I was in my second year of high school, in East Chicago, Indiana. On September 11th, 2001 we were in the second day of ISTEP testing mandated by the state. I finished my test super early and roamed the hallways playing around with friends until my next hour class started. I arrived in my class and everyone was huddled around a TV, completely plastered to what I assumed was a movie. This was a music class and the teacher was extremely lax, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary… except for there were other teachers and students watching too. This was a state test day, a “rules relaxed” morning. Didn’t raise any alarms with me. I decided not join them, instead sitting alone working on homework.
Over the next few minutes I began hearing things from that TV that peaked my attention. For one this “movie” sounded like a continuous CNN news broadcast – and what they were reporting sounded particularly horrible, even for Hollywood. Still under the assumption this was a movie, I got up and finally joined the others. Not 15 seconds after I plastered my eyes on the TV the South Tower fell. The people started tearing up and gasping, even the teachers. Grey smoke billowed up into the sky, and then a second larger grey dust cloud engulfed the blocks below. I stood utterly amazed, goosebumps traveled up my arms… I pointed and commented “What movie is this? It looks incredible! It looks so real!”
Everybody looked at me like I had 5 heads. One of the older students broke it to me that in fact this was real life and not a movie at all. I couldn’t believe it! I could not believe that I stood there and potentially watched thousands upon thousands of people perish in seconds. The real possibility of the North Tower falling as well made our stomachs knot. This is the World Trade Center we’re talking about!
I was made aware that passenger jets crashed into both towers, while I was in the hallways an hour earlier playing around. CNN then began to replay the second jet crashing into the South Tower in a loop. I stood in silence hearing news of the Pentagon burning. A passenger jet crashed into that building as well. It felt like we were in the beginning stages of a war. Then, finally as we all suspected, the North Tower fell. The finality of it all was too much to fathom.
I shed tears knowing this was a critical moment in not only my life, but for the entire nation. I knew that things would be changing – but it was hard to tell if for the better or for worse. We were not let out of school early, as other schools did. For days afterward we jumped at the sound of airplanes flying over our school, afraid they were coming for Chicago and the Sears Tower, just under 20 miles away from us.