When we left off we had made it to what would have been our second class of the day. Classes for the day had essentially been put on hold due to the events in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania.
The time is approximately 850am. By this time we learned that these were in fact terrorist attacks. Another plane had crashed near Philadelphia. That several planes were unaccounted for. And that the FAA was closing the airspace around the U.S., nothing comes in nothing goes out. I learned that both towers were hit at separate times. Not at the same time like I had thought before.
We stood around the tv trying to see what we could through all the static. Our paperclip idea, while good, was not enough to catch a good signal. I remember being chosen as the one to hold the damn thing in the tv while everyone else sat down. Thanks. Thankfully our teacher walked in with the antenna. We could finally see what was really going on. Both towers engulfed in smoke, with huge holes in both of then. I had never seen something like that before. We were watching ABCNews now.
At this point I noticed our teacher seemed uneasy. He was in and out of the room, pacing all over the place. We were seated and chatting and cutting up. Talking about who had seen what and when Talking about random things, what we were going to do later blah blah blah. Then the South tower fell. It was now about 902am. It was as if someone had swept up a pile of dust, then dropped it onto the tower. That image has stayed with me since I saw it. We went quiet. A few words were said. Not much else. I remember Peter Jennings saying there was a triage area set up at the base of the towers. The first bits of fear and dread entered my mind.
9/11 was a day of strange feelings for me. This next one came after the first tower fell. Something told me to call my mom and tell her to pick me up. My thinking was since things were getting progressively worse there was no way we were going to have a full day of school. I asked if I could go use the bathroom. Like I said before, our teacher seemed preoccupied. I instead I went and used our payphones to call my mom. I told her that even though it was not officially announced school would let out early I told her it was eventually going to happen. I remember telling her I was a little scared and would rather be with a family member than at school. She called my grandparents.
It was about 920am when I got back to my seat. I remember looking at the North tower and saying to myself 'it would be awesome if this tower survived, we could rub it in the terrorists faces.' Deep inside though, I knew this was wishful thinking. I knew the North tower was doomed to come down. I just knew. At about 928am, we watched in silence a the North tower finally fell. I said to myself 'there it goes'. I remember thinking what now? What are we supposed to do now? Think of all the men who worked on building those towers. All the work they put into it.
You could hear it in the voice of the anchors on tv. They were just as stunned as we were. That was a bit unnerving. Shortly after the collapse ABC started showing events that happened earlier in the day. They replayed the video of the second plane going into the South tower. I did not know the networks were live on the air when the second plane hit. The horror, I thought, to see that on tv. LIVE!.
Eventually we were moved into our cafeteria/auditorium. Where we were told our parents were being called to pick us all up. At this point I am not sure what time it was. I honestly think this was around the time I went into some sort of shock. It was sometime between 930am and 12pm.
I remember seeing someone had put a tv on the stage and several of my classmates had gathered around it. It was on CBSNews coverage. They showed a list of the flights that had been hijacked. Me and a friend decided to go to our library and try to get more info off the internet. But we were quickly turned back. We were told the dioceses didnt want students to use the computers. I was upset, I had just seen people die, what else were they going to protect me from.
For whatever reason my grandparents took forever getting to the school. Eventually my name was called. It was time to go home. Sort of. I felt slightly better as I got in their car. We had it on newsradio, listing the whole way to their house to the coverage.
The rest of the day seemed to go by in sort of a blur. I know I was at my grandparents till the lat afternoon, when my mom was able to pick me up and drop me off at home. I spent the rest of the day watching the coverage. Recording bits here and there. We live close to an airport. It was strange not to hear planes taking off. The silence was deafening.
A lot of things changed in my life that day. The realization that something like this could happen anywhere. The realization that I had just seen thousands of people die right in front of me as I watched. That this could have happened to any one of us. The rest of the week I was thrown into depression. I know its strange that a teenager, thousands of miles away would be depressed about this. Well I was. I spent the rest of the week watching the coverage. In the days and months after I watched and read anything about the attacks. I looked up the pictures on the internet. I watched the videos over and over again.
I tell this little story not to gain fame, not to make you feel sorry for me, I tell it because I live this day over and over again every single day. At least once a day I relive the day. Whether through my eyes or someone else. I feel almost cursed by it. I have had nightmares about it. The most recent was last September. I had two of them. Talking about it does help. But who wants to hear someone talk about 9/11 everyday. For me 9/11/01 happened yesterday. The images from that day are still that vivid. Seeing people leap from the buildings, watching the looks on peoples faces as they watched, hearing the stories of the firefighters, police, EMS, ordinary people all of this is burned into my mind. Every year since then, on 9/11, I watch the coverage of the memorials. I watch the specials. I hear the stories. I feel almost called to do this. On this 10th year though it feels different. I dont know why.
The good things that came from that day. Journalism and photography were thrust into my life. The value of volunteering, helping someone whom you dont even know.
I honestly think i could write a book describing that day and how it affected me. In writing this I realized a lot of the events I remember happened within minutes of each other. At the time, it seemed to drag on. The day seemed much longer. Trust me I have much more i could write. But I think I have taken enough of your time. I feel slightly better in writing this.
Never forget that day. 9/11/2001
NOTE: The reason my math teacher seemed distant that day...it turns out, If I am not mistaken, one of his sons was in New York at the time. Thankfully he was well north of the towers.