On September 11, 2001, I was a sixteen year old Junior in high school. I had gotten my license just about a month before, and I was crushing on this one guy in my gym class. Typical sixteen year old girl things.
When the first tower was hit, I was in that gym class. We were inside, waiting for the days activities. I remember when I first heard the rumor going around, all of the students thought it was a joke. We didn’t take it seriously. It just seemed impossible. We were shortly herded outside for tennis. And that’s when the word got out that the second tower was hit, and this wasn’t a joke. It was very, very real. We weren’t outside for long, but I recall looking up at the sky, eying every plane trail that was over us and wondering if we were going to be next. It was perhaps naive to think that, but at sixteen, the world as I knew it was beginning to change.
We were ushered back inside and finished gym class. Most of us weren’t really paying attention, though. We kept saying things like, “can you believe it? I can’t. It’s so surreal.” In my art class, the teacher put on the television and we watched as the towers fell. It was unbelievable, and again, surreal. The entire school of nearly 2,000 kids and teachers fell silent. Not a single sound could be heard in the building. I stared in disbelief as the cameras showed people running in terror, covered in dirt.
And then shortly after I found out one of my good friend’s father worked in the Pentagon. She had been trying to reach him but couldn’t. She was dismissed that day. Two days later, we found out he had finally gotten in touch with her, and he had been on the other side of the building and was safe. She broke down in class, relieved, as she told us about the call.
In the coming days, I went to the store every morning and bought a copy of every newspaper available. I still have them to this day – they seemed too important to throw out, my own piece of history. Over the coming months, all I could focus on in my English class was writing essays about how I couldn’t believe what had happened, and how I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be one of those many people, escaping terrified from the wreckage. My teacher was concerned and demanded I start writing about other events. But I just couldn’t. I was stuck on this event.
When I think about it now, I still remember it clearly. The most vivid memory was of watching the two towers fall, and those people running through the streets trying to escape the giant cloud that seemed to chase them.
Take some time today to reflect on the tenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash in Shanksville, PA. Like it or not, the world has changed since then. Better or worse, we’re all in this together, and we will never forget.