September 11, 2001
I was teaching in an elementary school in Queens, New York on that horrible day. The school quickly got into a frenzy as we waited to hear news of what had happened and what was going on. We knew the towers had been hit but we didn’t know much else at that point. Our information was coming through radios and phone calls. I spent my break trying to use the phone to see if my friend who worked in the city was okay. It was frustrating because everyone was doing the same and the lines weren’t working right. We were scared. Parents arrived early to pick up their children. The older teachers strongly told me I could not take the highway home because there had been talk of possible attacks in different areas.
I took side streets and the usual 20 minute ride turned into an hour.
When I got to my neighborhood, I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. I stopped in at our local place. The kind where we all knew each other. I figured they could also fill me in on what was going on. They were watching the TV and that’s when I finally saw what happened.
My knees buckled and I wanted to throw up. It became so much more real in that moment.
At home, our family watched news report after news report.
We watched the heroes of the city push through the smoke and uncertainty.
We watched doctors and nurses come to peoples aid and comfort.
We watched people running away.
We watched people walking across the bridge covered in debris and dust.
That night , I rode around in a car with some of my best friends. One had gotten an American flag from a store in Manhattan. We waved the flag and tried to make sense of what happened.
Only we couldn’t. We all felt helpless.
New York was sad and quiet.
Later, we would read about all of the stories of people who died and the people who were supposed to be there but thanks to an appointment or missed train were not. Tragic doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was thankful not to know anyone affected but at the same time, was heartbroken.
The world was a frightening place. Our state was numb.
Then, people united.
It began in small steps and became stronger.
We saw the heroism of the police, firefighters, and paramedics. These amazing people risked their lives to save others. They lost so many and yet still carried on. Other people donated blood and support to strangers. People were kind. Trained dogs joined the search for the missing. At baseball games, the crowd held up flags and chanted, “USA! USA!” Hope was taking shape. A country came together.
We look at images now and continue to read stories about people on this day. So many lost…we can never forget.
Living in North Carolina now, I always feel homesick for New York on 9/11. It is on this day that I feel out of place the most here.
It wasn’t until last year when visiting a friend in New York, that I met someone whose husband was killed in one of the towers.
We will never forget, I told her.
We will never forget.