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Remembering 9.11.01 - 10 Years Later

            As the whole world knows, today is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and United Flight 93.  We all have our stories of where we were that day and what was going through our minds as we watched news footage of what was transpiring on that September morning. 
Many people will see this and roll their eyes and think, “Oh gosh, here’s another one of those blogs.”  I’ve even heard people make comments about all of the 9/11 documentaries that are coming on, one after the other, all weekend long and wonder why people watch them.  To me, that’s one way that I can honor the victims.  Seeing the footage and hearing survivors and family member’s stories is a way to show that we will never forget that day.
I was just a junior in high school on September 11, 2001.  A junior in a small town here in Texas, far far away from New York City. I usually don’t talk about this much in fear of people ridiculing me, but I can honestly say that something did feel weird that morning. I’ve talked to my mom about the feelings I had. Other than her, it rarely comes up.
 The first plane hit at 8:46AM, which meant it was 7:46 here in Texas.  I was heading off to school at this time.  I remember taking my backpack out to my car and just having this overwhelming feeling. The sun was just barely rising, so it was still somewhat dark outside.  It’s really hard to explain.  I didn’t hear about the attacks until I had gotten to school and was in my first class.  It was a web design class and my teacher said something about the World Trade Center being bombed.  I was confused.  I had a small idea of what the WTC was, but wasn’t 100% on what was going on.  Several other classes in the school were going to the library to watch news footage.  At that time, we didn’t have TV’s in every classroom.  I asked my teacher if we could go watch and let’s just say, I won’t comment on the negativity.  She didn’t let us go to the library, enough said.
My second period class was US History, and the teacher was also my basketball coach.  He instantly let us go to the library, where I remember spending pretty much the rest of the day.  Tons of students and teachers crowded around TV’s in various parts of the room, where only standing room was available.  I remember standing there watching, my best friend Jo’ana at my side, still confused.  I noticed things falling from the building, thinking it was debris, when a teacher pointed out that it was people plummeting to their death below.  I’ll never forget the terror I felt in seeing that happening on live television, right in front of the entire school, packed and cramped in our small library.  In our innocent world in our small town, we didn’t really know of things such as terrorism.
We had open campus for lunch and Jo’ana and I stopped at McDonalds.  They had the radio playing over a loud speaker and it was news reports on what was going on.  I was so sick to my stomach that I don’t even think I ate lunch that day.  We had cross-country running practice that afternoon.  Coach Neighbors took us out to Coleman Park where we ran the back roads near the landfill and finished off on the course in the park.  I guess to the teachers, keeping the students on as normal of a schedule was their way of trying to keep everything calm, aside from allowing us to watch the news all day.  I remember running down one of the secluded roads along with my teammates, and all of us pretty much slow jogging when we heard what sounded like a plane above us.  We all got nervous and looked up to the sky.  I don’t think it was a plane, since all flights in the US had been grounded for the first time in our nation’s history.  For some reason I can’t remember what it was, but it was a loud noise that freaked all of us out.  We finished up our workout but none of us put in good times, and Coach Neighbors ended the practice early.
I was nervous for my parents as well.  My father is a paramedic and at that time, my mom worked as a dispatcher for the sheriff’s office.  Since no one knew what was really going on, all first responders and people working for emergency offices had to be on stand by, ready to go in at any time.  I think I remember my mom saying that if it came down to that, they couldn’t take both of them in and leave my sister and I stranded.
The next few weeks consisted of watching the news constantly.  The National Anthem took on a whole new meaning.  We no longer stood with our minds wondering as the song played, anticipating the start of the game or whatever event we were at.  We all stood proud, listening to EVERY word of that anthem, letting it settle deep inside our hearts as tears formed in the corners of our eyes.   Flags were left flying in people’s yards constantly, no longer just reserved for holidays.  People seemed friendlier.  We were all more open about our feelings. 
It’s a shame that it took something so tragic to “change” people.  For several years America was in an extreme patriotic mode.  I finally made it to ground zero in June of 2004, three years after the attacks.  Most of the rubble and debris was gone, but a huge gaping hole was there, surrounded by construction barricades and hard hat areas.  The skyline also had a gaping hole in it where the twin towers once stood.  I leaned against the fence and wept.  There were makeshift memorials for many of the victims.  I was glad I went to pay my respects, but it was probably one of the most solemn and sorrowful experiences I’ve ever endured in my life. 
We also stopped by several firehouses in the city.  In every station we stopped at, there were pictures up of men who had lost their lives that morning.  There was definitely emptiness present.  Even a few firehouses kept a candle lit in honor of their fallen brothers and sisters who never came home. 
I can’t believe ten years has passed.  I think about that day a lot.  It will forever be etched in my memory.  One thing that we, as Americans tend to do is fall back into that rut of thinking that we are untouchable and invincible.  9/11 was a wakeup call, but sometimes I feel that we are slowly losing the realization of how vulnerable anyone can be.  I feel that watching those documentaries, writing out your memories of where you were, reflecting and praying, are all beneficial ways we cannot allow ourselves to take things for granted.  I’m not saying you have to go out and gush your feelings to just anyone, but remember that keeping everything bottled inside probably isn’t the best thing you could do to yourself.  We have to carry the honor on for all of those who can’t. We have to REMEMBER and NEVER forget!

In remembrance of:

2,977 victims in the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the 3 airplane flights

United Flight 93

343 FDNY Firefighters


23 NYPD Police Officers

37 Port Authority Police Officers

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