 10; Manhattan, NY

“I was in my fifth grade classroom watching the first tower burn. Everyone was in shock and awe, but no one knew how to react. We were all sitting at our desks when we heard a loud noise.

We watched the second plane hit the second tower. Our teacher was trying to keep us calm as we tried to decode what was going on. Amongst all of the chaos, I saw my best friend hit the ground with a look of despair on his face.

He lowered his head into his palms and quietly whispered, 'My mom works in that building.'”

John Haltiwanger; I was 13; Hyattsville, MD

“I was in my eighth grade drama class. My school was very close to DC so it was put on lockdown. At one point, I thought we were being invaded; I’d never seen the teachers so nervous.

My community lost a family in the plane that flew into the Pentagon. The solidarity we exhibited in the days that followed still gives me goosebumps. I will never forget.”

Stephanie Freeman, I was 11; Plantation, FLA

“I was in 6th grade. My friends and I were sitting in the cafeteria at break when my friend joked that ‘the Twin Towers aren't twins anymore. I’m from Florida, so I didn’t even know what the Twin Towers were. I just dismissed her comment. It was an ugly, stormy day in Florida, unlike the perfect blue-skied day it was in New York.

One by one, kids were pulled out of school left and right. The teachers said it was because we were under a ‘Hurricane Watch.’ My mom was a substitute teacher at the time, so I went to the classroom she was in to find out what was going on. That's when I saw what was happening.

I watched the TV screen as a commercial plane flew into the World Trade Center with full force — and watched it burst into deep, dark clouds of orange, black and yellow.

My mom hugged me. I went to English class and Mrs. Morrison told us we would no longer be reading 'Z for Zachariah.' I now know why. I went home that night and my 11-year-old self wrote, 'I think we are going to war.'”

Kylie McConville, I was 12; Cold Spring, NY

“That day is still so fuzzy for me, mostly because so much happened so quickly. As I was walking to class, my brother told me that the Twin Towers had been hit and that our dad was there. How he knew, I’ll never know. When the fire alarm sounded, it was like the world stopped. Did they expect us to go outside? What was waiting for us out there? Was it safe?

Within the hour, our school, which sat comfortably alongside the Hudson River — the same river the terrorists used to navigate their way back toward Manhattan — was the site of pure chaos. My mom picked us up early and immediately we packed bags to head to my aunt’s house. As we pulled up, my uncle was leaving, headed down to the city to help with relief efforts. He was also going to find my dad.

I remember those moments afterward so vividly. I remember the fact that my dad and his brother, both cops, were gone for nearly the next three months; just figures passing through the house for fresh clothes and a shower in the early hours of the morning before heading back to Ground Zero.

I remember thinking that I would never see him or them again. But by some miracle, I did. And to this day, the memories are still overwhelming.”

Dan Scotti, I was 9; Plainview, NY

“To be honest, I was too young to really understand 9/11 when it happened. I remember the day perfectly, though: I was sitting in my fourth grade class, utterly confused.

The classroom phone kept ringing and, one by one, students were escorted from class. I didn't know why, and to be quite honest, the 9-year-old me was anxiously waiting for my turn to get called – so I, too, could go home early.

I thought I was one of the “unlucky ones” because I had to stay the entire day but when I got home, I learned that all the kids who left early had loved ones working in Manhattan.

When I realized that my dad, who works a block away from the World Trade Center buildings, didn't go to work that morning – since my mom's flight got delayed the night before — I knew that I was one of the lucky ones.”

Kaitlyn Cawley, I was 12; Bronx, NY

“It was second period Spanish class in the Bronx. One student who lived in Manhattan and was chronically late, burst through the doors; he had been on the bridge when the first plane hit, and said it shook.

They had all gotten out of their cars; he watched the second plane hit, and he described the moment in sort of a breathless wonder.

I’m not sure any of us understood the gravity of that moment until my teacher ran from the classroom in tears. Her sister worked in one of the towers. She wasn’t picking up her phone.

We were a bunch of 12-year-olds with only a thin partition between the low murmur of the news and the sobs of our teacher. I will never forget those sounds.”

Kelley Lord, I was 10; Rochester, NY

“My teacher came into our computer class in fifth grade and sadly delivered the news. I didn’t know what the Twin Towers were so when we were sent home, my eyes were glued to the television screen.

It felt like the start of an apocalyptic movie; I just couldn’t understand it all. That night, I was in my bed with my blankets up to my eyes and I burst out in tears of fear. My mom rushed in and I told her I was scared a plane would come through my window.

She assured me they weren’t coming after me, that they were trying to send a message of terror; but that I was safe. It was the first time I heard of the concept of terrorism and I still can’t wrap my mind around it.”

Robbie Gordon, I was 10; Queens, NY

“It was Primary Day in New York City and we were starting the process to elect a new mayor. Because of this, I thought nothing of it when my fifth grade classmates were being pulled out of class.

Their parents just voted and didn’t want to come back, right? Then I noticed my teachers were crying. Then my father picked me up. He never picked me up unless something was very, very wrong. That’s when I found out. That's when everything changed.”

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Kylie McConville


Kylie is the deputy editor and in charge of managing the women's lifestyle team. She's most likely tired, so be nice to her, okay?
Kylie is the deputy editor and in charge of managing the women's lifestyle team. She's most likely tired, so be nice to her, okay?

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