Twenty years later our memories of 9/11 remain very vivid. Because they are so personal, and vary depending upon location and age, the following is a collection of stories from our MPRM team, beginning with the youngest and concluding with the MPRM experience that day, which took place in LA, NY and Toronto.
I was six years old in first grade. I clearly remember this day, I was getting ready to go to school and was eating a bowl of cereal when I heard my family in the living room gasping at the TV. When I walked into the living room I saw the video of the first plane hitting the tower. I didn’t know how to feel but I knew I was afraid of what would happen next even if it wasn’t here in Los Angeles. — Kim
I actually remember it pretty vividly despite my age. It was my first day of 1st grade and it was also my dad’s birthday! I was one of those kids that was excited for school — I loved it. I went to my parent’s room to say happy birthday to my dad and have my mom do my hair. The news was on the TV and my dad was just standing there with his hand over his mouth in complete shock. My mom was sitting on the bed with teary eyes. I couldn’t remember my older brother’s expression, but to this day I think he just sort of erased it from his mind because he was just old enough to understand — he was in 3rd grade. I remember looking at the screen and seeing one of the towers up in smoke. I asked my dad if they were watching a movie, and he looked at me and told me that this was real. It wasn’t pretend, and people were getting hurt. And that’s when I started to notice little dots jumping from the buildings… out the windows… They were people. And I knew that but didn’t say anything. The newscasters were either sobbing or remaining silent because it was so horrendous. My mom then asked my dad something about my aunt who was working in DC. I can’t remember why my aunt wasn’t there that day, but a lot of her friends in DC and NY had died. One of her friends was sick that day and didn’t go to work, and that sick day truly saved his life. I think it was so impactful to me as a child because I had never seen my dad that way before. He wasn’t full on breaking down, but I don’t think I had seen him worried EVER up until that point. — Ali
I was in 7th grade. Stayed home from school. I went to soccer practice the next day and teammates were competing over who would donate the most blood for the cause (in the way competitive pre-teens would). We’re actually from Fremont, CA which has the largest Afghan population in America (nicknamed “Little Kabul” in the press). I remember immediate protests on Fremont Blvd. and seeing people I recognized from the neighborhood on this bigoted “Get out!” side while seeing Afghan friends from soccer & school across the street with signs refusing to leave, signs advocating for their right to stay, signs showing an alliance with the U.S — not quite nationalism but a clarification that these acts had nothing to do with Fremont’s Afghan community. Memories around this time are mostly centered around the countering protests in the weeks & months after 9/11 on our main street, Fremont Blvd. — Alex
I was a senior in high school in New Jersey, just outside NYC. Cell phones were not allowed to be used in school but they let us call who we needed to as they were closing school and requiring parents to pick everyone up (even those of us who drove to school ourselves). With so much unknown about what was happening, they weren’t taking any chances. School was closed for the week. I didn’t actually see any of the news coverage until I got home but it wasn’t just something we saw on television.We could see the smoke from a hiking area near my house; we gathered there in shock and disbelief; not knowing what to do. So many local families had parents, friends working in NYC and some didn’t make it home that day. It is something that will stick with me always; I have chills just thinking about it now. I do remember in the days and weeks following, the patriotism was at an all time high. I worked in a small, mom & pop pharmacy in high school and we sold tons of American flags and red, white & blue merchandise. I still have all the newspapers I gathered from that week. — Caitlin
I was a high school senior in Houston, TX at the time sitting in first period, when suddenly teachers began rolling televisions into each classroom. By this action and the look on their faces, I knew something was off. Once the television was turned on, it all became absolutely horrific and surreal seeing the towers attacked and the chaos on the streets. School got out, and my mom and I were glued to the news that day and the weeks following the unimaginable attack. My school was fairly diverse but I remember feeling a lot of sadness for the Muslim students at my school as they were suddenly experiencing such outward racism from a handful of ignorant students. — Lisa
It’s the day before my birthday. I was a freshman in college and we were living in a hotel because my family’s house was being remodeled. I’ll never forget my mom running into the room saying…”turn on the TV, turn on the TV.” We all sat there and watched the news for hours in disbelief. My school, CSUN, started reaching out to students saying campus was closed, classes were cancelled until further notice. It was an uneventful birthday to say the least, one where we just kept our eyes glued to the TV. The scary part for my family in particular was one of my step-sister’s family members was supposed to be on one of those planes and just happened to be running late and missed his flight. Talk about chills and when time seems to be against you, really in this case it was on his side. — Natalie
For those of us that were working that day, it was a different experience:
I was in Toronto for the festival when it happened. I was traveling with talent so I was on my own without any colleagues. This was pretty normal for me as I mostly represented filmmakers at the time. But it meant when 9/11 happened I was on my own in a foreign city with zero support. James Lewis was my roommate and he worked at MPRM and he invited me to their place to hang out so I wouldn’t be alone.
One of my clients had asked that I send a note to Roger Ebert about his film. I had no idea how to do this. It felt ghoulish but I also wanted to, of course, continue to advocate for my films. Mark helped me write a note to Roger that struck a balance between doing my job but in a way that didn’t feel too pushy. I always remember that and appreciate it because it was a truly scary and overwhelming time and I still get emotional thinking about it. — Sylvia
I watched the first plane hit the tower while having breakfast prior to going into the office. The 2nd hit just before I left for the office, and you guys if I recall correctly closed the offices on both coasts. I turned around and went home. Listening to Ralph and Doc on KROQ on the way to/from talking about what was going on. crazy to think that was 20 years ago already. Seems like yesterday. — Dustin
I was on the treadmill watching the local news (in LA), when they cut away to the first plane crash into the Towers. I understood when the second plane crashed that it wasn’t an accident but it wasn’t until the crash into the Pentagon that I yelled to my husband that our country was under attack. Then I was on the phone to Mark, who was in Toronto for the Festival, and our New York office, which was located downtown. Mark was in the bedroom of the hotel suite that served as our Festival HQ when staff started screaming at him to come into the living room area to view the breaking news on TV. The two people holding down the NY office while everyone else was in Toronto were eyewitnesses and traumatized. We told the LA office not to come in, sent the NY office home and spent the next week trying to figure out how to get our staff home from Toronto. Some were able to rent cars and drive to New York, others helped to rent a rock and roll tour bus that would take them back to LA. The rest waited for the airports to reopen. Hard to believe that 20 years have passed. — Rachel & Mark