It was a day of misinformation, of bits and pieces that were whispered from hall to hall. I think about my high school years a lot. Not in a sweetly reminiscent, “weren’t those the days” kind of way, but as a benchmark, a comparison for where I am now. And like 99% of Americans, I remember this day more clearly than most of the others.
I had just sat down in my physics class – 3rd period, around 9:30 am. It wasn’t my favorite place to be, but it was ten times better than pre-cal. My friend, and the only other junior in the class, slid into the seat next to me.
“Did you hear?” he asked. “Some bozo just flew his plane into the World Trade Center.”
I had never been to NY. I hardly knew what the WTC was. It sounded like a tragedy, but let’s face it, tragic things happen everyday. Who knows that better than a kid in a military town?
By the time we got to French class (4th period), we knew it was bigger than that.
I will always appreciate the way my high school handled tragic current events. I think our principal knew how fast rumors could grow, often becoming more horrific than the truth. She came on the intercom and asked the teachers to turn on their tvs for 10 minutes. And we watched those images no American over the age of 13 is likely to forget.
We felt the weight of that day, not only as Americans sharing a horrific tragedy. We felt the weight as children and friends of soldiers. My entire school knew this meant our parents, siblings, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins would be going to war. We also knew Ft. Bragg could be a target for another attack.
Training on base increased exponentially. Even at my home, 30 minutes from base, windows were rattling as our soldiers prepared for battle. On October 7, we were officially at war.
My grandmother lived in the time of Pearl Harbor. She remembers she was washing the dishes when she first heard about it. The country changed then. It changed again in 2001, resonating throughout the lives of those of us still forming impressions of the world.
About a quarter of my graduating class enlisted upon graduation. My generation can hardly remember the days when you could have more than 3 oz of liquid on a plane, when it didn’t take over an hour to get to the boarding gate, when Americans thought our country was invincible.
We’re getting older, moving into the workforce. Soon the memories of pre-9/11 will fade. In a few decades, those who were not yet born in 2001 will outnumber the rest of us. And it’ll be up to us to tell the stories. To remind them of a dark day that shaped American history, to describe the determination of the American spirit and the resilience of the human soul.
It’s our story to tell.