September 10, 2010

Where were you on 9/11?

September 2001.

I was attending a geophysics conference in San Antonio. Monday 10. September I had an oral presentation, with approximately 50-100 people in the audience, and 3 or 4 questions from the floor after my twenty-minute presentation. The world was normal.

The day after, I had a poster presentation, at 8:30 in the morning. I was very disappointed that no one showed up. It was a somewhat special subject, something about non-linear waves (similar to the breaking waves on the beach), but it couldn't be that bad?

After my scheduled presentation time, I went out to the big exhibition hall were the geophysical contractors run their software demos. Big crowds were gathered around the computer screens, all of them displaying the CNN broadcast.

There was a big discussion about what to do with the conference; proceed or cancel? In the end, they decided to skip all the social events, and run the technical program as planned. All the participants from Europe, Asia and South America would be stuck in San Antonio anyway. And those who lived within driving distance could not get rental cars.

When the conference ended, it was impossible to get on a plane back to Europe. So we decided to take it easy and drive around in Texas for a while. We went down to Big Bend National Park, to Austin, and the strange "German" town Fredericksburg (where a friend of mine took the picture above, outside a mall).

In Del Rio, we crossed the bridge over Rio Grande, to look around and to buy some Cuban cigars on the Mexican side. The border police told us it was no problem to get back, with our Western Europe passports. After a couple of hours, we returned to USA, smoking happily on our cigars. But when the border police found that one of my friends had three visa to Iran and one to Libya in his passport, Hell broke loose ... we spent the night in the police station.

Where were you on 9/11? The day the world turned crazy ...


  1. That was a surreal time, with some knee-jerk attitudes, and both sorrow and hate blossoming during that period.

  2. Wow, that was a scary ending to your day! I was at work when a late co-worker came in and announced that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We went downstairs to the rec room to watch the news and saw the second plane hit. It was surreal. We spent the whole day in front of the TV.

  3. I was in my favourite place - at home! My sister phoned and said "Turn on the TV, they've blown up the Trade Towers" I said, "It must be a joke or a publicitiy stunt." She just said, "It's not! It's real! Turn on the TV and watch!" And I did - just in time to see the second tower fall. Started crying and didn't move from the TV after that. Not as exciting as your 9/11, but a safer place to be!

  4. Wow...major overreaction there. What a crazy, unsettled time that was! I'm hoping you got out of jail quickly?

    I had a 2 week old baby and a 4 year old who was watching Tom and Jerry cartoons...until my sister called us and we booted my son off the TV to see the horror.

  5. Sorry about the craziness at the border. Things were crazy during that time, for sure.

    I was at home, watching TV and in shock. Hard to believe and hard to forget.

  6. Laura: Yes, it was completely unbelievable, and looking back it has changed our society quite a lot, I think.

    Alex: We spent quite some time watching news too, the same crazy pictures over and over.

    Judy: Being at home with family and friends feels safer when things happen. We were in a safe place too, so for us, the main concern was how long we had to wait to get on a flight back home.

    Elizabeth: We weren't put in jail, just examined and questioned by the border police; questioned and questioned and cross-checked and question again, for hours and hours. In the end they believed our story, after questioning us separately and cross checking our answers for contradictions.

    Helen: Two days after our excursion into Mexico, we were stopped by border patrol on the highway, 50 miles into Texas, and it was basically the same story one more time. I agree, it's still hard to believe that the terror in NYC and the other places has really happened.

  7. I remember I was driving to the City and heard the news on the car and couldn't believe how serious it could be.

    My Darcy Mutates…

  8. Enid: I think it's still hard to believe it really happened. The world has changed a lot since then, and air travel has become a big hazzle. 15 years ago we didn't have security at all on the airport in my town (with 150.000 citizens and 20.000 students). We could walk from the parking straight to the gate and into the plane. If I parked the car 10 mins before take off I had plenty of time. Now I need to be there an hour before to get through security lines.

  9. It was so strange. was in my office at the Institute for Social Research at UM. I heard something on the news on NPR about the first plane and then found live coverage on MSNBC via computer and watched the second plane hit and both towers fall. It was a truly horrible day. I had a friend who had moved out of the Merril Lynch office in the World Trade Center only a short while earlier, and another friend whose former office (and secretary) in the Pentagon were actually hit.

  10. Things like that can capture your attention. The Twin Towers was probably the worst, but I also remember being glued to the TV when the Challenger (I think it was, but am not sure) went down over north Texas.


  11. Hart: It was a very sad day, when the Sword team scored many goals against the Pen.

    Helen: I remember the Challenger accident in 1986, which happened one month before the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was murdered in downtown Stockholm.

  12. I was just waking up and going to work. I saw the mews of the first plane, then on the way to work caught the second crash on the radio. Mu cubicle overlooked Orange County Airport from the 20th floor of our office. It was so scary to see the planes lined up symmetrically across the tarmac, just sitting there, not moving.

    Stephen Tremp

  13. What an interesting tale. My husband and I were still in college, and I remember him coming back from an early class that had been canceled, waking me up, and turning on the TV. We just sat there for hours, mesmerized. That night we went to a local, seedy pizza place, ordered a pitcher of beer and a pizza with EVERYTHING. I think we were just grasping at the material to keep us grounded. We didn't talk about anything but the planes and buildings all day. We didn't laugh all day. We just really got in touch with tragedy and our own safety...and each other.

    And this post has reminded me how close we got on that day. We weren't married yet and we seemed to have the whole world in front of us...Thanks for reminding me what I was doing and how it affected my world.


  14. It's so interesting how everyone has their own memories and experience of that day. And I can't even imagine border control right after, that must have been crazy.

  15. Stephen: I think the big shock came when the 2nd plane came. Then it was clear that if was not an accident.

    Michele: I'm glad you liked the post, and that it made you remind ...

    Megan: Border control was completely crazy after 9/11, including immigration in the airports. Still it's a lot stricter than it used to be in good old innocent times.

  16. I was a director at a camp and my night person told me when I arrived. It was surreal experience because kids did not need to know since they were away at camp for the week, but I got blindsided when their teachers decided to tell them and got permission from their school principals. My 20 something staff were glued to the TVs until I kicked them out and told them to get out and hike with the kids. 6 months later we had a fluke snowstorm and the kids that came up that week made twin towers out of snow and got sticks and pretended to crash into their snow towers. My staff was horrified, but it was how the kids were processing it. I thought it was totally healthy and appropriate. As for the Space shuttle, that is one day I will never forget since it was on my 18th birthday and we all stopped to watch it in High School. Like 9/11 I relive that trama, honor those who lost their lives and never take anything for granted.

  17. I was just home from school, watching TV when the show was interrupted by the news report. I remember thinking it was probably just an accident, until I got to see the live shot of the second plane. It was absolutely surreal.

    I agree that 9/11 changed the world - if for nothing else, it changed our perception of it.

  18. Sounds like your world turned seriously crazy just 'cause of those visas. I was at work, most of us gathering round a TV at regular intervals. My husband worked in the same office and told me about the first plane as I walked in.


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