I was the only one in Mrs. O’Brien’s room other than her, waiting for her 2nd period English class to start. Mr. Elacqua bustled in as usual, leaned over her desk to her, whispered something, and ran back out. She looked alarmed. She looked at me and said, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.” I thought, now that’s odd… must be one of those little planes, and those buildings can take anything, so there will probably be maybe a few offices taken out and they’ll have to rebuild a story or two, but not really a big deal.
Next period as we filed into Panebianco’s Psych class the radio was already on and she was at her desk. She might have been praying. As we all came in, she went to the radio, turned it up, and sat back down. She never said a word. I’m not sure any of us really knew what was going on, the news was so fragmented. One of my classmates actually thought it was a psychological exercise, put his head down, and went to sleep.
I only remember a few things about the rest of that day. I remember all the students making noises about wanting school closed early, citing the nearby (closed) Air Force Base as a potential target. I think most of us just wanted an excuse to go home since snow days were so far off. I remember Mr. Darrah insisting we continue class as normal, even though we were too distracted to concentrate (more from excitement than anything else). He finally relented when word came from across the hall that Brady’s TV – probably the only TV in the building – was getting CNN. We filed in there and for the first time that day finally got footage. It must have been around 1pm. We watched the planes hit, we watched them crumble, we watched the chaos on the streets, we watched people jump from the towers, we watched it again and again and again for nigh half an hour and struggled to understand what we were seeing. I remember finally getting home, finding my mother watching TV and crying.
Me? I didn’t cry that day. Or the rest of that week. Or maybe even the rest of the decade. I wasn’t in shock, and it’s not that I didn’t care. I think I just couldn’t understand it. I was ashamed – I was the only one in my family who appeared unmoved by it.
I remember the news people trying to piece together what happened. The death toll rising. I remember, distinctly, the local radio station playing Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero” overdubbed with soundclips from 9/11. I thought that was stupid, because if you’re going to do a tribute song, at least use one that makes sense, and perhaps don’t hijack one (pun intended) that was commercially released in the last month.
I don’t think it was until last year that I really felt what happened. I don’t know why. But a year ago, today, I found an audio file Glenn Beck released of soundclips from the day, and his announcing the tragedy. And I cried. And then I went about my day.
But today, from the moment I woke up, I cannot get it out of my head. The sounds, the images, the chaos, the hell. I’m not going to go reminding everyone about it. I’m not wearing red white and blue. I’m not weeping in public. I won’t be one of those people. On the other hand, some people are doing absolutely despicable things to commemorate today – everything from celebrating to the infamous Koran burning. These things are equally hateful, but as an American, I support their legal right to express themselves in any way they choose.
I will not forget. I cannot forget. I will never think of it as “the heartbreak of 9/11” as some of our elected officials softened it. It is, and will always remain, the day America was attacked. The day when Muslim terrorists hijacked four airplanes, crashing two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, were thwarted in their attempt to reach the national capital, and murdered 2,996 people.
May God bless America and continue to guide her.