This time, 17 years ago, I was in middle school. I don’t think I’ll ever really forget how it went down. It was still early in the day, maybe 2nd period (out of seven). We were in the middle of history class when an announcement came over the intercom telling the teachers to turn on the TVs each room had and turn them to a certain channel. We didn’t get a live feed, I think we were informed within two hours of what had happened. As I understood it, then, some people had hijacked a plane and flown them into some office buildings over in New York. Being from Arkansas, I didn’t really know much about the city, itself, or what the World Trade Center was or what it did until after the fact.
A lot of my fellow students in the room were visibly upset. One, I think, had family in New York and she was excused from class to find a way to contact them. If memory serves, I overheard that they were okay, but understandably frightened of the whole ordeal. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I wasn’t at least concerned over what had happened. It was the first terrorist attack of which I’d been aware, having been only six years-old when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Kids were scared, some were crying, the teachers tried their best to console them, but I don’t think they really believed they could do very much. How do you tell a middle schooler that they or their loved ones won’t be next convincingly? Especially after watching two giant buildings in one of the biggest, most well-known cities on the planet be destroyed with such ease. The teachers were scared, too, I’d wager. Again, I can’t say that I blame them. I don’t know if any of them had friends or family, over there, but I wouldn’t much doubt it.
It kind of brought a lot of things into sharp relief, for me. I knew what death was, by then, having attended at least one funeral that I can recall in addition to losing more than one family pet, but the idea that so many people could die in such a short period of time…I think “sobering” is the right word. It could strike at any time, anywhere, and you could have absolutely no idea it was coming. One minute, you’re just going about your normal, otherwise boring day, and the next…you’re just not there, anymore. It really made me appreciate just how horrible things like that can truly be, and I think that’s why I don’t think I can ever truly forget what happened, on that day.