It was a Tuesday morning. My only early class of the week. I was serving to pay my way through school, so I had become a night owl. I avoided mornings like the plague.
But, on Tuesdays, I had Ethics. It was one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taken.
I got up and began getting ready for class. I was groggy, tired, grumpy. I turned on the radio for company. They were talking about airplanes. Crashing. New York.
I wasn’t getting it. I thought it was a joke. I remember thinking that this sounded like some sort of stupid joke. I changed the channel. I turned to KDWB. I never listen to them. Dave Ryan was also talking about these airplanes. Something was wrong.
I raced upstairs, only half dressed. My mom was gone for work already. I went into the garage. My dad was there. I don’t know why. Maybe he was on vacation? Tuesday morning should have found him at work. He was reading the paper. I told him to turn on the t.v.
We watched the 2nd tower fall.
It didn’t seem real. It was like watching a movie or something. It was horrible. They kept replaying the footage over and over. We listened to the newscasters as they gave theories. We heard about the plane headed for Washington. The one that hit the Pentagon. We heard about United 93. We listened to the conspiracy theories that were flying like mad, in lieu of actual facts.
I had to go to class. I finished getting dressed and left. I remember pulling onto I-94 and I was listening to the radio, listening to them talk about the Towers coming down. I was crying.
It was ridiculous. Why was I going to class? To sit with strangers and talk about this? I’d rather be home with my dad and talk to him. I got off on Radio Dr. and turned around. I went home. I learned later that they had canceled class due to the tragedy.
Dad and I sat in the garage and watched the coverage, we watched the billowing smoke. We listened to them speculate about how many people had died. It was days until we learned that the number nearly reached 3,000.
Eventually, my mom came home. Emily came home. She was a senior in high school. She was gone before I woke up, before the coverage started. She said that was all they talked about all day long. Several classes brought in t.v.’s so they could watch the coverage. I told her that had happened to me only once in school. The O.J. Simpson trial. The day the verdict was read, we had t.v.’s in the classroom so that we could watch. This was worse.
I didn’t know anyone. I have never been to NYC, never seen the Twin Towers before or since. I was not connected in a personal way to this tragedy. My connection was visceral, the feelings of fear and sadness and anger that come from someone hurting my country, our people. I wanted it to change, to not have happened, because of what it meant for the world, for the United States.
When I think back on that day, I remember that I was supposed to be in class. I remember feeling sick, but comforted that I was able to be with my family. I remember the feeling that rippled through me when I watched the second tower fall.
God Bless America.
Photo by Tom Franklin