Sept. 11, 2001 started out like any other day for me, one week from my 17th birthday and in the first couple of weeks of senior year of HS. We were filing in as usual into the doors into the dining hall to wait for the start-of-classes bell to ring. But for some reason the crowd was moving more slowly than normal. News was traveling though the crowd of students: a place hit the World Trade Center, a bomb went off in NYC, confusion. By the time I got inside, TVs were already set up in the dining hall for people to watch. It was then that the second plane hit, and then that everyone got truly frightened, because now we knew the crashes on purpose. Everyone who had a cell phone was on it, blatantly disregarding the “no cell phone” rule (a few minutes later, the dean came on the PA and announced that cell phone would be allowed that day).
They canceled first perdiod, I think, and rumors spread wildly. There was smoke coming from the White House, god knows what. We heard about the Pentagon shortly thereafter. Classes resumed, but of course nobody could concentrate. Some teachers simply had TVs on, but in most if mine we just had discussions. Eight years later I am grateful for those teachers, because they were willing to let us express our fear and concerns. And they told us what they knew. Most of my teachers were middle-aged and older that year, and I remember feeling reassured being talked to by people who had lived through the scariest days of Vietnam, the Cold War, the Kennedy Assassination.
I got home that afternoon to find my mom glued to the TV. I had seen so much TV already that day. Four planes had crashed, the towers fell, I was scared and unsure and couldn’t take the imagery anymore. I went to do my homework and listened to the radio–the country stations had all patriotic songs, the classical station WFMT played Mozart’s Requiem and Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. I remember I volunteered to get Popeye’s takeout for dinner, because nobody else wanted to stop watching TV. I remember also talking to my dad after he got home, wondering if we would all be dead soon, what would happen to us. I just remember him reassuring me, saying that if we cower in fear than the terrorists have won. He was only scared of what the maniac Bush would do–well, we know that answer now.
Back then I was a member of the Chicago Children’s Choir, and by the end of that evening we had gotten two phone calls asking for availability for a WGN (local TV station) memorial spot, and memorial service at the Field Museum. In the next week there were more TV spots and dozens more memorial gigs, including the official Chicago memorial in Grant Park. In the next month I sang more “Star Spangled Banner”s and “Amazing Grace”s, “God Bless America”s and “America the Beautiful”s than I can count. To this day, I know every verse to each of those songs by heart.
9/11 stands for me as not just a day, but a whole period in which I saw the world change, and myself change with it. I was prouder of my country than ever before.