It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed, considering the memories of 9/11 remain fresh in my mind. Raw emotion lingers and I think it always will. Even after so much time, I still cry. It took me a long time to find the strength to write about my experience of that day and I don’t think I could ever do it again. Below is a journal entry I wrote on the one year anniversary of 9/11. The writer in me wants to revise, but I kept all the mistakes for every word is a reflection of how it felt to live through such a tragic day. My thoughts and love go to everyone who lost friends and loved ones.
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9/11 – One Year Later
I read somewhere that writing helps to heal the soul. This past week our country looked back at 9/11 after the passing of one year. I never took the time to write down my experience of that fateful day until now. At the time, it hurt too much to write about it or even think about it. I was too busy trying to live through it.
Even after a year, the details are still vivid in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I was still living at home in September 2001 and had just started my first year of teaching. I had been hunting for an apartment the previous weekend and had found the perfect first place to strike out on my own. I woke up that morning with an air of excitement — I was supposed to sign the lease to my new apartment right after work. I wore a cotton knit dress my aunt had given me, along with a pair of black strappy sandals. I knew I would be sitting for most of the day and wanted to be comfortable. Mornings were usually a quiet time for me, so no radio or T.V. Silence helped me find my peace to be ready for the coming day. As I left the house, I thought it was just another normal day.
It wasn’t until I arrived at work, did I realize it was going to be a day that would forever live in my memory. One of my colleagues walked up to me and delivered the news,
“Did you hear?”
“A plane hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.”
I was in a state of shock unlike anything I had ever experienced. I ran up to my classroom as fast as my feet would go. I switched on the T.V. and saw the buildings of the World Trade Center bursting with flames and billowing smoke. I stood there with my hands over my mouth, trying to believe what was I seeing. Tears stung at my eyes, but I couldn’t find the strength to cry. It was some time later that I heard the word “terrorism” replace “accident” as the cause of such horror. Fear began to replace shock. The newscasters continued speaking, but the site of it all drowned out every word they said.
I sat frozen on top of a student desk when I saw the first tower crumble and fall to the ground. The tears refused to stay hidden as I cried uncontrollably. I kept saying to myself, How many people …? The second tower shattered soon after. My body went numb and I cried even harder. I feel the pain to this day. I don’t know how much time went by before I went downstairs to the school office. I needed to do something normal so I thought getting my attendance sheets would help. The television was on right by the front desk. Just as I looked up a replay of one of the planes hitting the twin towers was aired. It was almost like it crashed right into me. The breath was knocked out of me as I stood there watching the unthinkable. I shook all the way back up the stairs to my classroom. Shortly thereafter, the news reported another plane went down in Pennsylvania. They didn’t know if it was related, but I think we all knew it was.
My students filed into my classroom with faces full of fear and sadness. I didn’t know what to tell them. All I knew was I had to be strong for them. I tried to keep the day as normal as possible. What else could I do? I answered questions when they were asked and spoke about it when they wanted. They wanted answers, but I didn’t have them. I was just as confused and afraid as they were.
The school day was scheduled to be an early release day so teachers could attend staff development meetings. The administration cancelled all meetings and sent us home. As soon as I got home, I ran across the street to my grandparents house. I wanted to be with someone I loved. My mom and step-dad weren’t home yet and I didn’t want to be alone. We sat and watched the news. It was on every channel for days. TV stations suspended their programming and piped in CNN. We watched in silence as new images of people covered in ash, heaps of rubble in the streets, and the huge dust cloud covering New York flashed across the screen. Seeing the massive pile of rubble that was once the World Trade Center was heartbreaking. They called it Ground Zero and were desperately trying to find survivors. We all hoped. I came home a while later and continued to watch the news. The number of missing and dead was anybody’s guess. The estimates got as high as 10,000 to 20,000. It horrified me. I went to bed that night with fear. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel safe or secure. My country had been attacked and many people had died. Why was I spared?
I didn’t see images of the attack on the Pentagon until the next day. More destruction and more death. I still felt sick to stomach and rattled with fear. My boyfriend (later husband) helped by simply being there. I remember holding him tight and wondering how many people had lost their loved ones.
It must’ve been more than a week before television programming began to return to normal. It was difficult to watch and even depressing. Sometimes it hurt so much, I could only watch in spurts. The pictures and people will forever be seared into my mind. The firefighters, the police officers, pictures of missing persons plastered up and down the streets of New York, and the survivors. One image in particular has remained etched in my memory; a child’s torn doll laying on top of the rubble made it all so human and so real. I will never forget.
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