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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: Susan Porter
Contributor's location on 9/11:
Contributed on: 11 July 2002

How did you witness history on September 11th?

When I look back now, as the first anniversary approaches, my first thoughts remember how beautiful the day dawned. I live north of Baltimore and that Tuesday the sky was bright blue and cloudless. I am an insurance agent for a major insurance company and I was heading from home to take a look at a policyholder's new house. It was just about a mile away. On almost any day, I never listen to the radio, always a CD. That morning I had the radio on. As I pulled up to my policyholder's house the female DJ made a sarcastic remark about what a slow news day it was. It was approaching 8:50. I stepped out of my car for a few minutes to take a photo of the house when I realized the camera was broken. I got back into the car. The DJ's comment was "I spoke too soon...apparently a small plane has just struck one of the towers at the World Trade Center. I called my husband, who was still at home and told him to turn on the TV. I was going back to pick up another camera. I walked in the house, he was sitting at his desk. I went over turned on the Today Show. It just showed a smouldering tower. I stood and watched for a few minutes, then said "gotta go". I had not gone a block when my cell phone rang. My husband in a disbelieving flat voice said Susan, I just saw, I can't believe it another plane has hit the other tower. This is NO accident! I forgot about going back to the policyholders house and instead called my office and told the staff to turn on the TV. The Baltimore Beltway was so backed up. There were no accidents. It just appeared that everyone had a cell phone up to their ear and were just drifting in traffic. I remember having a difficult time finding a station on the radio that was reporting the events. I thought this was strange. I finally found a talk radio show that was reporting the event. When I finally made it to my office the staff was huddled around the TV crying and trying to make sense of what they were seeing. I tried not to cry, but then word came that the Pentagon had been hit and a fourth plane was unaccounted for. I felt confused and terribly fearful. One of my staff and I always discuss world events and talked about which group of terriorists may have done this. Finally someone said, oh my God!, the tower is falling! Everyone was sobbing. It was shocking. I remember saying "all those poor people" another staff person said, I didn't know anyone hated me so much to do this to my countrymen. I told the staff to leave; to go home to their families. By noon our office building was completely empty. I was able to get through to my husband and he said he was going to pick up our son from school. I decided to drive the back way home to avoid the beltway. All routes into Baltimore City were closed off. Once we were all home we just sat around the TV. I just remember tears welling up and running down my face. My children looked so afraid and there was really nothing to say. Finally, well after dark, I decided to take a break from the TV and I walked out back into the darkness. There was no moon but a beautiful starlit sky. It was so very quiet, so strange. I heard my son in the distance, mom where are you? I walked over to him and put my arm around him. He stopped suddenly. What is that noise? We knew there were no planes flying, but when we looked up we could see a jet very high moving across the night sky. I tried not to get choked up in front of my son. That's our military jet, Alex. They are going to protect us tonight. We walked back up to the house arms around each other feeling a little bit safer but knowing it was going to be a long long night.

Has your life changed because of September 11, 2001?

I have not flown since August 18th, 2001. I'm just as happy to take a local vacation. I pay more attention to the small silly things and not get upset about anything. Just 2 weeks after September 11, our offices were flooded when a pipe broke under the building in the middle of the night. I figured so what. It's a mess we will need to relocate, all the furniture is destroyed, but guess what no one was hurt and no one died. It's just one of those things. Also I have always been a news junkie and I had a hard time turning off the news channel even when I went to bed. September 11th is always in the back of my mind and whenever I see the images from that day tears come immediately.

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

We should never never forget. We should remember who are the true heros in our life. We should remember how Americans pulled together and showed their compassion and generosity. We should love our country, try to respect and support our military and leaders. They are here for our good. We also as a people became a little kinder to each other

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

We have flown the flag since the night of September 11. I have always felt respectful towards the when I look at it, I see 226 years of pride and sacrafice.

Cite as: Susan Porter, Smithsonian Story #67, The September 11 Digital Archive, 11 July 2002, <>.
Archival Information: 724 words, 3700 characters

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