I was in 2nd grade in Northern New Jersey and the day started off like any other. I remember walking up the driveway to my school and seeing how beautiful and clear the skies were just like my new box of crayons for the new school year, except for the smoke lines that planes leave behind (we’re near Newark Airport and planes always fly over). The day was like any other; Tuesday spelling quiz after lunch was the big worry on my mind. Then one boy got pulled out of class, which was not uncommon because he had many allergies. When I looked out of the window, I saw many children being led to the parent lot by the parents, still dressed in their business attire. I just thought there was a stomach bug going around.
However students began to leave in droves, names were being announced over the PA and called to the office to leave. I was wishing my name was on the list. No luck there. I never liked being left out and I wanted to miss that spelling test.
Lunchtime came and the lunchladies were announcing lists of 30 kids at a time to go home. Still no luck at being on the list. Recess and I asked the new principal what was happening and he said that there was some problems happening at the World Trade Center. I thought he meant the Stock Market (WTC was always said to be the Twin Towers all my life) and, being that I was very knowledgeable about US history from a very young age, I began to panic that there was another Stock Market Crash and we were at the beginning of the second Great Depression.
On the playground, super hot day and we didn’t feel like running around. John said that there was a murder in Hackensack and he was coming to get us, and we all better hide! So we did under the shade of the jungle gym. Still remember that beautiful blue sky.
After lunch, they announced more names, and mine was called! I rushed to the office, after grabbing all my things from the closet, and it was my neighbor picking me and her son up. We went to her house (So happy I got to miss the spelling quiz, which happened anyway) and worked on homework and Devon and I tried to sneak glances at the news, which we weren’t allowed to watch. (his mother didn’t want us scared, which I am upset that she did, I wish I knew what going on sooner). He said he saw the towers bent over on top of each other! I walked to where she was in the living room (watching the news) and asked a question about homework. Ignoring her answer, I stared in shock at the screen full of smoke and an empty pit. Where are the towers? I had just driven beneath them a couple month before, craning my neck from the car window to look up at their looming, soaring height. Could they be…gone?
My parents picked Devon and I up (they said they had gone to my school, saw that everything was normal and decided I should stay. That’s what my parents are like) and drove us to the best playground by my house, Wooden Kingdom. Devon and I and some other boy we befriended that day, sat underneath the big purple slide, talking in hushed whispers about getting pulled out of school early, but not really talking about what happened because we didn’t understand those events. It was so hot, we didn’t really play that much. But it was a beautiful day not a cloud in the sky.
On a hill later, I could see the outline of New York, but rather than the old familiar skyline, there was 2 important things missing. Lower Manhattan was covered in smoke and you couldn’t see any buildings besides the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.
The skyline has never looked the same, and sometimes, when I see it surrounded with fog, I see that screen of smoke. I flashback to scenes in my childhood of footage of the planes crashing, adults standing with candles outside, telling me to go in the house while they whispered about people in our town and surrounding area still missing or dead, hearing about my aunt’s boss who was at a meeting on a high floor in WTC, who jumped from the building as smoke and fire filled the room, my uncle who barely escaped death by getting onto the last train from the WTC station, memorials and concerts and fundraisers, and of how beautiful that day was.