September 11, 2011

10 Years

It was just a simple Tuesday morning.

I was sitting in first period- sitting in the room right there, above that doorway. It was a TA hour- the assisting was for a secretary, though, so I either stuffed envelopes, cut bar codes off boxes for rebates, or did my homework. It was only the second week of school. My pencils were still sharp. My books were barely read. I would turn 17 in exactly one week.

8:46 AM
The secretary, Mrs. Munds, always kept her radio on low while she clicked away on her computer. I remember sitting at the other desk in the room, wedged next to a tall bookcase full of binders and manuals. I had walked in, breathless, a couple of minutes late. She remarked about the radio mentioning a plane crash in New York City. My dad is a fire chief at a local airport, so my only thought was, "I bet he'll hear something about this at work." She continues typing. I continue writing in my spiral notebook. I was probably doodling the name of the boy I had a crush on instead of working on math.

Just a few minutes later, the radio stops rattling off the news as if it's just another day, and begins stating the facts with less coolness and more urgency. Without saying a word to each other, Mrs. Munds and I lean towards the radio and listen. After a couple minutes, she announces she's going to the library to see if there is anything on the TV about what's happening. I follow her down the stairs, down the halls, and I'm surprised that she's letting me skip my homework to come with her.

9:03 AM
We open the door to the library. It's empty, except for the librarian, one other teacher, and a small handful of students who had study hall that early in the morning. The TV, small and on a movable stand, is turned up much louder than I'd heard it in school before. Good Morning America is blaring. Charlie Gibson is saying something, and "breaking news" is emblazoned across the screen. They are showing the World Trade Center buildings up close. One of them is smoking a little. I remember thinking to myself, "These are not empty buildings. There are people inside." I was trying to shake the feeling that this was something out of Hollywood.

As we watch the screen, it starts to sink in a little that this is not just a plane crash.

And suddenly, without warning from Charlie or anyone else in the room, I watch as a tiny dot on the screen turns into the shape of a plane. It crumbles into the other tower, sailing silently and with ease.

We all stare at the screen as if we're watching a horror movie, and there's no pause button to press. The TV was silent for a moment. Mrs. Munds held her hand over her mouth.

I start to see debris fall from towers. And then the camera zooms in on the debris. I realize what is really happening, and feel sick in the pit of my stomach. People are jumping from broken windows, jumping to their death. Instinctively, I know that this is not something my sixteen year old mind can grasp.

I want to rush down the hall and pull my friends from the classrooms, wondering if they have a clue what is happening to us. The room feels shaken. Our bubble of safety- around the school, around Champaign-Urbana, and around our world- seems broken in an instant. There was chaos and confusion from everyone. Maybe we preferred it to the awful clarity of the events we saw.

It's all we talk about the rest of the day at school. The afternoon was spent wondering- wondering what this would mean, because even at 16, I knew it would mean big things. I imagined the big headlines that would print on The News-Gazette the next morning.

September 11, 2001 was supposed to have been just another sleepy day at Judah Christian School. It was just a simple Tuesday morning. But we all  knew everything had changed.

(What I was watching in the library. Obviously, this is graphic and very hard to watch.)

History doesn't erase. That is why I wrote this. We would not remember Pearl Harbor (the only comparison we can seem to give to 9/11) without the stories from people who lived that day- the survivors, the family members, the military and their families, and everyone back home in the U.S. who read the papers and heard the radio announcements. It stays real to us because the stories were passed down for us. There is power and honor in remembrance- and that is why I chose to share my memories of the day.

5 kind comments from you:

Thisisme. said...

Beautifully written post today. It must have been very difficult for you to take in exactly what you were watching, at such a young age. You're right, it was just like a scene from a horror movie, and when people started jumping from the building, my heart almost stopped. Can you imagine what they must have been going through? Sending prayers to you today from over here in England, and praying that nothing like this will ever happen again.

Erinn said...

It is important we share our story of the day just like when we hear the stories about Neil Armstrong, JFK or pearl harbor from our parents and grandparents. Written and oral history is so important so we can learn more about what other people went through that day and how it continues to affect us and others to this day.
Thank you for sharing your story.

beka said...

this writing of your story is stunning.

[i was only 10, so i only remember slight details.
i had much less comprehension of what was happening.]

The New "Normal" said...

Beautifully written. I was 22 on 9/11 and remember every detail of the day. I agree that these stories need to be shared, how else will the memory be passed on. It was and is a painful thing to remember, but it is important for our future generations to understand and honor. Thanks for sharing your story.

janimar said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It was neat to hear it from a teenager's perspective. I was teaching third graders in a Christian school and on my blog I wrote how one seemed to understand the significance.

Sharing our stories to so important and somewhat therapeutic.

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