Then, in an instant, all that we know, our perception of the world we were in, would be changed forever.
We had heard a member of our class roaming the halls screaming, "They just blew up the World Trade Center!" Thinking it was just a cry for attention, no one paid him any mind. But things got real when a teacher walked in, whispered into my teacher's ear, and we stopped our lesson to watch the news.
The TV in our classroom warmed up and we put in on the first station we could. And there it was. One of the towers of the World Trade Center had smoke coming out of the building. The beautiful New York skyline suddenly had a black, billowing blemish in it. As the reports kept trickling in regarding what had happened, it had been confirmed that a plane had flown into the tower.
As I sat at my desk in awe, I began feeling emotions I never knew before. Well, let me rephrase that: the level of fear I was experiencing was new to me. It was unparalleled. The uncertainty, the shock, the very realization that what was taking place was ACTUALLY taking place, was overwhelming.
As we sat in that classroom, listening to the reports of people in New York, there it was. A second plane flew into the other tower. Unbelievable. A plane flying into the first tower could have been credited to a malfunction on the aircraft or some type of human error. A second plane flying into the same complex though? No coincidence. This was a coordinated attack.
As the unfathomable fear continued to linger, as my eyes could not turn away from the television, there were the reports of the Pentagon being attacked filing in. At this point, no one knew what to make of the situation. Where was the next attack going to take place? Who were these people going after? Why were they doing this? It was at this point that the Towers were beginning to collapse from the sustained damage.
As the day went on, the shift to a new class was underway. My classmates and I quickly rushed to our next classroom to continue witnessing this day of infamy. However, this teacher did not find it productive to "watch television of smoke coming from buildings". And he proceeded with trying to teach us his lesson plan.
Shortly into the lesson, the principal got on the loud speaker, trying his best to calm people's nerves, minimize their fears, and put things into perspective. We eventually got word that we would be leaving to go home that day. All activities were cancelled and the directive was to not linger around the school building.
The directive to leave school came around 11:00AM. I never made it back in front of a television to keep up with what was happening until close to 3:00pm. Traffic was horrible. People's cell phones weren't working. People were moving around the city, scared and unsure as to what was going on.
I watched every bit of coverage I possibly could that day. And even when my eyes tired from fatigue of looking at a screen, I pushed on. I wanted to know every bit of information I could. The awesomeness of the situation was incredible. I knew that on this day, that my life, the lives of my family, friends, and country, would never be the same.
But despite the carnage that took place that day, while I was in awe at the coordinated strike against the United States, I was more in awe of the compassion and humanism that was shown. Complete strangers were running into buildings that had planes fly into them to save other complete strangers. Everyday citizens quickly became humanitarians, makeshift doctors and medics, counselors, and family figures to those who may have been separated from their actual family. The spirit of the people of New York was amazing. And even in the aftermath, the people of New York never wavered in their resolve to pick themselves up from the ashes. Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York at that time, led the way and the spirit of New York rang out to cities and countries all around the world.
11 years later, New York, and this country, arose from the ashes like a phoenix. The fire of death, destruction, terror, chaos, and anarchy could not overpower the will of people who understood that fear accomplishes nothing. America became stronger in her resolve, started to pursue those who took responsibility, and made it a point that terror achieves nothing.
11 years ago, 2,977 innocent people lost their lives. They are remembered today, and forevermore, by a country who did not waver, did not cave in, did not give up, and stood up as one and united against all who felt that terror would cripple people into submission.
We remember the first responders. We remember the innocents. We remember the brave passengers who crashed in Shanksville. And we remember those who lost their lives in 11 years of fighting to bring those responsible to justice.