Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago...

Life is full of indelible moments. They can take your breath away, define you, and completely impact your life in ways you never expected. For me, I can only think of a handful of days that would qualify as indelible. They include the deaths of my grandfather and grandmother, my wedding day, and 9/11.

I was 16 years old on September 11, 2001. I was a junior in high school, sitting in my second hour computer applications class when my teacher turned on the TV monitor to CNN to check his stocks. The image on the screen was of one of the two twin towers burning. As we all watched and listened to the TV anchors explaining how a jetliner seemed to go off course and crash into the building, we all watched, stunned, as a second plane entered the screen and slammed into the second tower.

I will never forget that moment of shock, of fear. The anchors on TV were trying to explain that it appeared the U.S. was under attack. I remember some girl in my class crying out. And I remember my teacher picking up the phone to call the main office to tell them what we had seen on TV.

Then he sent some of us, myself included, to go around to the teachers in our wing of the building to spread the news of what had happened. I remember pulling one of the teachers in the hallway and telling him that New York was on fire, that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. He didn't speak to me, but instead reentered his classroom and turned on the TV.

The rest of that day was the same. We all traveled from class to class, talking in whispers as kids were given passes to go home. Rumors were flying that other buildings in different cities were also burning. The teachers didn't teach that day. Instead, we sat in classrooms and watched images of burning buildings and chaos for hours.

I remember that I was in my English class when the towers fell. We were all horrified and I remember my teacher saying, "those poor people."

It is a day and an event that has changed my life forever. While I did not know anyone who perished that day, I feel for their families and loved ones. It was a horrifying moment. And I know that I will never, ever forget the feeling of hopelessness I felt as I watched those two buildings disappear.

Today marks ten years since I sat in front of a computer in my second hour and watched a plane crash into a building. Those ten years have marked many significant changes in the world around me. They have shaped our world into what it is and our fear of living in it. But I also think they have given many of us hope-that the world will one day be at peace. One of the things that did come about after that tragedy was a true patriotic feeling for all Americans. We were glued together by our common loss.

I think we still have a long way to go, but today is not the day to talk about that. Instead, we need to remember what the significance of it all is. We need to remember the thousands of people who lost their lives that day. We should remember the brave people of Flight 93 who fought their high-jackers and lost their lives in Pennsylvania. We should remember the men and women who helped others escape, only to lose their own lives in the collapsing rubble. We should remember the firefighters and emergency responders who did their jobs until the very end and perished. We should remember the families left behind-the children, wives, husbands, parents, siblings-who never got to say goodbye.

It is a sad day, one that will bring back memories for many. I am sure many of you also remember where you were that day, the moment you found out, how you felt. And I am sure it has impacted you as much as it has me. I am a different person for what happened. And I am grateful I have had ten years to remember, build new memories, and grow. I know I will never forget-one day I will tell my children and grandchildren what happened that day.

I hope you will too.

9/11/2001: In Remembrance


  1. Where I lived in rural Wisconsin at the time, we didn't get a lot of news. We wouldn't have known at all except that my father in law was working the ER that night and was several hours late in getting home. My mother in law was worried about him and trying to get ahold of him, and when she did, he told her to turn on the television. By the time we heard what was happening, the second plane had already hit.

    It was really scary for me because my sister lived in NYC and I couldn't get ahold of her. Finally she got in touch with us to say she was okay. She had been half a mile away in her ballet studio, watching out the windows as it happened. I can only imagine how badly this affected people who actually witnessed the event, who could hear the sounds and smell the smells and everything else. :(

  2. It was a horrifying day. One where I knew the world and life would never be the same again. I was speechless. I was sick. I couldn't believe the images I was seeing. Even 10 years later, I am scared to let it in because when I do, I crumble.

  3. On Tuesday, September 11, I had woken up early and read the full NYTimes. Yes, I was a nerd in college. But I was informed about the world, right? Then I headed up to my early morning Economics class. The teacher stood up and told us what was happening right then in NYC. The first tower had just been hit. I kept thinking, but I just read the paper? And this is just happening? WHY? (How strange that today none of us would read the physical paper...we'd find out on twitter immediately.) It was a very different type of econ class that day. Anyway, we still had our campus-wide devotional at 11 a.m. (I went to a religious school) and it was so emotional. Our school president spoke. No one wanted to leave the room after the devotional.

    This morning, my son saw a flag at half mast as we drove to church. He asked why it was "coming down", and I tried to explain that ten years ago some bad people had flown a plane in a building and killed lots of people so we flew the flag half way to remember them. "Who where the people that died?" he asked. "Tell me their names." Although I didn't know anyone personally that died that day, it was so poignant to try to explain what it meant to a three year old.

  4. My experience was incredibly similar. I was a senior in high school and was also sitting in a classroom when I found out. Isn't it amazing how it can feel like yesterday and so long ago all at the same time.