I had started school the previous week. I was just a 6th grader. Due to lengthy bus routes, classes at Castillero Middle School in San Jose, California didn’t start until about 9:30AM, so I would have slept right through everything, had my mom not woken me up.
Startled by my mother hovering over me at 6:30 in the morning, I sat upright in my bed as she told me, “Don’t be scared, but I’ve been watching the news and somebody is attacking New York. They flew planes into the World Trade Center.”
At that moment, one lone thought popped into my mind: What the heck is the World Trade Center?
I followed her downstairs to watch the news. That’s when I saw (and recognized) the Twin Towers, with gigantic pillars of smoke floating above the New York skyline. They replayed clips of the planes making contact over and over again. My mom chimed in, “I saw the second one hit! I was watching the news when it hit.”
The news reporters were scrambling for information on the Pentagon…which I also never heard of before. It happened so fast. I was surprised that the reporters remained composed. Me, my mother, and my 8-year-old sister were glued to the TV, wondering when it was going to end.
Then I remember seeing a huge cloud of smoke surrounding the top of one of the towers. The reporters stopped for a moment. My mom yelled out, “Oh my god,” and we watched the tower crumble to the ground.
The images burned into my mind are videos of businesspeople running from the dust cloud (some tripping and disappearing in the haze) and the sounds of people screaming in agony in the streets of Manhattan.
We all sat in disbelief. Tears welled in my eyes…so many people just died in a few seconds. I thought this couldn’t happen to America.
When the second tower fell, we turned the TV off and silently rode to school. Kids were joking about it, saying that they were headed for San Francisco, and that the Capitol Building would be bombed.
The rest of the day is kind of a blur. I remember my first period teacher saying, “Nobody is allowed to talk about what happened, this is a math class.” My second period teacher canceled our science lesson and we had the chance to ask questions.
The following year, I watched a memorial program on TV. Enough time had passed for me to understand how devastating that day was. I cried like a baby.