I remember exactly where I was on 9/11/2001. I was in the hallway at De Queen Primary School, headed to get students from the Kindergarten for reading. Mrs. Dykes, our assistant principal came down the hall and asked if we knew that the World Trade Center had been hit. The other reading teachers and I were completely unaware of what had happened and were shocked to find what was going on in New York City. Later on we found out that a second plane had hit the other tower and at that point I realized that this was no accident and for the first time in my life my country was under attack. I was shocked and wanted to stop teaching and just watch the events unfold. Hoping that is some way I could make sense of it all.
I remember watching the remaining events unfold on TV. Someone set a TV up in the teacher’s lounges and I spent any extra minute just standing there watching the TV. Feeling like it was all so unreal, so hard to believe, so horrible to watch. Praying that the people in those towers were able to get out, knowing in my heart that they didn’t. I was trying to understand the amount of evil that would cause a person to put such an awful plan into motion. Wondering what it was that my country had done to these people to make them retaliate in such a manner.
I remember hearing and seeing the footage of the plane hitting the Pentagon and of Flight 93’s heroism. I felt raw and numb that it had happened again, then again. Wondering if it would happen somewhere else and if so who would be the target.
I remember watching footage of President Bush. I saw him being told about the attacks and how well he maintained his composure in front of the students in that Florida classroom. Feeling proud of my president and worried about his safety as he wanted desperately to get back to Washington. Instead he was flown all over the country in Air Force One in an attempt to keep him safe. Feeling proud that he landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana for a just a little bit. I felt a little safer knowing he was very close to where I was.
I remember the lines that afternoon to get gas. It was something I had not thought of, but as I drove by the gas stations there were lines of people getting gas which was shocking to see. Nothing like this had ever happened here. When Jess got home he told me that he had waited in line a long time to get gas and was a little upset with me because I hadn’t had the forethought to stop and get some myself. He was afraid of gas prices going up even more than the dollar they had already risen and being uncertain about the availability in the near future.
I remember watching it all unfold again that evening. Jess and I just sat and watched the news footage of the day and spoke very little. I finally broke down and cried. It was just too much to watch and to know that these ordinary, average people were just going about their daily lives and were so tragically taken. Knowing that there was still a lot of uncertainty about what had actually happened and who had caused it.
I remember the days that followed. Still so much fear and uncertainty about how many people were lost. The amazing hero stories that began to come out and feeling proud to be an American because of the sacrifices that these people had made to try to save others. Seeing President Bush’s incredible speech at Ground Zero and feeling hope because of it.
I remember realizing that more lives would be lost because we were headed to war. The feeling of pride for my country and uncertainty of what the future would hold. Wondering if it was really safe to bring children into this world and how sad I felt, because I knew I wanted to have children.
I remember having to just turn it all off. It had begun to consume me, the constant TV footage of the attacks, the faces of the hijackers, the faces of the families of the missing and their pleas to find their family members, the remarkable stories of survival and loss. It all became too much to bear. I realized that I was allowing it to keep me rooted in one spot as a spectator and that I needed to get up and just live again. Not to be stuck in this moment forever. I also realized in those moments that I had just been a part of history, much like my grandparent's Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy in my parent’s generation. Knowing that the generations before had experienced their own moments of shock and uncertainty. Knowing that they came through those moments stronger people and part of a stronger country. Taking comfort in the fact that I knew that the same would occur in my generation and praying that future generations would not ever have to live through something so tragic.
I will always remember. Ten years later that day still stands out in my mind, especially around the anniversary each year. I always stop to watch and in my own way honor the day and those lives lost. It is sometimes still difficult to watch, but for me it reemphasizes how incredible my country is and how proud and appreciative I am of those who serve America on a daily basis. I want my children to understand and appreciate 9/11 and I know they will not ever completely understand the day as much as those who lived it, but I want them to know about the people who lives were lost, the courage of the rescue workers, the courage of the heroes on flight 93, the courage and heroism of ordinary people. Because in those moments of 9/11 you see the true spirit of who we as Americans are supposed to be. I want my children to have that spirit and strength within themselves and the pride of being an American.
I will never forget. God Bless my beautiful America.
I will never forget. God Bless my beautiful America.