Friday, September 9, 2011

September 11th,10 Years Later - A Day I'll Never Forget

The 10th anniversary of something is a big deal to me. A decade is a time for a lot of growth. Next fall will be my 10th anniversary of graduating high school. When I graduated college, I realized it was the 10th anniversary of graduating 6th grade and that I had known folks outside of church for that long. I've written on 9/11 before from different points of view so for the 10th anniversary of the day that changed my generation, I'll be recapping what happened that day from my eyes.

I woke up at 6 AM like any other normal day. Barely into my first week of senior year, I didn't have any thoughts except maybe thinking about my bday the next week. I did my daily devotion and prayer time and after I hopped out of the shower, I turned on Power 106 to hear Big Boy and his crew. First thing I heard? Two planes just hit the World Trade Center.

I thought he was bugging. So I switched off the radio, walked downstairs and turned on ABC. If this was a big deal, surely it had to be on the news. Sure enough, I saw the footage of the WTC smoking and in disbelief, I screamed to my Mom and sister to come down and see this. We sat there stunned and in those pre-social network, pre cell-phone days, we couldn't call anybody. We listened to Peter Jennings narrate what happened and try to understand what was happening.

Next thing I know, the Pentagon's on fire and I'm confused. I'm thinking are we under attack or this coincidence? Then it happened. Right before we left, the first tower fell.

In my mind, I'm thinking how many people were in there? What in the world was I seeing? I'm a student of history and I had never known something like this to hit home. We had to go to school but suddenly I was in a state of worry. We kept the radio on news the whole time and I'm sitting there thinking how widespread is this? If the Pentagon was hit and apparently somewhere in Pennsylvania just got hit, what's next? L.A? Chicago? Texas?

We got to school just when the 2nd tower hit. I had my CD player set to the radio and I started talking to everyone to see if they heard what was happening. Then my mind worried about Mom. They said the Sears Tower and other city landmarks were in danger and since she worked at a federal building, I worried her building was a target. As more friends got to campus, we shared in our disbelief and I didn't care if teachers saw me with headphones on. This was historic and rules be darned to stay informed.

I remember going to my buddy Jacob's car and it was one of the first times I probably cursed in front of folks.  The East Coast under attack and possibly my Mom's office a target, I was ready to panic. Then Mom drove back up and told me they closed her building. I felt relieved then my thoughts turned to all the folks who were probably scared and bewildered in New York.

We didn't have much class that day. My government class had it on ABC the whole hour and we just almost shared thoughts and disbelief. Homeroom saw the TV on all day. I think lunch went on as normal but we kept the news on the radio to hear updates. By that time, we realized that no other cities were in danger. It seems selfish now but when you hear about a tragedy, how often do we wonder about how it affects our immediate world first?

I got home and immediately wanted to hit up my peeps who were with me in March. Six months ago to the date, I had left DC on a flight similar to two flights going from D.C. to L.A. I shot a quick email to everyone asking "What the heck is going on?" or something like that. It was probably the first time I had spoken to some of them in months and instantly I got feedback of similar disbelief.

One friend told me that her father had just been on one of the flights that crashed and perhaps knew somebody on one of the planes. I stayed in touch with her closely just to see how they were coping with it all.

Peter Jennings became the voice that I heard throughout the day. I remember Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather but it was Jennings I watched. Little did I know that he had experience in this from the 1972 Munich Olympics and watching the great Jim McKay anchor that coverage with almost no breaks. His easy voice and calming presence (along with his emotion) helped me absorb all the news. It's a shame that he's no longer with us.

I lived near the airport so to have a week of complete silence in the air was eerie (I wouldn't ride on a plane for almost 2 years after 9/11). But emotionally I didn't know what to expect. My heart broke for the people of New York and Washington and I embraced the heroes of Flight 93. We cancelled Youth Group that night and I figure I went to bed having no clue how the world was about to change. I remembered reading comic strips the next few days that had amazing tributes.

I remember that Friday going to a Youth outing with my church and the room growing deathly silent when they replayed the footage from 9/11. Some of my kids were being loud and I told them "Shut Up" with the loudest anger I probably had showed. I remember being shocked at all of the condolences from world leaders, including Saddam Hussein.

Thinking about it now, that day and week felt like a weird dream. Nothing else mattered and even as I tried to live my life and plan my birthday, it just felt surreal that there was no sports, no distractions, no nothing. Just an endless stream of news and taking it all in. Who knew the world would be drastically different. I don't even remember September 10 because it was just another day of senior year. That's how much 9/11 stuck a lot of us.

It also was different for me on the West Coast. Your heart went to the East Coast but at the same time, there was a detachment. I was waking up on 9/11 while the East Coast was well into their day. I was absorbing the news 3,000 miles away yet I was almost relieved my city wasn't in danger. It's sad and I almost think it's when I realized different parts of the country are radically different (even though I had traveled there extensively).

That's why this year, I almost want to just listen to folks. Listen to their memories of that day and think about how far we've come. How 10 years feels like a century and the world felt so simpler before. How some folks were shaken and how for my peers, we became adults in an unfamiliar era of terror alerts, exposure to Islam and struggling to make sense of the America we had been sold since birth.

For me, I'll remember a 16 year old kid who heard the news on the radio, got worried for his mother's office and tried to figure it out with my classmates/teachers. It was the loss of innocence and it felt like I was being awakened to adulthood.

This blog is dedicated to not only those we lost that day, but those who played a role in that day who are lost. Susan Nix, my government teacher, kept us watching TV and in her class, I learned more about the rules of government and checks/balances that prepared me for what the gov't later trampled on in the coming decade. God bless her memory. 


  1. I remember being a junior in high school, and it was during second period photography class when we heard about the WTC. I didn't even really know WHAT the World Trade Center was, at that time!

    My third period was a joint World History/American English class; two hours back to back. We walked in, and Mr. Hayden, a big half white/black man who was the football coach, and a former military man, was silent. He finally stood in the center of the room and said, "I'll be DAMNED...if I let somebody SHIT in my backyard...and do nothing about it."

    'Twas the first time I'd ever heard a faculty member swear, outright.

    I feel like his sentiments were greatly echoed by us students and pretty much every American. The events that went down that day seared a certain type of emotion on our collective consciousness. It makes sense that we all were like, "GIT EM!" and yearning for some sort of retaliation.

    Several years later, I watched Loose Change, and I think that was the first eggshell crack in the matrix for me. Since then, the rabbit hole has only gotten deeper!

    Things are not always what they seem. But when you know better, you do better and learn how to not let outside forces make you succumb to fear mongering. THAT'S the "never forget" lesson I take away from this all, ten years later.

  2. I think I vaguely heard about the 93 attacks but it was still such a weird thing that somebody would go after that building again. I probably would've been shocked if I heard a teacher cuss that day (one of my teachers later cussed after someone almost got jumped that year).

    I'm gonna save a lot for the followup post but we were definitely hungry for revenge. Sadly, the cost of that has changed us forever. I think when I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 and took some media classes, I realized my eyes were opened. Actually no, I took a US history class freshman or soph year in college. and the professor schooled us on the US involvement with Middle East oil in the 50's.

    I love your last paragraph. That should be the true lesson. Reflection and learning to be smarter.