I remember that day. Literally it could have been yesterday as much as it was 13 years ago. I was 22 and it’s hard to believe now that I was ever 22, so young and so naïve to the ways of the world. I lived inside a little bubble as most 22 year old Americans do. I believed the world would never change. I believed that bombings and the fall out of war were things that happened in third world countries. I believed that living in the United States saved me from the atrocities of war, if I didn’t want to see it, all I had to do was change the channel. That all changed on September 11, 2001, when war was brought to my doorstep.
The news reporters got one thing right, it was a beautiful day. It was one of those gorgeous early fall days that we take for granted. The sky was just perfectly blue not a cloud for miles. It was one of those days where you wake up and look out the window and think, “today is going to be a great day”. It was, until it wasn’t.
That morning, I was running later than usual. I had a quick walk ahead of me to the Metro that would take me underneath the Pentagon on the way into DC where I worked and went to school; I had one year left before graduation. My phone rang, I debated answering it but something inside me told me to stop and see who it was. I didn’t get a lot of phone calls and someone calling this early, it must be important. It was my mother on the other end and she wanted me to turn on the TV.
I remember her voice, she was concerned but she was also glad that I was still at home. I told her I was running late and didn’t have time to turn on the TV but she insisted. I turned it on and watched in disbelief at was happening in New York City. I reassured her that everything was fine, that nothing happens here. I made a joke about how everything in movies always happens in New York. I told her I couldn’t miss class but before I could say good bye, the world changed. The phone went dead.
I didn’t know what had happened. The TV went out, the phone was out, even my cell phone stopped working. In Philadelphia, my mother knew exactly what had happened, she was watching it live on TV. A plane had hit the Pentagon.
Then as is nothing had happened, like a storm had just passed through, everything came back on. I sat in silence watching and waiting, wondering like we all were, is this the end? I promised my mother I would stay home, that I would keep my phone near me, that I would stay alert. It was all I could do, make promises not knowing if I would be able to keep them. I told her I was fine but I wasn’t. This was one time, she couldn’t help her little girl. She was 200 miles away, connected to me only by the TV that showed things we didn’t want to see.
Around lunch time, I remember venturing outside. Everything was shut down. Roads were closed off, very few people were walking the streets. I just needed to get out and make sure that the world still existed outside of my tiny apartment. To this day, I remember the smell in the air. The smell of fire and smoke and ash hung thick in the air. It was so quiet. The only sound to be heard was the occasional roar of the fighter jets and soared over head. It was unnerving. It made you feel like at any moment something could happen. As if enough hadn’t already happened that day.
That night as I went to bed, totally burnt out on the news, I thought about all those people who ached to be with their loved ones that night.The ones that had simply went off to work that very morning and never came home.
I tell my 9/11 story not to diminish those who suffered real losses that day, their pain is real and relived every year on this day. I tell my story because there are so many other people like me who will forever have that day ingrained on their hearts and on their souls because it changed them. It changed our view of the world, of people, our safety and our hope for the future. The way of life that exisited on 9/10/2001 is gone forever. It exists only in memories of stories of the good ole days. Those are days we will never see again but to quote Robert Browning, “scattered wrecks enough of it remain”.