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Remembrances of 9/11–the Day the World Changed

September 10, 2013

Remembrances of 9/11—The Day the World Changed

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

On 9/11—when the world, hearts, and fears changed–

I heard the unraveling news before teaching my first class.

With a new mindset and hidden prayers, I taught some classes

before our college was closed at two o’clock.

Since I did not know what the next hours and days would bring,

I felt a need to do some work in my office—

a need to do something.

I stayed in M-303

until the campus was too quiet for me.

When my guidedog and I finally began our twenty-five minute walk home,

the downtown area of Milwaukee was so still, so hushed

that I felt as if we were walking through the Twilight Zone—

but ironically, the sun was shining.

The world, the city, my walk—everything felt different that day.

As I held the harness and leash of my yellow lab,

I never realized

that a young man’s hand had been on the harness of his yellow lab


who guided Michael Hingson safely from the 78th floor of Tower 1

to home.

As I approached Milwaukee’s Twin Towers,

I decided to stop at my ground-floor bank;

however, the entry door was locked.

In the midst of all the emptiness,

a security guard came to the door

and—for the first and only time—asked for my ID

so that I could enter the building.

Soon after, my Leader Dog Heather and I

walked home through the absence of people and cars,

through the empty sidewalks and silent streets.

Then, I joined the world and watched

the all-encompassing coverage of the unbelievable.

The daughter of a firefighter,

I had to force myself to stop

imagining all the ends of too many stories.

In the common state of numbness and prayers,

I vaguely remember

that Tuesday became Wednesday,

Wednesday drifted into Thursday.

Then, on 9/15, when Friday barely opened into Saturday,

a quarter past midnight,

shortly after I had fallen into a deep sleep,

I was awakened by an unusual noise—

seemingly right outside my upstairs bedroom window.

Arousing more fully,

I determined that I was hearing

the whirring and clattering

of a helicopter swooping back and forth,

up and somewhat down, again and again,

very near my townhouse—

which is next door to a 22-story skyscraper of apartments.

As I grabbed my jogging jacket

and gently touched my calm lab,

the attempts of the helicopter repeated and repeated.

On that fifteenth of September,

all I could think of was September 11.

With Heather at my side and a phone in hand,

I wondered whom to call, what to do.

“Is that helicopter trying to assault the south tower?

What is it doing?”

I did not know whether to stay in my townhouse

or leave it.

Suddenly, a drop of the craziness of the world

was right outside my townhouse.

I had to do something.

Despite the high winds,

the helicopter’s repeating movements persisted.

I called the security guard at our south tower.

In the 21 years I have lived here,

that night of September 15

was the one and only time

a Flight-for-Life helicopter tried to land

on the major thoroughfare on which I reside.

Finally, unable to land the helicopter in the high winds—

so typical on these nearest streets

where a wind tunnel is formed by the lake and the skyscrapers—

the pilot landed a couple of blocks north.

Flight-for-Life was needed for a young man

who had driven his motorcycle

into the path of an on-coming car.

The Flight-for-Life helicopter

took the severely injured young man

to a Chicago hospital.

From atop my stairs, through my east window,

I could continue to hear the police work the scene.

They worked the scene for several hours.

The severely injured young man

had tried to commit suicide;

he was from the Middle East.

Eventually, Heather returned to her bed;

and beside her, I returned to my bed.

My neighborhood returned to the quiet of a September night,

but the world did not return to its pre-9/11 bed.

For a long time, fears were mangled, magnified, and microscoped.

For a long time, tears were translated, trapped, and traced.

Book Note: Shortly after the 9/11 disaster, I heard, on the news, stories of two guide dogs who were in the World Trade Center during that shattering day. In the autumn of 2011, thanks to the Hadley School for the Blind (Winnetka, Illinois), I had the opportunity to hear speak a truly awesome individual—Michael Hingson, who, with his guide dog Roselle, survived the tragedy of 9/11. From his office on the 78th floor of Tower One, Mr. Hingson and his yellow Labrador Roselle safely went down 1,463 stairs, then met other challenges before arriving home safely together. Ten years after 9/11, Mr. Hingson’s remarkable book—Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero—was published in hard cover by Thomas Nelson Publishers. I highly recommend this book and also suggest that you check out the website for more information. The commercial audio version of Thunder Dog, which includes a bonus of a superb speech by Mr. Hingson after the reading of his book, is a powerful , mesmerizing, and memorable listening experience.

With the United States flag always flying in my window of my living room and the window of my kitchen,
I warmly send prayers for peace for all who were touched by 9/11–
Alice Massa

September 10, 2013, Tuesday


From → Uncategorized

  1. Almost everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when significant events occur in their lives, but few of us take the time to record those memories. Thank you for sharing your interesting remembrance of 9/11, Alice, which you describe in great detail and with heartfelt emotions.
    Love, Mary

  2. Hi Alice, this is interesting. I also read Michael Hingson’s book about his 9/11 experience. You can read my review of it on my blog at

  3. I believe his amazing story was aired on television. Thank heavens for guide dogs and for rescue dogs. Thanks, Alice, for another great story.

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