Our grandparents will tell you how they found out about Pearl Harbor. Our parents will tell you what they were doing when they heard that President Kennedy was shot. Your friends will tell you the story of their 9/11. This is mine.
My alarm clock went off with a hint of light coming through my bedroom window. It was only about a week into the school year but my brain was already in school mode. My first thought as I turned off my alarm was collecting what all was ahead for the day. Let’s see…no quizzes, no tests, no homework due, just another ordinary Tuesday.
I went through my usual morning routine including breakfast with my brother, and waiting for the clock to turn the exact minute for us to leave and spend minimal time at the bus stop without being late. Once at school I went straight to first hour. The school district had separated me from my middle school friends. I had two that came with to high school, but our schedules clashed for all but second hour. I was used to it. Elementary to middle school was the same story.
For first hour I had American Government. I was starting to make one friend in that class, Greg. We sat next to each other and had the same lunchtime so we had started getting to know each other a bit. We chatted for a bit between the ten minute warning bell and the starting bell at 7:50am. What a weird time to start school.
Every morning we would start class with “current events”. Basically the teacher played a recording of the five am news broadcast and we took notes. I managed to get my notes down about President Bush’s bill on stem cell research and a few other tidbits I don’t remember while still admiring the view of the morning sun over the junior varsity field.
My half-hearted attention was overtaken once we started taking notes. We were breaking down the three branches of government beyond just legislative, executive, and judicial, when the psychology teacher from next door popped in. That was strange enough already.
“You guys do current events in here right?” She asked plainly.
“Yes,” my teacher answered with the inflection of a question.
“You might want to turn on the news,” She said and left without another word.
My teacher went to the classroom TV and flipped a few channels to CNN. We see skyscrapers in smoke and the anchor is saying “A second plane has just hit the south tower of the World Trade Center.”
I was geographically challenged so my first thought was Where is the World Trade Center? My second thought is A second plane? What’s going on? Catch me up people, what was going on with the first one? We spent the rest of the ninety minute class period watching CNN. I learned that the World Trade Center, located in New York City was the tallest structure in America. Two passenger planes had been highjack and flown into the two towers as an act of terrorism. Reporters were saying that there seems to be birds falling out of the air from the vast amount of smoke…wait…those aren’t birds. Those are people. People are jumping to their death, one after another to escape the inferno. That’s when it really hit me, I went numb.
We watched as news about the Pentagon came on. I had only recently learned that previous week that the Pentagon housed the US department of Defense. This was big. We were under attack and defense HQ was in the middle of the battle. What could America do? And more importantly, what would be next? We lived close enough to Minneapolis. The IDS tower was an easy target.
“My mom works in the IDS,” One girl whispered in near tears to a friend as we watched in silence. Just before class ended, one 100 plus story building became a pile of rubble and smoke. Yet, the bell still rang and life went on.
Second hour was Orchestra; everyone was talking about what happened and about continuing to watch. I had forgotten we were having a substitute that day. We asked about watching the news and she said no. So we asked if we could have the TV on mute while we practiced. She said no. During our short breaks everyone talked about how much of an un-American Nazi she was. Someone who had gotten a hall pass reported that the other tower fell and a chunk of the Pentagon had collapsed and a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania, all while we practiced a menial piece of music for a concert that was two months away.
Third hour was Spanish. The action had slowed significantly, but I had forgotten we had a sub in that class as well, and not just any sub; Mr.Kratt. Mr. Kratt was the coolest sub ever and would always start class by entertaining the students, but not today. He simply said, “Wow. There are just no words for what has happened today.” He went on about how things have slowed down so he will keep the tv on mute but we will still do the lesson. He also reminded us that Profé was in San Diego and supposed to return tomorrow, but all flights have been grounded so she may not be back for a few days.
I did my work, peeked at the news occasionally, and fourth hour Math passed without any major event. Once I got home I was ready to get my mind off everything with some entertaining TV, specifically my after-school favorite; TRL. But MTV had been overtaken by the news, as well as every other channel. My only hope for mind-numbing television was within the stations intended for children. Nickelodeon had not been taken over by the news, but I had seen that episode of Spongebob so many times I was sick of it. I went to my room to listen to some music on the radio, also overtaken by news. Ugh!
At least by this time, one of my much younger friends from the neighborhood would be coming home on the school bus any second now. I went out to her stop and looked for her as the bus pulled up to the corner. She must be sitting on the other side. I watched the kids get off. She wasn’t among them. She never stayed after school. She always took the bus. The only reason she might skip school is if she was visiting her aunts and uncles…in New York City! I panicked and ran to meet up with one of her classmates. Just as I reached him I remembered; it’s Tuesday. Tuesdays she went to Hebrew school. Whew! I made it look like I had still had a point to talk to the guy I was now walking next to. “So did you guys watch TV all day too?”
“No, it was pretty much all over by the time we left for school.”
I don’t remember much from the rest of that day. I think I watch the presidential address later that night. I remember in the days to come everyone shared their story. Where they were, what they felt, people they were worried about. “Current events” the next day had just one heading: 9/11 terrorist attacks. I remember my Spanish teacher’s story about where she was and how she had to drive halfway across the country to get home. I remember the patriotism that followed. Everyone loved America.
My 9/11 doesn’t end there. It ends in 2003. Since 2000 the orchestra had planned to go to Austin, Texas in 2003 and New York City in 2009. The class of 1999 had gone to New York and our Director had shared about the experiences the first day of school, including the view from the top of the towers. Later in 2001 it was determined that we would be going to New York in 2003 instead, and we would be missing one amazing view from the top of the twin towers. We did however see the bottom.
We went to ground zero at night. There was a chain-link fence surrounding the area. It was the largest cement hole I had ever seen. At the back corner, about a half a mile from where we were standing, there was a bulldozer shoveling rubble from a pile about a quarter mile wide and at least one hundred feet deep. They still had that much to clean up in June of 2003.
That is my answer to the question of our generation: Where were you on 9/11 2001?