I was a senior in high school in September of 2001. I had my first two classes of the day free, so I usually strolled into the building just before ten. My mom would leave for work around eight and I would have the house to myself until I left. In those days I listened to Eric and Kathy on the MIX (101.9) as I got ready. Eric was always cracking jokes and the music was my taste.
On September 11th I woke up, told my mom to have a good day as she ran out the door and made myself breakfast. Eric and Kathy were chattering as they always did and I was about to turn them off so I could shower when Eric stopped everything. There was silence for a moment, then with a voice so serious I stopped in my tracks he said that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers. I immediately turned them off and flipped on the TV, scrolling madly for a news station.
Then there it was, rough footage of one of the Towers billowing smoke and debris. My first reaction was complete and total confusion, which seemed to be everyone's reaction. The newscasters were awkwardly speculating about what had happened. Terrorism was not on their lips. Yet.
Their live camera was trained on the South Tower with the North behind it, it's top on fire. It was an image no one could have pulled their eyes from and I found myself inches from the screen when a grey object moved into the field of view and collided with the South Tower. The newscasters were flabbergasted and suddenly it dawned on all of us that this was deliberate. America was under attack on its own soil.
I scrambled for the phone and called my dad, who was at work in the EPA building in downtown Chicago. He picked up quickly and I asked him if he had seen the news. He hadn't. When I told him he became very quiet. I heard him open his office door and raised voices from the hallway wafted in. He told me he would have to call me back and hung up. Shortly after that his building, along with all other major buildings in the city were evacuated for precautionary measures.
I drove to school listening to the news the whole way and when I got there, people were crowded around TVs all over the school. Some classes still continued, either they didn't know or they didn't know what else to do. By the time I got to a TV, Flight 77 had just hit the Pentagon. No one could say anything. There was nothing to say. I don't know how the newscasters kept talking.
By the time Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, everyone was so shell shocked that classes ceased to function. We rotated with our schedules but most teachers had a TV on in place of a lesson. We were all aware that this was a day we would never forget. We were all present for a moment in history that saw tragedy and heroes.
When I look at the 8th graders I work with now I'm shocked to realize that most of them were around four when 911 occurred. They are fuzzy on the facts of what happened that day. Some think only NY was hit. Most don't quite grasp the gravity of the event. Such it was for my generation missing the JFK assassination.
When I think of 911 I remember everything I did that morning. I remember the emotions I felt and the reactions I had. In the days following I listened to stories of American heroism that made me cry and made me appreciative. What always came to mind in the weeks, months, years that separated us from the event, was that the people who attacked us underestimated the spirit of the this country.
For all their intricate plans and execution, they couldn't have realized how their attack would bring Americans together. Even those of us, a thousand miles away, felt connected to the lost. The pain reached everyone. Patriotism soared and people started doing everything they could to help. Give blood. Help the rescue and recovery teams. Join the army.
I read Meg Cabot's harrowing personal account of that day and I recommend you read it if you haven't. The individual stories of heroism are important to remember. My heart still goes out to all those who died on that day and all those who died in the wars that followed.