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I Will Never Forget

I still remember that morning.

My roommate and I did not have any morning classes so at 8:50 we were both still asleep. The phone rang. I listened as my roommate got up, grabbed the phone, mumbled something about it being her mom and answered it. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. My roommate’s mother calling at 8:50 in the morning was no cause for alarm. It was early in the semester, she was probably still unsure of her daughter’s schedule and wanted to remind her about something before classes started that day.

Seconds into the conversation, I knew this was not a normal call. Wait, what? Susan turn on the TV now! My mom says a plane just flew into the World Trade Center!

As I fumbled for the remote and turned on the news I still recall the innocence of my thoughts. What kind of pilot doesn’t see a large sky scrapper in his flight path? Is there a storm in New York this morning?

Still dazed and a little sleepy, my roommate and I began watching the news coverage trying to reason how a pilot could make such a huge error. Seconds later we watched as a plane flew into the second tower. Still naive, my first thought was that the computerized controls in the airplanes must be messed up. Something must be severely wrong with the air traffic control system to make such a horrific error twice.

It wasn’t until the news anchors mentioned terrorism that it even crossed my mind. At only 19, this was the first major terrorist attack in my adult life. Prior to that day, I would have been hard pressed to give any details about the first attack on the World Trade Center. I had no clue who the Taliban were and had never heard of Osama Bin Laden.

When news that a plane had hit the Pentagon was reported, I feel to my knees in tears. To this day, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so scared. Unsure of what would happen next, I was very aware that my father was most likely already at work less than five miles away from the Pentagon. As the minutes passed and the news anchors reported on the planes still in the air, I wondered if my family was safe. Hundreds of miles away in upstate New York, there was little I could do to get in touch with them. Phones weren’t working in their area. The best I could do was wait.

I remember watching in disbelief as the two towers fell. I could only imagine all the people that were still trapped inside. My stomach was sick thinking about the number of lives lost in those two buildings. My mind began wonder if things were over. Was the Pennsylvania crash going to be the last one? Would there be bombs sent some other way that would wipe out entire cities like in the movies? Was my family going to be safe?

At some point my mom called to confirm she was alright.

I would be a bit longer before I heard from my dad. When he finally called, he was on his way home. Not knowing when I’d get the chance to talk to him again, I told him to be safe and that I’ll talk to him soon.

As the morning went on, my fellow dorm mates began to gather in my room. Some had been awoken by similar phone calls, others had been in class and knew nothing of it until class let out at 10.

I had only one class that Tuesday. It was a 2 PM politics class. I don’t remember if classes were cancelled that day. If they were, I must have received an email from my professor saying that we were going to meet anyway. We would gather and discuss the events of the day and reflect on what we had heard.

Perhaps I needed a break from the news coverage or I just wanted to hear comfort from an older wiser adult, but I went to my class that day. As we went around the room sharing our reactions to events, I was surprised to find myself crying when it was my turn. I’m not a person who cries in public. Especially not in room full of my peers I had only known for a few weeks. But that day I was crying.

That night our campus held a candlelight vigil. I remember a friend coming over to me and saying “This must have been a scary day for you. Glad your family is okay.” As if reliving it all over again, I began to cry in his arms as I remembered the events of the morning.

That night in bed I reflected on how much my world had changed in just one day. At that time, I had no clue what the future held but I knew it would be different than my past.

It’s been 11 years.

My children know nothing about the events of September 11 and when they learn about it, it will be just another historical event from their history book. Even today’s teenagers are barely old enough to remember. They don’t know of a life before September 11, 2001. They don’t remember a time when those twin towers were a part of the New York city skyline. They have lived their entire lives in a period of war. They don’t remember how much that day changed everything.

But I will never forget.