I was 16 years old and in the 11th grade in Sparta, NJ... about an hour outside of New York City, where many of my friends' parents worked. I know so many of us remember this day as though it was yesterday, and I always find it interesting to find out where people were when it happened and what they remember. Luckily, I kept an online journal at the time and chronicled every detail of that day. I wrote the following on September 13, 2001, just two days after 9-11.
As the bell rings and everyone grabs their books and hurries out of second period, an announcement comes on the speaker, calling a long list of students to the main office. There are so many people, I wonder what it is for as I walk to my third period Algebra II class. Maybe senior parking got screwed up? Or maybe there's an FBLA meeting after school today. Who cares, all I know is that it's been 2 minutes and they still haven't finished calling kids to the office. "Damn," I think to myself, "Couldn't they have called everyone at separate times?"
I walk into the Algebra room and start chatting with my neighbor about the homework and what I did after school yesterday. Across the room, I hear someone say "Oh My God, are you serious? That's horrible!" Suddenly all attention is on her as she explains to the class what she just heard last period on the radio in art class. "A plane crashed into the World Trade Center, they think it was terrorists!" Everyone in the room quickly picks up conversation about how on earth that could possibly happen. But as soon as the teacher walks in the door with a horrible look of shock and amazement on her face, we all stop talking. She looks at us and says "Do any of you have parents who work in the World Trade Center.." No one responds. "No?" she says? "Okay, everyone sit down and listen to me. There's been an attack in New York City. Two planes hit the Twin Towers, and they're not sure if there are any survivors. They just called a list of people to the office whose parents may have been in the city at work today."
Mouths drop open, eyes become teary, and blank looks come over the faces of all in the room. "Can I go call my dad?" says a voice in the back of the room.. "Of course" says the teacher. More and more people leave to call their families, but they all come back to the room saying that the lines are too tied up to get through anywhere.
We all know that we are less than an hour from the city, and we all know how many of our parents and our friends and our family members and friend's family work in New York. Everyone is thinking of someone right now. I'm thinking of my dad, because I know he isn't at home. He's traveling with work.. Why didn't I listen when he told me where he was going? Was it Chicago? Or Phoenix? I have a vague recollection of him mentioning San Francisco or Los Angeles.. I pray to God that he's in California, anywhere but the city. After what seems like a million years, the bell finally rings and I bolt out of the classroom looking for my younger brother. I never see him between classes, so I ran through the link hoping that he was taking the same way as me. I was so glad when I found him, I grabbed his arm and I said "Where's Dad?" and he had no idea what was going on, so I explained to him and again I said "Where's Dad?"
"Don't worry, he's away.." But away where?! Where away? "He's not in New York, he's in San Francisco." Phew. I say goodbye and hurry into my next class only a minute or two after the bell rings. "A plane hit the Pentagon." What?! This is surreal. It can't possibly be true. By the end of the period, we learn that a plane has also crashed in Pittsburgh. What's next? How much more is going to be destroyed until everything is at rest? Everyone is thinking the same thoughts: I want to go home. But still the teachers drag on the lessons.. some try to teach us, others do not. Some tried to get our minds off it, others talked it out with us. The internet was shut down so that we couldn't see the pictures of what was going on.. mindless administration thinking that it would "disturb" us too much. Don't they realize that they can't lock us up inside a classroom for 40 minutes and not tell us what's going on around us? But we make it to 9th period. The day was filled with many more people being called to the office and half the school bawling and walking out the door with their parents or whoever came to get them. The principal comes on the intercom, telling us how well we handled the "events" of the day. We were "caring, considerate, and we know that not only does it Take A Little More To Be A Spartan, but it also Takes A Little More To Be An American."
God bless America. Everyone's coming together, the United States is proving that we really are United. They say carpenters are coming from all across the country, and thousands of people are donating blood, and ambulances firefighters are volunteering and saving what is left, and shelters are providing places for people to stay and vendors are donating food and people are donating clothes...When I was coming home from school today, nearly every house I passed by had its American Flag up, the colors waving proudly and encouraging the nation to be strong. We wore yellow ribbons at school yesterday. And today and tomorrow we're wearing Red, White, and Blue.< My dad is stuck in San Fransisco. You know the 747 flight from Newark to San Fransisco that crashed in Pennsylvania? He took that same flight the day before it crashed. It was this close to.. to something beyond my comprehension. But everything is okay, he's okay, I'm okay, my family is okay, Sparta will be okay, and hopefully you are okay too. Rock on, U.S.!
Unbelievable how I still get chills thinking about it, and it still brings tears to my eyes to read this journal entry. God bless, America!