Jewish Journal

We remember 9/11

by The Web Guy

September 11, 2008 | 4:43 am

At our regular Wednesday morning editorial meeting, I asked my colleagues to e-mail me any thoughts they'd like to share on today's anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Here's what they sent:

Just days into the start of my senior year, I sat in my fourth period Spanish class when I began to hear a commotion coming from the hallway of my high school in Pittsburgh, PA.

As the bell rang, I casually made my way my locker, only to be confronted by several friends asking me if I heard 'the news.'

For the next several months, all I would hear about was 'the news.'

I left school early that day and headed to my father's office across the street. Networks repeatedly played the footage as my father and I watched the two planes strike the Twin Towers.

As reports continued I learned of the strike at the Pentagon and the attempted White House strike of United Airlines flight 93 which crashed in Somerset County, about 80 miles outside Pittsburgh and just 80 miles from my home.

-- Jay Firestone

The morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up and put on my walkman while attempting to get out of bed. We were putting out a very large issue for Rosh Hashanah the next day (this was when The Journal went to press on Wednesdays).

I turned on KIIS-FM and heard Rick Dees mention something about a plane in a building. I first thought, "oh, OK it's candid phone.” I kept listening and I could tell from Rick’s voice that he wasn’t joking. I picked the remote off the bed and turned on my TV, I think it was already tuned to KTLA. I started watching and then ran to wake up my grandmother, whom I was living with at the time, and we watched it together in her room. (I didn’t know anyone who worked in the World Trade Center or at the Pentagon, so I felt kind of removed from it). I couldn’t stay long because I had to get ready for work . During the hour-long drive the roads were more open than I had ever seen it on a Tuesday. When I got into work I learned that we were removing half the Rosh Hashanah-themed pieces for 9/11 stories. I worked that day from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. -- so I didn’t even have a chance to absorb it all until I got home that night.

It turns out, I did know someone: A firefighter named Angel L. Juarbe Jr., who was killed when he was helping people at the Marriott Hotel in Tower 1 when it collapsed. I knew him — but only through television. He had won $1 million dollars the Tuesday before on a FOX reality show I was hooked on called “Murder in Small Town X.” That connection is forever etched in my brain.

-- Shoshana Lewin

On Sept. 2 -- nine days before the twin towers fell -- I slipped on a press kit of "The Princess Diaries," fell down and broke my ankle in three places -- the first broken bones I had ever experienced in my life.  It would have been fine had I just fallen on my tush but an inconveniently placed coffee table caught my right leg in its legs and the sound of the break was so loud, it sounded (grossly) like a large tree branch snapping.  After surgery on Sept. 5, I spent three morphine-addled days in the hospital and came home with a lot of metal in my leg and too klutzy to move around on crutches without falling down. 

I was pretty much bed-ridden, unable to drive and freaked out about the inability to move  (while worrying that I would crack my head open while attempting to hobble to the bathroom) when the news broke into a TV show with the first images of an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center.  My first impulse was to wonder if the drugs were making me hallucinate; the second was similar to most everyone else's in the country; the third was to freak out that terrorists would strike Los Angeles and that I would be pushed down some staircase or be left behind like the poor wretches with disabilities in the WTC.  The idea of broken bones is sickening when you have a broken bone, and the continuous TV images of injured people -- people with not one but four broken limbs, and far worse -- was horrifying. 

A few days later, I was able to go back to work (from home), setting up headquarters in my bed.  Some of the first interviews I did (over the phone, while lying down) were  with the emcees of an upcoming Workmen's Circle event:  two young actors named, respectively, Seth Rogen and Jason Segal.  I spoke to Rogen, who was then 19, and Segal, then 21, for an hour and a half each.  They were doing the Workmen's Circle event because Rogen's dad worked there; Seth's dad had given up his previous job with a Vancouver Jewish organization to move to L.A. after the underaged Rogen had landed a job on Apatow's "Freaks and Geeks" a few years earlier.  So Seth had agreed to emcee the event and got his friend, Segal, to help.  At that time, both were working on Apatow's new TV series, "Undeclared,"  and they talked about the joys and challenges of learning on the job at the School of Apatow.  The Rogen and Segal interviews cheered me up a bit (although when both became famous, after "Knocked Up," I kicked myself for 1. only having written a short piece about them, as a result of space issues; and 2. having trashed the notebooks.) 

When I returned to work at The Jewish Journal (the office was then at another location), I noted with horror the extremely steep stairs that would have to be traversed in an emergency.  One of my office mates joked (???) that I would be left in the dust if terrorists hit our building (which then also housed offices of the IRS).  Another said not to worry, he would carry me down the stairs if necessary.  That was nice to hear. 

-- Naomi Pfefferman

Night punctuates loneliness, and this was the kind that can only be forgotten by switching on a television. The fireball replay of planes striking the Twin Towers lit up my hotel room as the sun set on Munich.

The familiar din of an American busy signal did nothing to shrink the distance. The overloaded phone lines to the United States cut me off from family and friends who were only just waking up in Los Angeles.

CNN became my English-speaking surrogate. Scrawling out the timelines on hotel stationery satisfied a desire for context, but the repetitive footage of buildings collapsing and dust clouds enveloping made for an empty, unfulfilling affair.

-- Adam Wills

I usually catch on to the news pretty quickly, but there have been two broadcasts in my life which left me with a considerable time delay in my brain process.

The first was on Dec. 7, 1941, a quiet Sunday in suburban Philadelphia. I was 16 and listening to the New York Metropolitan Opera transmission, when a breathless voice broke into an aria to announce the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The second came almost 60 years later, on the morning of 9/11/2001, when my daughter called from La Jolla. "Turn on the TV," she yelled. "They're bombing New York. I hope Mark (our son-in-law, working as an editor on the New York Times) is safe."

-- Tom Tugend

On Monday evening, Sept. 10, 2001, my friend Lisa called me to say she was going into labor. We'd made a plan that I'd take her daughter home with me, so she and her husband could be together at the hospital for the birth of their son, Bob.

Bi was 4, and she slept over in my daughter's room; there was great excitement in our house. At 6 the next morning, when my husband was taking the dogs for a walk, our phone rang. One of his staff (he was an online editor at the LA Times), called from a commuter train to say he'd overheard someone talking about a plane crashing into the World Trade Towers in New York. He apologized, because it seemed so implausible, but said someone on the train had a radio and he thought we should know. I turned on the TV to see replays of both planes crashing, and knew that I didn't want the girls or Lisa to know anything was wrong. When my husband got home, he rushed to the office, and I took Bi and my daughter to school.

I called Lisa's husband, who was filled with joy and exhausted at having gone to bed just after the baby was born, in the wee hours of the morning. I congratulated him, and told him to focus on the joy. And I told him, "Whatever you do, don't turn on the TV -- you and Lisa don't need to know what's going on in the world today."

They were spared the news for a few hours, and allowed to enjoy their new baby in peace.

Somehow, Bob's birth also helped me get through the black emotions and dark news that was only beginning to hit us.

-- Susan Freudenheim

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