I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and I was just walking into science class. It was a third/fourth period block for BESS 1 (Biology and Earth Science Studies, the science class most of the freshmen were taking), and the first thing that caught my eye was the television. It was on, which was strange in and of itself, but on top of that it was tuned to CNN. Although I had only been a high school student for a couple of weeks, I had learned that the classroom televisions were rarely tuned to anything outside of the school announcement channel and the channel that showed the WKHS News on Fridays. On this particular day, though, the entire class was staring at CNN.
Only minutes before, the first plane had struck the World Trade Center.
Our teacher came in and started class, but she left the TV on. At that time, everyone was just interested to see what would happen. Everyone was assuming it was a tragic accident. There was only one kid in our class that thought otherwise. Every few seconds he would say that it was terrorists. But as this kid had a tendency to think that everything and anything was due to terrorists, no one really gave him a second thought.
I was still sitting in BESS 1 when we watched the second plane hit. After that, the rest of whatever we were learning fell into the background. We were all too mesmerized by what was happening on the television.
The rest of the day is something of a blur to me. I remember no one was talking in the hallways between classes, because everyone was in too much shock. I remember that every single television in the school was showing CNN. I remember that it was during lunch that Osama Bin Laden’s video hit the airwaves, and that everyone was crowded around the four TVs in the middle of the cafeteria. I remember that during my history class at the end of the day, the original lecture was forgotten in favor of talking about terms we would be hearing a lot in the coming weeks, including “Taliban.” Oddly, I also remember that it was that day when I rode the bus home from high school for the first time, because all after-school activities got cancelled, so there was no marching band practice.
That day and the days surrounding it were an emotional roller coaster. My father was in Germany on a business trip and we couldn’t get in contact with him for days. My cousin was in Virginia and his job meant he was sometimes at the Pentagon. Until we found out that he hadn’t been there that day, we were worried about him. The following Friday was a home football game, and our marching band re-worked pre-game to pay tribute to what had happened.
It was a day and a week that I’ll probably never forget, regardless of how many years pass. I don’t think any of us that experienced that day will ever forget it. I’ve heard that each generation has a “where were you when…” moment, that one significant day or event or moment that lives in that generation’s memory forever. September 11, 2001 was our generation’s “where were you when…” moment. It’s the day that our children and our grandchildren will ask us about. It’s the day that future generations will study in history class and write reports about and do projects on. I won’t lie that it will be surreal, some day in the future, when my son or daughter asks me where I was when those planes struck the World Trade Center.
And I’ll tell them…I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and I was just walking into science class…