Yes, I’m aware that it’s two days after the fact, but it’s not only about the date. It’s the day, too. There are certain things I remember vividly, and others that have faded away. For most of us, it was an ordinary day. For the younger generations, it was the beginning of the third week of school.
As much as I hate Mondays, I hate Tuesdays more. The weekend has just ended, and you’re in that spot where you haven’t started getting ready for the coming weekend, and you’ve just ended the last one. You’re in the doldrums. I was was beginning 8th grade, starting to break out of my shell more, and make friends with kids not in my town. Tuesdays and Thursdays, the beginning and end block classes flipped. I can’t remember what my first block class was that day. My memory only starts to kick in during my second class, which was French. I was close to the door, alphabetical order can be a bitch sometimes, but there I lucked out, other than the fact my seat was the first one in the row. I remember looking at the clock a lot, wanting class to be over, so i could just check off another block of time. I was waiting for my next class, American History, and no the irony doesn’t escape me, except I was still in French when the first plane hit.
It’s finally time for history, and I make my way up stairs to that classroom. Our teacher wasn’t in the room, but that was nothing new. We usually didn’t see him till after the bell rang. He comes in a minute or two after the bell, stack of papers in hand. Worksheets on latitude and longitude. Telling us to pair up, he passes out the sheets, and sits behind his desk, diving into his computer. For the next ten to twenty minutes, he’s agitated, and frequently leaves the classroom to go to the library, which is always has some sort of news coverage on. He finally settles back behind his desk, and asks everyone to stop working for a minute. He makes the announcement that two commercial planes have crashed into the Twin Towers in New York.
The girl I was working with starts to panic. Her grandparents had flown out that morning out of New York to go on a cruise in Alaska. I try to reassure her, speculating scenarios that wouldn’t place them in harm’s way. Fifteen minutes after my teacher made his announcement, our Vice Principal confirmed it on the PA system, along with the fact the Pentagon got hit as well. I would come to find out that one of my drill sergeants would be part of the crew that was responsible for pulling the bodies out of the wreckage of the Pentagon, and that my bus driver’s sibling worked in one of the towers.
After the announcements, the rest of the day is a haze, no one was concentrating, with many people with family in the city. New York was a three-hour drive at the time. For me, that had been so far away, now it was too close. After school activities were cancelled, and I rode home in a numb state. I remember at some point that night, after my father got home, that he talked about rejoining the Army. I scoffed at the idea in the one hand, my father was almost 60 years old. At the same time, I was terrified he would do just that, and leave me alone to live with my grandmother. which was unacceptable.
I have had a few days on which the world gets upended, where you remember the events, but what is said is like conversation between grown-ups the the Peanuts world, and time stops for you, but not for anyone else and the next thing you know, you are somewhere else, and you’re unsure of how you ended up there. This was one of those days.