In the late summer of 2001, I was beginning my last year of middle school. Eighth grade seemed like a stepping-stone to high school and high school a series of motions to go through before college. Even though I was only 13, adulthood seemed like a grand adventure that I couldn’t wait to be a part of. I wanted to make my own choices and decisions. After all, I was officially a teenager. That’s almost grown, right?
Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001 started out like any other. I dressed for school, said goodbye to my mom when she dropped me off and took my seat in Ms. Murdoch’s homeroom class just as the late bell sounded. The ho-hum morning continued as usual with roll call, morning announcements and an English assignment.
But this was no ordinary morning. The principal came back on the Intercom to say that middle school teachers were asked to turn on their televisions. The younger students at my Catholic elementary school weren’t old enough to see what was happening, but we were almost grown.
The television mounted to the wall snapped on and my classmates and I saw an image of one of the towers billowing smoke. A plane had flown in to the World Trade Center and it was no accident. With that, adulthood didn’t seem like an adventure anymore. In an instant the world had become a scarier place and I wanted to stay a kid for as long I could.
The details about the day are sketchy. Now that 11 years have passed, I have trouble discerning what I saw on the television firsthand and what footage I’ve seen in countless 9/11 memorial reels since.
I remember watching a tower collapse into a cloud of curling smoke.
I remember consoling my friend whose dad was a pilot. Her parents were divorced and he lived alone in D.C. He was working that day, and for a few hours while he was mid-flight she couldn't contact him. Ultimately he called and said he was safe and sound, but to this day I can’t begin to imagine what she must have been feeling.
I remember seeing men and women in business suits marching down New York streets away from the towers like any other day, except in this 9/11 reality they are covered in ash. And instead of walking purposefully toward their homes, they are walking away from work in fear.
I remember looking for Afghanistan on Ms. Murdoch’s world map. I didn’t even know what continent to look on.
I woke up the morning of 9/11 wanting to be an adult and I went to bed that night clinging to a childhood that was slipping my through fingers like smoke.
Where were you on 9/11? Tell us in the comments.
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