thirteen years ago

Thirteen years ago today, I was sitting in my second period History class with on the second day of the second week of my second year at Irvington High School.

Mrs. Lake-Garcia had just finished chewing out Boris, the new kid whose family had just moved into the suburbs from an apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He was kind of a punk and had interrupted her lesson by shouting at her that she doesn’t know anything about anything and should stop acting like she does. (Two weeks later, Boris would give me a copy of Ultimate Spider-Man #13 and get me irrevocably back into a habit I thought I had kicked, but I digress.)

That was when a kid whose name I can’t even remember bursts through the door, and when Mrs. Lake-Garcia asks him why he’s so late, he goes — and I’ll always remember this — “I was watching the news in the library, there’s a bomb or something in the World Trade Center, shit is craaaaazy.”

Okay. It’s not even nine o’clock in the morning yet, and I was no more a morning person at 14 than I am at 27. It wasn’t like a bomb in the WTC was anything new for people who lived in the larger New York Metropolitan Area. The penny hadn’t dropped yet.

Class resumes.

Fifteen minutes later, the principal gets on the PA to announce that planes had hit both towers of the World Trade Center and that we should stand by for further updates.

Mrs. Lake-Garcia tries to keep the reins on the class to keep it from dissolving into chaos, and talks about her own personal fear of terrorism. It takes her the better part of five minutes to notice that my hand is high in the air. I’m practically hyperventilating by the time she calls on me.

“I just remembered that my mom had a meeting today at the Twin Towers, can I — I need to — “

She had barely answered in the affirmative before I tear out of the classroom like the hounds of hell are at my heels. Twenty seconds later, I’m in the school’s administrative office, using their phone to call my mom and praying that she picks up.

She picks up.

Turns out I had misunderstood. She had meetings there the day before, and she had meetings there the day after, but she was safely across the city when the towers fell.

The rest of the day after that was a blur. One kid finds a website to listen to NYPD police chatter, which is too depressing so we turn it off quickly. Eventually, they cancel classes and they herd us all into the cafeteria until parents can retrieve us. The principal gets on the PA a few more times with the news that a plane had hit the Pentagon, and then to announce a few more attacks — on Camp David, on a military base in Virginia — that turned out not to be true.

My friend Michael’s mom drives me home, and I find that both parents had beaten me there by inches. I got a special dispensation to sign onto Phantasy Star Online so I can tell my Internet gaming buddies that I’m okay.

Three weeks later, I’d get my very first cell phone. I didn’t really give much thought to the fact that I got a phone months or years before the rest of my classmates until much later.

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