Do You Remember: 9/11
I think one of the most important things for my experience is where I was. On September 11, 2001 I lived in a small (its not so small any more) town in Northern Virginia. About 45 minutes north east of DC to give you an idea. It was a great place to grown up. The schools were fantastic. The community was phonemail. And the location itself was second to none.
The Blue Ridge Mountains were just a short drive to the west and Dulles Airport was about fifteen minutes to the east. The cool water of the Potomac was less than ten minutes away and the open farmlands were a short drive away.
I remember taking school trips to the different Smithsonian museums in DC and to the caverns in the mountains. It was the perfect place to grow up.
My father served 20 years in the Air Force. We lived in California, Texas, and Virginia. My father was just a few months away from retirement. My father had spent his first few years of service working with the jets. I spent many summer nights at air shows in different cities across the country. I grew to hold a passion for military planes. It is safe to say that my family is proud to call ourselves Americans.
By the time my father was stationed in Northern Virginia he had been retrained to work with computer programing. He had a desk job and no longer needed to report to a military base each day. Each day was bringing him closer to retirement and back to the world of civilian life.
Do you remember where you were on September 11th 2001?
That morning was just like any other. It was a beautiful start to the day. The school year had just started a couple of weeks prior and I was now in middle school. My school had us take eight different classes for the year and alternated 4 classes each day. I had math and english that day, so I wasn't super excited for my classes.
The Events Unfolded
The first block was uneventful. One of my classmates was called to the office. She had assumed it was for her dentist appointment that she originally thought was for the next week. Needless to say she was not excited to get to skip out on class. But, no one thought anything of it. It was not unusual for someone to get called out of class for an appointment.
Second block is where something didn't seem right. My English class typically had 25 students. There were about 17 present at the start of class. My teacher made a comment about how flu season must have been starting early. She had us work on our assigned reading instead of the planned lecture. As class went on more of my classmates were called to the office. At one point three left at the same time. There were five of us left by the time second block ended. My teacher tried to joke about there being a lot of doctors appointments, still trying to stay with the flu theme.
My third class of the day was my least favorite: algebra. I had always been bad at math and my teacher that year was not my favorite. There were ten of us at the start of class. My teacher had us work on our homework. He said that he was taking advantage of the numerous unexpected sick children and doctors appointments to grade our first quiz from the class before. I didn't even have time to pull out my text book when an office worker came to get me from class. I didn't understand. I knew that I wasn't feeling sick and I knew that I didn't have any scheduled appointments. Something was not right.
My father, along with dozens of other parents were waiting for their children in the lobby. The office workers all looked stressed and sick. Not at all like their normal peppy selves. What was more alarming was the lack of noise. It was silent. My father was normally a very easy going guy and was always smiling. I can't remember ever seeing my father look as serious. He got me to the car and told me we were going to get my brother and then he would tell me what was going on. There was no radio playing. Just more silence.
My little brother was in elementary school. It didn't take long at all for my dad to return to the car with my little brother in tow. It was still silent was my father drove us home. I finally asked my dad where mom was, since there was clearly something wrong. He said that she needed to stay at work. She needed to do her job.
My father told me that a plane had hit a skyscraper in New York City. While, I knew that it was a tragic event I couldn't understand why every one was getting pulled from school. We were six hours from New York and it had no effect on us. It was just a horrible accident. Then he told us that a plan was flown into the Pentagon. I didn't know exactly where it was, but I knew that it was close by and that my dad had friends that worked there. And then my dad said that another plane hit the other tower in New York and that there was a plane missing and was assumed to be heading to the DC area.
My dad said that my mom had called him because she felt that we could be in danger. My mom worked for a contracting company that did work for FEMA and a coworker had made the comment that they had no idea what was happening and they were worried about smaller attacks. Possibly on schools. Being in the DC area both of my parents felt that our schools could be targets. My mother stayed at work very late that day.
My dad turn on the news. I remember crying before the screen came on. My brother and I just sat there and watched everything as it happened. After a little while my father decided that sitting watching the TV was not going to change anything and went about fixing up the house. My father was using his saved up leave time to fix up the house. My parents planed on selling the house and moving when my dad returned and got a civilian job.
My brother and I were watching the news when the towers began to fall. I remember running to the garage to get my father. We sat in silence. When the reporter was able to speak again they said how they still didn't know where the last plane was. The White House and Capitol Building were being evacuated. I remember being mad that they reported that President Bush had landed in Nebraska. Why would they report something like that when we were clearly under attack?
Have You Forgotten?
The After Effects
When the ended the news didn't stop. The local news was reporting the there was an unmarked white van in the DC area that could have ties to terrorism and might have explosives. People were scared. They wanted answers. When my county reopened the schools the days were quiet. I will never forget seeing half of my classmates dive under their desks when a jet flew over. They had never heard a fighter jet before. I knew it was one of ours. I knew it was from the Air Force base near by. I was calm when I told them that it was an F-16 and that the noise meant that we were safe. Nothing was going to get past those pilots. Not after the attacks earlier that week.
It was like something from a movie. Being close to Dulles were always heard the commercial jets fly over. But, there was nothing. Nothing but military jets. I remember I got older my classmates would talk about how we lived in an area that would be annihilated by a nuclear warhead. It wasn't something you ever really forgot. We knew that we could easily become collateral damage just by living where we did. Most of my classmates had parents that did some sort of contracting for the military. Some of my classmates had family that worked at the Capitol or the Pentagon. Our first reconsiders were sent to aid the efforts at both the Pentagon and in New York.
Even now, 15 years later, I still feel the effects. I didn't know anyone that died or was injured that day. But, I felt the attack. It felt like a stab to the heart. I know that I will never forget that day. I do think that any American that was old enough to understand will ever forget. It left a scar that will never heal.