‘A Tragedy Like No One Has Ever Seen’: Stevie Nicks’ 9/11 Diary
Early on Sept. 11, 2001, Stevie Nicks and her entourage flew into New York City for two solo shows at Radio City.
The Fleetwood Mac singer had been forced to postpone some dates of that year’s Trouble in Shangri-La tour after encountering voice problems, and she was looking forward to completing her rescheduled commitments. She was also looking forward to a return to her favorite city – but the trip was to be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Settling into her suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Nicks fell asleep in good spirits. Hours later she was woken to the news that the 9/11 terrorist attacks that shocked the world had begun, with Ground Zero just four miles from her window. As a writer, she felt compelled to record her feelings as the day continued, certain that she was living through “the heaviest thing I have ever experienced.”
“We got into New York via private jet at 2 o’clock this morning, coming into New York from Toronto, Canada,” Nicks wrote at 11.30AM. “I have been listening to Shawn Colvin’s song, ‘Another Plane Went Down,’ from her new album, A Whole New You, all the way here while trying to compose a letter to Gladys Knight about Aaliyah, her niece; about my dream. … And now, it has happened. Two planes dove into the World Trade Center Towers – 4 hijackings in 3 hours. The Trade Center is gone, thousands of people are dead. The Pentagon was attacked kamikaze style, and one plane they are pretty sure, was on its way to the White House.”
Nicks wrote that "everyone is pretty sure it was Osama Bin Laden, the evil high tech murderer hiding in Afghanistan. ... People are walking across the Brooklyn Bridge trying to get home. … I am pretty sure Radio City will cancel; I think their offices were in the Towers. ... I am so sad for them. ... Aircraft warships are on their way to us here in New York and to Washington. ... I don’t really know what we are going to do now – the airports are completely shut down ... My heart is broken.”
Nicks later listed what she’d seen as TV news reporters began to feel like family because they voiced the spirit of the moment to the world at large. “8:42AM. First Tower. 9:04AM. 2nd Tower. 9:40AM. Pentagon. 9:59AM. South Tower falls. 10:28AM. North Tower falls (people jump). 11:29AM. United flt 99 crashes in rural Pennsylvania. 5:20PM. #7 Tower collapses.”
“We are living through a tragedy like no one has ever seen," she continued. "The fire chief of New York is dead. His assistant fire chief is dead. One of my champions from Warner Brothers' wife is gone. She was coming home from Boston after settling their twin daughters at a University. Their grandmother was with their mom.”
Nicks wasn’t able to rest the entire day and updated her notes at 5.15AM. on Sept. 12. “The tears just don’t stop," she wrote. "I am driven to write what it has been like to be 20 minutes away from the Twin Towers. … To be here at the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel home of foreign diplomats and gathering place of politicians, in a suite where I am quite sure heads of state have met, and discussed the problems of the world. The living room is all dark wood, ceiling to floor, and you can just imagine John Kennedy sitting at the desk. It is stunning. This hotel is where the presidents have always stayed, and this grand old hotel is in full lockdown. All but two entrances are closed, the driveway through the hotel shut, all the cars moved out.”
She reflected that she felt "strangely safe here in New York now – and the city still looks awesome from my windows, still sparkly, still beautiful, almost like – from this room. Nothing ever happened. Almost … ”
At 6.38AM, she reported having seen a beautiful sunrise that turned her room pink while the sky was “peacock blue." “If I had been sleeping since Monday and I looked out this window, I would think, ‘It just looks like a beautiful New York fall day, my favorite thing, let’s shop!’" she wrote. "It looks just like it did Tuesday morning when I went to bed, just before this all happened. The view is so beautiful that looking up at it, almost makes you start to feel good, and forget, and then, honestly you feel guilty, and then you feel worse and sick to your stomach.”
Nicks vowed that if the residents of New York and those fighting in the devastation couldn’t sleep, “then I’m not going to sleep either.” She speculated on how she’d feel if “I looked up and saw a big jet flying towards me. ... Not possible. My question – ‘How could this happen?’” On Sept. 14, with time to reflect, she added a heartfelt appeal: “Please, everyone, do not blame people for this just because they are Muslim – or come from some other ethnic group. If you do, you let Osama Bin Laden win – as surely as if you helped him put those planes through those towers. You become him. He wins. Consider this carefully.”
In 2016, on the anniversary of the horror, Nicks recalled the tragedy. “As we drove away from New York on Friday at sunset (on a bus) heading towards Atlantic City (show on Saturday had not been canceled) we looked back across the water at the fallen towers and the sad grey city," she wrote.
"We drove slowly, taking pictures in our minds, knowing that nothing – NOTHING – would ever be the same. And we cried. Silent grey shadowed tears of disbelief. I think we cried all the way to Atlantic City. I don’t think any words were even spoken, and we prayed that the world would heal and get better. It hasn’t. Our world is dangerous. The warnings are everywhere. People are afraid. I am afraid and I hate being afraid. I want to be strong and fearless. I want anyone who reads this to do everything they can to help this world.”
She added lyrics to “a song you have yet to hear, about this day.”
Please God show them the way
Please God on this day
Spirits all give them the strength
Peace can come if you fight for it
I think we’re just in time to save it
Give them the strength
On this day Please God
Please God Please God
Show them the way