The Day I Will Never Forget

The Day I Will Never Forget

 

   The rain emphasizes the solemn remembrance in which nearly 3,000 people were killed on September 11, 2001, in New York City, NY. Each year, my friends and family post thoughts and prayers for those directly affected by the loss caused by cowardly terrorists and express thanks to the first responders and military who protected us then and today. One post struck me as it said this is the 17th anniversary of September 11th. Seventeen years.

   On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I decided to play hooky. Not unlike how our schedules are set up here at UT Austin, we had classes that alternated day to day. I had been sick on Monday which had my preferred classes, and the thought of going to my “boring” classes encouraged me to stretch out my symptoms a little further. I had settled in for a day of relaxation when I got a call from my mother urging me to turn on the news. By this time, the major networks had been recycling footage of the first plane crash into the North Tower. At this point in time, no one had realized that this was an act of terrorism against America.

 

Photo Courtesy of https://bit.ly/2ObOcJ4

 

   Then it happened; the second plane hit the second tower, the South Tower. I will never forget watching that on live TV. Hundreds of lives gone in a single breath. I will never forget thinking, the tower is going to fall and take the other tower with it. We had three TVs and three VCRs. I found previously recorded on VCR tapes and set each television to record on different channels. I was going through the motions, I was 14 years old, so truthfully, I didn’t grasp the full concept of what was happening, but I knew this was significant.

   It wasn’t until the end of the day that everything sunk in. I was no longer in data collection mode, observing and searching for meaning in what happened. My parents were home, and everything hit me all at once. I cried and cried all night. I had seen people blinded by dust, trying to catch their breath. I had watched first responders rushing into buildings to help people.  At 14 years old, I saw people jumping out of windows, choosing a death they thought to be the least painful or the quickest.

My friends told me that many of the teachers weren’t sure what to do. Some had decided what was happening was important, and that high school students were old enough to watch what was happening. Others shut the television off, determined to keep order among the chaos. I honestly don’t remember what the following days were like at school, but I remember the deep feelings of sorrow everyone felt, including myself. All of America was weeping for those who had lost their lives and especially for the children and families who had to continue without their loved ones.

   Though this story is a somber one, one thing that also overwhelms me is the sense of compassion and unity that our nation showed after 9/11. Actor Steve Buscemi had been a New York firefighter in his early twenties before he became a famous actor. He showed up to his old firehouse and began working shifts right alongside the current firefighters, searching for people in the rubble, refusing to be photographed. People stood in line for hours to donate blood to help those in need. Everyone hoisted American flags outside of their homes. People smiled and hugged a lot more. People were bringing cards, flowers, and baked goods to local law enforcement, EMS, and fire departments to showcase their gratitude for the sacrifices they make to protect and serve us.

 

Steve Buscemi is on the upper left wearing the hat. Photo Courtesy of https://dailym.ai/2oZX3mb

 

Though I don’t weep as hard as I did on the first anniversary, when they read the names of all those who had passed, the sadness washes over me like waves on a beach. I’m taken back to when I was 14 years old, watching one of the most significant events in American history, and I can feel what I felt then, deep within my bones.

In a time where our country is so understandably divided, I hope we remember, that in our darkest hour, we came together as one.

I’m including a link from the 9/11 Memorial Museum website that lists the names of those who lost their lives: https://www.911memorial.org/names-memorial-0.