"It was my senior year of high school," said BYU running back Curtis Brown. "I was at my house and I turned on the TV and I started watching and didn't think it was real. I thought it was a movie or something. I walked into my mom's room and I sat down and just started watching it. I was just like, ‘What is going on?' It was just so unreal, and I didn't know if school was going to be cancelled. It was just one of those things where you see the planes crashing into the towers, and you're just in immediate shock and sadness realizing that this is real life. It was just weird and almost unbelievable even though you see on the news that there are bad things going on all over the world, but for something like that to happen on your homeland just puts you in a state of shock. That's one thing I always think about is how blessed we are to live in a country were we are protected and can be free. For someone to attack our country and do what thy did was definitely an eye opener, but it was a time when our country came together and saw eye to eye for once and that was a positive feeling."
As smoke billowed from an internationally renowned symbol of the American economy, many felt like they were watching the adaptation of the latest Tom Clancy novel. Chris Bolden was stationed in Japan while serving in the U.S. Navy when the twin towers fell.
"I remember I was in my apartment and I stepped away from the TV for a little bit then came back to see the twin towers on fire," said Bolden. "It just blew me away because I thought it was like some crazy movie. I just started flipping channels and saw it was on every channel and then the phone started ringing. I just couldn't believe what just happened. I remember exactly were I was, I was in my apartment in Japan watching TV"
Quarterback John Beck was also serving overseas while on his mission in the Portuguese Azores when he heard of the news.
"I was in a zone conference on my mission on the island of Sau Miguel in the Azores," said Beck. "It's the mid-way point between Europe and New York out in the middle of the Atlantic. We just had a zone conference with our area authority who was the father of a former BYU running back Paul Peterson, so President Peterson was our area authority and he had come to our conference. After the zone conference we went to a little shopping center because they had an area where we could have lunch, and we were sitting down and this person who spoke a little English came over to us and said, ‘You're country is under attack and they bombed a bunch of buildings.' The thing is, there are a lot of people who are deported from the United States that get involved in a lot of drugs and alcohol over on that island, so we really didn't think anything of it. We just thought this guy was crazy. My companion and I walked back to our house and the people that we lived with just had these panic looks on their faces. They looked at us and said, ‘Elders, you're country is under attack.' You know you're not supposed to watch television when you're on your mission, but we walked over there and saw one of the towers with fire coming out of it. Right then while we were watching what was going on the second plane hit the other tower."
Elder Beck and his companion soon learned that American agents arrested would-be terrorists trying to get into America from the small islands on which they were serving.
"It was pretty crazy but we continued to work and tract and every door we knocked on, people kept us up to date on what was going on and happening," Beck said. "I remember we got to talk to our families that night because of the situation. There was a naval base out on an island next to us called Terceira. Four days later they found some people with fake passports from those countries where Al Qaeda was trying to get into Boston, Philadelphia and neighboring cities from the island were we were. They had flown onto the island and were trying to get into the United States and they found them. It was on the front page of USA Today. It said Al Qaeda was found on this island I was serving on. I remember in the middle of the night there was a big bang, and there were two teenage kids of the family I was living with, and they woke up freaking out. They thought bombs were going off on their little island, it was a pretty hectic time."
Freshman running back Harvey Unga was getting some hot chocolate at a gas station prior to school when the terrorists struck.
"I heard about it from a friend of mine who asked me if I had heard about the World Trade Center," said Unga. "It didn't really hit me until I got to school and I saw what was going on the TV and in the news. It was a real shock because at first I just thought that maybe it was just a rumor and that it wasn't true and didn't really expect anything of it. It was a real shock to find out it was all true."
Also in high school, BYU center Sete Aulai heard the news from a teacher who feared for her family living in New York.
"I was in first period of class in high school and my teacher was tripping out," said Aulai. "She was just going crazy because I guess she had family in New York. At that time we were all watching the news."
True freshmen McKay Jacobson was not even in high school at the time. Jacobson had just finished up with morning football practice when he heard the news from his junior high school history teacher.
"I was at football practice and I was in junior high school," Jacobson said. "I think I was in the eighth grade and I had football practice in the morning. I was going on up to my first class and my history teacher started telling us what happened. She didn't know a whole lot, but she just told us what she knew and that a plane had crashed into one of the towers."
BYU Fullback Manase Tonga was on his way to school from LDS seminary, and like the Orson Wells "War of the World" radio broadcast in 1938, Tonga thought it was a hoax.
"I heard the news over the radio and I thought it was a prank and a big joke, but then later on in the day we all found out that it was true," said Tonga. "It was just one of those things where I didn't know what to say, I was speechless. Anytime someone attacks your home you automatically want to go to war. You feel threatened and you want to do something about it. I specifically remember that week because we were going to play one of our rival schools, which was an all-boy Catholic school in San Mateo and they cancelled that game. It was my senior year and it was going to be the last time I was going to be able to play that team. I was kind of bitter about that but at the same time I understood."