I was riding the bus into work, as I did every day. Halfway there, somebody yelled, "Hey, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!" I shook my head and thought it was some idiot in a Cessna. The bus arrived, and I walked a block to my building. I worked in downtown Kansas City, on the top floor of a 34-story building (the second tallest in KC). I rode the elevator to the top floor.
Today was going to be an atypical day; I was flying to Urbana, Illinois to go recruiting. As I got off the elevator and began walking to my desk, I noticed something was wrong. It was dead silent. Everybody was standing in mute horror, looking at the TV monitors around the trade floor. I looked at the screen. The World Trade Center was on fire. I stopped and began watching with them. Within just a minute or two, I saw the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. I knew it couldn't be an accident at that point.
Traders were frantically calling friends at the NYMEX, and friends who worked in the WTC. Some people were crying. Other than that, it was quiet.
I called my wife, and told her to turn on the TV. She thought I was joking when I told her what I saw, until she saw it, too. I heard her say, "Oh, my God!" and then she just hung up.
I saw the first tower collapse. Some people around me screamed. Then the second. The company president got on the intercom and informed us that we were evacuating our building as a precaution. I had no car, as I rode the bus in. One of my coworkers offered me a ride home. When we got to street level, I felt like I had walked onto the set of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. There were tanks and APCs everywhere, and armed troops. Kansas City, for those who don't know, is a major federal site; there are several very prominent federal buildings there, and it was #2 on Tim McVeigh's list. The national guard had locked it down. It was a real hassle navigating out from downtown onto the highway, as they'd cordoned off a safe zone around each federal building, and this made navigation downtown nearly impossible.
We didn't say a word on the ride home, just listened to the radio. We heard sketchy reports that the Pentagon had been hit, and that another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.
When I got home, my wife was huddled with our then-two-year-old daughter in front of the TV, mouth agape. She, too, had watched the towers collapse, and was nearly in shock. For the rest of the day, all we did was sit in bed, watching the news, and the wild speculation. We saw one of the taller buildings adjacent the WTC collapse later that night.
That is where I was, and what I saw, on 11 September 2001.