I had just left my second period class, and making my way over to my locker so I could switch books for my next class when I overheard some kid in the hallway talking to another student about a plane that hit one of those tall buildings in New York City. I just kept it moving, and walked into my Trigonometry class.
The teacher started the lesson. It was a regular day.
About a half hour into class time, the principal's voice comes on the loud speaker. He instructs all of the teachers to stop what they are doing, and turn on the TVs in their classrooms. One of my classmates got up and walked over to the TV, stood on a chair, turned it on and a clip of the second plane hitting the south tower was being played. As we were watching the plane hit and the footage of the two smoking towers, the principal said something that I just knew at that moment I would never forget for the rest of my life. He said: Ladies and Gentlemen, you are watching history in the making right now - this is your generation's Pearl Harbor. He said this is a tragic, and unfortunate moment in time that our country will remember for many years. We all just watched in disbelief as reports of the Pentagon came in, and images of the planes hitting the first tower played over and over again. It was like a movie. Unreal. Not too long after that, the first tower collaspsed, and that's when I could feel the reality of it all finally hitting us. As the gray clouds of debris billowed in the sky, I remembered a recent class trip to New York back in May of that year. I remembered passing by the two towers in our tour bus and one of my classmates saying, "Look! The Twin Towers!" I remember looking over at the buildings and feeling unimpressed by them. If only I had known then what I know now.
We were let out early from school that day. Teachers kept telling us to go home and be with our families. I went to a large high school - about 2,000 students. We were all let out at the same time, and they told us to walk home in groups - don't walk alone. The walk home was chaotic! There was so much traffic and so many people out in the streets trying to pick up their kids from school, and rushing to get home. Philly is between NYC and Washington D.C., so paranoia and fear was really high that crazy morning.
When I got home, I turned on the TV in the living room and watched all of the news reports. The second tower had already fallen. I learned about the terrorist, the hijacked planes. I watched footage of people jumping/falling from the towers, the giant crater in Shanksville, PA where Flight 93 went down, the recordings of 9-1-1 calls, and testimonies of the rescue workers and those who were there when the planes hit in NYC and D.C.. I cried when I saw all the people who were desperately looking for lost family members and friends. I was glued to the news and forming questions in my head. How could this happen? Why did it happen? I kept replaying my principals words over and over again in my head....history in the making.
I will never forget the way that entire day unfolded for me. It was a tragic day and today, on the 9th anniversary of the attacks, I pray that we all find the peace and healing we search for everyday since that morning in September. Never forget.
Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?