I never really thought my story was worth remembering or retelling because I wasn’t as directly affected as most.
I was 10 years old when the 9/11 attacks occurred, and honestly, I didn’t really understand what was happening.
I lived in a small town in Pennsylvania called Johnstown, that ended up being less than an hour drive away from where Flight 93 crashed in a field near Somerset, where I’d been to a few times with my family.
I’m not exactly sure what time it was, but I believe it was between 8-9am in the morning. I was in Mr. Kist’s 5th reading class when another teacher came in and advised him to turn on the television, which was mounted up on the wall.
When he turned it on, the first thing I remember seeing was a tall building on fire being recorded from a news helicopter. I didn’t know what building it was, but everyone called the two buildings the “Twin Towers.” Some students seemed to know what it was, while others like me were in the dark.
My teacher seemed very torn up by it, and gave the rest of us a feeling that something was very wrong. He said he had only driven just underneath the Twin Towers the past weekend, and it was only Tuesday.
I clearly remember people repeating over and over on the TV that it was live footage, so that even if it was happening a state away, I was seeing it exactly as it was happening. It was the first time I’d ever seen anything like that.
It wasn’t until I saw the second plane flying in that I realized just how bad what was happening was. I remember clearly watching as it flew into the building, an uproar of screams and gasps coming from both the TV and the people in my classroom. I distinctly remember my teacher saying “You will remember this day for the rest of your lives.” I immediately focused my brain to remember every little detail I could, and even today, 10 years later, I still remember it almost as clearly as yesterday.
The school’s intercom began ringing on and off, calling one student after another to the office. “So and so please report to the office with your things,” it would say. Parents who had seen the news had all driven to the school to pick up their children. The TV remained on for the next hour or so and the intercom slowly began to stop calling names – by then I was one of the last students in the class, with only 4-5 others along with my teacher.
My parents had apparently turned on the TV late in the morning and hadn’t realized what was happening until then. It wasn’t until I was home, shortly after 10pm, that we heard of the plane that had gone down in Pennsylvania.
For some reason I don’t recall ever being particularly fearful. I was more alarmed and confused, and once I began to understand, I was just angry. But I still very clearly remember the fear around me, more so in the adults in my life. My parents put me and my younger brother, who was about 7 at the time, in the living room while they spoke in the office they had built. They were trying to get a hold of my sister, who was out of town with her boyfriend that week. I don’t remember where she went, but I remember it was tough to get a hold of her. They eventually got a hold of her and told her the news, though she was safe.
I’d had many friends tell me they’d had an uncle or cousin or something that had either been working at the Twin Towers at the time or had previously worked there, but I could never relate. I don’t believe I knew anyone lost during the 9/11 attacks, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like.