Tuesday, September 11, 2012
I was 17-years-old and walking up the stairs to my first class at Hillcrest High School. I remember seeing kids moving quickly into classrooms and I thought it was because the bell was close to ringing. But as I stepped into my classroom my teacher, Mrs. Halpin, rushed from her office in the back to turn on the T.V. A few students were talking about planes and buildings and New York City but I was still confused. When Mrs. Halpin turned the T.V. on it all became very clear. The second plane had hit the towers about 15 minutes before and the news anchors were discussing that this was in fact an attack on America.
I remember very clearly about being confused on what was going on. The tops of the Towers were smoking and burning. Sadly, you would glimpse a person jumping from the building in a last ditch effort to save them self. I guess those are the images that have stuck with me more than anything. I could not figure out how these planes could have run into the buildings. It still didn’t make a lot of sense.
Then we were learning that a plane had also hit the Pentagon. The news anchors kept trying to explain what we were seeing but it seems like even they were at a loss for words. My whole class sat in near silence as we watched the events unfold in front of us. I think my teacher may have even shed some tears.
Suddenly, somewhere around 9:00 am, the first tower collapsed. You could hear what had to have been a deafening roar and all you could see was a cloud of white/gray smoke as the tower disappeared. The T.V. started talking about another explosion or possibly another attack. But in truth, it was really just the building falling down, sealing the fates of so many.
We then heard about another plane crash that happened in a field in Pennsylvania. We saw the wreckage as people guessed about where the plane was headed. We kept hearing about rescue efforts and the panic. I watched as the second tower fell. It was so surreal.
I made my way to my second class which was Algebra and the teacher there said that he was going to try to carry on with class but that if anyone needed to be excused to go talk to the school counselor, they could go. I tried to carry on but I kept looking at the T.V. and expecting it to come on with some fresh news.
It was all anyone could talk about. Some kids made remarks like they didn’t care but most of us were in shock. Some people were wondering how this would impact the 2002 Olympics that were scheduled to be in Salt Lake City that coming winter. One teacher said that he wanted us to drive tanks to the front doors of the terrorists and blow them all to bits. I just remember wanting to get home.
When I finally made it home, my Dad met me at the door. He wanted to know if we had heard what happened. He had the stereo blaring upstairs and the T.V. on downstairs. I don’t remember what we ate or when I went to bed. All we could do was watch as Firefighters and Police Officers tried to rescue people from the debris.
And I watched. For days all the T.V. showed was the rescue efforts. It showed rubble being removed and your heart would skip a beat when you heard of another person being found alive. My heart broke when they would show the wall where people were posting pictures of missing loved ones.
Finally I remember watching as the network made the announcement that they were going to return to normal broadcasting after days of nothing but the wreckage. It felt like a funeral coming to a close. I knew that so many lives were lost and families would have to begin picking up the pieces.
What I want my kids to know is that, despite all the bad things I remember from that day 11 years ago, I remember how our country came together. It may sound cheesy now that years have passed but that doesn’t make it any less true.
We rallied around our First Responders and thanked them for their sacrifice. We gave thanks our men and women in the Armed Forces. We were grateful to have the freedom that we do even though other people hated us for it. We hugged each other a little tighter. And you couldn’t turn around without seeing red, white, and blue on a front door, in a yard, or on a car.
What I want my kids to remember that when they see the American flag in our yard every September 11 is that the terrorists wanted to change our country and they did. They united us in a way that will never be forgotten.