I was 17 and in my high school math class. A kid interrupted the teacher and said that a plane hit the Twin Towers. My teacher, clearly not processing what he’d just said, told him to stop interrupting, we had math to do. We went about class with the questions starting to buzz in our heads. What happened? We didn’t have phones or computers to get the information from. We just sat. Waited.
It wasn’t until we left that class that we heard the story. We’d gotten out in time to watch them break the news of the plane hitting the Pentagon. I was in my drama class, and my teacher’s daughter lived in Manhattan – a casting director for Comedy Central. There wouldn’t be any more class that day.
We cried. We barely understood anything. We knew it was scary and that it was bigger than we could imagine. We didn’t know that it would change the world forever.
I have no idea what else happened that day. I think they pulled us all in to the auditorium at some point. I don’t remember. I’d been to New York for the first time that spring with the theater department. We climbed to the top of the Empire State Building in the freezing cold and wind and took photos, me with the disposable camera I’d bought off the street on my way over.
It wasn’t until years later that I found this and remembered how I’d felt standing on top of that building looking out at the most defining towers in the New York City skyline; how I’d felt watching them burn.
Never forget the families, the emergency workers, the victims. The world changed forever that day. We live in a different place now. I’ll also never forget the unity we felt after the attacks. The confidence we had in our leaders, in our country. The hope.
It almost seems unbelievable that we were ever that united, even briefly. So different from the way things are now. I pray we get there again some day. We’re better together.
We’re better free.