Unlike most Americans, I didn’t have a television on Sept. 11, 2001. So, unlike most Americans, I learned about the 9/11 attacks via another medium: an e-mail alerts from the New York Times.

When I checked my e-mail that morning, this missive from the newspaper was my first inkling of the terrible events that had begun to unfold:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — 8:50 AM EST
Plane Crashes Into World Trade Center

A plane crashed into Manhattan’s World Trade Center this morning, causing heavy damage and fire to several floors.

I envisioned a single-engine plane and a tragedy that was nowhere near the scope of what had occurred.

Then this e-mail arrived:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — 9:04 AM EST
Type headline here

A second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center towers, according to the Associated Press.

Headline-Less Alert Underscored Event’s Gravity

It may seem peculiar to some, but to me, the biggest tip-off of the horrible magnitude of events wasn’t that a second plane had crashed–after all, there’s still no detail about the size of either plane. Instead, I couldn’t help but note that a Times editor had been so frantic that he or she failed to insert a headline before clicking “send.”

I have many memories from that traumatic day: breaking the news to my wife through a prayer at breakfast, visiting her grandparents, reporting for Time magazine (the collective story, how we ‘slugged’ it in all our reporting, was “Day of Bombing”) and talking to a college friend who was 100 yards away when the plane crashed into the Pentagon.

But my first memory from Sept. 11, 2001 is perhaps the eeriest:
When my eyes opened that morning, the digital alarm clock-radio read 7:47. “Like a 747 plane,” I thought, then drifted back to sleep for a few minutes longer. As I later learned, Flight 11 had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center about a minute earlier.

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