Talk Back

9/11: I Remember

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I remember the September 11th attacks like it was yesterday. I was 16 and sitting in second period World Studies with Mr. Brush. Bored out of my mind, I asked for a hall pass to go to the washroom. I wasn’t really going to use the washroom, but I planned to roam the halls for a little while with other classmates who’d rather be anywhere but in class at the moment.

I was just talking to a friend of mine about yesterday’s basketball practice when Principal Taylor made the announcement over the school intercom. She instructed teachers who had televisions in their classrooms to turn them on, because an attack had just happened.

As ADD-infected teenagers, we didn’t pay much attention to what she was saying and dismissed the announcement as one of many “boring” messages of caution she’d spill out every once in awhile. After a minute or two of chatting, I opted to return to class. That was when I saw the first plane crash into the World Trade Center.

Everyone in the class was extremely quiet. We watched intently as the local news anchor described the events that had just occurred. She was calm and deliberate, but I remember her giving off an energy of fear and confusion. Living in a major city, it was hard not to wonder if your town would be next.

I was shocked, amazed and afraid. I wasn’t afraid that a plane was going to crash into my small high school, but my big cousin Orbit, worked at the Pentagon. Even though I had not seen him since I was 7, I still cared.

After sitting through Home Room and 3rd period English, I skipped 4th period and found my friends. As we walked to the local McDonald’s (we had off-campus lunch), I decided that I needed to know what was going on. So I borrowed my friend’s cell phone and dialed my mother’s work number. She answered, and we expressed relief to hear from each other. She knew that I’d be worried about Orbit but had no way of getting in touch with me. She told me that she called him immediately and that he happened to be at the gym across the street when the third plane struck the Pentagon.

I breathed a sigh of relief. We exchanged “I love you’s” and hung up the phone. Now that I knew that my cousin was fine, I could go on with the day. I cannot say that it was back to normal, because dozens of people lost their lives.

I felt for their families. For America.

It didn’t matter that I had just buried a fellow classmate due to gun violence – a form of domestic terrorism that continues to plague under-served communities. It didn’t matter that my cousin was fine. It didn’t even matter that the American government had been attacking other countries, killing innocent people “in the name of war.” Absolutely nothing could justify this horrible crime that claimed the lives of several people who were simply making a living for themselves.

Nothing. And 14 years later, I still feel the same.