I figured I might as well document my thoughts on the day. I know everyone does it, but it feels only appropriate to do it.
The week before 9/11 I had just gotten out of the shower when my college roommate at the time came banging on my door to tell me that the campus police had just left another message on the answering machine and that my car had been broken into. I called them back and went downstairs and sure enough, my car, along with about 11 others had been broken into the night before. So when my roommate came banging on my door again, exactly a week later, I was thinking, “What now? It’s not like I have a stereo to steal anymore…”
My roommate shouted through the door, “They’re f-ing bombing us!”
I asked her who, and she said, “I don’t know, dude, but somebody is!”
By the time I came out both towers were already in flames. We watched together as the towers burned and America tried to figure out what the heck was going on. I heard stories later from friends who were in class at NYU, saying they knew something was going on, but class went on pretty much as normal. Here in Texas, classes were a bit more up in the air. First they were cancelled, then they weren’t, then they were again… My roommate and I decided we weren’t going. If anyone said anything later, we would just say we never got the message.
I remember watching the south tower fall. We’d been sitting there for about 20 minutes, watching the top of the building swaying back and forth. I remember telling my roommate, “That thing’s going to collapse. It’s going to fall over.” She said, “Nah, those things are built to stand up for things like this.” I remembered in elementary school when the towers were bombed from the bottom. They stood up then. Maybe she was right, but I didn’t think so.
The towers fell, and we watched in horror with the rest of the world. My roommate began cursing at the top of her lungs saying, “Those f-ing sand n***s got us!” In our dorms we were the minority being white. She said it while our Asian suite-mate was in the bathroom. Later she said that’s why she never tried to make friends with us until my roommate moved out at Christmas. I was honestly scared someone might have overheard in the hallway and tried to come through the door. Keep in mind we weren’t really friends. More of a roommate grab bag ordeal.
By the time 1:00 rolled around classes had been put back on for the rest of the day, and I only went to mine because it was the lecture before the lab the next day. I remember walking to class – the campus was mostly empty. Except I did notice that the only people out did seem to be the Arab-American students. I remembered being both a little disturbed and a little in awe of them. We’d all seen the scenes of people across the ocean jumping for joy and cheering at the news. People were pissed. I have to say, it took a lot of guts for those kids to walk out to class that day – you’d like to believe we’re all above prejudice, but in reality you know we’re not. Anything could have happened to them that day, but they still went to class. Heck, most people used it as an excuse to stay home. Goodness knows I did.
I think I remember going home, if not that night then the next. My mom’s a teacher, so I couldn’t call her in the middle of the day. They’d told the teachers not to tell students what was going on. It’s an elementary school, and they wanted to leave that to the parents. It was up to them if they wanted to pick their kids up early, or just wait til the end of the day. I can’t imagine being locked in the classroom, aware but unable to share. The kids had to know something was up. Way too many people were going home that day…
I remember my roommate freaking out because there is a world trade center in Dallas. She wanted to go home or get out of the Metroplex. I couldn’t seem to convince her how far down the target list we would have to be.
I think one of the weirdest moments I remember afterwards is standing at my parents house and hearing a plane fly overhead. It was a couple of days after, and the only planes going anywhere were those carrying medical supplies and the like. I remember it being weird to hear a plane, and then feeling even more disturbed by the fact that so normal a sound should feel out of place. That’s what it did to us in the end, I think. It changed our definition of “normal’.
I’ve seen Ground Zero. I’ve taken pictures there. I’ve also seen the Pentagon, and snapped an ill-advised picture there.* With each special I watch I keep wondering what it will be like to take my own children there one day. Of trying to explain to them what life was like before, and what it was like just after. Of how you can feel helpless, and upset and angry, and wonder if you’re wrong to cry knowing that you didn’t know anyone or lose anyone, but that you only lost the same way as the rest of America did.
For those serving in the Armed Forces, we say thank-you. For those who put their lives on the line in jobs like police officer, firefighter, EMS…we say thank-you. And for those that work in the less conspicuous jobs – FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Homeland Security – we say thank-you. Thanks for doing what you do, and for keeping us safer each and every day. God bless and good night.