Five years ago today I was a naive, young, college freshman that thought the world was a peaceful place. I was completely safe and secure, living in America and in a small town in the Midwest I had little to fear. It was about the third week of classes, and I was already dreading my history class. Professor Rants-A-Lot was not making history entertaining enough for me, and besides it was in a large lecture hall with over hundred students, and the roll alone took twenty minutes.
I had gotten up early and was showered, dressed, and just sitting down for a cup of coffee when the broke into the morning news with a Special Report. A plane had just hit the World Trade Center in New York. I looked at my grandma sitting on the sofa next to me, and asked what was going on. She said she didn’t know, and hushed me. Our telephone rang, and I listened to my grandma talk to her brother as I also listened intently to the news anchors debate over whether or not this was an accident – a plane flying too low, or whether this was done intentionally. I tried to think of what I knew about the World Trade Center buildings – it wasn’t much. I sat there unable to believe what I was seeing, praying for the people in those buildings and on that plane, not realizing the extent of what I was was watching. I sat there watching and listening as they filmed the burning building. Then suddenly in the corner of the screen I saw a second plane. I looked at my grandma, and yelled. It was that moment of realization that this was not an accident – not simply a case of a plane flying too low. This was intentional. This was planned, and people were dying. I was eighteen, a recent high school graduate, a new college freshman, and I really hadn’t experienced anything in my life that had prepared me for the shock of watching a plane fly into a building. All I could think of was the poor people on the plane, in the building, and there in New York watching this happen right in front of them, because I knew that however scary this was for me I was still hundreds of miles away. There was still a sense of this can’t happen to me.
The rest of my morning was much like everyone else’s I suppose. I watched in horror again as they showed where a plane had hit the Pentagon and then where the fourth had crashed in Pennsylvania. I cried and prayed as the towers fell. I did go to my history class that morning – my professor refused to divert from the syllabus to discuss what was going on in New York. Walking across campus was surreal. Have you ever seen an entire college campus quiet? We each had the same look on our face – a combination of shock, horror, sadness, and grief.
I went to work that afternoon. I was teaching preschool at the time. So many of the children had been watching the news with their parents that morning. They were scared. Every time they would hear a plane fly over head they would ask if it was going to fly into our school. I gave out a lot of extra hugs that day. I looked at their pictures they drew – planes flying into tall buildings – buildings on fire. These images were permanently fixed in their minds. A bit of their innocence was lost that morning, and that made me sad. I tried to answer their questions simply by telling them that New York was far away and that they were safe here, but the truth was I was beginning to doubt it myself.
Each generation seems to have something that defines them, and for my generation September 11th, 2001 is undoubtedly one of those defining moments. I always listened to my grandma talk about when her brothers and my grandpa went off to war, and now I watched many of my friends enlist and go fight in a war that I don’t fully understand. My cousin is in Iraq now. So far we’ve been
lucky blessed. Everyone I know has come home safe, but so many others have been less fortunate.
Today I take the time to stop and once again remember where I was in 2001. I take the time to pray for those who died, those who survived, and those who are fighting to prevent it from happening again. Mostly I just take time to be thankful for what I have.