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September 20, 2006

My 9.11

Filed under: 往事如风 — Tags: — Fei @ 9:58 pm

September 2001, I just started my second year of Ph.D. study at Princeton University. The University sits in a quite little town 50 miles south of New York city, a town just escapes the crowd of the metropolitan, but is still convenient for a day trip. I just started my research projects, which were in collaboration with NEC lab, America. I was required to go to the lab once a while to do some experiments. The lab was not far from the University, only 12 minutes driving. However, at that time, I did not have a driving license, nor a car. How can I get to the lab? The answer is — bike. Sept. 11 2001, Tuesday, I planed to bike to NEC lab. After having a light breakfast, I packed my lunch and headed to NEC lab. When I biked near the math department, I met a friend. The first word he said was “Do you know that the world trade center was hit by a plane?”.

“Really?” I asked. It was the first time I heard the story, very brief and vague. What kind of plane? Was it serious? Those questions were haunted in my head. I hesitated for a while, weighting the news, but I still decided to continue the trip. I had planed the trip for days, and should not be disrupted by an unclear message.

The bike route was surprisingly long, a lot longer than the car route. I biked on sand trails, crossed multiple bridges, as well as a major highway. 50 minutes later, I finally arrived at the lab. The lab was surprisingly quite. Only a few cars were parked outside. The entire 4-storey building seemed empty. I did not meet anyone on the way to my cube. Nobody was in the kitchen as well. A secretary’s desk was a few steps away from my cube. She was not there, but the radio on her desk was constantly broadcasting live news in low volume. Later on when I walked around to look for people, I only saw a few. They were all walking in the hallway and quickly disappeared around the corner. It was definitely not an ordinary day. To be honest, the scene was a bit scary.

I wanted to head back immediately, but that would waste several days’ planning, and 50 minutes biking. I tried to calm down and do some research, but I could not help reading the news on the computer: four planes were down, twin towers collapsed. News were updated in real time. I had too many questions in mind, too many questions unanswered. As a result, I did not do any research in the morning. At lunch time, I quietly finished my packed lunch box in the kitchen, alone. Then, I seated in my cube for a while, became even more uneasy. The radio still murmured in the background, but nobody showed up. Finally, I made the decision to go home.

Again after an hour’s biking, I got home at Annex. Immediately I turned the TV and computer on. I was a bit worried about my host family. My host father used to work in world trade center. But fortunately, his company moved to Jersey city earlier in the year. Still, I wrote them an email asking for their situation. They replied in a couple of hours. It was really fortunate. My host mother was in world trade center the week before to take classes, but both of them were fine that day. I was a little relaxed after reading the email.

I spent the rest of the day in front of the computer, or TV, or both. At that time, all major TV networks refrained from broadcasting the terrible scenes. I no longer saw the crashing of UA175 on the south tower, the collapse of the twin towers, even the flamed towers or Pentagon. Nothing really was new. However, I still constantly reading and watching the updated news till late at night.

After midnight, I fell asleep in my little cozy room at Annex, unawaring that the world was no longer the same.


  1. I’m doing fine, running between my apartment and the lab,hehe.
    How about you? I hear that you now work in company? Finally get out of school. Aren’t you glad? 🙂

    Comment by reel — September 25, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

  2. You can check my blogs later, and decide yourself. As for your second question. Of course I remember you. How are you doing?

    Comment by (no name) — September 23, 2006 @ 12:28 am

  3. It seems that 9.11 has big influence on you.
    ps1: You will always use English to update your blog? 🙂 totally Americanized?
    ps2: You still remember who I am, right? hehe.

    Comment by reel — September 21, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

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