September 11 started out just like any other day; a regular day, a Tuesday. It would not be a regular day.
I was a freshman at Gilman City High School. I was in a health class on the southwest corner of the school’s third floor. A classmate said, “Did you hear they bombed the World Trade Center?” Within minutes I learned it wasn’t a bomb, but a plane. Then two planes.
I went to my next class, in the Ag building. The projector was hooked up to a computer, which was showing the MSN home page. It showed an image like something out of a movie. One of the twin towers was smoking, the other captured right at the moment of impact, a cartoonish explosion shooting out all around it from the exploding jet fuel.
I remember being unnerved as our nation frantically struggled to capture the scope of what was happening. There was another plane that hit the Pentagon. And another crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. How many were there? So many people bravely and selflessly responded to help. The towers fell.
Mercifully, there was no Twitter back then, or the bird might have exploded.
Somehow, we kind of kept our routine going. We finished the full school day. As I left school, I learned there were long lines of people trying to buy gas at the Gilman City station. They assumed we were at war. It was scary stuff.
I had a fastpitch softball game that night (several very small schools in northwestern Missouri play this sport instead of football). In a development that seems so bizarre in hindsight, we played our games as scheduled. I mean, even the NFL took a week off. But I guess playing softball beat sitting around worrying.
I remember being at my grandparents’ house before the game, watching the coverage on TV. It was the same room that my grandparents watched coverage of Kennedy’s assassination, Nixon resigning, and the Gulf War starting. I remember while I watched they showed the clip of the second plane hitting. The person on the clip was talking about the first tower smoking. Then the second plane hit and he just gasped and lost words.
The sky was starting to get that crisp, blue look it gets in Missouri in the fall, but I’ll always remember how bizarre it was at the softball game to look up at the sky and not see any plane jetstreams arcing across the sky.
I was not a great hitter that year, but somehow I got four hits in four at-bats and then we all went home.
I remember the aftermath, seeing the gripping images, watching those unforgettable World Series games in New York afterward when the Yankees hit all those huge homeruns even as Ground Zero still smoldered.
Like everyone says, I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. It’s still so poignant, so vivid, so real. I got goosebumps several times writing this.
This May I visited a friend in New York City. She lives in the building right next to Ground Zero. I took the walking tour, and it was my turn to be at a loss for words. But the new One World Trade Center, dubbed the “Freedom Tower,” is rising toward its symbolic height of 1,776 feet.
America is marching on, even if the memories of that September day seem like only yesterday.
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