We were going about our business. It was the beginning of the work day. My school day was already humming along, meeting with student after student in my counseling office at a local high school when we heard a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers on the radio. “Oh no,” I thought. “Someone flew their little prop plane into the towers by accident.” A few minutes later, they reported unconfirmed sitings of another plane hitting the other tower.
“What are the chances of that?” and then “It’s an attack,” flashed through my mind.
Conversation was buzzing in the office. People were trying to digest what we had just heard. Unbelief circled in the air.
I walked down the hall to a social studies classroom where they had the television on and we began to see reports of the planes hitting the towers, papers falling, smoke and fire.
Was this really New York City or was this a dream?
I came back to my office. I sat down in one of the chairs I usually had students sit in to wait for me. We sat and talked amongst ourselves and compared the notes of what we had heard.
Not too long after that calls started coming in — parents wanting to come and pick up their children and bring them home. To leave work and to come get their children from school and be with them, be close to them, at home, together.
One by one, students were dismissed to parents who looked flushed and fluttered. They would come in, see their child and quickly hug them and leave, eager to get to the security of their houses and to watch the events unfold in their own homes.
Then news came that the Pentagon was hit.
Shortly thereafter a teacher brought in a young girl whose mother worked with the C.I.A. at the Pentagon. She was afraid. She wanted to get in touch with her mother. We tried a few times to reach her mom and finally did. She was alright. Amazingly she was alright.
Then the coverage got more intense. The picture of the man falling. Chairs coming out of windows, computers falling stories to the ground below. Screaming. Papers were fluttering to the ground, people were jumping. It was awful. The tv's in the classrooms were off now. Too scary.
The tower began to collapse. We didn’t think it would collapse. It looked too strong. I thought “There was no chance to save those people. No chance now.” I thought “Get those people out of the other tower!”
Newscasters were clearly in shock along with the entire country. They attempted to stand in places where we could see the towers as they spoke, but the dust was increasing and debris was everywhere. At one point, a plume of smoke, ash and debris came down the street like a wave on the ocean, it sent everyone running and hiding under cars. The insides of malls, which 24 hours earlier had been full of shoppers, looked like bombed out buildings from WWII. The pictures of the streets looked like pictures you would see in coverage of wars from foreign countries, not ours.
As the day progressed, Americans got sadder, got indignant, got angry. Who did this?
People were frozen. Numb. In denial. Not shortly after, a report that another plane had come down in Pennsylvania came through. In a field. “How many more?” I thought. “ How many more could there possibly be?”
It seemed like a blur of activity.
We finished the school day – tried to be as normal as possible. President Bush addressed the nation that night and every American seemed to be home in front of the television with his or her family. Bush said in his speech that someone had indeed attacked us, and despite the fact that, that was obvious, I said to myself “Who could hate that much?"
In the days that followed the attack, our school pulled together a drive for things that were needed at Ground Zero. Socks, water, tooth brushes and tooth paste. We all wanted to give. We needed to give, it’s all we could do. I came so close to going down there myself to volunteer, but lacked the bravery. The streets seemed bare, people were gathering in places of worship, there was nothing in the news as important as the planes.
Everyone had a different reaction to what had happened, but most people checked out mentally and emotionally to just stay close to family and friends. To meet together, to light candles, to pray.
It is hard to believe it has been 10 years. Even at the 5 year anniversary, I felt that people had already begun to forget.
Please, let us never forget the 2819 killed at the World Trade Center towers, the 189 killed at the Pentagon, the 44 killed on United Airlines Flight 93, the 343 New York City firefighters, the 37 of the Port Authority Of New York And New Jersey Police, and the 23 New York City police.