Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where were you on September 11th?

I was at school. I'd started college January 2001, so is been away from home less than a year. I was in my second dorm room, with only one roommate, which felt like a luxury after last semester with an unpleasant roommate. It was also the first time we had AC, and we'd just gotten a phone and I'd just gotten my computer a few weeks before. 

We heard about what had happened in my first class that day--poetry. The teacher was sort of flighty and excitable at the best of times, but this morning he was distraught. He wasn't making a lot of sense. There was a disaster. It was terrible. It affected us all. We were going to have class normally--but of course, that didn't happen, and we gave up. 

We didn't have a tv in out room, so D and I went down to the rotunda, where the school had set up a big tv at the beginning of the semester--only like two or three weeks previous--and we watched the news for hours with other students, trying to figure out what it meant, who had done it, how it could happen.

It took us days to get calls out to call home--the phone was hinky at best, a barely-useful add-on to our 1800s-built dorm building. With everyone is school calling home, plus everyone in the country calling everyone they knew, plus every computer in the city trying to access dialup, we couldn't call anyone. We didn't have cellphones yet. 

Classes were canceled. Then a tropical storm hit, and we were stuck inside with only intermittent phones, almost no internet, and hours of conflicting news stories.

I had a high school friend going to school within sight of the towers, and we couldn't get ahold of her for weeks, and then only by email.

Another high school friend had family in New York, and it was weeks before she even knew they were still alive.

My family lived in Orlando. There was a lot of talk that if more attacks came, they'd hit places that represent America and where people gather--places like Disney. They'd target military places--like Lockheed Martin, half a mile from my highscool. They'd start at airports--two miles down from where my whole family lived. 

I thought a lot about walking down highways in a post-apocalypse, trying to find my family.

Afterward, mom couldn't get to work because the bus went through the airport and they'd shut down the airport. Dad was working driving people back and forth from the airport and attractions, and he had to take all his people right back to their hotels. D and I sat in school.

It was a blur for days after that.

I think it was Monday when we went back to school. I don't remember going back. I remember flinching when planes started up again after that, after two weeks or more of creepy-silent skies. I remember resenting that. I grew up on airbases, and I always loved the sound of planes. They were cool, exciting, they represented neat people with neat jobs. Now, they were scary.

A year or two later, I went to DC with my boyfriend. We took the train because airplanes were still scary, and costs were high, and we knew we were going to the center of government. I don't remember why we chose DC; maybe because no one else would, so there wasn't a lot of competition for hotels and travel.

The museums were open, but we were searched before entering every single one. A lot of the monuments were closed to the public and barricaded. It was surreal around the edges the whole time, but I felt better after we left. After we saw in person that things were still working.

Where were you? What was it like for you? We hear about the people at ground zero all the time, but this was something important for all of us. I'm not particularly patriotic, but this affected all of us, one way or another.
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