Every year for the last 14 years all of us Americans who were born before 1990 remember where we were on 9/11/2001 and what we were doing when terrorists struck the World Trade Center and Pentagon with hijacked airplanes. This year I figured I would jump on the bandwagon and share my 9/11 story…
I was a senior at Collierville High School, and I had just finished 1st period that Tuesday morning. I was headed into my 2nd period class, Accounting with Coach Henderson, when everyone in the school was suddenly abuzz about something. As I entered the classroom I saw that the TV was on in the room, which was unusual for accounting class since it is not a class where we might watch a historical documentary or a movie made from classic literature. Like everyone else I watched to see what Coach Henderson had playing on the TV that was so important. People started to say that just moments earlier an airplane had struck one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, but at first we all thought it was some kind of accidental plane crash.
Then we all stood in shock as we watched, on live TV, the 2nd plane strike the 2nd Twin Tower. We all instantly knew that something was very, very wrong. It makes me wonder what it would have been like if the whole country could have watch the attack on Pearl Harbor on live TV. Immediately the principal came over the intercom to alert the entire 2,000+ student high school that the United States of America had just suffered from a series of attacks. He did not have much else to say yet, but basically the school went into lockdown mode. No one really knew at the moment if the terrorist attacks were isolated, or if the whole homeland was about to be under siege. All we knew is that something very evil was occurring, and we were all scared.
You could feel the fear and the tension in the air as we were all wondering what would happen next. Students were cussing, but teachers did not care. Students were sobbing, but nobody blamed them. Students were praying in school, and nobody stopped them or complained. It was a scary time, and nobody felt at ease. Then about halfway through my Accounting class we found out that another plane had just struck the Pentagon. We did not know how extensive the damage was, but we all silently agreed that things were getting really frightening. We thought that they had just taken out the central infrastructure of our military leadership, and war was surely upon us. I see in movies how young men rushed to join the Army as soon as America was attacked and pulled into World War II, and I think many of my fellow senior classmates felt that way as we were all angry and scared and wanting to payback whatever country was behind this whole thing.
Then when my Accounting class was nearly over we all heard about Flight 93, the hijacked flight that was brought down by fellow passengers into a field in Pennsylvania before it could hit the White House or some other important East Coast target. At the time, we only knew that a 4th plane had crashed in a field, but the full story did not come out until a little later about how the passengers fought back against the terrorists to prevent their plane from destroying a major target. When we all heard about what these passengers on Flight 93 did, there was a collective sense of patriotism, pride, justification and sadness all at the same time.
The rest of the day is a blur, but I doubt anyone did much school work that day. All anyone, teachers and students alike, wanted to talk about was the series of terrorist attacks that were occurring. All we could do was wait and see what the next attack was and wonder what President Bush and the military were going to do about it.
For the next couple weeks we were all scared to go anywhere that had a large crowd, like the movies or high school football games, that might be viewed as a potential target for a bombing or other attack. In my 31 years, 9/11, in all of its terror and darkness, is the only event I can remember that truly unified our nation, if only for a brief moment in time.