The Second Plane

Photo by emily reider on Unsplash

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since the attacks on New York and the Pentagon. I can still remember where I was that day. Back then I was still a special ed teacher in Wichita, Kansas, and another teacher and I shared hall duty. Daily, we would take different halls, making sure students were staying in class, patrolling for stragglers.

My colleague and I chatted sometimes during duty, for a minute or two. We would trade gossip, or catch up for a minute, talking about family or the weekend and so forth. That day, we stopped to discuss like we normally did, and she shared some bizarre news — that a plane had hit the world trade center by accident.

We both traded frowns and head shaking, not believing that someone could be that foolish. But strange things happen, and we shook it off as another crazy event.

Some time later, I encountered my friend once again. This time her face was more somber. I asked what was wrong, and she relayed that a second plane had crashed, and that the thinking was that it was on purpose, possibly a terror attack.

It’s interesting what happens in those moments.

What your mind goes through….
…when you realize that all is not “right” with the world, and that things are very wrong.
…that something is off…
It’s like suddenly finding out, as silly as it sounds, that pi is not really 3.14…whatever.

I called my wife to ask her if she’d heard. I wanted to connect with her and make sure she was okay. It made sense that she would be, because I wasn’t.

I think someone at my school set up a TV and we watched the falling towers. And those images would become permanent, at least for the next month or so. We couldn’t look away, and we couldn’t speak much. We were going through a national trauma with countless others who felt the same way — talking less, transfixed with the news, speechless.

Not completely speechless.

We talked about Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, first responders, New York, Rudy Giuliani, and eventually Iraq.

The President called for national unity, and everyone, at least for the moment seemed to want to come together and mourn. We weren’t afraid, really, but we were shocked and wounded with the tragedy. It wasn’t just New York and the Pentagon that were hit. America was it. We were all hit.

Out of that grief would come anger, sadness, suspicion and blame, and a greater willingness to have tighter security.

Photo by Serhat Beyazkaya on Unsplash

Air travel, which had been grounded that day, received tighter security. New rules limited carry on containers to smaller amounts, and it’s been so long now that I can’t remember if I always had to remove my belt, shoes and electronic devices to get them screened. Everyone understood and, for the most part, accepted, security, but now the process of going through security to get on a plane became an entirely stressful process.

Immediately, the US went to fighting in Afghanistan, and soon again in Iraq, which lasted the duration of George W. Bush’s presidency. It would go on to define his eight years in the White House and pave the way for anti-war sentiment that contributed to the welcoming of Barack Obama.

Today, as I reflected how long it had been, the amount of time surprised me. My kids were born five years later, and one of them interviewed me on our way to school. It made me realize that, to them, 9/11 must be like Vietnam or the Kennedy assassination was the generation above me.

As for me, I’ll never forget how I felt when the realization hit me of what was happening when the World Trade Center was hit by the second plane.

Patrick Ramsey is a therapist and crisis counselor who spends his free time chauffeuring his kids, writing stories and poems, playing Ingress and working with PFLAGG. He competes in NYC Midnight competitions and is currently plotting a novel called The Catcher. You can find him at his website,,@RamseyCounseling on Facebook and Writer’s Cafe.