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Where Were You on 9/11? | Alcoholic Reflections

We’ve all had that conversation at one point in time in the last ten years. Where you get to talking (around this time of year) about where you were and what you were doing when you first learned of the attacks. Here’s how I remember that day unfolding…

I had flown in from Amsterdam the night before (I was a flight attendant at the time) and had gone from the airport to the bar. It was my usual routine after a trip. There are unwritten rules in the airline industry and one of them is to NEVER call a flight attendant in the morning.

8:50 am: My phone rings and in a still drunken sleep I answer. My friend who’s just landed from her trip tells me to turn on the TV because there has been an accident. She tells me she’s coming over, because I lived so close to the airport. She had just arrived in my apartment complex at this point.

9:03 am: My friend and I had just turned on the TV and sat on the couch when flight 175 crashes into WTC’s South Tower. We both screamed out in horror. Not a word was said for what seemed like a lifetime. We hear on TV that they are now sure this was the work of terrorist. We couldn’t believe what was happening. It felt like we had lost family and friends because those were flight attendants, pilots and passengers in those planes. Those were the people we lived with on a daily basis. We spent more time in airplanes than on the ground. We could instantly imagine what might have happened in those planes. 9:15 am: I grab a beer out of the refrigerator. In 2001 I was already drinking in excess and opening up a beer or mixing a cocktail before 10 am was becoming more and more normal in my life.

9:37 am: By this time both our phones had been ringing with our family and friends calling to make sure we were alive. Nobody was 100% sure what airline those planes belonged to. The man in the TV announces that another airplane has crashed and this time it was the Pentagon. There were multiple rumors and reports of what was happening, but nobody seem to really know anything. We both agreed that all planes needed to be grounded. We thought that grounding all airplanes over US airspace would be impossible.

9:42 am: Nationwide airline ground stoppage. The FAA grounded all flights over, or bound for the continental US. Days later I found out that many of my friends ended up stranded for days in cities that my airline didn’t even service. Friends that were inbound to the US ended up in Canada. Living less than a mile from the airport I was used to hearing airplanes take off and land all day long. It was almost a comforting feeling. In a very short time the world went silent. You couldn’t hear a plane, car or bus anywhere. It seemed like the world had stopped.

9:59 am: What we NEVER would have imagined happens. The South Tower collapses and what was an already horrific situation becomes the worst day of our lives. I walk back to the refrigerator to grab a second and third beer. I didn’t feel like getting up soon and miss any of the news. We sat on the couch constantly changing the channel seeing what station was giving out the most accurate information. We needed to know if those were our coworkers in those planes. We didn’t know what this was going to do to our country, our lives and our careers.

10:03 am: What must have been one of the most heroic things that happened that day, passengers in flight 93 sacrifice themselves in order to stop another tragedy. Flight 93 crashes in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

10:28 am: Just when the dust from the South Tower’s collapse was almost clear. Just as we were almost done trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. Just as I had finished my second and third beers the North Tower collapsed. What the hell happened? Why does New York look so different? Was the news replaying the collapse from earlier? Unfortunately what we were watching was live and real. We were watching the beginning of what would be the complete change of our country’s way of life. I needed something stronger than beer. My friend agreed to join me in a vodka and cranberry. Back at that time my kitchen cabinets were over flowing with airplane size bottles of liquor. I cracked open a couple of them and quickly made our drinks so I could rush back to the couch.

12:16 pm: The last commercial flight in the entire US lands. What we as flight attendants thought was impossible managed to happen in less than three hours. Thousands of people are stranded all over the US and I would not fly again until the following Tuesday. We sat in my living room for a few more hours watching the horrific images that were being fed into my TV. We really couldn’t completely understand what was happening and we certainly couldn’t imagine how our careers and lives were going to soon change. We finally decided that we needed to get something to eat so we went to our local airline employee bar. We walked over and all the TVs in the bar were on CNN. Nobody was saying a word and they were staring at the TVs like they had been hypnotized. We ordered our food and beers and did what everyone else was doing, watch TV. People cried and screamed the TV in anger. Everyone speculated of what would happen next but none of us could imagine what eventually happened. Our drinking and self therapy was occasionally interrupted by an F-16 flying by patrolling our city. This went on until the bar closed and we stumbled on home with a few more friends to continue drinking and watching the news.

That’s how 9/11 happened for me. That day changed my life and everyone’s lives in one way or another. I can’t imagine having lost someone that day and I hope I don’t have to witness a tragedy like that in my life again. I don’t know if we’re safer today but I know that we will never forget that day and what it did to our country. Don’t forget, you’re not alone!


Oscar is a thirty something recovering alcoholic. He’s been sober since 2005. You can follow his sobriety journal at Life Without Beer Goggles. Oscar also stays in touch with his readers on his Facebook page and Twitter.