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By Justine Dorton

I never can remember Pearl Harbor Day until I hear it on the news. “Today, the anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor…” and then my mind says, “OH! Yes. Pearl Harbor Day.” Only after the reminder do I spend a moment thinking about the enormous toll our country paid during Pearl Harbor and the subsequent war. I’ve always been slightly ashamed that I don’t remember this date more readily. My family paid an enormous price themselves during that war. I reprimand myself every December 7 for not being more reverent and remembering.

Where I react with laizzes-faire historical interest, others remember with clarity and understanding. Where I react with slight sentimentality, they remember with tears and mourning.

But now, I have my own day to remember.


I remember the phone call from my friend, waking Don and I up to tell the news. The first tower had been hit.

I remember putting a movie onto the computer for the kids to watch to keep them out of the family room, where the TV was on for 30 hours straight.

I remember staring at the television, crying, as the towers fell.

I remember starting to panic as the Pentagon, then the plane in Pennsylvania, went down.

I remember thinking of Pearl Harbor Day.

I have no desire to politicize or exploit this day, so please, don’t jump into that fray. Today, I just want to remember.

What do you remember?

About Justine Dorton

Justine is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

21 thoughts on “Remember”

  1. I remember my friend calling me to wake up and turn on the TV. I did. I knew immediately it was Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Who else could it have been? The '93 bombing, the '98 embassies?

    I guess I was shocked at America's reaction, did they really think it couldn't happen here? Then again, my childhood was filled with memories of the IRA, ETA, bombings, threats, and evacuations.

    Do you remember that it wasn't enough, that you couldn't turn off the TV or the radio?

    I remember going to my friend's wedding that evening. A quiet reception on the crest of the hill on a beautiful day. A terrible day.

  2. I remember crying and crying as I nursed my six-month old baby and wondering over what would happen. I guess I was naive because it was unexpected for me, and just the possibility of it colored everything I thought I knew and trusted.

    I remember being so grateful that General Conference was coming up. I remember needing direction– needing to know what the Prophet would say, needing comfort.

  3. I remember showing up at work and everybody was glued to the tv. I don't think the towers had fallen yet. We watched them fall, and the rest of the unfolding stories. It was all so surreal. So unreal. Yet very very real and sobering.

  4. I was living in Japan. We turned on the TV to watch some tapes of "Buffy" and thought "Gee, what kind of weird move is this?" We couldn't understand the news anchors. We popped in "Buffy" and got about 3/4 of the way through (this was around 10 at night for us) when a friend of mine called us and told us what was going on. We turned off the tape and stared at the TV screen in shock.

    We ended up going to the BBC website for info because CNN was down — that or too heavily trafficked to load. I remember frantically trying to get through to my parents. My sister lived in Pittsburgh, my dad worked in D.C. and two of my best high school friends lived in New York. With D.C. apparently under attack, it really freaked me out that I could get to the house but only get the machine. I thought maybe Mom had been called out to identify the Dad's body. I managed to dredge up my friends' home phone number. I got their mom who said she'd heard from them and that they were ok and that she'd been there and seen the plane hit the Pentagon.

    September 11th will always be for me the Day the Earth Stood Still.

  5. I slept in (as a first time pregnant lady is lucky enough to do). But awoke with the third or fourth ringing of the telephone. "Turn on NPR, now." And as I did, the second tower fell.

    I remember taking a drive later that day into the mountains. I took a picture of an unobstructed sky, no airplanes at all.

  6. I was cooking pancakes in my kitchen when my friend Jen called. "Turn on the TV," she said. "Terrorists are attacking America."

    I drove to Jen's house later that day. As I drove I looked at the mountainscapes out my window and realized the world would never be the same again.

    That night I watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast with my older kids. It was so comforting to see that familiar sight of all those ladies in their matching dresses and those men in their tuxes. The rallying strength of the Church poured through the TV screen, such a contrast from the newscasts we had watched all day.

    When they sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," my then-8-year-old daughter clung to my arm and cried. "These are tears of happiness" she said.

  7. I remember getting ready to start the school day (I home school and had extra students that year) with prayer when the phone rang. My visiting parents answered it. It was my husband. I paused just before starting my prayer to see if I could catch what was going on. I had the instinct that something bad had happened. So I prayed, remembering to ask God to be with those involved in "whatever had happened." My husbnad called again later to add more news. This time I answered the phone and he told me to take the TV out of the closet.

    My dad was glued to the TV; my mom advoided it; and I was busy trying to keep a two-year-old, a five-year-old, and a ten-year-old occupied while at the same trying to catch as much of the news as I could. It
    was an awful day.

    In the days that followed I quickly became overwhelmed with the enormity of it and longed for the day other news would capture the headlines.

  8. I was rushing around, trying to get my children ready and out the door for school when my husband called and said that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been attacked. It seemed like such an odd thing for him to say. My mind couldn't wrap itself around his meaning. I turned on the TV and watched in absolute disbelief as the second tower crumbled.

    My sister called me from Seattle and we watched the coverage together, mostly in stunned silence, not once considering the absurdity of running up a phone bill in such a way, desperately needing to feel that connection between us.

    Thanks for the post, Justine. Yes, we need to remember. I was so touched this morning to see my two big teenage boys, who I rarely see in anything but t-shirts and slouchy pants, don dress shirts, slacks, and ties for school today. I couldn't figure out why at first. "Mom," my son Kedric said, when I asked. "It's September 11th."

    Of course.

  9. I remember opening the Deseret News the next day and seeing that Brady K. Howell was listed among the missing at the Pentagon. (His body was recovered a week later.)

    I knew him and his wife, Liz Anderson, when I was at Ricks College. I remember their courtship, then wedding reception held at the Manwaring Center on campus, and them coming into the homecoming dance, him in his tux, and her in her wedding dress, and dancing while we all watched. My heart aches to this day when I think about it.

  10. I was teaching in a classroom that had a broken television. A student came in 30 minutes late–he was sweet but not the brightest student–and told me terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. I said, "Are you sure you weren't watching a movie?" and continued with the lesson.

    An hour later when class was over and my plan period began, I walked to the office, and heard television sounds all down the hallway. I thought to myself, "Must be movie day at Murray High." I walked into the office and saw pale faces glued to a television set–only then did I realize what my student had told me just might be true.

    A Salt Lake Tribune reporter came to my journalism class that afternoon to get student knee-jerk reactions to the day's events. My students made some poignant comments including concerns about family members, whether or not a draft would be necessary, worries about their futures and their safety. The reporter glossed over those concerns and printed a quote from a student who expressed shock that "even the mall is closed." The student wasn't upset that she couldn't go shopping; there was much more to her comment. I was irritated that the reporter used my students to support her own idea that all teens are narcissists, when in truth, these students were visibly shaken by events that happened 1500 miles away.

    After school, I went home and cried.

  11. It was during the few months we spent renting a duplex while my husband's parents rented the other half. She came over and told me to turn on the television. I thought that it looked like movie footage, surreal and not true… but it was. Then later that day I went to my grandma's for a previously scheduled Fried Green Tomato party. Instead of a lighthearted event, though, it was much more somber. It was good to be with family that day, to talk and just be together.

  12. My mission call is dated September 11, 2001. I received the call in the mail on September 12. This was a hugely bittersweet experience for me. The thrill of my mission-to-come was dampened by the attack.

    I remember feeling gratitude for my life, fear of the fragility and unknown aspects of life, and sorrow for those who died and their families.

  13. I was asleep, and I awoke early in the morning, sitting bolt upright in bed, with a feeling of dread. I brushed it off as nerves, since I was scheduled to have another surgery on my foot later in the day, and I went back to sleep. About an hour later, my mom knocked on my door and said, "Wake up! There's been a terrorist attack!"

    My mom is famous for only delivering part of the news, and often omitting important details, such as the fact that the attack was in New York and that we were in California. I've never gotten out of bed so fast. (The urgency in her voice led me to believe that there had been an attack nearby.)

    I got up and was glued to CNN. It turns out that when I woke up with a start was the same time that the first plane hit.

    Just before I was getting ready to leave to go to the doctor, I got a phone call. I was in the ROTC at the time, and one of my fellow cadets was calling me to relay a message from our superiors that we weren't to wear our uniforms until further notice.

    Much of the rest of the day was a bit surreal, though I'm not sure if it was a result of the shock of the news, or recovery from the surgery.

    The eeriest thing was the next morning when I went to institute. The institute is in the flight path of the airport, so there was always the noise of jets flying overhead. Since all the airplanes were grounded, there was this really creepy silence, like something was missing.

  14. I remember hearing the news that the towers had been hit while I was getting my hair cut. On the drive home, I heard that the Pentagon had been hit, and I had a moment of panic — my sister worked in DC and frequently did contract work at the Pentagon. I spent a few agonizing hours trying to get a hold of her, and when I finally did she said that all of DC had been shut down and she was walking home…

    I was newly pregnant and had horrible morning (all-day) sickness, and spent the day on the couch watching the news.

    I taught a class the next evening, and a sweet young Muslim man who usually came to class in traditional clothing with a skull cap came dressed in jeans and a soccer jersey. It made me really sad.

  15. I am so grateful people are willing to share. I've been in tears all morning reading these accounts — so simple, so like mine, so different from mine, but with such understanding of our shared experience.

    This time in the world is the first time for many of us where we have faced war as a nation. I was born in the middle of the Vietnam war, but was too young to remember it much. This, I guess, is my generation's turn to experience this kind of heartache.

  16. I had the Today Show turned on while I got ready for work. The first plane had struck already, but no one yet understood the implication; they were talking as if it were a freak accident. I stepped in the shower. By the time I came out, the second plane had hit and the magnitude of what was happening was becoming more clear.

    I listened to the radio all the way to work (at TWA airlines, actually) and then at my desk all day long. All my coworkers, did, too. They couldn't fit all the grounded planes at the airport, so for the next week or so (I don't remember how long) they parked the overflow at the maintenance base where I worked. It was surreal — the silence in the sky, and the long line of planes that weren't "ours," sitting there waiting for the world to return to normal.

    I cried for weeks. I didn't know anyone who had been personally affected by 9/11 — I was in the Midwest, not NYC or DC, and I hadn't been working in the airline industry long enough to know any of the pilots or flight attendants on any of the planes (though my boss did). But still. I cried for weeks, at home and at work (I wasn't the only one). Worried about me, my DH finally put a moratorium on watching the news. It was all too much. I can't begin to fathom how … much … it was for those who actually lost loved ones. The enormity, the horror, the grief. 🙁

  17. I was asleep at my mom's house where I was taking a break from BYU and my on-and-off again fiance. My sister woke me up with the news. I sat on my mom's bed watching. The first thing I did was call my off again fiance in Utah to tell him to turn on the t.v. After we hung up I watched the T.V. all day. I remember telling my sister that I felt like the world was coming to an end. It was so scary.

    My off again fiance called me the next day and asked me if I still wanted to get married. I said yes. And I was on a flight to Utah on Friday, the first day they let planes back in the air. I was scared to death getting on. I saw a man who left his suitcase for a while and I freaked out.

    My on again fiance (Rick) and I were married on September 28 (2 1/2 weeks later). It was a bittersweet time. I'll always remember our wedding day being connected to the attacks.

    The terrorist attacks did help in finally getting us to the alter but I attribute it even more so to me going home to Arizona and getting proposed to by another guy. But the attacks were the final incentive Rick needed to make up his mind!

  18. I was 8 months pregnant at the time. I got a jolting call at around 7:30 in the morning from our neighbor (such a strange thing in and of itself to be called that early by someone who rarely calls at all). She told me there was a terrorist attack, and I remember not being able to really grasp or believe what she was saying. I spent the next several hours watching. The most horrible moment for me was watching the second tower crumble into dust. It was eerie.

    I remember not being able to turn off the TV. And feeling so vulnerable for me and my baby. As much as I know we shouldn't get into the 'why are we bringing children into this world' mindset, I did have that feeling then.

    Flying has never been the same. I used to love it. I don't so much anymore.

  19. I was at work at Scotland Yard in London. I was a press officer so we had the television on all day. We watched the first plane hit and were utterly shocked, but still didn't understand what was happening. I remember as the second plane hit the news anchor said 'I don't think this was an accident' which jolted me into fear as they are supposed to know. The voice of authority was as lost and confused as we were.

    Our office filled up with police officers fast. The amazing thing to me was that every single person that came in was concerned for a friend or a relative or someone that they knew in New York or Washington. Everyone was worried about someone. And we were thousands of miles away.

    I was scrambled to Heathrow where I spent the rest of the day waiting for all the planes enroute to the US that were turned around in the air to land safely. It was a long, horrible day.

  20. We were visiting family in another state where my husband was looking for work. We'd been there 2 months with no results. He was at an interview at a special effects studio. He saw the news there and thought it was 3D animation in their portfolio. Meanwhile, I was flipping on the TV at the in-laws' house to find cartoons for my kids (then 2.5 years and 1-year-old) to watch. The footage was on every channel. I sat in shock watching and my husband came home from the interview, looked at the TV and was shocked to see that it was real.

    We left for home that very day. We drove 18 hours with the radio on. There was panic and gas shortages along the way. I remember feeling such shock and then sadness. I also remember calling every member of my family just to hear their voice. The event filled me with sadness. It also gave me the perspective of how tiny our trials of unemployment were. We still had each other.


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