Nine Years Later

11 09 2010

I grew up in the shadow of New York City. This was always normal for me- seeing Broadway shows, or having friends go try to get on TRL (I was never allowed since MTV was banned in our house.)

I lived just about 20 miles from “the city.” It was like a part of my home.

I have a very different story about that horrible day nine years ago.

Because a lot of you sat and watched the footage. And got out of school, and talked about it in class.

We didn’t.

Here’s how it went down. I was a junior in high school. I was in gym- I think it was my second class of the day, maybe the first. My gym teacher pulled us inside early and had us do our cool-downs in the gym instead. He was talking to another gym teacher, and referring to how shocking and horrible something or someone was. I figured some stupid kids, maybe a late senior prank- school had literally just started since NJ schools start around Labor Day.

In our passing time, some kids were talking about what had happened. The shop teacher allowed kids to watch TV during class and they saw the second plane hit. When I heard bits and pieces though, I imagined an old-fashioned plane- one that fit only one or two people- crashing into the building. I had no idea how bad it was.

I got to my next class, which was some sort of English or Lit class. We sat with our desks in a circle and discussed stuff pertaining to our class, and talked a little about what happened- but we really had no idea. The phone kept ringing and our teacher would tell then tell someone that they needed to go the office. I didn’t know it, but these were people whose parents and relatives were pulling them from school due to what happened.

Next I had Algebra 2. Where we had a quiz. I heard more from the shop people- and now realized it was something someone did on purpose. But our principal put our school on a sort of media lock-down. No TVs or internet were allowed to be used. My town is a suburb of NYC. Buses and trains commute the residents to and from NYC daily. They didn’t want mass chaos to erupt. I still am a little upset though. I was just 20 miles away, there were fighter planes flying over our school, and yet, I knew less than most of you. It slowly hit us how serious this was, but we couldn’t really comprehend what happened.

After math I went to lunch. A former student (a senior when I was a freshman) came and pulled his sister (a senior) out of the lunchroom screaming that “Mom and Dad told me to get you and go home RIGHT NOW!” He had to come literally steal her because- get this- the school wouldn’t let any students leave. I don’t know if parents calling in changed anything – but we were sort of “locked in.” The lines for the payphones were 20 people deep per phone. Friends told me stories all day about people in our class with close calls. My friend Emily’s parents worked in the city but were safe. My friend Amanda L’s dad worked in the twin towers, but got out safely before the collapse. Apparently when she found out in class, she left bawling. Many students were in the dark. Jamie’s dad worked in the building next to the towers and he couldn’t get in touch with him. Another classmate’s mom called in sick that day – but he didn’t know that. There were so many close calls, so many people whose relatives worked in NYC, or even in the twin towers. A few students had friends and family who were stranded around the US, since all planes were grounded.

School went on as normal. Finally, in my last period class – History – our teacher turned on the TV. His TV was mounted next to the door and couldn’t be seen from the hall, so we had strict orders to look at our books if an administrator walked by. I hadn’t seen a single image of the tragedy yet. What I saw was white stuff falling from the sky. I had already heard bits and pieces about the Pentagon and the plane that went down in PA… I thought to myself, Dear Lord, did they strike again? Somewhere that it is SNOWING?

Finally I realized that the “snow” was ash.

And that the planes had done a lot more damage than my mind could ever have imagined. The images were absolutely overwhelming.

My friend Erika, a senior, gave me a ride home. (Us NJ-ers don’t get to drive until we’re 17, remember!) We could barely speak imagining what more we’d find out at home.

My dad was already at home, watching TV. He had just done some work for a famous Radio personality, who had thanked us with a HUGE flat screen TV (which was, back then, a projection screen, so it was a foot and a few inches deep and came with it’s own two and a half foot base. Literally… massive.) I saw the images of the planes hitting over and over on this new, huge screen and almost wished we had never gotten it. I remember them playing a call the news station had with someone who had escaped a tower, and he started sobbing, recalling how as he ran down the stairs he remembered or noticed a person in a wheelchair, and how he wondered how they would get out with the elevators not working, and wondered if they were okay. I teared up for the first time, realizing suddenly something I hadn’t really thought in detail about…. so many people died. So many innocent people.

I didn’t fully understand everything then and I don’t pretend to now. I was so scared for our nation then, and frankly, I am still today. But I won’t go into politics here. All I know is that The United States of America is the finest country there is, and I couldn’t be prouder, then or now, of all the heroes who assisted that day. They are true American Heroes and their selfless acts to help their brothers and sisters that day were inspiring and will never be forgotten.

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7 responses

11 09 2010
Layla

Wow, I can’t imagine being that close and not knowing what’s going on and knowing people that worked there….

An ex that I am still friends with worked in a building near the towers, but worked nights, so I knew he was fine but called anyway. I finally got a hold of him (the cells weren’t working) and he shakily said he watched the 2nd plane hit through his window. I watched it on TV, and I knew how it affected me, so I couldn’t imagine how he felt. My dad was on his way to the airport to fly to NYC, to his company office in the Empire State Building. I had to call him and tell him to come home. I fear for our country, that we were that easily attacked, and I fear it happening again, but I pray it never does.

11 09 2010
Kelley

I remember that day so well. I was lucky to be in bio class 2nd period where he let us watch tv. I sat there at the lab table watching the planes go down. I kept thinking to myself this can’t be real, this is a joke. I remember Mike Mostwell had his firepager on and they got a call and he turned to me as I was getting my books and all he could say was one of the towers fell. I hated how our school was in total lockdown and we were so out of the dark about this. I know they were “protecting us” but they knew that this was a life changing day for the US. My brother was across the river in the prudential building. They evacuated them and he was safe. however, his office had a wonderful view of the skyline and he saw it all happen.
For months I was scared to go to the city, thinking the tunnels or bridges would be next. I remember for months there weren’t any sounds of planes flying over head. As I sat inmy apt today at 9:03 I heard that sound of the plane fly over my building. it brought tears and chills to my body. I’m still not used to hearing planes. I hate how I live next to the airport.
I remember going with Ashley, Kristen and mrs. Larsen to eagel rock to look at the skyline and just stare ino the smoke.
9 years later and we are still fighting..
I love you Kel!!

11 09 2010
Jessica

Wow. Amazing how different each persons experience is on 9/11. I can’t believe how in the dark you were only 20 minutes away…

12 09 2010
Hannah

Having other friends who grew up in the same part of NJ as you, I’ve heard multiple variations of your story. Although I understand your school’s extreme needs to keep you all safe it is so hard to realize what you all went through.

For us, if you’re curious, in the north suburbs of Milwaukee, it went a bit like this:
First period sophomore year was study hall. A time that some of us slept while others sat around and chatted. A childhood friend, Jamie Hitchcock, had diabetes and always went to the nurses’ office at this time and would join us about half way through the period. Growing out of our friendship years before, I was sure that Jamie was begging for attention when she told us that a plane went into the twin towers and she saw it on the tv in the nurses office. In all honesty, I had no clue what the twin towers were.
Our school would play the light jazz radio station for the first 4 minutes and 10 seconds and we all knew we had 50 seconds to run to class when the music went off. About a minute into our break the music was suddenly turned off and we all knew something was wrong. There was something in the air, we all could feel it.
Most classrooms in my school had cable tv so I spent the rest of the day watching, we watched the 2nd plane enter, and then we saw the aftermath of the pentagon. My father worked in the Pentagon. My father and I had a horrible relationship. I had no idea where he was. Thankfully, my stepmother had called my mom and I was called into the office to be told that my dad was en-route back to Kansas and everything was ok.
But everything wasn’t okay. Thousands of people lost their lives (including some of my fathers friends in the offices next door to his) that day and thousands more in the aftermath since.
Thanks for sharing what you went through that day. That day was the day that I realized we’re all Americans and we all felt the pain together.

12 09 2010
EmilyB

Wow, I can’t even imagine being *that* close to the situation and literally knowing nothing. I learned of the attack in Health class from my best friend. Then I went to Biology and my bitch of a teacher refused to talk about it or acknowledge what had happened. I was really upset with that decision then and still am now. It’s something I felt needed to be discussed.

Thanks for sharing your story.

13 09 2010
Steph C.

My story is very similar to yours.. I lived in a suburb of NYC but in the other direction, on Long Island. The school tried hard not to let us freak out or leave.. I ended up sneaking out with my friend whose dad had to walk halfway home from the city until her mom could pick him up on the highway somewhere on LI. My mom works in the city and I remember being so scared that she was in the vicinity.. it was just bits and pieces, “something bad happened”, etc. There was haze and smoke that was carried away from the city for weeks over our town.. still get emotional everytime I think about it or see/read something relating to the attacks.

16 09 2010
Dancy

I know I’m a little late but I just read this and found it really interesting. I’m hesitant to say I wish I could’ve watched from the suburbs. I’m a bit older than you so I was at work that day. Unfortunately for me, my office is smack in the middle of Times Sq. Back then I worked on the 32nd FL facing south. A co-worker and I saw the 2nd plane hit. Not on a screen. Out of our windows.

I have friends who died, friends who lost family, friends who survived, friends & family who were cops/fireman/EMTs that day, friends who became civil servants because of it. Of course I’ve spoken about that day with many people, the insanity and the humanity that I witnessed all in the same moment. I’m not sure I could put it into words eloquently in a post. Perhaps I’ll try next year.

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