I was in eighth grade. The first plane hit during algebra. The second during band. And they fell during social studies and English. I don’t remember the day clearly. I apparently never wrote about it before. But I do remember some things, and some of it is disjointed and some of it may be figments of imagination, but it’s how I remember it.
Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day/Out in the yard with your wife and children/Working on some stage in LA/Did you stand there in shock at the site of/That black smoke rising against that blue sky/Did you shout out in anger/In fear for your neighbor/Or did you just sit down and cry
Did you weep for the children/Who lost their dear loved ones/And pray for the ones who don’t know/Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble/And sob for the ones left below
Did you burst out in pride/For the red white and blue/The heroes who died just doing what they do/Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer/And look at yourself to what really matters -Alan Jackson, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”
The thought that has stuck with me, the thing I remember the most all these years later, is walking in to my eighth grade social studies class and wondering why we were watching a disaster movie. And it seemed to be in the middle of it. Why had Mrs. B started it before class started? And why was this set-up portion with the Today Show so long? It didn’t seem concievable to me that these buildings were really on fire. And was that a plane that flew into it? I was so convinced it was not real. It was Hollywood magic.
It’s not that I hadn’t seen horrible things before. I remember seeing images from the Oklahoma City Bombing and I was engrossed with history, especially World War II and the Holocaust. I KNEW people could do horrible things. I just thought it was history. People didn’t do that any more. I was too young to remember the last time that our country was at war, as brief as the first Gulf War may have been. I was young and nieve and innocent, a girl who had been sheltered in a small-town all her life. But I don’t think that would have mattered. Were any of us not shocked by this? Was anyone really prepared for this, expecting it?
I knew it was bad when it was not just these two giant buildings in New York, but the Pentagon too. And Mrs. B., who was kind of a bitchy teacher, was crying. She was scared. She kept telling us, you don’t understand. That’s the safest building in the country and they attacked it. At that moment, I was terrified. No one else quite got it. A classmate’s father was on a plane, and she was scared. But I remember so distinctly classmates, not just in that initial class, but others throughout the day, joking and laughing. I was so angry with them. Didn’t they understand? People died. A LOT of people died. And it wasn’t over.
I couldn’t fathom how they were going to save the people above the fires. And then, the towers fell.
Teachers weren’t quite sure what to do with us. Some continued to teach. Others, continued to stare at the television. Trying to explain what had happened. But I don’t think anyone knew. How could you? Someone hated us so much that they flew planes into buildings. In those moments of shock, it’s hard to explain what had happened to yourself, let alone a room full of eighth graders.
My dad met us at home, a rarity. Normally we had a good hour or so before the parents came home. And we plopped ourselves in front of the television. I should ask my sisters what they remember. My youngest sister was in second grade. I don’t know how much she was told.
It’s a funny thing to remember, but those were the days that my parents watched MSNBC. And so that’s what we were watching. Another random thing I remember about that day is heading to the basement to get on the computer. I needed an escape. I had been focused on this all day. And every website that I went to was down. And I got so angry at that. I understand now, and even then why, but I just needed to get away for a little bit. Every TV channel, even Nick, was news.
That weekend we went to my grandparents in Cleveland. I wish I could remember that drive across the Ohio Turnpike. Was it any different from the time before? That Saturday I remember watching some tween-focused news program on ABC. It was Carson Daly and Peter Jennings, I think. And I remember Carson Daly telling me that there could be more attacks, and they could be nuclear attacks and…during that week I had my first panic attacks since fifth grade. Scared is an understatement of how I felt. And I didn’t even know all that had happened that day. Rumors were a big part of the day. One such rumor was that United 93 was headed towards the nuclear power plant in Oak Harbor, some 60 miles away.
I remember thinking that we’ve been forever changed.This was our Pearl Harbor, our Day of Infamy. And I remember being completely terrified, not knowing what was next. I’ve spent many days since then, on days of high alert, waiting for what’s next.
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It’s funny how life has gone on. Those days of flying the flag, and being united and KIND to one another are gone. Long gone. Last time I was in New York, Ground Zero was just a construction site. And our days and news are filled with bickering about faiths and politics and money. We’ve gone back to how it used to be, on September 10, 2001. I’m guilty of that. This week I’ve been so exc ited for the Ohio State/Miami Game that is this afternoon, that the date has kind of slipped away. And then suddenly it hit me all again. Not that I’ve ever truly forgotten. I don’t think I can. I don’t think anyone who lived through that September day could. And that’s the point. We aren’t meant to forget these things. We’re meant to remember, reflect and learn. We need to remember that.
When the disaster happens, everybody wants to help, everybody in this room wants to help, everybody at home wants to help. The hard part is seven months later, five years later, when we’re on to a new story. Honestly, we fail at that, most of the time. That’s the facts. -George Clooney
Today, take a moment to remember. Remember the people, the 2977 who died and the 6000+ who were injured and their families. Remember the brave men and women who went into the buildings when so many were coming out. Remember that day.
It is impossible to fully comprehend the evil that would have conjured up such a cowardly and depraved assault upon thousands of innocent people. – Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Sept. 11