I cannot believe that it has already been 10 years since the most horrific and tragic day of our lifetime. It seems that every publication and television outlet is putting together their own special memorials to the thousands of people whose lives were lost on September 11, 2001.
As I read these memorials and see the pictures, it is painfully heartbreaking yet unimaginable to me how this event in history has affected so many lives and families. I was blessed to not have personally known any of the victims from those attacks but that day will still be with me forever.
When I was younger, I remember being almost envious of my parents and grandparents because they had had so many memorable and historic events in their lifetime. Together, they had witnessed the Second World War, the dropping of the atomic bomb, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Woodstock, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wanted to know every detail of where they were, what they were doing when they heard the news and their reactions.
Now I have my own details.
I was a Senior at Alan C. Pope High School and my first period class that semester was Oceanography. This was mainly just a filler class as I had met mostly all of my requirements and was also on early release (I had only 3 classes instead of the 4 that come along with Block Scheduling). This class was more fun than educational because the majority of the class were my friends. The day before, we had started a Paper Mache Globe project. Everyone was making jokes, laughing, really goofing off for the most part. A few minutes into class, our Principal, Dr. Stowers, came over the intercom to tell everyone there had been a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York and for everyone to turn on the TV. (It came out later that Dr. Stowers’ daughter, who worked at the WTC had been running late that morning and saw the first plane hit the building and immediately called her mother).
Up until this point in my life, terrorist attacks to me meant a hostage situation so I didn’t think too heavily on the announcement until someone turned on the television and I saw the first attack on the building. Immediately, the feel in the room changed. The carefree, lighthearted feeling everyone just had was replaced with a serious grave and anxious feeling. We watched the coverage, including the second plane attack on the South Tower, until the bell rang for second period.
I basically ran to my second period class, which was Government/Econ, so I wouldn’t miss anything. We were supposed to have a test or quiz or something that I remember not feeling ready for but my teacher, Mrs. Todaro, informed the class that these events were more important. Within minutes of class starting, we watched in shock and disbelief as the South Tower collapsed. The feeling now throughout the school was very somber. I think we were all still trying to process what was happening, how this could have happened!
My third and final class was Senior Lit/College Prep Class. This class was a smaller class than my others and there were probably 15-20 kids in the class. I remember walking into the class and getting settled when my teacher told us that she was going to turn off the television because ‘nothing new was happening’. Almost in unison, the entire class protested. At this point in the day, the broadcasters were showing the celebrations that were going on in the Middle East. She put the television on mute and tried to continue with class.
The rest of the day was sort of a blur. I’m not sure if I had to work, if I discussed things with my parents; I just remember still being numb about the situation.
A few weeks after the attacks, it came out that there were documentary film makers, brothers Gedeon and Jules Naudet, following a rookie firefighter during his entire 9 month training. They were the first and only camera to capture the first plane that struck the towers and a few months after the attacks, the documentary was finally aired.
Sitting at the kitchen counter, I watched the documentary. I remember bits and pieces from the documentary but what stands out to me the most was actually, for the first time, hearing the steel bend and crunch as the towers fell. The footage of that entire day had been replayed for months but there was always some commentary covering up the noise. The minute I heard the sounds from that day, shivers went down my spine. I envisioned the thousands of people stuck inside the building; I envisioned those who made the decision to jump from the inferno; I tried to envision what it would have been like inside as the buildings collapsed.
I finally had my own details to tell my children and grandchildren but if I had known that the event which changed our country forever would have been so devastating, I’m not sure I would have been so envious of my afore-mentioned relatives. Ten years after the original attacks, I still have anxiety when viewing the images from that day and the disbelief and sadness is still as fresh as it was 10 years ago.