I was in French class on 9/11. Our instructor was describing some particular verbs and tenses which she thought were important, when I began to hear some shouting in the distance. A bit later, there were the sounds of footsteps running up and down the stairs.
It had been a fairly lousy day for me at that point, since I had been on the novice men’s crew team with practice at 5AM on the muddy crests of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Practice was hot, crazy, and uncoordinated-our coxwain yelled at us repeatedly, as usual. The novice men’s crew team had drawn an odd assortment of very fit athletes, scrawny pencil-necks, and slightly pudgy pseudo athletes who hated cross-country running and hadn’t want to try out for the uni team.
One of the things I do remember being on the water and watching the sun rise up into the sky. It was a beautiful sight and looked to be just another day.
I wasn’t really thinking too clearly when the bell rang and class ended. I trotted down the paths towards the student cafeteria, where most of the freshmen congregated for lunch.
I don’t remember what I ate-probably a burger or pasta, with a glass of orange juice most likely and a salad. Plunking my lunch down onto the table, I started gorging myself when I noted that everyone was staring somewhat intently at the TV.
CNN was showing that the World Trade Center was on fire and my first guess was that this was the prelude to another crazy Jerry Bruckheimer, “light ’em up” action extravaganza. The fire looked incredibly realistic and my bleary eyes finally read the caption: “live at this moment in NYC.”
I immediately began to suspect terrorism-as a history buff, I had noted the earlier attempt on the WTC when I was in high school. And when it came to terrorism, I began thinking of Al Qaeda, and Osama Bin Laden, whom President Clinton had gone after a few years ealier. I had thought as a high school student that the whole thing was a Wag the Dog manuever, but I suddenly was not so sure.
My suspicions seemed to be confirmed, however, when several minutes later, a SECOND airplane seemingly came out of nowhere, blasted into the side of that building, and began what became a horrifyingly abrupt disintegration.
You could hear a pin drop in the cafeteria. I could sense a lot of people, not just students but servers, chefs, and Uni staff standing behind me. For several precious moments, we all stood gaping at the gigantic dust cloud that had appeared. I think I heard someone begin to cry.
I felt something sick in my gut, and the feeling that I should try to remember this moment – perhaps something like the Pearl Harbor or JFK’s murder of my generation. I didn’t know where we were going, but I had the feeling our world was going to change forever.