Already, 15 years have passed since the landmark event that would shape America in the early 21st century, September 11th. Now there are students in high school, middle school, and elementary school who have known no world where that event hadn’t occurred, and that amazes me in an infinite number of ways.
When the twin towers were struck in 2001, I was a high schooler myself. Just like Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, or the assassination of JFK on November 22nd, 1963, people can recall what they were doing and who they were with that morning.
In my case, I was at home with my mom that Tuesday, because my school had a service day, which meant that school started late that day. Instead of being there at 8AM, classes begun at 10AM. When the first plane hit, I was innocently packing my backpack getting ready to drive off and pick up my then-boyfriend before going to class. My mother meanwhile, was folding clothes in her bedroom just down the hall from mine while watching the news before going to work at the office. I heard her shriek and scream, and went running into her room only to witness the first plane crashing into the Twin Towers on live television. That plane was American Airlines Flight 11.
My brain didn’t absorb what was happening, it felt like it was an accident. That had happened fairly recently to the towers, a small private plane had accidentally flown into them not too long before 9/11. My mother however, who was old enough to have been in school for the JFK assassination and the Vietnam War, recognized that it wasn’t an accident.
While the news talked about what had just happened in New York City, I went about my morning. I picked up my boyfriend and we talked about what happened earlier until we made it to school. What we didn’t know was that while en-route to school, the Pentagon has been hit by Flight American Airlines flight 77. By the time we arrived to school, our teachers had rolled out large TVs and put them into our homeroom classes so we could continue to watch the news. In Northern Indiana, what was unfolding in New York City was tragically enthralling.
Then in the span of 40 minutes, we watched as the two towers fell, and learned about the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed in Pennsylvania. My classes fell silent. Those who weren’t crying, couldn’t hold back anymore. Television crews had show the first emergency responders rushing into the building, and the victims who made it out. We knew however, thousands were still stranded within those buildings as well as the rescue crews working to get them out. In the end, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day, countless rescue workers and rescue dogs have died since then due to illness from the site.
Personally, no one I directly knew was in the buildings or worked to rescue those who were. That doesn’t mean I mourn the loss of those who passed that day any less than others, however. The events of 9/11 really changed the American social landscape, in various way for the worse and for the better. There was a lot of unity felt in America after 9/11, communities were pulling together to help assist rescue workers, support the families of the victims, and generally tried to mend the mental wounds from the crashes. It was wonderful, but today it is hard to find that sense of community- however it still exists. One thing I have taken from the tragedy is that sense of community, of helping support one another, and that is something I do with my work today.
So today, hug the people who are close to you; whether they be family, friends, and significant others, and tell them you love them. Spend quality time with them today and make great memories with them, since our time here on earth is not a guarantee.