9th Anniversary of 9/11/01

I had a few topics I was considering for today, but given the date, there really is no other topic I want to write about.

When I was 13 I was in 7th grade. My first class was gym and I was expecting a morning filled with floor hockey or basketball. Instead, when I walked up the stairs and into the gym I saw all my fellow students standing in clusters around the gym, in a buzz of conversation. This wasn’t that unusual, the teachers couldn’t always corral us into lines on schedule. What was unusual was that they weren’t even trying. Most of them were crowded around a radio in the gymnasium office with worried looks on their faces. I couldn’t hear clearly what the radio was screeching across the gym, but it sounded fast and serious.

Being 13, I was more interested in taking advantage of this time away from the scrutiny of authority figures to crowd in with my friends and chat. For a few minutes all was normal, until I heard sobbing. I turned and saw a girl I had a crush on at the time bawling on her knees with a few teachers around her.

The crowds of students began to hum with gossip, and by the time I inquired about her tears to my group they were able to tell me that the girl thought her father’s plane had crashed. I remember being surprised that something so tragic had happened to someone I knew (even though she wouldn’t have given me the time of day back then). At that age, stories like that were stories, nothing you experienced directly but just something you heard about on the news. Most of us were too young to have experienced tragedy. My heart went out to the girl (though her father turned out to be fine, he was on a different plane).

The teachers remained glued to the radio until the bell rang, when they seemed shaken out of their daze and shuffled us along to our next class.

I walked into my social studies class before anyone else (the gym was right next to the room) and so was the first who noticed my teacher with her head in her hands, elbows on the desk, the perfect picture of misery. She too had the radio on, and this time I could hear what the radio was saying:

“…smoke and ash are covering the sky in every direction! It’s panic here, complete panic in New York, the buildings have fallen.”

When the class shuffled in, my teach slowly clicked off the radio. She composed herself and told us that the someone had crashed an airplane into the World Trade Center. As she talked, I remember having no idea what the World Trade Center was or looked like. I pictured something like capitol hill in flames, with a red sky and people running and screaming like something on the cover of a sci-fi book.

My teacher talked slowly but steadily about what had happened. I admit it was beyond me to comprehend what was happening. Most of my classes that day were a similar picture. Shock, anguish, and fear.

I walked home from school that day and the sky was blue and cloudless. It was hot. I was tired from being up since 7am. By the time I was approaching my block, I was thinking about air conditioning and watching TV. At that point, I almost walked straight into an old friend of mine’s mother, who had moved away in the last 6 months with her family. I was surprised but happy to see her, until I heard that the reason she was still in town was that her flight had been canceled. She had flown into town to work on the selling of their old house and was supposed to have flown out that morning, but due to the tragic events in NYC, she was grounded indefinitely.

We walked home together (she was staying at my house for the time being) and my mother swept me up into a tight hug. From that point until bed time, we watched the news. I saw the planes strike the buildings, saw them crumble to the ground like armored giants struck dead. I saw the almost comical image I had formed in my head turn into something bitingly real, saw real people fleeing for their lives from a rapidly advancing cloud of debris. I watched people crying on the street and saw stern-faced politicians demanding explanation and justice. I saw the first world-changing tragedy of my life. I was 13.

We were attacked 9 years ago today. Since then, we have seen a new president, the change of world leaders in the middle-east, and the longest active war in our nations history. I believe that we are making progress, but I do hope that it ends soon.  We’ve been at war since I was 13. I’m now almost 23. I’m shocked that after two world wars and Vietnam we can still have a war like this, where thousands are killed because of political and religious differences. I don’t mean to sound like a hippie, I understand why we did what we did, why we are at war. I think it was necessary. I’m still sad that it had to happen at all.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims of 9/11 and the war.

2 Responses to “9th Anniversary of 9/11/01”
  1. Bob M. says:

    Sad memories, skillfully evoked …

  2. Karen says:

    It’s wonderful to be able to read about your young perspective; we as parents wondered how that effected our children. Thanks for writing about this.

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