You’re an American

Date Submitted: 09/11/2002
Author Info: Nichole (Tamaqua, PA - USA) 
Occupation: Education/Training
Lived in NY on 9.11.01?: No
Knew someone who perished?: No

My parents were children when President Kennedy was shot, and many times I heard them begin stories about that dreadful day with the words, “I remember where I was…” I never thought that I would experience something that would make me utter those same words.

I am a high school teacher, and September 11, 2001, started out for me like most school days. I arrived early for work, giving myself time to make copies of the day’s assignments and make sure that my lesson plans were in order. The morning progressed like most mornings until the end of the second period of the day.

One of my students, a mischevious but loveable troublemaker, asked to be excused to the restroom. When he returned several minutes later, he entered the room and announced loudly that the World Trade Center had just been bombed and that it was on fire. Like most of the students in the class, I rolled my eyes. What was he pulling this time? He swore by his statement, though, saying that he had seen it on someone’s TV as he walked down the hall. Unable to watch TV in that classroom, and therefore unable to verify the truth of his statement, I told him and the class that we’d find out what was really going on after class ended and we progressed to our next classes.

After class, I walked down the hall, still disbelieving of his statement, and entered the room of my colleague and best friend. I told her what my student had said, and we turned on the TV together…only to stand in front of it stunned, jaws dropped and hearts pounding. By then, both towers were in flames, and newscasters were telling us things that we never thought that we would hear. America was under attack?

As my students entered, many of them asked what we were watching on TV. I realized that I had to be the person to tell them what I still couldn’t believe: that America was under attack.

Class, and life, as we knew it was suspended that day. The halls were quiet and every classroom was dark, the only light coming from television screen after television screen. It was only shock that got me through that day without breaking down.

In the days following, I both devoured and avoided all of the newscasts. I couldn’t stand to watch the footage of the towers being hit and collapsing, but I couldn’t look away, either. I changed the channel whenever they showed the family members of the victims; I couldn’t bear the sorrow and terror on their faces and in their voices. Finally, Saturday night, while lying in bed next to my husband, I allowed myself to break down and cry, grieving for all my lost brothers and sisters.

And they are my brothers and sisters. After all, we’re all human beings and Americans. That, to me, now, is all it takes to create family ties.

It’s now exactly one year later. I still sob when I watch footage of the tragedy that befell our nation one year ago. I sway between two emotional feelings. I feel overwhelming hope at the compassion and patriotism of which my fellow Americans are capable. And I feel jaded as I hear the young voices of some of my students ask, “What’s it got to do with me?”

My answer? It has EVERYTHING to do with you. You’re an American.


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