September 11, 2001…
I had just started my freshman year in college, in fact it may have been only the second week of classes. I was commuting with some good friends from high school and we thought life was just perfect. Even though it was a long drive into the City everyday, and finding a parking spot was always up in the air, we finally felt like grown ups, like we were really getting to the next level of our lives. Freedom was in our grasp, and we were taking it.
We went to school as usual that morning and I had just finished my first class of the day when I headed to the school’s cafe for a coffee. I ran into a friend, who happened to be from New York, and he said, “Hey, get to a room with a TV, there’s a fire at the World Trade Center. I’m really worried because my mom works there.” These were the first words I would hear about a day I, and so many other Americans, will never forget.
I remember walking down to the rec center, because I knew there was a TV down there, and I found myself huddled together with about ten other students in front of a tiny screen. We were watching when the second plane hit, and I remember my stomach literally dropping to the floor. I suddenly felt completely alone and terrified. My “grown up” feelings melted away in an instant and I just wanted to call my mom, be with my family.
Everyone scattered and started calling people on their cell phones, or shouting to others to get out of town. Rumors started to fly quickly that these attacks were happening in other major cities, and I felt even more helpless.
I actually didn’t have a cell phone yet, and I thought to myself, how the hell am I going to find my friends and get out of here?
I knew one of my friends had a class in a certain hall so I just started looking into classrooms to find her. I remember her teacher staring at me as I burst through the door. I tried to tell everyone what was happening. I felt strange relaying the message, the words didn’t even seem real, and we still had no idea what was going on – whether it was an accident, an attack, but I could see the fear in student’s eyes as they ran out of the room.
We drove home in almost complete silence, just turning the radio to every channel trying to get more information. I remember running through my front door and turning on the TV. I sat there for hours by myself just watching the coverage. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. My sister and brother were still in high school and elementary school and they ended up coming home early and joining me in watching the coverage.
To this day, I think 99% of people can remember exactly what they were doing on this day and I find that amazing. The difference and the impact that one day, one event can make. The stories we hear, the accounts we listen to are astounding. The “I wasn’t supposed to be there,” or “I took a different route to work.” I remember watching one story and the man was recording the image of the smoke on his phone as he was driving, and he was talking in the background saying he had been late to work because he was up watching Monday Night Football the night before, or he would have been at work in the Tower. Stories like that… no words.
I am still fascinated with this day, eleven years later. I want to watch every movie and documentary about the attack. I become so engrossed in the stories of the survivors, or the loved ones talking about those they lost. I feel connected to all of them, I think we all do.
For that one day we were all Americans. We were all scared. We all needed each other. We all needed hope. No matter what our experience that day, it in some way shaped us. It’s a forever part of our world. Please take time today to remember and reflect.
Where Were You?