Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Were You?



Twelve years ago today I stumbled out of bed and, without turning on my computer or the television, slowly made my way to my first Tuesday morning class. At the time, I was a student at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts and the early September weather made it difficult to keep progressing in the direction of the Academic building. The walk seemed a bit unusual as there were not as many students out and about as I was expecting. That thought didn’t last for long as is it could have been explained by the simple fact that it was an early class.   

I walked into the academic building and did notice out of the corner of my eye that a building was on fire but I didn’t give it a second thought as I didn’t pay attention to the location or reports that were scrolling across the silent screen. Still groggy, I finished my morning journey and settled into a seat waiting for others to arrive. About 15 minutes later every student was accounted for and the quick picture from the television passed to the back of my mind.

The discussion was opened up as soon as the young professor entered the room. We were all a little thrown off as the majority of us had stumbled our way into the classroom paying little attention to the things happening around us. Within a few minutes we were brought up to date as to the latest theories and assumptions. We were wide awake and ready to head out the door within 15 minutes of the class starting. There was little the school could do to keep us in class.

Some students ran out the door while other stayed in their seats with a flood of thoughts running through their minds and passed their eyes. I guess you could say I was in the middle. I slowly packed my things up as I was trying to remember if my dad had an appointment in New York that day. That thought was still running through my mind as I walked down the hall and into the entryway where I looked back up at the television I had passed about 20 minutes earlier. As soon as my eyes met the screen the second plane hit.

This is what I remember seeing when I turned to look at the screen.

As soon as I saw the ring of fire wrap around the tower, I pulled my cell phone (which I had just gotten a month prior) and called home. I don’t know how but the call went through. Everyone was home, everyone was okay, and everyone was glued to the television as I could hear Peter Jennings’ voice in the background.

Once I knew my family was safe at home I started walking back to my dorm but I soon found myself not wanting to go back to my room and just sit in front of the television. Instead I made my way to the administration building, walked around the side, and sat out back looking over the water at Salem on the opposite coast. For many the planes hitting the towers is the memory that will never fade from their mind but for me that it just one of the imaged emblazoned on my gray matter. One of the other images is the fighter jet which came screaming down the coast low enough that I could see the details on the mask of the pilot.

It was at that point when the gravity of the morning truly set in and I knew it was time that I went back to my room and attempt to find out what was happening. Flipping between the channels I stopped tapping the numbers on the remote just as the camera followed the men and women falling to their deaths. While I will always remember the plane flying into the building and the jets screaming over head, I will forever be haunted by the sight of people jumping out of the windows and falling between the floating sheets of paper.

The rest of the day was a blur as friends and classmates ran from one building to another and one phone to another while trying to make sense of the day. By the time we went to sleep no one had made sense of the day and no one would. All we could do was hope that tomorrow would be better than today.