On September 11, 2001, I was an 8-year-old third grader in North Carolina. I started my day like I normally did. Mom got me up and ready for school, dropped me off, and I walked to my classroom. It was first thing in the morning, and my teacher was just getting started with our material for the day. You know, a normal school day.
Suddenly, with no warning, someone starts banging on the door to my classroom. Everyone, even my teacher, jolted and we all looked at each other with surprised, scared expressions. My teacher walked to door and opened it. It was Ms. Bumgardner, a second grade teacher from down the hall. She was sobbing hysterically and grabbed onto my teacher for dear life. My teacher stepped out into the hallway to try to figure out what was happening. She was gone for a few minutes, leaving a room full of students to simply stare and wonder.
When my teacher came back, she was crying too. She ran to the old, boxy TV set that hung on the wall and turned it on. She flipped through the channels until she found the news station. The image showed a large tower on fire. The news anchors were discussing the incident, wondering what happened, why it happened, and what to expect next.
Next thing I knew, I, and twenty other kids, saw a plane crash into the identical tower that stood next to the one that was already burning. My teacher screamed and that’s when we started to cry too. We had absolutely no idea what was happening, but we were terrified. We kept watching for what seemed like an eternity.
Then the towers fell. Smoke and ash and fire. Hundreds of people screaming, crying, running down the street. People covered in dust, bloody, gasping for air. Firefighters and police officers rushing in to help. Businessmen, shop owners, mothers with their children crouching in the road for what little protection they could get. People dying right in front of me… and I didn’t know. I could know. I didn’t understand. I couldn’t understand.
I was 8-years-old. I was a child. And now that I’m an adult, and a teacher myself, I will never forget the little girl that I was… sitting in that classroom watching the world fall to pieces right in front of her.
I was a child… but I will never forget.