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The September 11 Digital Archive

Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Smithsonian “September 11:
Bearing Witness to History”

     Story of September 11
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Contributed by: Lance Azbell
Contributor's location on 9/11: greenfield,IL
Contributed on: 5 November 2004

How did you witness history on September 11th?

i was working that day. a maintenance person for a community college in metro st. louis. im not sure what time it was.. seems like it was around 8:40 am central time when a friend and co-worker drove up next to me as i was walking and said.."have you heard this sh*t?" i remember then that it was a beautiful day out.. not a cloud in the sky as i leaned on his van facing east.. the sun shining brightly on me. he told me that "they" had flown planes into the world trade center. i couldnt understand what was being said on the radio in his van. it was rather chaotic though. about 10 of the 15 of us, who all were good friends and all of us americans to the core decided to forego waiting the 20 minutes til break and went to the main cafeteria where about 20 people had gathered already. i was in utter disbelief? watching both towers billowing with smoke was ... well i want to say horrifying but more than that a stab in the heart. then they announced on the tv that the pentagon had been rammed by a plane. a woman in front of me was crying saying her daughter works somewhere the d.c. area and all the cell phone lines are busy and she cant get in touch with her. i assured her she was alright since this lady said her daughter worked in a government building far north of the pentagon. i realized that this that was unfolding in front of my eyes was the "new pearl harbor". being there only 10 minutes the first building collapsed. there are no words to explain seeing such a sight. none. then the other tower collapsed. with a head full of mindless information as i just love to look up, study, and read about facts... i thought dear Lord; just like pearl harbor but ill bet there are gonna be 10 times the number of people killed. i stood there long after my co-workers had gone back to work. i was numb. so numb. no way to feel what i had witnessed. numb to the point of nausea. i returned home about 4pm that day.i quickly tossed in a video tape and began watching the news. they were replaying the whole catastrophe over and over and showing what was still going on as well as possible death tolls. still so numb i was unable to be filled with rage at this abomination. that came later. a thousand miles away.. i was a thousand miles away. i could have been, any american could have been lifetimes away and still feel like those towers collapsed in their neighborhood. it was later that night i guess, maybe the next night.. when emergency vehicle after emergency vehicle was heading into NYC. throngs of americans line the roads with signs of good will or sadness. america pulled together in those dark days of the likes which has not been seen since probably VJ day during world war 2. the world pulled together as well. i got emails from friends in several countries expressing their sorrow. two nights afterward, i remember talking with a friend behind his house. all planes had been grounded. there was nothing in the sky but stars. i mentioned how odd it was. how peculiar it felt. to this day, when they replay the towers collapsing i turn my head away from the television. i cant bear to watch it. i still remember that night with no sky filled with blinking lights of airplanes. God those towers stood for a long time considering the impacts they received. we all shuddered and shook as they fell. but we are americans, we live in the greatest country in the world. we proved our souls and hearts are made of more than concrete and steel like the towers, for we were brougth together that day...and we still stand mighty.

Has your life changed because of September 11, 2001?

yes it has changed. how could any american say it hasnt. unfortunately there is suspicion and paranoia from time to time. the darkeness of that day has led to many things in life being referenced to either before or after september 11th.

What do you think should be remembered about September 11th?

i think everything should be remembered. the lack of security. the murder of innocence. those that died. those that lived. the rescuers that perished. the ground that has now become hallowed. those people that became heroes. remember the pain and the darkness so our vigilance never lacks to let the light to out again.

Did you fly an American flag after the events of September 11th?

yes, i flew the flag after those events. and i have tried to light a candle to put in the window each september 11th since just as i do for veterans day, the anniverary of D-Day, Pearl Harbor, and Memorial day. my feelings of the american flag has not changed after the events. before, during and after september 11th, to see Old Glory flying has and will always be an emotional and powerful sight.

Cite as: Lance Azbell, Smithsonian Story #6868, The September 11 Digital Archive, 5 November 2004, <>.
Archival Information: 664 words, 3544 characters

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