Sunday, September 11, 2011

"That" Moment - Remembering September 11th

10 years ago today I was a regular grade 11 student, starting a regular morning, at my regular high school.  I'd made my home from home, probably kissed my boyfriend, laughed with friends at my locker, and worried about our plans for the weekend.  Shortly before 9 am, I was sitting in my first period class when the wall phone rang.  I remember Mrs. Waddell laughed at something one of us said as she walked to the phone and answered it.  After a few short seconds, her face fell, she grew pale, and she opened the door, wrapping the cord around the wall, walking into the hallway.  Moments after that, she returned to the class and said "a plane has hit the World Trade Center in New York City."  For many of us, this had little meaning.  For our teacher, her terror came from the fact that her husband was a commercial airline pilot and was flying to the US that day.  We, as students, didn't know what the WTC was, and we assumed that it was an awful accident until, a short-time later, the wall phone rang again and we were informed about the second plane and the second tower. 

We were quickly moved to our second period classroom where my English teacher, Mr. Welch, had set-up the television and had it tuned to CNN.  We, along with 2 other classes, jammed into our tiny portable, sat in silence, and watched the remainder of the mornings events unfold on live television.  I cannot explain to you the horror and confusion I felt when I watched those towers fall. I knew in that moment, that I was literally watching thousands of people die, and I had no idea why.

During the late lunch period the hallways were eerily quiet, and the line at the pay phones was huge.  I stood in that line and called my Mom at work.  I had to talk to someone because, in the halls of my high school, the whispered rumours and speculation were terrifying.  Would they attack the CN Tower? Of course they would! No, they have no cause to! They already have, it's burning now!  I'll never forget the relief I heard from my Mother when said "I am so happy to hear your voice".  The only thing I could say to her between my tears was, "what's going on"?  She had no answer.

The morning of September 11th is "that"" moment for me.  Prior to 9/11, my Mother's moment was the assassination of JFK.  She told me she could remember exactly where she was when she heard the news, and remembers in detail the reaction of her parents and grandparents.  She was 3.  For me, at 16 years old, the events of September 11th are both ingrained in my brain with crystal clarity, and pass in a blur of images and sound bites.  But I will always remember exactly where I was, who was with me and what I was doing when I first heard the news.

For days after we were glued to the television, trying to get answers to our whys.  In the weeks following the attacks, I did a lot of growing up, I did a lot of learning, and I did a lot of crying. I still have a hard time watching news reports of the attacks, and images from that day.  The shot, from the ground, of that first plane hitting the tower, reduces me to tears, without fail, every time I see it.

But what I remember today, 10 years after the attacks, is those who lost their lives and those who still suffer because of the attacks.  Whether they lost a loved one in one of the buildings or on one of the planes, whether the ran terrified away from the falling towers, or ran terrified IN to the burning ruins, or even into the cockpit of a plane piloted by terrorists with nothing but boiling water and butter knives.... so many people were directly affected that day, and today I will think about them and their bravery and sacrifice.  Mostly, I commend the American people as a whole for coming together to repair and heal.  Their strength as a country is proof that, although almost 3000 people died that day, the terrorists did not win.  The country was not broken.

I will never be able to wipe the images of that day from my mind.  I don't want to.  I will never forget.

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