Eleven years ago today, I was an undergraduate attending college. I was finishing out my final few semesters of school as an art history major.
The morning of September 11, 2001 I was in a modern dance class… a trapeze class… imagine cirque du soleil.
Random I know, but if you only knew what a horrible experience my first attempt at a credit for PE was. My volleyball coach gave up on teaching me how to spike a ball and I ended up being the whistle girl for an entire quarter. I lost my dignity, people! I took my chances with this class.
On 9/11, my teacher, entered the room wearing her normal outfit of grey leotard and black leggings. Her face belonged to a woman well into her 50s while her body resembled a woman in her 20s. It was totally illogical.
She announced that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. She made us all sit in a circle to discuss our feelings. I remember looking at my friend Julie and scoffing.
My feelings? I grew up in a small rural farming town in South Georgia, I didn’t even know what the World Trade Center was.
The girl sitting to the right of me busted out crying. Why was she so emotional? The teacher ushered her out to call her family. I would find out later that her sister worked at the towers. The others sat around and contemplated the reason for the plane crash. At this point none of us knew that it was a “terrorist” attack. In 2001, cell phones were not considered necessities. The only kids that I knew with cell phones had helicopter parents.
After 9/11, there definitely seemed to be a spike in cell phone owners. This is why I remember that a tall girl with a blonde ponytail did receive a cell phone call. Her room mate was watching the news and told her that another plane had crashed into the tower. She lowered the phone and yelled that one of the towers was collapsing. There was a collective gasp of 30 or so girls. With that our teacher let us out of class early.
My University was the size of a small city. With around 30,000 students enrolled, the only way to get around campus was via bus line. When I left class that morning, the campus transit was not operating routes because of the attacks. This meant that I had to walk about a mile and a half to the pay lot where my car was parked.
I was a broke college student and probably didn’t even have a quarter to stop at a pay phone and call someone to pick me up, nor did I think about it. I stepped out into the streets with the hoards of other undergraduates. There was no such thing as text messaging or social networks in that day. Instantaneously we did not know the gravity of the situation or that our lives had changed forever.
I remember hearing the laughter in the crowd and the normal horse play of my fellow undergraduates while we passed orange barricades marking every street corner and police officers dressed in black uniforms blowing whistles to direct the on foot traffic. The circling lights from the idle cop cars every few feet, made it apparent that something important had happened; but we didn’t think of our safety; we had never had to think of our safety.
By the time I reached my apartment, the second tower had already collapsed and I was informed by watching replays of the events. After being educated about the World Trade Center, I remembered feeling incredibly sad. I tried to call home but the lines were jammed for a few days. When I finally got through, everyone in my family was okay. Life went on slightly altered.
For me a lot has changed in eleven years, my mother had brain surgery (twice), I graduated from college, my father passed away, I got married, we moved from Georgia to the Midwest and from the Midwest to the West Coast, and all the beautiful chaos in between those moments. Sometimes it is hard for me to comprehend how a person can pack so much into so little time, but I am sure that I am a stronger person for it.
However I have to admit that sometimes I find myself reminiscing to those sweet moments when I was an irresponsible, naïve college student that had never heard of the “twin towers” and our American security never crossed my mind, as those sweet moments were only the beginning.
What is your 9/11 story? Where were you and what were you doing the moments before the terrorist attacks?