It was a warm day in the earliest part fall. School was back in session and I was a senior. I was eager for school to get out because I had my senior pictures scheduled in the early evening.
That morning, I had a free period and was in my music teacher’s room working on finding monologues and songs for college auditions. There was one other kid there, working on his stuff for auditions as well and of course our teacher and the accompanist were in the room getting their own work done during this free period.
The accompanist happened to be on his computer and it was very quiet as we were all doing our own work. Suddenly, from the silence, he told us that he just came across something about a plane hitting the one of the towers at the World Trade Center. This initially seemed very odd to me, the innocent part of my brain thought “oh man, how does a terrible accident like that occur?” But deep inside of me something felt really off.
Suddenly time was flying. I don’t remember how long it was. I don’t remember if I ever even went to other classes that day or when I actually left the school. Updates of horrors began unfolding before our eyes. It quickly became painfully evident that this was no accident.
At some point someone brought a television into the cafeteria, which was right outside of our music room. This was back in the day when they still wheeled the tube TV’s with VCR’s around the school to use for educational videos.
Kids and staff huddled around the television watching updates. Some of the kids were making jokes, clearly not comprehending the gravity of the situation. I remember being horrified by this. Even though I was an extremely immature seventeen year old at this time (one of the youngest in my class) the gravity and seriousness of these events was never far from my mind.
I just didn’t understand- how could you joke about this? Innocent people were dying! Somebody’s mom/dad/sibling/spouse/friend was losing their life. And why? At that point nobody knew.
Over the course of those hours, event after event occurred. It was unlike anything my naive mind could even begin to comprehend. Up until then, I had never really thought about the kind of suffering that happens outside of the protection of my pretty little bubble. Before that, my idea of tragedy was not getting the lead in our school play and not being allowed to stay out past a certain hour. How incredibly stupid and unimportant that all seemed now.
I can’t tell you much about the remaining events of the day, besides having to fake a smile for those senior photos because, really, how can anyone genuinely smile in the face of such tragedy?
What I can tell you about is the burning sensation of heartbreak for our country, the victims, their loved ones. I can remember the anger for what had occurred. The sadness for America and especially for those who lost someone they love because of hatred. That day was a turning point. My eyes opened wide to the realities of this world; the horrors that people are faced with. The raw hatred that some people are capable of.
But also the bravery. People were running in. Heroes. While so many were trying to get out, these people were running and putting other’s lives before their own. People were sacrificing to help others. School plays and curfews suddenly seemed insignificant.
I’ll never fully be able to describe the feelings that I felt that day and still feel. My heart, like many others, was forever changed in the blink of any eye. Someday, I will need to sit down and explain the horrors that occurred to my innocent babies. I have no idea what I will say or how I will say it. I pray that they and we will never again have to experience such things.
But one thing that I do know is that I will never, ever forget. 9/11/01.