A lot has been said about 9/11 this year for the tenth anniversary. I have to admit, I didn’t watch any of the special programming on TV, other than some news coverage on the memorial. I did think more and more about my experience. It wasn’t anything particularly special, but it was certainly a memorable day for me. I think I wrote about the experience in my journal at the time, but I haven’t written it out since, so here I am.
I was a junior in high school in Southern California. My brother and I took an early-morning scripture study class before school each day, so it was climbing in the car after this that I first heard on the radio about a plane going into the World Trade Center. Someone had seen my mom in the car and told her to listen in, I guess, since usually she read when she waited for us. I didn’t really even have a concept of what it all meant—what the World Trade Center was, exactly. At the time, of course, we thought just like everybody that it was just some little thing, an accident. A little plane couldn’t take down a major building like that, and that was what it seemed to be… a small plane that somehow didn’t see the giant structure ahead of it. By the time we got home and had the TV on, the second plane had hit. I remember staring distractedly at the screen while getting ready for school, and everything still not really sinking in.
At school things seemed more hectic than usual, but to be honest, most of the day was a blur. There was a lot of speculation, but the TVs in all the classrooms had been shut off from the office, so nobody could see the news or knew what exactly was going on, though most of the teachers were smart enough to realize that we were smart enough to handle what was going on—and that we wanted and needed to know.
I remember getting more and more scared as the day went on and words like ‘war’ and ‘reinstating the draft’ were going around. The second one was the one that really bothered me, and I spent most of the school day thinking of all the draft-age guys I knew. As I said, I was a junior in high school, so that was pretty much all my guy friends and my older brother. I remember going over in my head as to reasons why various guys wouldn’t be taken—or at least wouldn’t have been in the 1940s. Flat feet, bad back, no depth perception. Things like that. I also spent most of the day clinging to my best guy friend’s desk. I usually sat next to or in front of him in classes we had, and I had a tendency to sit sideways in my desk, so one or both of my hands were wrapped around his desktop edge in any of the classes we had together that day.
Eventually the powers that be that were in the office decided to let us have the news back and turned the signal to the TVs back on, and that’s how I spent the second half of the day for the most part. Again, most of this is all a blur. I only really have two strong impressions of the day. Firstly, one friend of mine was having completely inappropriate reactions to the whole day—she was laughing at random things and actually said it would be cool if we went to war—I don’t think it had sunk in yet for her that it was more than just a building, that it had been so many people, too. Her reactions did calm down the guy whose desk I’d been holding on to all day, though, and that calmed me down, if that makes sense.
Secondly, it had spread that a girl I’d been friends with in middle school but had fallen out with had had a brother working at the WTC—I had one class with her and wished I’d been able to say something, but I couldn’t remember the last time we’d spoken, and I didn’t think I’d help at all, though I’d met her brother and was shocked and sad for her.
I was deeply impressed by how the country seemed to unite and pull closer together after the attacks, though, and when I think of 9/11 on a regular basis, rather than focusing in on the day itself, I like to think of the strong sense of nationality and brotherhood that existed afterwards. Of the news stories of volunteers pouring in from everywhere to help, of the emerging stories of the heroes of that day, and of the extreme blessing that so many people for one reason or another weren’t at the WTC when they normally would have been. Not all that came from that day was bad, by far.
I don’t really have more to add on the subject, so I’ll simply suggest you read Maureen Johnson’s account of that day which she shared recently. It’s much more relevant than mine, though mine of course, is very relevant to me.