Twenty one years ago is a date that none of us will ever forget. This was my generation’s “JFK moment”, where we all remember exactly where we were when the terrible events of this day unfolded.
But this was scarier than the JFK assassination because this was an attack on our country. This affected people I was in college with. This affected people in our state where many lived and commuted to work in NYC. This was a day and days after full of terror that we had never felt before.
It started like a normal Tuesday morning in the cross country season. We had just finished our 7 AM morning run and when I came home (my parents lived 5 mins from campus so I commuted) my Dad told me “this is weird and hard to believe but a plane crashed into one of the towers.” He had the Today Show on and I saw the one tower ablaze. As I scrambled to shower and get ready to head to class, I put the Today Show on to follow this story. And as I was watching while drying my hair, I saw the second tower get hit. I remember yelling down to my dad “did you just see that? What is going on?”
The confusion surrounding what was happening was just beginning to unfold. I had Spanish class first and my professor was hysterical because one of her good friends worked in the towers. We didn’t stay long as she shared her horror and concern and dismissed us.
I had one other class in the morning and I can’t remember what it was, it may have been Sociology, and then a short break to grab lunch in the Student Center. I remember students gathered around the few TVs they had on the first floor, trying to see what was going on.
Then I had a Latin American history class which was cancelled as the professor knew we were all distracted by what was going on.
Then I had xc practice. It was a workout day. But practice didn’t start like normal. It started with the devastating news that one of our teammate’s father worked in one of the top floors of the towers. It was heartbreaking to hear.
Practice was optional that day as the coaches knew we were all processing a lot including concern for our teammate and his family. Running was always a great outlet for me and about half of us stayed to do a speed workout on the track. We didn’t say much the whole workout, just banged out some 800 repeats. It was like we were on autopilot on each lap, focusing just on these laps and not on the horror of what was happening in NYC and the country that day.
The days that followed were rough. We learned my teammate’s father was missing and never found. Most of us took a van up to Staten Island for his father’s service which was so difficult to attend but was the least we could do for our teammate.
My Spanish professor lost her good friend and our second class of the week was cancelled as she dealt with this loss. Our upcoming cross country meet at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx was canceled due to all the lingering concerns about heading into the city.
Travel was never going to be the same following this day. You would have to undergo much stricter security processes upon check in including removing your shoes. You could no longer carry bottles on board. You had to arrive much earlier to check in for flights.
We learned the horror of terrorism and that the US was vulnerable to attack. We learned about Al-Queda and Bin Laden and suicide bombers and terrorism attacks that were unimaginable until September 11th, 2001.
We learned that the country could come together unlike anything we had ever seen. The intense pride and patriotism that ran throughout the country was amazing to see. I saw more American flags than ever and heard more patriotic songs than ever.
It’s sad that the way we came together following this terrible tragedy couldn’t be replicated during the pandemic and Covid shutdown. Instead everything became political and divided. The unity of our country after 9/11 is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and fear ever will see due to all the political divide and unrest that has been stirred up in the last few years.
But enough politics. This date twenty one years ago is a day people my age will never forget. It was the most shocking and horrifying day we have ever been through. We came out stronger and tougher following the attacks and I hope that is a lesson future generations can learn about 9/11.
We will also never forget the many innocent lives were lost on this date 21 years ago.