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“A Second Plane has hit the Second World Trade Center. America is under Attack”
Remembering that horrible day in September which also happened to be my first vivid memory when I was in first grade.
“A second plane has hit the second World Trade Center. America is under attack.”
Those were the words coming out of the school intercom at Cornerstone Christian School in San Angelo, Texas at around 10 AM central time on September 11, 2001.
That it was spoken by the school secretary whose husband was currently stationed at the local Air Force base only added to the gravitas of the statement.
Everyone who can remember has their story of where they were when they found out about that horrible day in September 2001.
My story isn’t any different except that I was in first grade, and it’s the first memory I can vividly remember in my life.
That Tuesday morning changed everything, of course.
We don’t board airplanes like we used to, we became a little less trusting of those who looked like they came from the Middle East, and we lost the innocence that a country that had never been attacked by a foreign group on our mainland once had.
I look back at the 7-year-old in that classroom in San Angelo, Texas, and wish I could comfort or at least explain why people reacted the way they did.
Before those dramatic moments, it was like any other day. I was in my reading group, the Bluebirds, with my teacher, Mrs. Hayes. That announcement came over the intercom, and she told us to go quietly to our desks.
I did not know what the World Trade Center was, nor could I fathom what happened.
America was under attack?
What did that even mean?
I was just in a reading group learning how to read.
I certainly became even more confused at what happened next: my teacher started a prayer and then broke down in tears in the middle of it.
Like many others around the country, that night, my dad held a prayer service at our church. The totality of the devastation had still yet to be fully known, but I remember him mentioning the thousands of lives lost.
Trying to connect the dots, I convinced myself that my teacher must’ve known someone personally who died.
That was why she started crying.
It didn’t make sense why a teacher from west Texas would cry about something happening in New York.
Obviously, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand why she felt that way, and why my hugs with my parents felt a little tighter and closer that night before bed.
I can’t imagine being a parent or an adult looking over children and knowing what to say to them after something so horrific. I’m in tears even thinking about that. That must be what many parents’ conversations have looked like in back-to-school preparations with their children after Uvalde.
In addition to that feeling, living and working where I’ve worked has added to my curiosity and passion for learning more about that horrible day. Whether it was at 1211 Sixth Avenue at Rupert Murdoch’s building, or the one owned by a mouse on 66th, or more recently at 30 Hudson Yards, I’d search the archival footage at each company and watch either b-roll or coverage from that day.
In my YouTube browsing, I’ve also watched the Today Show or GMA from that day.
There’s something about watching a telecast of a show before something happens to then watch it happen in real-time and then see how a production team deals with that event happening.
I’ve watched local reporters from WABC or WNBC broadcast live. That some of their equipment was destroyed by those attacks raises the level of respect I had for those teams.
I’ve watched Mayor Giuliani, Governor Pataki, and Senators Clinton and Schumer all working together for the city of New York.
I’ve watched members of Congress be it, Charles Stenholm, from San Angelo to Sheila Jackson Lee from Houston standing together proudly in front of the Capitol in D.C. singing God Bless America.
I’ve also watched a lot of documentaries about that day from seemingly every facet of the tragedy.
From President Bush’s day starting in Sarasota, Florida to Louisiana to Nebraska to finally back to Washington D.C. to those that lost their lives be it the Todd Beamers to those who worked at Windows on the World, I’ve learned from those documentaries.
I’ve watched a documentary on those students at Emma E. Booker Elementary who were there that day listening to President Bush reading The Pet Goat.
As someone who was those students’ age in that classroom, I’m grateful that President Bush did what he did when Andy Card whispered what he whispered.
As mentioned, I was confused and could not understand what fully happened until years later.
I’m glad that he had the foresight to not get up right away but instead stayed until the lesson was over. He was criticized by some at the time for that move, but I believe most reasonable people now agree that he did what was right at that moment.
It’s been twenty-one years. I have not forgotten that day.
To those 2,977 who died from those attacks and their families and friends still grieving their losses, I will never forget.
I promise that I will teach those that come after me about that horrible day.
And in doing so, I will always honor those who were taken from us.
Never Forget. Let’s Roll.