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The Day Our World Changed

For over two decades, when meeting new people and the conversation turns to where do you live.  It inevitably gets to 9/11 and the attacks.

Here is my recollection of that day that changed the world.

Life was going pretty well!  We lived, still do, in a lovely little town called Maplewood in New Jersey.   Work was going well, daughter who was 11 years old was active in so many things. The Sunday before our local church had a picnic and we met and played games with several folk.

On Tuesday September 11th, my wife had taken an early train to Hoboken where we both worked in the same office.  I had taken our daughter to school and took a train at about 8.15 am also to Hoboken.  By chance, I met a neighbor and we chatted on the 30 minute New Jersey Transit train, arriving into Hoboken Station at what I now know, must have been 8.44 am.

Blue Skies

It was a lovely, clear morning with sunshine and bright blue skies.  We all remember that bit.

Our carriage was at the end of the platform, not in the terminal and within seconds of alighting from the train, my neighbor and we saw a bright flash from one of the Towers.  I continued onwards thinking it was an internal explosion, clearly serious but we had no idea how serious.   My neighbor, I learnt later, boarded a cross Hudson Ferry and got to with a few feet of Manhattan when the boat Captain suddenly diverted and headed back across the Hudson River to Hoboken.   He was home by around 10am!

I went quickly to the office, right next to the Station.  Told my wife what I had seen and we walked to the river side and watched events unfold.  Along with a small but growing crowd.

A few minutes passed and I spotted an object, a plane, coming in – I watched and saw this plane hit the other tower.  Shock and incredulity described my immediate feeling.  We gathered around a radio and soon learnt this was escalating rapidly.  A short time later, screams could be heard from all around, as we saw one of the towers collapse in a cloud of dust.  What on earth was happening?

Then the other tower went down.

Fighter Planes?

Soon we had fighter planes overhead.  Now I was really shocked and beginning to be frightened as it was clear we were under attack and protective – hopefully American – jets screamed low overhead.

What Next?

I went to my office, I called an out of town colleague to say we were closing.  I then called my parents in the UK, told them we were fine and to watch the TV.  It was several days before we could get through to them and so they were grateful to know we were OK.

Hoboken Station was made into a triage center with cots on the concourse.  For the injured that never came.

Trains had been stopped mid morning and did not resume until mid afternoon.  I got a train and a man came to sit next to me.  I said, ‘you OK?’.   ‘Can I borrow your phone?’ he replied.  He’d apparently been on the upper floors of one of the towers and had gone down with just a few dollars to get a morning coffee and bagel.  What timing for him.

Back Home

We got home and went to pick our daughter up from school.  The children whose parents were missing or stuck in the City were still there, our daughter amongst them.

Later in the evening we went to the church where an impromptu gathering and service began.  A roll call was done of who is where.

One of the young men who we had, on the previous Sunday, played games with in the Park, was killed in the attack.  Doug Cherry was his name.

Over the following days the police marked car tires in the Station Car Parks to identify which ones had  moved.  Gradually people got out of the City and  got home often hours and some days later, to recover their cars and lives.

The world had changed and by sheer chance I had witnessed it all first hand.   I can still barely believe that I watched so many people being killed – that’s what gets me the most.

Tim Roebuck

You can read more about the Attacks here.


The top photo was taken on the Ferry from Manhattan to Hoboken in 2021.

The photo below was taken in 2000.

The photograph at the bottom was taken on 13th September 2001, when I went back to my Hoboken Office to check on things .


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