10 Moving Celebrity 9/11 Stories
The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were a harrowing, heartbreaking moment in history — but they also inspired, strengthened and further united the United States in rebuilding not only the rubble, but the patriotism and spirit that define the nation.
These stars all had unique experiences on 9/11. Some cheated death, some saved lives, some were moved to action. Read on, reflect and get inspired. These colors don’t run.
Mark Wahlberg was scheduled for Flight 93 but canceled at the last minute, and it saved his life — but also shook him to his core. He described his decision as an impulsive one, leaving his hometown of Boston a week earlier than scheduled to hang out with a buddy named “Rasta Phil” in Toronto.
He joked, “Don’t tell him he saved my life or he’ll want a big check. Actually, I never bring up 9/11 with him … I can’t.”
When he reflects on the day, Wahlberg insists that he could have changed the outcome of the fateful flight. “We certainly would have tried to do something to fight,” Wahlberg said. “I’ve had probably over 50 dreams about it.”
Sarah Ferguson, ex-wife to Prince Andrew, narrowly missed being a casualty of the 9/11 strikes on the World Trade Center. “Fergie,” as she was affectionately dubbed, was slated to go to the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, for her Chances for Children Charity. However, Ferguson was running late doing an interview with Matt Lauer on the ‘TODAY’ show, and it saved her life.
Gwyneth Paltrow saved a woman’s life on 9/11 by almost killing her first. Paltrow was driving to her yoga class when she stopped short in an intersection to avoid hitting a jaywalking woman named Lara Lundstrom Clarke. The pair stopped and started repeatedly before either of them made it past the intersection, and as a result, Clarke missed a train to the World Trade Center — and survived the devastation. Clarke later went on to call Paltrow’s accidental intervention a “‘Sliding Doors’ moment.” She explained, “If I had made that train I would have been at my desk on the 77th floor of 2 World Trade Center.”
Paltrow later said, “It still gives me chills. I can’t quite believe how many other people changed the course of strangers’ lives that day.”
Grammy winner Patti Austin was supposed to be on United 93 from Boston to San Francisco, but her mother had a stroke, causing her to reschedule the flight for a day earlier. Were it not for her Michael Jackson tribute performance being moved to a day later, Austin would have been on the flight that crashed into a Shenksville, Penn., field, killing everyone on board. Austin later said, “I felt that my life had been saved for some specific reason … I have yet to figure that out, but I do a lot of charity work now, which I was doing before, but I do a lot more.”
Seth MacFarlane was booked for American Airlines Flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2001, but a mix-up in his itinerary saved his life. MacFarlane’s travel agent told him the flight left at 8:15AM, but it was actually scheduled to depart at 7:45AM. The ‘Family Guy’ creator arrived at Logan Airport shortly after boarding closed for the flight and was forced to wait for the next plane — and an hour later, the flight crashed in the North Tower, killing everyone on board.
MacFarlane immediately called his family to let them know he wasn’t on the flight, and later explained how it affected him.
“After the fact it was sobering, but people have a lot of close calls; you’re crossing the street and you almost get hit by a car,” he said. “… This one just happened to be related to something massive. I really can’t let it affect me because I’m a comedy writer. I have to put that in the back of my head.”
MacFarlane also admitted that booze played a role in his missed flight and cheated death. “I was booked on that flight and I was drinking the night before and hung over and I missed the plane by about 10 minutes. It was a very close call for me … alcohol is our friend. I think that’s the moral of that story.”
Lady Gaga was in New York City on 9/11 and watched the tragedy from the rooftop playground at her school, the Convent of the Sacred Heart. “As a New Yorker, it’s very intense,” she said of the experience. “I’ve never really spoken about this before, but I was in New York on September 11 and I watched the Towers fall with all my girlfriends from the roof of our school. The whole city was covered in ashes.”
Rob Lowe actually sat next to one of the plotters of the 9/11 attacks, Zacarias Moussaoui, on a test run. Moussaoui wasn’t one of the actual hijackers on Sept. 11, but was later captured and sentenced to life for his role in planning the attacks. Lowe was understandably shaken by the circumstance, later saying, “I flew with the 9/11 hijackers. I was on a dry run [on] the one that went into the Pentagon, and I knew the crew.”
Robert De Niro
Native New Yorker Robert De Niro was in the city when the Twin Towers fell. “I left a meeting right after they hit the World Trade Center,” the Oscar winner said. “I went to my apartment, which looks south, and I watched it out my window. I could see the line of fire across the North Tower. I had my binoculars and a video camera –though I didn’t want to video it,” he continued. “I saw a few people jump. Then I saw the South Tower go. It was so unreal, I had to confirm it by immediately looking at the television screen. CNN was on. That was the only way to make it real. Like my son said: ‘It was like watching the moon fall.'”
Jay-Z released his iconic album, ‘The Blueprint,’ on Sept. 11, 2001, and he’s well aware of the significance the release date has on its legacy. While the Brooklyn native wasn’t in New York City at the time of the attacks, he was still deeply moved.
“I flew to L.A. I was shooting a video for a song called ‘Girls, Girls, Girls,'” the ‘Empire State of Mind’ MC said. “I’d dropped my album ‘The Blueprint‘ on the same day. And I just remember waking up in L.A. and thinking everybody was playing, like ‘That can’t be,’ then turning on the TV and it looked like something from one of those apocalyptic movies.”
Of his hometown’s resilience, Hov quipped, “We are New Yorkers, we’re known for being tough — and we’re really cool once you get to know us — but we’re known for being tough, so I didn’t doubt us for one second.”
Rock legend and former Beatle Paul McCartney was on the tarmac at JFK Airport when the World Trade Center was attacked. “I was on my way back to England, and we were at JFK on the tarmac, and the pilot just suddenly said, ‘We can’t take off. We’re going to have to go back to base,'” Macca said. “And out of the window on the righthand side of the airplane, you could see the twin towers. You could see one plume of smoke, and then you could see two shortly thereafter.”
The harrowing moment inspired the singer’s decision to throw his huge benefit concert for 9/11 victims and survivors, the Concert for New York City.
“I ended up in Long Island watching it on TV, watching the whole story unfold ‑‑ like everyone else in the world ‑‑ wanting to go into New York, but nobody was allowed back in,” McCartney, photographed backstage in the above photo, explained. “So while I was kind of sitting out there twiddling my thumbs thinking of what to do, was there any role I could play in this, the idea came to me that maybe we could do a concert, maybe get something together. And that thing grew into a conversation with Harvey Weinstein, who said that MTV was putting one together and maybe we should all get together on that.”
He said of the show, “[At the concert] it was a kind of post-fear. We were emerging from the fearfulness of the immediate impact, and now you were seeing the emotion releasing through music, which I always think is a great thing. You could see particularly the firefighters and the volunteers and their families and victims’ families were able to release this emotion that had been pent up,” he added. “It was a great feeling. It was a really great feeling.”