It was 12th grade AP English. I can’t remember if that was 1st or 2nd period. But it was early. And we had a fire drill.
What strikes me most about that day is the moments directly before our lives were forever changed. Scarred by terrorist attacks and eight long years of virtual inaction. I have a photograph. I’m really not sure why I had my camera. Probably because it was my senior year of high school and bringing cameras to school was cool and I wanted to document everything I could. I randomly took a picture of my 11th grade AP English teacher and another teacher in the department. They look so happy. The look on their faces is sort of stupid. Probably wondering why I wanted to take their picture so early in the year.
We came back inside, all tripping and laughing and smelling like the outdoors. Happy we missed 15 minutes of class. Mrs. ___ turned on the TV. Which – was odd. I think someone may have asked her what she was so oddly doing, because I remember her saying –
“I just want to see something.” Something she’d heard. Another teacher left her cell phone on and her husband called and
And tuning in just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower.
I can remember the rest of the day perfectly, but I won’t bore you with the minute details. Details you probably remember yourself, in your own way. The halls were filled with kids, running, crying. In my science class, someone running down the halls stopped at our door and announced, “The Pentagon was just hit,” before taking off to tell others. Most teachers let us watch the news. Others felt it was important to treat the day like any other day. Before lunch, my history teacher from the year before came out of his classroom. He looked at me. “The tower fell,” he said, and grabbed my arm and pulled me into his classroom with his other students. I didn’t eat lunch that day. I watched him wander around his classroom with a wounded, haunted look in his eyes.
I live on Long Island. And I didn’t know anyone who worked in the towers. But I know firefighters and cops who responded, and thankfully are still alive and healthy today. We spent the day not knowing. Not hearing from them. Watching the news and looking west – towards the haze on the horizon.
A family friend, a firefighter, carries around a business card he found in the rubble. Everything, he told us, everything was essentially pulverized. They found dust. No desks, or chairs, or computer parts, or file cabinets. Just dust. And this business card to remind him.
It seems sort of cliche to be writing this. Like jumping on the bandwagon. But I don’t really want to ever forget this day. The day that everyone seemed to pull together. The day – the year – many of us felt an intense nationalism for the first time. So. This is that.