Negaunee, Michigan – September 11, 2018 – It’s been 17 years since 9/11. 17 years. It’s funny how specific dates and times can mean so much, like a birthday, anniversary, or event date. But it’s definitely a day of melancholy as I sit and remember exactly where I was when the twin towers were hit.
I was just 10 years old. I was in Mrs. Buck’s 5th grade class at Lakeview Elementary school, and we were just finishing up with math. Suddenly, all of the teachers were called to the office through the intercom.
It was strange, as that had never happened before. Even as young as we were, my classmates and I could feel the apprehension in the principal’s voice as the teachers were called. We could feel the tension and fear coming off of Mrs. Buck in waves as she re-entered the room. We all sat in our seats, fidgeting, expectant.
She slowly strode to the front of the classroom, her head down, her hands wringing in front of her. She lifted her head and said, “Class is dismissed. Your parents have been phoned, and those of you riding the bus will go out the front entrance of the school. Those of you being picked up with come with me to the other entrance. Get your things.”
We were all so confused. It’s the middle of a Tuesday morning. Why are we leaving? Why is Mrs. Buck so scared? Why, why, why? A million questions like this tumbled out of the mouths of twenty 10 and 11-year-olds. She simply said, “Look,” and turned on the big box TV in the corner of the classroom to a local news channel.
The screen was lined in red blocks of EMERGENCY and URGENT lettering, with serious-looking news anchors reporting that the twin towers had been hit in New York by airplanes manned by terrorists. The TV was suddenly flooded with video and pictures of the towers crashing down in fiery bits, bursting with clouds of smoke and debris. Down they crumbled, as my young classmates and I watched, horrified.
After the shock of the initial video, we began scrambling to get our things, racing out into the hallway. We didn’t understand. How could this happen? What’s going on? Why, why, why? In our short lives, we hadn’t experienced such mass panic, such fear.
My mother was waiting for my two younger sisters and I as we were let out of the school. She grabbed us and walked us quickly to the car. We asked many questions, but she couldn’t answer them. I remember my younger sister asking if we were still going to have ballet class after school, to which she replied, “No.” I’ll never forget the look in my mother’s eyes that day. A mixture of fear, panic, and confusion. She didn’t have answers for us. How could she? Nobody had answers at that moment.
Looking back on that day, and seeing the catastrophic event 9/11 was through the eyes of a child and now as an adult, I still feel the heaviness of that day. I often wonder to myself how I would explain something such as 9/11 to my child, if it were to happen today. I struggle to find the words.
I may not have been directly involved as a resident of New York, someone who lost a loved one that day, or someone who fully understood it at the time. But I can understand the sense of loss it brought to Americans everywhere, and why it is always important to remember.
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