News & Events

Reflection on 9/11 by Nancy Wolfe

By Nancy Wolfe, Assistant Director of Development, Tanenbaum

In many ways there really could not be more different worlds than two I have lived in – Pensacola, Florida and New York, New York. But in gathering my thoughts as the 20th Anniversary of September 11th approaches, I thought it important to write a note of connection between our vastly different communities. A love letter of sorts, to those who personally experienced the horrific day – and weeks and years following – from those of us whose hearts ached for you from far away.

In my family the “Do you remember where you were when…?” question comes up from time to time. “Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?”…” When the first man landed on the moon?” The responses bring us back to that moment and connect us in a time and place.

It takes a very special time and place to pose that question about September 11th, 2001. The memories remain crystal clear. The emotions are distinct and ready. But given the required care and space this conversation too provides a space for connecting. And so from my little space in Manhattan I reached out to friends and family in Pensacola to ask them to speak to where they were and what they felt on September 11th, 2001.

My husband remembers distinctly “I was on the Little Joe (tug) at Gulf Power Plant. One of the guys asked me if I still had that little TV in the wheelhouse. I said yes and turned it on. That’s when I saw what was happening.”

Wendy, Elie, and I were best friends raising our daughters together. We all remember hearing about the attack as we started our typical days at home and work – and then rushing to school to pick up the girls. Elie writes of a call from a friend letting her know about the attack, as she did not own a TV, and then heading to her mother’s home to watch Peter Jennings. Wendy remembers taking yearbook pictures in the school library. “I was in complete disbelief. The sound was muted but I could still watch the images on the screen. All I wanted to do was get Emily, get home and reach out to my friends and family.

My dear teacher friend Pam writes “As I prepared to go to work the attack on the Twin Towers flashed on the news. I remember thinking “This can’t be real. This can’t be true!” Our first grandson was born on September 6th, 2001. I wondered how this tragedy would affect my newborn grandson and future generations. The people in Pensacola and around the world came together in ways we never thought possible. Many young men like my son Van signed up to serve in the military to protect our country.”

And my oldest daughter Hannah, who was just 10 and sitting in her second-grade classroom said “Now it seems somewhat strange”… but she was grateful that her teacher turned on the TV. She remembers the class watched “that same scene” over and over again. And then the announcement that students who could go home were released.

These stories continue into the weeks and years following and my friends reflect onto today – the changes we feel as people, as communities, and as a country. While we did not have experiences as those who lived, worked, and lost on September 11th these Pensacola stories give me pause to reflect on the millions of others, who started the day in a normal way and if asked “Where were you?” would not only think back to the events of that day but also grieve for a time, before… and gather in community and support for all those lost in this time, after.

By Nancy Wolfe, Assistant Director of Development, Tanenbaum