Questions have Artist reflecting on 9/11/01

Questions have Artist reflecting on 9/11/01


Linda Beckstead Reflects on 9/11/01

Where were you on that day 9/11/01? Share what images made the biggest impact on you that day?

I was at Bellevue West High School teaching journalism on the morning of September 11, 2001. The news trickled from the library to the classrooms that there was a national emergency. Many of our students' parents worked at StratCom at Offutt Air Force Base, located in Bellevue, Nebraska. Additionally, many parents were officers and my students knew that such an emergency would require their parents and other relatives to leave their families to protect the United States.

My students and I listened to the radio, and when it became clear that we were all paralyzed and mesmerized by what we heard, I gave them crayons and paper and asked them to color. I hoped it would give them a distracting, perhaps comforting task.

As we listened, the newscaster announced that the President had just landed at Offutt. There was a wash of fear in the room. The President's presence indicated how serious the US had been threatened and that retaliation plans were being made in the bunkers at StratCom. But worse, there was a concern that if the same group were trying to attack the President, the terrorists now had the name of a town to attack and a current location of Air Force One.

During all of this, I am worried about my own child and whether it was safe for him to walk home from school. I call his father who thinks I'm acting paranoid. I explained that I wasn't worried about our son making it home, but worried about people acting irrationally. The run on gas cars lined up to fill their tanks and station owners illegally raising prices--supported some of my fears as the day unfolded.

Once home, I remember this urgent need to watch the news and being overwhelmed with repeating images of the planes crashing, the people running, and story after story of heroism by NY firefighters.

What were some moments or images you recall that gave you a sense of hope and were reminders of the undying human spirit?

Although I have no images to call upon for Flight 93, Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, and the other passengers who acted with great sacrifice to save the US Capitol demonstrated fearless loyalty.

9/11 Means to Me Now

Following 9/11, I felt stuck for a long time and listened to stories of how to find healing. One reporter on NPR said she started a garden. I bought my first home that month and planted roots. I began to reconsider my priorities and resigned from a summer job to spend more time with my son.

Years later, tragedies continue to exist at the national level with mass shootings to the international court with chemical weapons. For those victims, I'm sure it's as if planes crashed into towers. I heard a sermon
last night in which the pastor talked about how the present moment is when life happens. Somehow, I forget that sometimes. 9/11, and its memory, awakens gratitude for what I have. When the news is overpowering, I turn it off. I am an activist in a variety of areas; apathy is not a personal option. I remind myself each day to live with compassion and passion.


Linda Beckstead on Susie Brenner’s song “ On Heart at a Time” --  "One Heart at a Time." is from Susie’s new CD called And So It Goes. I listened to the song again, and the lyrics captured some of the themes in what I've shared.

Linda Beckstead's Website 

Rev. Yolanda Shares Thoughts on 9/11

Where were you on that day 9/11/01?

I was at home working on my website. I was instant messaging with my webmaster when he told me about the attack. I didn't believe him so I went to the window (at that time my apt window had a view of the twin towers). I saw the smoke coming from the towers and immediately turned on the news.

Share what images made the biggest impact on you that day?

The images of people jumping out of the windows were the most striking to me.

What were some moments or images you recall that gave you a sense of hope and were reminders of the undying human spirit?

I didn't lose the understanding that all things work together for our good. I have always trusted Romans 8:28.

In the next few days when I saw people organize and mobilize to help each other, it was strangely beautiful. I believe this event changed the stereotype of the uncaring New Yorker who "looks the other way". The personality of NYC changed on that day and is now a more caring place to live. I see the difference because I have lived here a long time!

With the first plane being at first considered a bizarre accident, where were you and describe the moment you heard of that 2nd plane striking the 2nd tower of The World Trade Center. I was at home. The 2nd plane crash was when I found out about it all and went to my window to see the burning towers.

Share a story or memory from that day that perhaps no one perhaps knows about.

A friend of mine worked at the towers at that time and missed the crash because he was late to work. When he got out of the subway, he saw people jumping out of the windows. He told me he was confused and scared and comforted himself by sitting on the curb crying and singing my song We Are Angels.

What does 9/11 mean to you now?

All life is one. Those who drove the planes into the towers and the people who died in the planes and towers and those American politicians who waged war and killed so many people in Iran. All of us are one. We are all God's Children. I don't know what anything is for - I don't have the answers to the bigger picture but I do have faith that all things work together for the good of all life. War does not create peace - no matter how many times we wage it.
Please tell us what your song “We Are Angels” means to you?

We Are Angels is a song I wrote many years ago when I lived with the Radical Faeries in Vermont. I was dating a man who worked with developmentally challenged people. This was before I had email and he lived in another state. He wrote me a letter one day saying that he loved his job because he felt like his charges were "angels struggling to be human". I loved that phrase and the song was channeled through me right then and there. It has always been my most popular song in my live concerts.

Rev. Yolanda's Website


Shawn Thomas Reflects on 9/11/01

Where were you on that day 9/11/01 and how did you feel hearing the news and seeing the footage on TV? 

I lived in Huntsville, AL at the time with my ex-partner, his mother, and his son who was 10 at the time. I got up in my “normal” routine, and as I was going downstairs to get some cereal, I saw my ex’s mother sitting on the living room couch with this glazed look on her face.  She looked up at me and just said, “we’ve been attacked.” I had no idea what she meant or what had happened.  I watched for a moment on the living room TV with her, and then I rushed upstairs, sat on the floor in a 10 year-old’s play room, and flipped through the channels in confused disbelief.  Two of the planes had already hit by the time I found out.  Then I watched with the rest of the country as the towers fell, the Pentagon was hit, and United 93 exploded into the ground. 

 How did you feel the days following 9/11/01 and what does 9/11 mean to you now?  

I had not been politically “awake” or active or even aware of national and world affairs, conflicts, and realities.  It can be a comfortable place to be – to be intentionally na├»ve or lazily ambivalent.  It’s also a selfish way to live as I look back, as if the world around us doesn’t affect our every-day lives.  That perspective changed for me in many ways because of the events on 9/11/01.  It wasn’t an over-night or all-at-once shift, but slowly and progressively, my mind began to question and assert - and opinions formed where before I had none.  It may be a over a decade later, but to quote Toby Keith, “a mighty sucker punch came flying in… but through [a] black eye…” now I see much more clearly than before. I have pride in my country.  I have learned what I wasn’t taught in school.  I believe in the principles of the founding of this nation.  My faith in God is even stronger than before.

What were some moments or images you recall that gave you a sense of hope and were reminders of the undying human spirit?

I remember images of service men and women – firefighters, police, and military.   I remember hearing stories of everyday folk who just happened to be at work, or of sacrifices being made for the lives of others.  9/11/01 wasn’t the only story in history of bravery and hope brushed up against cowardice and fear, and unfortunately it won’t be the last – but it was a wake-up call for me.  I hope the understanding I’ve gained since that attack will be a small part of a growing understanding among all Americans, and throughout the world.

Shawn Thomas – “She is Freedom”

Events have left me wondering where the line is between blind inclusively and intentional elitism. I fear that makes those who pride themselves on their open-mindedness all the more susceptible to the influence of those who seek control instead of freedom. So, in a self-serving, "get this off my chest" kind of way, I'm posting this song with just the lyrics. No fancy video or effects just words and thoughts.
Shawn Thomas's Website  

John Raymond Pollard Shares Accounts of 9/11/01

Where were you on that day 9/11/01?

After an early swim at my health club, I Spent September 11, 2001 at home in Manhattan, a few miles north of ground zero. What I heard as a unlikely thunderclap turned out to be the sound of an airplane crashing into a building. I was scheduled to work on my second album. Passion, Poison, and Poltitik, in a recording studio in Brooklyn that afternoon, but that work was postponed.  

How did you feel hearing the news and seeing the footage on TV?

I was deeply saddened and shocked to learn what was unfolding.  In addition to seeing images on TV, from the roof of my building I could watch smoke rising from the World Trade Center site. At night as I heard the constant noise of planes overhead I experienced fear and felt compassion for unfortunate souls who live in war zones in conditions far less comfortable than mine for prolonged periods.   

What were some moments or images you recall that gave you a sense of hope and were reminders of the undying human spirit?

I was inspired by the efforts of firefighters who risked their lives attempting to save others.  Several firefighters from the firehouse next to my building lost their lives that day.  I recall my desire to use the unfortunate events as an opportunity to bring about a more peaceful, better world community.  Strangers in the street were kind to one another – there was a sense that we were all in this together. I recall throngs at candle light vigils in days following 9/11.

Share a story or memory from that day that perhaps no one perhaps knows about.

The combination of subways out of service and closed tunnels and bridges meant there was no escape from Manhattan.  We were trapped, so I hoped that those on the island would not die if a biological or chemical agent had been part of the attack. Until April, 2001 I was working as a consultant in the World Financial Center.  The window of my team’s office looked out across the street at the World Trade Center.  I was blessed to have left the job before September 11. 

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday.  The prior Tuesday evening I enjoyed a dance performance by Ronald K. Brown’s troupe in the plaza between the Twin Towers.  What a difference a week makes!  

What does 9/11 mean to you now?   

9/11 reminds me that violence begets violence.  I see it as a missed opportunity for America to reclaim its moral leadership; yet it is not too late to do so.

Please tell us what your song “Angels Watch Over” means to you?

Angels Watch Over” is an artistic work that rose from the ashes of the Twin Towers and so many lost lives.  It is a musical meditation calling listeners to work together for peace; to end revenge and greed.  The song reminds me that we can use even traumatic experiences into growing spiritually and emotionally. I remember it as a song that deeply touched my now deceased sister.  I dedicated the song to a dear friend who was dying of AIDS. 

John Raymond Pollard's Website


Terry Christopher Recalls 9/11/01

Where were you on that day 9/11/01?

I remember leaving for work that morning from AstoriaQueens.  Every morning while I was standing on the subway platform, which is outside, I could see the Twin Towers.  The day was a beautiful day and the sky was the most amazing blue.  I looked at the Towers, the subway finally arrived and off we went.  After about 6-7 stops above ground, the subway travels under the East River and makes its first underground stop.  I arrived at my stop, popped up from underground and walked to my day job at a law firm I had been at less than a year.  Unbeknownst to me and while underground, the first plane had hit.  There was no chaos, discussion amongst anyone on the street.  I went up to the 27th floor and went to my desk.  I remember logging into my computer and realizing there was no one on my floor; none of my bosses, Associates or Attorney’s.  I heard some chatter coming from the floor above coming to me via out internal spiral staircase.  My Co-Worker came down and said that a plane most likely had engine trouble or somehow the guiding system was off and it flew right into one of the Towers.  I remembered thinking how horrible and about those poor passengers and crew and of course the workers in that building. I ran down the hallway to a huge corner office and saw all the black and grey smoke billowing out of the tower and thought, how in the world are they going to put that out!  I walked back to my desk and though it was rather early on the West coast, decided to call my Mom and let her know I was ok.  I use to always get on her about always placing me at “ground zero” of any disaster anywhere in the world.  I woke her up and told her to turn on the T.V. and she was confused at what she was seeing so I explained to her what I had heard and what we knew at that point.  While I was explaining this to her, I heard two things at once: 1) was what I thought was laughter coming from the above floor which I could not even imagine and then I heard the rush of people flying down the staircase 2) My Mom at the same time sucked in this huge breath and said, Son!!!  Where are you in the City?!!!  I said I am in Midtown.  Why?  She said how far are you from the Towers?  I said about 5 or so miles.  She said, Terry, they are flying airplanes into those buildings.  She immediately asked me again where I was and as I told her 5 miles didn’t seem so far away.  I didn’t have access to a TV and I think I jumped online to the news and was watching the 2nd plane bank in that hard turn off of the Hudson and align itself with the other Tower.  I then realized after putting the visual with the action and the noises I was over hearing and not the clearest at that was in fact people screaming and crying and then flying down the stairs.  It was complete unbelievable what was happening.

I ran down to the corner office again and now saw the 2nd Tower seemingly in much worse shape than the first.  Again and I think even in the first minutes after the 2nd plane hit, I couldn’t understand this to be an attack but perhaps something very wrong with radar systems or something else totally nuts.  My Mom called back and as we were talking again, she said the Pentagon has now been hit.  That changed everything for me in that moment.  Clearly, this had been a well-orchestrated plan of attack. I learned all airspace in the U.S. was already shut down as well and all flights had landed or in the process of landing.  NYC was on lockdown.  All means of transportation were being stopped.  No subways. No buses. Nothing.  And then there was the report of Flight #93.

A little bit later, I again heard all this commotion and through down the phone and by the time I ran down the hall and into the corner office the South Tower was completely and entirely gone.  A single tower stood alone burning in the NYC sky.  I couldn’t not clearly understand what I was seeing which was a complete absence of the other Tower.  I don’t know why, but I had to keep telling myself it’s gone. It’s gone. It’s gone. We have to remember that prior to 9/11, none of these huge buildings including mine had any plan of action for anything like this other than a fire drill.  While it sounds crazy and unthinkable, many businesses for a couple of more hours continued to try to function for only being able to figure out how to wind down all business operations or work from satellite locations, who would man what departments.  Literally, operational strategies were being planned and executed on the fly for the most part.

I knew I was stuck and said I could stay to help facilitate a skeleton crew, but that I would need to leave within a couple of hours.  Luckily, I had no animals to care for no big responsibilities back home.  It was at this point I heard OH NO and I flew down to the corner office and because I was closer this time being in my bosses office mid-hallway, I ran in to watch to my horror the 2nd Tower fall and see only naked sky and the billowing gray smoke, ash, and debris.  I looked at this other guy who ran into the office with me and I quietly said…how does that happen?  They both went straight down and are completely gone.  Empty sky was all that there was.

Tuesday, Sept 11, 2001

I have kept most of the e-mails from that day…here is one of them from 9/11/01.

As tears flood from my eyes... "thank you" for writing...I am dumbfounded and shocked... May God bless this country…
I "Praise God" you are ok...
I am at a loss for words...
I have tried to call you...
The phone lines are overwhelmed...

"I love you"...

What were some moments or images you recall that gave you a sense of hope and were reminders of the undying human spirit?

I remember leaving my law firm and walking 40 blocks uptown to stay with my friends, Alisha and Andy for the night.  I remember being probably about 8-9 people wide shoulder to shoulder pretty much and a sea of bodies walking slowly uptown and not a single word.  Cell phones were not accessible to any signal.  It was a very, very disturbing thing to experience a city normally filled with vivacious, daring energy, now silenced into a state of silent numbness.  I looked through the sea of people I was now a part of and noting who had been downtown and at what was to be called Ground Zero because they were covered in soot and dust; some partially and some entirely.  One of the most memorable take away’s from that day and of the great City that is NYC, are the endless stories of shop owners, deli’s and bistros handing out food, water, sneakers to those who had lost their footwear and the many business women who had ditched high heels to walk for miles barefoot.  Though it felt on that day the very essence and energetic spine of NYC had been completely snapped, there were these slivers of HOPE, GENEROSITY, COMPASSION and GIVING that made me remember even in the most atrocious examples of man’s wrath and ugly hatred, there are these beautiful little rays of light poking through the darkest of humanities history that not all is in fact lost.

Share a story or memory from that day that perhaps no one perhaps knows about.

For a few weeks after the attacks in NYC, you could smell the odor of what seemed to be a mix of burning plastic, hair and tires.  I give those examples as a reference to what was described in the press as an “acrid” odor from the smoldering pile of building rubble.  As the weeks rolled by and it more stories of loss and heroics were surfacing, I remembered a newer friend to me, Robert, who was a part of my circle of friends who was also a Firefighter from New Jersey.  None of us from our circle heard anything from him after 9/11 and I figured he was lost.  I had only met him a couple of other times, but he was a really nice guy and had a great energy about him and always smiling.  I would say late 40’s early 50’s.  My Friends would host various parties year round, Halloween, Thanksgiving, a between Christmas & New Year’s gathering, but I met Robert at one of their summer BBQ’s and we talked about the crazy days of our summer trips/vacations, dating, theatre etc…  My Friends decided to hold off and only have the between Christmas and New Year’s party.  When I RSVP’d, they said they hadn’t heard back from so many of their friends over the last few months and they unfortunately considered them to be lost.  I asked about Robert and he was one of their Friends who had not been heard from and they thought he was probably killed.  I was standing in the Kitchen with my back to the dining room as I was making an adult beverage and I turned around and there stood Robert.  I remembered standing there in silence with my jaw open feeling like I was seeing a ghost. I put out my arms and felt my shoulders start to jump and realized I was crying that kind of shuttering, deep-gulping of air cry and trying to hold it in and down and we hugged and squeezed each other so tight almost as if to physically reassure each other that the other one was in fact there.  As we pulled away I started to laugh and I said I am so glad to see you!!!  I thought you were killed in the World Trade attack.  We stayed in the Kitchen talked for what seemed minutes but turned out to be 2.5 hours.  He told me was suppose to go to the site during the attack, but at the last minute was switched and stayed behind to help coordinate from the firehouse in NJ.  He said he lost a lot of friends that day that were in the towers when they came down.  One story that I just can’t fathom was that as the firefighters got to the floors to try to evacuate people, when the firefighters got the the floors, they found people standing on their desks to try to escape the heat from the fire below and that their shoes were melting to the surface of the desks.  It was that hot.  The heat was a determining factor as to why people started jumping out of the windows and not necessarily flames being right on them. It was that it was so fiery hot that it was either burn alive or jump.  I told my Co-Worker at my law firm that story.  We decided that if that had been us and we had to make that impossible decision in those impossible conditions, we would have jumped holding hands and gone down together.

What does 9/11 mean to you now?

Another reminder that tomorrow is promised to none of us and that every day is truly a blessing when life is good, hopeful, possible and joyous.   There is much darkness in this world and that hope, love, compassion, strength, and courage will always rise and conquer what lurks in the shadows of that darkness.
Please tell us what your song “Friends and Hero’s” means to you?

The Saturday after the attacks and the collapse of the World Trade Center, I had just gotten off the phone with my Mom and was feeling so much. I wanted to write something. I wasn't sure it would be a song, a poem or something but I needed to write. I grabbed my notebook and sat on my bed and a fighter jet ripped by overhead as they were circling NYC 24/7 at the time. Tears just started streaming down my face and I said to myself, just tell the story. Tell it like a historian would. As I have learned from many of my songwriting Friends, when a song/lyrics comes to us, it comes very quickly as this one did for me. I kept saying in my head...just tell the story and stay out of your own way.

Terry Christopher's Website


Arizzona (host of UFC) Reflects on 9/11/01

Where were you on that day 9/11/01? Share a story or memory from that day that perhaps no one perhaps knows about.

I was living in CalgaryAlberta at the time, but had traveled clear across the country 10 days prior.  The night before 9/11/01 occurred, I ventured off to the airport, unbeknownst to me, only to be ushered out of the airport with everyone else for many hours. I sat quietly outside the terminal eating a cucumber, 1 of 200 my family grew that year. Once back inside the terminal, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

As the airplane I was on approached the Calgary Airport, we were told, there would be a 10-minute delay, before we could land. I actually didn't think much about it -- as I'd been on numerous other flights in the past that had delays. 

Once inside the terminal things seemed a little chaotic and hectic, but nothing earth shattering. So, I ventured outside to an awaiting taxi and made my way home.  I then called my folks to say, "I'm home," that's when my mom said in her almost none existent voice --"turn on your TV, there's a disaster in NYC." After hanging up the phone -- I turned on the TV and sat on the floor in my room, in total disbelieve.  I heard the time on the TV, it was 30 minutes after I'd arrived home that the news announced all modes of transportation had been shut down in North America. If I had still been at the airport, I would have been in some sort of lock down situation, or perhaps walking numerous hours to get home.

 How did you feel the days following 9/11/01 and what does 9/11 mean to you now?

For me, the feeling of 9/11/01 begins with the personal and with the direct human loss of individual lives then expands outward from there to the world and its landscape.

Before this occurrence, I was not politically in tune with the outside world and its conflicts. How could anyone do such horrible things to another human was and is beyond any sense of my rational thinking. I'm still questioning -- what goes through someone's mind to make them do such things? I guess I'll never fully understand, as it's not a journey I've experienced, nor would I want to. My journey trough it all took a different path, with the massive loss of life and an approaching immanent death of a loved one -- I learned to appreciate the goodness that surrounds me and this world of ours.  I also garnered a greater connection with prayer and God.

9/11/01 brought us together as a nation and as one community, as we continue in a time of expanding multiculturalism and globalization, we are continually reminded that it is in our unity that we have always found strength in.  As humans, we are continuously reminded of the need to stay united and to come together in a mutual understanding, of hope and love. 

Unashamed Faith Cafe (UFC)'s Website 

Thank you everyone for your contributions. May blessing fall upon you each day.