Tuesday, September 13, 2011

10 years ago...

I have been meaning to sit down and write this out for 10 years and I am finally doing it today.  On September 11th, 2001, I was 17 years old and had just started my senior year of high school.  It was the first week of seminary and that's where I was that morning.  I remember Neal coming in late and announcing to the class that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York.  I only had a vague idea of what the Twin Towers and World Trade Center were.  When I heard a plane had crashed into one of them, I assumed it was a small, private plane and it was an accident.  I left seminary about 15 minutes early because I had to go to a Key Club meeting before school.  My sister and I were in the car, listening to Jackie and Bender's morning show, and they were very uncharacteristically somber and sedated.  It caught our attention immediately and we listened closer to what they were saying.  That's when we found out a second plane had hit the other Tower.  For me, and I'm sure for everyone, that was when it sunk in that this was no accident.  They were even saying there were reports that these were jumbo jets, not small private aircraft.  That was even scarier.

Once I was at school, I went to the library for the meeting.  All of us waiting for it to start were milling around, nervously discussing what was going on, trying to get information.  I can't remember if there was a sign or someone told us, but our Key Club meeting was cancelled because all of the teachers were in an emergency meeting before school started.  My friend Kristen was there with me and we clung to each other, both pretty freaked out by the little information we had.  We started to gather in our classrooms and watch TV while waiting for the teachers.  I had math for 1st period and we were all in there when our teacher finally showed up.  I remember that teacher as being the most monotone, boring teacher I ever had.  But that day, I saw him choked up and struggling to speak to us as he turned off the TV and told us we were going to continue on with normal class.  There was some protest and groaning, but we made it through the class.

My second period was Women's Choir.  I rushed there, both to find more information and because my best friend Ashley was in that class with me.  It being a Women's Choir and the very beginning of school, our teacher Ms. Hitt let us girls watch the news coverage.  That was when we found out about the Pentagon crash and the collapse of the towers.  It was a punch to the gut to realize that it just kept getting worse.  We sat around in horror, some of us crying, not knowing where it was going to end.  After choir, it was Yearbook with my other best friend Regan.  Mr. McKinney let us watch as well and that was when the plane crash in Pennsylvania was reported and we learned about all the flights in the US being grounded.  At this point, I felt so out of control.  It felt like every time we turned on the TV something more had happened.  It had obviously occurred in more than one place, so I was envisioning attacks continuing in a wave across the country from the East Coast to the West Coast.  I didn't think Seattle was a super likely target, but if the day had taught me anything, it was that anything could happen.  My dad worked at Boeing's Everett headquarters.  I remember taking a tour of Boeing years before being told that they had bomb shelters and such because they had been a target during World War 2 (because they designed and manufactured military planes).  This kept nagging at me, so I finally called my dad at work and told him I wanted him to go home.  He told me I didn't need to worry, that nothing was going to happen to him.  He kind of brushed off my concerns, but at the same time, my dad was telling me it would be okay, so I had to trust that.  During that class, things finally slowed down and started sinking in.

The rest of the day, I don't remember in vivid detail.  I do know that we didn't have the TV on during 4th period, which was my 'block' class (English & Government).  I went home for awhile, and then we ended up going over to my dad's house.  I remember watching the coverage with him and that was the first time I heard the names Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and Moammar Gadhafi.  It took me a couple days to remember how to say them and sort them out in my head.  I watched the footage of the second plane hitting Tower 2, and the towers collapsing so many times and even now, the emotional reaction is no less gut-wrenching.  It was the first time I really started paying more attention to international affairs, national security and politics.  In that day, I was thrust from the safe, secure idyll of childhood into a new, harsh, scary reality of adulthood.

School went on, I remember having moments of silence over the next few days.  There was a girl in one of my classes who had family in New York that she hadn't heard from and she was obviously very worried and upset.  But I think that was the closest I got to anyone directly involved.  My dad was supposed to go on a business trip later that month to Montreal but it was cancelled.

Three months after the attacks, my dad took my brother, sister and me to Connecticut to visit his sister & her family for Christmas.  It was the first time we'd be flying after the attacks and the heightened security.  I had had jaw surgery in August of the year and had 24 metal screws put in my jaws.  I remember thinking that I might set off the metal detectors with all of the metal now in my face, in addition to my braces.  I even thought about bringing along my x-ray, showing the screws.  It ended up not being an issue, and I made it through just fine.  On that trip, we went to New York three times.  One of those days, we went to Ground Zero.  I remember the smell.  I knew the smell would stick with me for the rest of my life.  You could see ash and dust and scorch marks on the buildings around Ground Zero.  It was so surreal.  I couldn't and still can't comprehend what had happened right there where I stood just three and half months earlier.   We couldn't see too much, but a lot of the debris had been cleared and there were these big fences with green tarps around the holes left by the towers.  There was a hushed reverence there that I'll always remember.

The events of 9/11 were a foreboding start to what turned out to be a very dramatic year; it felt like we were mourning all year.  It was also the start to my adult life.  A big part of the rest of my life, and now my children's lives, have been shaped because of that one day.  I wonder what my children will think about it and what they will ask me.  That was my main reason for writing this down.  I want them to know about that day, not only the facts, but the feelings and experiences of their mother.  I lived that day and this is what is was for me.

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