I was less than a month shy of my 18th birthday, and was completing my morning routine before heading to school. I always either listened to CDs on my boombox or listened to the radio while I was showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc. That particular morning I opted to listen to a radio program that I enjoyed. Every Tuesday morning they asked an ‘impossible question’ and listeners would call in and guess the answer. The winner was awarded something like $100 and a t-shirt. It was silly and entertaining to listen to all the guesses. Sometimes I would even try to call in, but could never get through. The minute I turned on the radio that morning I knew something was wrong. The radio show hosts sounded uncharacteristically somber. They were saying things like ‘we’re trying to be responsible journalists and only provide factual information rather than speculation.’ I leaned in closer to my radio and turned up the volume. I distinctly remember they said we’re sorry if you’re waking up to this terrible news and hearing about it for the first time from us. I kept thinking what terrible news? What happened?? Just say it! And they said a plane hit one of the twin towers about an hour ago and now the other tower is on fire too. At that point I ran to my mom’s room (my parents were divorced and I had no siblings) and she was awake but not out of bed yet. I said are you listening to the news?! And she sat up and said no, why? I didn’t answer but just bolted to the living room and turned on the TV. Practically every channel was broadcasting footage of the WTC. My mom ran into the room, looked at the TV screen and gasped. She said look at New York City! It’s covered in smoke!
I ended up going to school that day (on the west coast we were more removed from the events and I truly thought I would get in trouble for skipping school if I stayed home to watch TV). There were TVs in most classrooms. If a classroom didn’t have a TV, those students were moved to another classroom that did. We watched the news broadcasts all day. I remember my government/economics teacher was crying as she watched it. My choir teacher pointed to the TV screen at one point and said remember this. This is history being made. It was so hard to watch. The news networks replayed the footage of towers collapsing over and over. From every possible angle. Even now, nearly 20 years later, I feel a deep sadness every time I remember that day. The U.S. was never the same after that.