Today is the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. As I do every year, I spent a little bit of time in quiet reflection, thinking about that day back in 2001 and how the world has changed since. Today, I also read Politico’s excellent piece, “We’re the Only Plane in the Sky,” which walks through the morning and afternoon of 9/11 from the perspective of the President’s staff and support crew. It’s long, but very good.
It made me think about my 9/11 story. I was lucky, my story is not very exciting.
It was just a regular September day; the weather was nice. I was in high school in Baltimore. I had probably driven car-pool that morning with my two cousins who lived nearby. I drove a White 1994 Buick Century with burgundy red seats. I was 17 years old.
We started class at 8:30 AM. My first period that day was a shop class. After a brief morning announcement, all of the students started working on our projects. At the time, I think I was making a frame for a mirror, or a step stool. I can’t remember exactly which one.
About 25 minutes into the class, someone turned on the old tube-television that was nestled in the corner of the shop. The TV showed the World Trade Center towers, one of them spewing smoke into the sky. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I assumed it was a movie or a television show or something. I stood there confused for a few minutes. Other students were confused too.
Our teacher, who I liked, was very upset by what was going on. I remember his disposition clearly; he was very grumpy. He said something like, “This was going to happen sooner or later.”
Probably in an effort to keep us calm, the teacher encouraged us to go back to work. I did as I was told. I went over to the band saw and made a few cuts. At the saw, I was facing away from the television so I didn’t see the second plane hit, but I heard people react behind me. At that point, I knew class was over and something really big was happening. We all went down to a classroom and just watched the news, mostly in silence. The school was urging us not to use our cell phones unless we had an emergency – everyone was trying to call their family at the same time and it was saturating the cell network.
I waited in line to use a land line at the school and called my family. My mother was in New York for work that day – she was ok. At one point all of the teachers told the students to go to the auditorium for an announcement. I remember walking into the auditorium, but don’t remember what was said. I think part of me was just in shock.
Most of the students left school early that day. I went home with a weird feeling in my stomach. Things just felt different. Fortunately, my family and friends were safe, but I knew that many people would go to bed that night without their loved ones.
Weeks later I would remember thinking back to the summer before the attacks. I felt like such a kid. I was worried about stupid things like who was in my classes, which girls liked me, where my locker was. None of that stuff seemed to matter anymore. Now I was thinking about whether there would be more attacks, was my family safe, was there going to be a draft for the military?
I was very lucky. My family and friends safe. But even for me, with my unremarkable story, things would never be the same again.