It was a brisk morning and I was running late for my early class. I was in my third year of college in northern NY. The TV in the common area of our dorm suite was on, yet none of my roommates were there, and I saw the World Trade Center towers standing tall and with smoke billowing out of one of them. I thought that it was a bad fire and didn’t see the headline that a plane had just flown into one of the towers. My mind was elsewhere and worried I would be late for class so I honestly didn’t have much worry about it. “Fires happen all the time,” I thought to myself.
Just in the nick of time, I arrive and took my seat. The teacher came in and the first thing that she said was, “In case you haven’t heard, the Twin Towers were just attacked.” Attacked? Wait what? My professor started her lecture about some type of art and even after the class dismissed, the thought of the Towers and New York City being under attack still hadn’t registered. Society has not hit the smartphone age. Even the internet was still in its teen years so since I hadn’t sat down to watch the news, I really didn’t get the gravity of the situation yet.
The Gravity Sets In
When I arrived at my next class, the professor was in tears. Her best friend’s daughter was unaccounted for in The Pentagon attack. She couldn’t go on with class and wanted to be close to a phone to get word. I thought, “The Pentagon was attacked? The Towers fell? What’s going on?” That’s when it hit me like a brick wall. My father!! I thought to myself. Worry and panic rushed through my veins. My father worked across the street from the towers and often had to go there for work-related tasks.
My Father Works Across the Street
I rushed to my dorm room where my roommates were in the common area, glued to the TV that I was so quick to dismiss earlier that morning. I learned what had happened and what I had seen leaving for class was the aftermath of the first plane hitting the Tower. I called my parent’s house. “Your call cannot be completed at this time. Please try again later.” Really?! The benefit of cell phones wasn’t there yet in 2001 so all the landlines trying to call the NYC area were jammed. I hit redial and heard the same message for an hour. Then on my, what seemed like, the 1000th time, I heard a ring.
My mother answered calmly, which was not her usual demeanor. She was always worried about something and I found it so ironic that of all the days, today was the one she remained calm and collected. She informed me that my father was okay and trying to get back home. The city had shut down public transportation, making it difficult for the commuters to get to their homes.
My Father’s Story
The next day I heard from my father. He saw the first plane hit the first tower and he immediately went into the emergency protocol set by the company he worked for and headed to the midtown office to be accounted for. Since the city shut down all transportation services, my father had no choice but to start walking. My mother met him on the other side of the bridge with the car and he got home, with his feet blistered and sore, but he got home. He was supposed to be in the Towers later that day. Three of his co-workers were in the Towers and didn’t make it out. To this day he has survivor’s guilt.
Back in my hometown, everyone knows someone who was there and everyone is usually at least 2-degrees from someone hurt or killed in the towers. On my first trip back home after 9–11, my stomach got a sick feeling seeing the forever altered New York City skyline. My story of September 11, 2001 had the best outcome possible in such a terrible situation. So many are still living the nightmare of 9–11.
On this day, as I do every year, I remember the day and pray for those lost at all three crash locations and their families. I can’t imagine this day gets any easier, even 17-years later. My stomach still gets the knot of anxiety I had so many years as this day approaches. Never will I forget, those who I knew and those who I didn’t, to honor and reflect.
“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”