I was getting ready for school, watching the Today Show as I always did back then. Almost immediately after the first plane hit, they had cameras fixed on the World Trade Center. I called BJ on his cell phone to let him know what was going on. He was going to a job fair that day, and since he's in aero/astro, I figured that he would look like a moron if he didn't know what was going on, and I didn't want that...
"Some air traffic controller is so fired," I said, "Someone just flew a small plane into the World Trade Center!"
We chatted for a moment, maybe two, before I saw the second plane hit the second tower, live on TV.
"Oh my God," I said, falling to my knees, "It happened again! They're doing it on purpose!"
We debated about whether or not I should go to class (Geology 101, or "Rocks for Jocks" as we called it). We decided that there was nothing I could do, even though all I wanted to do was stay home and watch the news, so I went.
The whole way to class I felt like I should stop people on campus and tell them what was happening, but I didn't. I knew the world had changed, and if they had another hour or two before they realized it, well, so much the better for them. Ignorance is bliss. "Enjoy it while it lasts," I thought.
Everyone was talking about it before class. Several of the girls I always sat with had boyfriends who were in the military, and they were scared. Would it mean war? Someone said, "A plane hit the Pentagon," when another student came in and asked what was going on.
"No," I said, "Not the Pentagon, it was the World Trade Center," I said. I didn't say it, but I thought, "you idiot."
"No, there were three planes. Two at the World Trade Center and one in DC, it hit the Pentagon."
And then the girl I'll never forget, who stood up, hysterical, leaving all of her things behind, who ran out of the room screaming, "My dad works in the World Trade Center!" I don't know where she was going. Maybe to find a phone? I never spoke to her. It was a large class, and I didn't know how to say, "Is your dad all right?"
Of course, we didn't know about the one that would go down in Pennsylvania, yet. It was a 9 am class (we were on Chicago time, then).
I remember that the professor said something profound and appropriate, about how even though people were living through a tragedy at that moment, life needed to continue, and so we would proceed with the lesson he'd planned, but that he didn't want us to think that his heart was any less heavy than anyone else's at the news coming from the east coast that morning.
I was in class when the towers collapsed. I saw it later on the news, over and over again, as did anyone with a television that fall.
I didn't know anyone in the towers. I didn't know any of the police or firefighters who died that day. Sometimes I think I'm the only person in America who can say that. But I remember. I remember what a beautiful day it was, hardly a cloud in the sky, perfect fall weather. I remember how it felt. The anger, the fear, the sadness, the impotence, the fear, the fear.
I remember thinking that nothing would ever be the same. I remember wondering if we would ever feel safe again. I remember thinking that the world had changed forever.
It sickens me that the events of that day have been used to further political agendas, but I guess it was naive to expect anything else.
I'm grateful to all the people who have worked so hard to ensure that nothing has happened since - the FBI, the CIA, the TSA, the local police departments all over the country, even the federal government and the Department of Homeland Security. I may not always agree with their methods, but they've worked hard. They've succeeded. It's really a wonder that nothing further has happened since that day. Will we ever know about all the things that could have happened, without their diligence?
Nnone of us who lived it will ever forget that day, whether we were physically there or not. Our hearts were there. And our world has never been the same.