How Did You Experience 9-11?

The National of Museum of American History is the official repository for objects related to September 11. For a few examples of what they have in their collection, click here. You can also go to the Smithsonian’s 9-11 digital archive and tell your story. If you add your 9-11 experience to the site it will be permanently archived.

I do not have a very exciting 9-11 story. I was in my office at the Linwood House at Valparaiso University during the second year of my Lilly Fellowship in the Arts and Humanities. I arrived early that day. The only other people in the house was Anne, the program’s administrative assistant, and Arlin, the program director. When I wandered into Anne’s office she was looking at coverage of the first plane attack on CNN.com. I didn’t think much of it and returned to my office.

We did not have a television set in the Linwood House, so when the second plane hit the tower I turned on the little portable radio in my office. Arlin stopped in for a few minutes to listen. The local news station was tapping into feeds from 1010 WINS–a New York station that I had grown up listening to. This proved to be comforting to me. I also began to grow incredibly homesick. Here I was in the rural community of Valparaiso, Indiana when there was a very real chance that family and friends could have been in danger.

The house I grew up in, and where my parents still live, is located along the Newark International Airport flight pattern. My brother described the strange silence that fell over the skies that day. No planes in sight. I tried to imagine what this must have been like for them.

Meanwhile, I was surprised just how many colleagues and friends wanted to talk with me during that day and the days that followed. One colleague, who was not a native New Yorker but had spent some time living in the area, came into my office because she said she just wanted to hear my New York (actually North Jersey) accent. Many natives of the New York metropolitan area who were living in Valparaiso had similar experiences.

Classes were canceled at Valpo and a special prayer service was held in the Chapel of the Resurrection. I went home to be with my family around noon and saw the images for the first time. My oldest daughter was just about five years old and I remember thinking that we should probably try to keep her away from the television set. Yet, if you ask her today, she still remembers things about that long afternoon and evening in our tiny little living room in a Valparaiso University rental house. I do not think I slept that night. I was riveted to the television set.

For what it’s worth…