I cannot believe it’s been 20 years.
We all have a story about that day. Every story may have some similarities to others told, but every story is unique.
I cannot tell you a thing about what happened on September 10th, 2001… but I can tell you about every minute of September 11, 2001. I loved New York City before this day. I was in high school at the time. I wanted to be a journalist and I was planning on moving to NYC to be a reporter for the New York Times. I was looking forward to our choir trip that spring to go to NYC for competitions.
September 11, 2001 had a BEAUTIFUL clear blue sky that day. I remember waiting at the bus stop that morning, wearing a hoodie and jeans for school. Fall was in the air that morning. It was crisp, and I was wearing a gray Ohio State hoodie. But the day would warm up to a nice temperature. School ran as usual for the first 2 periods. I remember walking in to French class and writing our vocabulary list (though I can’t tell you what those words were today). I remember getting an assignment in my English class about an essay we were supposed to be writing when we finished our book with different options like research, or alternate endings. Third period is when everything started.
We had the TV on to watch a movie back when the TV needed to be on channel 3 to play a video… We never made it to the video. The news was playing a live shot of smoke coming out of the north tower. It had already been hit. Our teacher was watching in horror. We were all whispering amongst ourselves, not understanding what was happening. Then we watched live as another plane hit the south tower. The room fell silent (which in itself was terrifying as high schoolers are NEVER silent). Our teacher burst into tears and had to leave the room (We learned later that her daughter worked at the World Trade Center, but in one of the smaller buildings – she was not at work that day due to a doctor’s appointment).
We sat there, staring at this TV, in TOTAL silence and with no adult supervision. We knew we were under attack. We were scared. We were glued to the television seeking knowledge and guidance from the reporters on scene and anchors in the studios.
The entire day was filled with rumors of how schools may close or let out early The halls were filled with talks of putting the schools into lockdown. Teachers all over the school had their tvs on during class (most had no sound, but the images were playing). They tried to keep us on track with their curriculum but nobody could focus on anything more than what was happening outside the school building.
In my social studies class, we watched the towers fall. We watched the FDNY and NYPD walking out of the cloud of dust with victims. We watched a video of a reporter taking cover in a convenience store as the cloud of dust quickly filled the entire place.
Lunch came and I was talking to my friends per usual. The conversation was all about what had happened. I remember someone saying we were going to war. I remember another person telling us that he thought our choir trip was going to be cancelled. The rumors were already circling. Social media didn’t exist like it does today, so I guess we were able to keep most of those things under control.
My afternoon classes were my “fun” classes. I had choir, gym, and journalism. Our choir room was filled with chatter about our trip. Our instructor stood in front of all of us explaining it was too early to know anything and we needed to have patience. He promised us that if we could not go to NYC that we would find another location to perform. In gym, we had a “free” day. Our archery lesson was put on hold. We were not even required to change into our gym clothes. My journalism class was a return to the television and talks of how to report this in our school paper that month.
I remember walking home from the bus stop in a hurry that afternoon with my younger sister because I was scared that another plane may fall (knowing about the pentagon and flight 93 that crashed in PA). I remember how blue the sky was and that there were no planes visible. I had my eyes on the sky all day. After getting home, there was nothing on TV. MTV was on standby (I always came home to watch TRL which was filmed in Times Square) and my sister couldn’t watch Nickelodeon because it was also on standby. In fact, almost all channels except the news channels were on standby.
After my parents got home, we sat as a family watching TV most of the night… Our choir practices, cheer practice, and other events were cancelled. We had nothing else to do except watch the news.
At home, in the living room of my childhood house, my parents, sister, brother, and I watched as rescuers were working. Live pictures of police officers and fire fighters covered in soot walking on streets littered with debris. Cars were covered in soot and had windows busted out. And we watched President George W Bush as he addressed the nation before going to bed.
In the coming days, we would become UNITED throughout America. It didn’t matter that we didn’t agree with each other on every political issue. It didn’t matter if you were red or blue. It didn’t matter if you cheered for Ohio State or That Team Up North. It didn’t matter your heritage. We were all Americans. And we were all grieving and ready for justice.
The spring of 2002 we were able to travel to “the site” during our choir trip. I will never forget that. The silence in the midst of the busiest city on earth.
20 years later and my son tells me they are learning about it in school… They had a workbook about it yesterday in social studies. He was telling me all about it… He reminded me the times which both towers were hit and the times when they collapsed.
We love NY.