By September 11, 2011 80 Comments Read More →

When the towers fell, I already knew the feeling

World Trade Center

World Trade Center on September 7, 2011. Photo by Tracy Andersen.

Before sunrise on September 11, 2001, my rowing partner, Mary, and I, were already on the water for our morning workout. As darkness imperceptibly gave way to light, the bay was calm, the air was clear—an absolutely beautiful day dawned. We glided past herons and egrets, enjoying the quiet peace of Nature.

A couple of hours later, I was driving to a 10 a.m. meeting when I heard something on the car radio about a small plane crashing into the World Trade Center in New York City. By the time I reached my client’s office, all of her co-workers were standing around a radio. Both towers of the World Trade Center were hit, and the announcers were talking about a terrorist attack.

“What do you want to do?” I asked my client. Neither one of us knew the office protocol for terrorist attacks.

“I guess we’ll have the meeting,” she said.

So we did. But from the expansive plate glass windows in her conference room, I had a clear view of the flight paths into Atlantic City International Airport, which was about eight miles away, right in the middle of the busy Northeast corridor. Jet after jet was landing. None were taking off.

I rushed home after the meeting and turned on the television, shocked at the images that played over and over on the screen. A huge jet, loaded with fuel, crashing into the tallest building in New York. One tower fell, then the other. It was horrifying.

Was my family safe? One brother had an office in Lower Manhattan. My other brother was managing a construction project at Newark International Airport. My sister had flown to Hawaii a few days earlier. Gradually, when cell phone calls finally went through, I learned that my family was okay.

Thousands of other people weren’t so lucky.

Thousands of other people, through no fault of their own, had their lives ripped apart. People on their way to important destinations, people starting their day at work, were suddenly gone. The people who loved them were left to ask why.

Why did this happen? What had they done wrong? What did I do wrong? How am I going to survive?

They clung to hope, and then there was none.

I knew what that felt like.

A year earlier, I was forced to give up hope. I had been pursuing my $1.25 million judgment against my sociopathic ex-husband, James Montgomery. I was convinced I would find the money, and it would right my life that had been so wronged.

Before meeting my ex, I had been going to work every day, having fun when I could, and hoping, along the way, to make a romantic connection. James Montgomery presented himself as the love of my life. In truth, he was a terrorist who intentionally crashed into everything I had built, and brought it down.

I was outraged. I was an upstanding, responsible human being. I had done many things right and nothing wrong, yet my life was ripped to shreds.

I sought justice. The court said I was right, and the judge in my divorce awarded me everything that was taken from me—$227,000—plus $1 million in punitive damages. I pursued the money until 2000, when I had no choice but to admit failure. I was not going to recover what I had lost.

I collapsed. I raged. I demanded answers from God. What had I done to deserve this?

On September 11, 2001, and in the following traumatic days, I couldn’t breathe. I viscerally felt the nation’s collective horror. I knew the outrage, the confusion, the fear, the hope and then the hopelessness. I felt like I was reliving how my own life had crashed, magnified by a hundred, or perhaps a thousand.

A couple of weeks after the devastating tragedy, I wrote a poem. It was all I could do.

One Day In September

By Donna Andersen

Tuesday the eleventh dawns like any other day
Sunlight breaks the grayness as we row upon the bay
Herons, gulls and egrets barely glance as we glide by
They’re the creatures, at this hour, that rule the brightening sky
These mornings are a treasure, Mary and I agree

Ten o’clock my meeting is all scheduled to begin
Everyone is staring at a radio as I walk in
The peak of New York City has exploded into fire
Thick, black smoke is billowing from our economic spire
Do we work? Do we stop? Are they getting out?

Message light is blinking where are you? Are you there?
Are your brothers in New York today? Is your sister in the air?
Cell phones are not working have you seen the awful news?
What on earth is happening? Has anyone a clue?
Yes, the TV’s on, but I can’t absorb the scene

News uninterrupted, it’s bad and getting worse
Crash into the towers the idea is so perverse
Ten thousand in each edifice had just begun their day
Now a pile of rubble and all I can do is pray
Let there be survivors, please; God, we need you now

Jet slams into shining glass
The hundredth time today
Another angle, another shot
Let’s review that play
But this is not a game

Fires burning, twisted steel, it’s such an wrenching sight
Sweetheart, please come over, I can’t be alone tonight
Earlier this morning it was birds that ruled the sky
Now it’s raining jet fuel why did they have to die?
All those lonely pillows in so many empty beds

Family and friends are safe, but I can’t catch my breath
Two degrees of separation keep me from knowing death
Mary’s childhood classmate was one who called his wife
From up above the fire, hoping vainly for his life
Never did I know him, yet still I feel the loss

Countless private tragedies just add to my distress
How can I stop crying, ease the tension in my chest?
My brothers at ground zero passed buckets hand to hand
The president promises that America will take a stand
I am just a writer, searching desperately for words

Holes punched in our confidence, life forever changed
But this I know from experience: Good can come from pain
Our hearts have been ripped open, yet open hearts can feel
Compassion for each other may be the gift of this ordeal
Pray it is a turning point in our human history

Search for justice underway
Portends a mourning dove
In the end, there’s love and fear
And fear is lack of love
Our caring may be our hope

Posted in: Donna Andersen

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80 Comments on "When the towers fell, I already knew the feeling"

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Good for you. 🙂 I’m glad it’s moving forward in a positive direction.

One Joy,
A woman I work with who is a cooker said “if you cook, you’re a burner or a cutter” LOL Don’t mean to laugh at your injury…geeez.

Turns out my husband is a “cutter” LOL Not now but in earlier times, he was a cutter. I’m a burner myself.

Please take care of that boob!! Burns are nasty and painful.
I’ll pray to medicine buddah for you 🙂


Thanks Ana – tell him it’s my right boob. 🙂
I am a burner. (ex chef that I am)…i need to put some traumeel cream on it now…it’s not a bad burn, thankfully i had a really loose shirt on and was able to pull it away from my body really quickly. but it was shocking and will be tender in warm water and the bra might be a problem – poor nip!


I’m sorry to hear of your health issues. Omg…its amazing how stress can hurt us. I have done so much reading and practicing “destressing” things to control my thoughts so that I don’t “feel” anxiety.
Here I thought the “hot flashes” were from hormones, which they WERE…but, as soon as I ended my r/s with him, they went away …except for a few a week!!! And, I took “estrogen replacement” which could have caused cancer and killed me!
Wow, getting involved with and “evil” person can kill you!!!

The crazy thing is that I worked with him for several years before we got involved and I did like him and think he was interesting. His “sex drive” …his “needs” for supply…attention and sex, ruined our friendship. Looking back, I never should have let the r/s be more than platonic. Once we slept together….he was controlling, manipulative and sneaky.

Of course, we know how they lovebomb us. He was smooth and I was loving it. I was alone for 5 yrs after my divorce and he knew that. I do believe he liked me and respected me, but he was not r/s material. I was trauma bonded….he was so much like my mother!! Lied about stupid things…was secretive, and totally selfish.

Those anxiety feelings kept screaming at me! It took a long time for me to accept the fact that he is disordered, can never truly “love” and care about anyone but himself…and that I was worth more.

When we broke up…(several times), those anxiety reactions stopped totally. If he texted me…they would come back.

I know that I am healthy now, and stronger now…and I will NEVER compromise myself for anyone…NEVER sell my soul again.

I am SO selective with who I let into MY world now. I”ve learned to take each day….deep cleasing breaths….and stop scaring myself with negative thoughts.

I take care of ME very well now.

I am “in tune” to scammers and con artists. Amazing how I get that feeling just reading a response from an ad!!! lol


You can type my name in that box on the left and then click on the posts u want to read. I don’t remember what I write day to day…it just comes out from my heart. I’m glad I can help or enlighten you. This board is wonderful.

I would do the same thing. I thought I was in love with him. I was living in “fantasyland”…fooling myself. Funny, how he was TELLING me what he was…over and over.

Some things he said…

“I like this cat and mouse game”
” All I want is your attention”
‘ So, if i cheated on you, does that make
me a bad man?”
” I have my needs…” ( didn’t care about MY needs)

These are things that caused my “reactions” …

Now that I don’t bother with him, not even as a friend…I only got them when I was trying to save my home for foreclosure. Whenever I thought about losing it..I would get the same reaction….

Its fear. All anxiety is fear. Whenever I feel “anxious” about anything….I ask myself….”what are u afraid of?”..

And then I think.. “whats the worst thing that could happen regarding this?”….

And, I realize it isn’t so bad.

There is just TOO much to do in life to feel joy about…and I’m not wasting another day NOT feeling joy and happiness.

Even a bad day is a good day, for me.

Because I stay away from disordered people!!!!

One joy….
What is MSC?

I read somewhere, can’t remember where, that RESEARCHERS were having a “response” to the psychopaths sort of like the “hot flashes” that 2B was describing. Not every researcher felt it, and not with every psychopath, but some did actually have a physical response to being in the presence of a psychopath. I can’t say I have had it except a few times, but it was usually the “look” in their eye, if I had to put a “word” to it. Not sure how to describe it.

I do think we need to LISTEN TO OUR GUTs about feelings when we are around someone though. NOT listening is what got me in trouble the few times I was either warned or had the feeling.


2b – Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.

Onejoy….Hmm I’ll have to google that one.

Oxy….Wow, thats something.

I just went into my inbox for my email.
I saw an email from the xbf…

Wouldn’t you know it…I got that same feeling!!!! Just what I was talking about!!

He wrote : can u call me when u can please

I don’t believe it. ….Haven’t heard from him in a LONG time.

Of course…I will not call him.

Got the gut reaction!!

Speak of the devil……………….


I have enjoyed reading your posts, being interested in “hearing” more from you in the future. What you contribute is thought provoking, seeing things from another angle. I’ll continue to research the theory that others (besides Al Quaida) could have involved in the disasters that took place 9/11/01 (having never even considered this possibility, learning about it via your posting). It just seems to make life even more scarier (in my opinion).

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