Taking a brief step away from the Disneyness of this blog to talk about what today is all about, remembrance.
Where was I ten years ago? I was in my second week of 7th grade. I was in a new middle school building and was still trying to figure out where everything was. My morning had been normal, went to my first few classes. I remember hearing only one or two people talking about a building being blown up, but I didn't know what the building was, just knew that it was in New York. It quite honestly didn't sound like a big deal to me, I didn't understand that terrorists were involved, I just thought some kind of accident had happened in the building. I really thought nothing of it.
I had my band class over lunch that day, which meant I had the last lunch, the 3rd one. I loved those days because it meant a full hour of band, my favorite. Near the beginning of class, a couple students were called out for an early dismissal. Seemed pretty normal, didn't really think about it. About ten minutes later, four more students had dismissal, and then a few minutes later, a group of three or four more. Every five minutes or so groups of people were being called for early dismissal. This is where I started to get confused; there was no way that many people had doctor appointments and would be pulled out at the same time. This is when the rumors started swirling.
Being in the band class, you had students from all over the building in the same room, so while none of my teachers had the televisions on in the morning, others had and some of the students had seen some of the news footage. There was talk about planes blowing up, buildings blowing up, the Pentagon being blown up, I remember even people talking about the White House and Capitol. Everyone kept saying "blown up" because we hadn't known how the planes were involved, they kept seeing buildings with smoke so they figured explosions.
After band we went to the cafeteria for lunch, where rumors continued to swirl. About five minutes into lunch, my principal walks in and gets us all to stop talking. He tells us that the school was to have early dismissal and the natural reaction from a group of 12 and 13 year olds is to cheer, as some students did. Remember, we really had no idea what was going on. The principal freaked out at this reaction, telling us that something terrible was happening to the country and we were to go directly home to be safe. This sent a hush over the room, we finally knew that something serious had happened, though we still really didn't know what. We were given a few minutes to finish eating and were told to go to our homerooms to await dismissal instruction.
Walking in the halls to our rooms was surreal. I saw teachers and students in groups, some crying. We got our bags from the locker and waited for the announcements. I remember hearing people talking about schools being threatened, which was why we were told to go home. I had a Columbine type situation pictured in my head, which didn't seem to make sense with the other news I had heard. I remember emptying my locker and taking all of my books home even though I didn't have much homework by that point; since I wasn't sure what was going on, I figured that if I had everything with me I would be prepared.
Everyone was dismissed and people started getting on their buses to go home. I was a car rider, carpooled with a friend of mine, so we met up and stood outside. We didn't have cell phones so we were hoping that my mother or her aunt knew to come get us. We figured it would be her aunt because I knew my mother would be taking care of my little sister first because she was only in third grade. After waiting a few minutes, we went inside to ask the office if we could call one of them to make sure they were getting us. They told us that cell phones weren't working because towers were down, so there was no use in calling. We walked back outside and sat on the steps, a little nervous. All the students were gone at this point except for us and while we sat there we saw teachers starting to rush to their cars and leave, none of them really paying much mind to the two of us sitting on the steps.
It was at this point that I started to believe that this was the end of the world. Buildings blowing up, schools being threatened, communication down, to a 13 year old the end of the world seemed like a logical explanation. I felt completely cut off from everyone and everything and I really could not figure out any other way to explain it.
After talking it out, my friend and I decided that the most logical thing to do, since we could not get a hold of anyone, was to start walking to her aunts house. It was a good 5 mile walk and would have taken us a few hours, but since we didn't know what was going on or what to do and almost the entire school was emptied, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We started walking along the path to her house, walking along the road where her aunt or my mother would have seen us if they did end up driving to get us. I think it was at this point, while we were walking and everything was so quiet that I started wondering if anyone was left on Earth. We didn't see a car or anyone else walking along the sidewalk and I remember specifically looking at the sky and not seeing any planes either, which would be a normal thing to see and hear being only about 20 minutes from the Philadelphia airport.
We were only walking a few minutes when my friend's aunt came down the road. Wow was she upset with us for starting to walk, telling us how unsafe it was, but she calmed down quickly when we explained to her why we did it. She drove towards my house, telling me that my mom and sister were already there (my mom had went to pick my sister up from school as I had suspected and had woken my friend's aunt to come get us) and then proceeded to fill us in on what was really going on.
The rest of the day is a blur to me, I don't even remember getting home. I just remember images of me sitting with my mom and sister crying while we watched the television. The images that we all associate with that day flashed on the television over and over again and I tried to understand what was happening. While I knew the hard facts, I could not understand why.
So much has changed in the last ten years, but I think I always will be wondering why, just as I did on that day.
I had seen both Ground Zero and the Pentagon a little over a year later and, if I can find them, I will post the images later for you. If you would like to share your story with me, I would love to hear it. Feel free to post any comments below or, if you would rather share privately, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.