Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Decade.

I still remember exactly where I was that day.

It was in eighth grade, and I was in Mrs. Hammond's history class, sitting on a desk, talking with a friend (the same Mrs. Hammond, who would tell me that I was going to hell because I took a picture with a boy and he put his arms around me - true story).

My school gave us a 20 minute break (called "bagel break" because they sold bagels in the Pavillion on campus during this 20 minute window), which was why we weren't getting screamed at (read: condemned to hell) for talking.

It was a typical day, except I was beyond excited - that night my mom, Pat, and I were meeting my dad in the city where he got luxury box tickets to the Yankees game that evening. My dad would be in the city in meetings for the day, and was excited to get us tickets so we could all spend time together (and my mother, a Red Sox fan, was plied with promises of sushi and free alcohol in the box seats).

The thoughts of gorging myself with sushi were on my mind as I drifted into meaningless conversations with friends, and then, in a split second - everything changed.

I still remember the look on my friend's face, when he ran through the double doors screaming the news that would resonate with Americans around the world - a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers, sending it crashing down into a pile of rubble.

In a split second, all of our lives changed as we contemplated what that meant for the future. The school began to empty as we all headed for the parking lot of our private school, which had a view of the NYC skyline from a distance away. The thick clouds of black smoke were visible from where we stood, as we all hung on to each other, trying to process what was going on.

I still remember a friend turning to us and saying, "Well at least the second one is still standing."

Classes were canceled for the day, and we all huddled as an entire student body - kindergarten through twelfth grade - in the gym, where we watched the news coverage on huge projection screens. Horror broke out on all of our faces when we found out that the second tower had fallen, that the Pentagon had been hit, and of the fourth plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

Once news of the second tower being hit broke, that was when it sunk in - this was happening, this was real, and it was happening less than a half hour away.

A mass panic broke out in my school, as people thought of the family members that they had working in the Trade Center - my best friend at the time collapsed in our classroom after she tried to contact her brother via cell phone to no avail, since cell towers all over the city were out of service. This girl, who was one of the toughest, strongest people I knew was sitting on the tiled floor of the hallway scream crying over the uncertainty of where her brother was and if he was safe (we later found out that her brother was okay - he had even carried an older secretary in his office in his arms as he ran down forty flights of stairs before Tower 2 collapsed).

The hallways of my school were scattered with the student body and faculty, all consoling one another.

No one felt too big or tough to cry - it was a time that we were all truly leaning on each other.

Whatever bullshit drama had been going on, it was forgotten - enemies were seen rallying around one another, ex boyfriends and girlfriends were hugging as the tears flowed freely - for once, we were united in our grief, and our utter disbelief in what had happened.

This same unity seemed widespread amongst Americans that day, and for months after - tragedy had united us, had made us think about the bigger picture and see that we were not as invincible as we once thought.


I remember feeling removed from the situation - and then I remembered that my father was in the city that day, and the panic started to sink in for me. Parents began coming early to pick their kids up - many of whom had loved ones that worked in the city or in the Trade Center.

In the back of all of our minds, getting picked up early meant that someone that you knew had died or hadn't been heard from - there was almost a collective sigh of relief when the intercom buzzed and your name wasn't announced to pack up your bags and head home early.

My mom came to school to pick me up early - and I swear to you, I thought it was because my dad had died. My legs literally crumbled beneath me, and I had to make my way to the office with the help of two of my friends - I've never felt so out of control of my own body in my entire life. I literally had to lean on the support (physical and emotional) from my friends to make my way to the office.

Once my panic subsided as my mom reassured me that my dad was okay, I felt like I could breathe again - but only for a short time, until we got home and began seeing news reports of the devastation, that was literally so close that we could see the billowing clouds of smoke in the distance.

My dad had been on the George Washington Bridge when the first plane hit - he had ran late that day (thanks to me not being on time for school), and was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic when he literally saw the tower fall.


There were more stories that day of people who had missed the subway, woken up late, felt sick, missed work for whatever reason - even as I write this, I get the chills from just thinking about all the stories that we heard of that ended with, "and I missed it by 10 seconds."

Looking back, I cannot believe that it's been ten years. I can literally remember every aspect of that day - the emotions, the faces of my friends and fellow classmates as we heard the news, the way it felt to hug my mom, dad, and Pat when we all finally saw each other, and the heaviness of our hearts as we learned of loved ones and friends/family of friends that had lost their lives.

I remember a week after 9/11, I had to go to the city for a doctor's appointment. This was always something that I was so excited about doing, since my dad and I would head in together and then go out to dinner (and obviously get cupcakes). I'll never forget the debilitating fear that I felt as we drove into the city that day - the uneasiness hung in the air. People were going about their lives, but there was an air of caution that was so palpable you could sense it.

The hardest part for me, was walking by all the street posts that were covered in "Have You Seen My..." posters, put up by people desperate to find out what had happened to their parents, children, spouses, and friends.

(Tiles hung on a fence in the West Village, made by students in different public schools around the city with messages of hope and unity).


The days, weeks, and months following September 11th were filled with ups and downs - times of triumph and times of further devastation. But through it all, I'll never forget the feelings of unity and togetherness amidst such a dark and horrible time.

Now, a decade later, while I have grown up so much from that day, it will always be with me. Every year that goes by, I reflect on where I was, on what happened, and on how much life has changed for all of us since that day.

To end by quoting Obama with a message of hope, and how we can all grow from the tragedy and devastation of 9/11:

"Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11."


Love you all.

Currently listening to: Lovers Melt 2 - Flying Lotus


k. said...

I was in 8th grade too. Being all the way in Wisconsin, things got miscommunicated somewhere & my shop teacher came out screaming that the Pentagon was bombed.

I can't even imagine being that close to everything.

Ashley said...

I've been seeing so many wonderful m memorial posts today and I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that it's been a decade. To my third graders, 9/11 is a history lesson!

I can't believe your dad was so close to the scene, but thank goodness you were late that day! Unbelievable. And I am still getting chills looking at the fence of posters! What a beautifully written post, lady. Xoxo

Tracy-Girl @ Then I Got To Thinking said...

That would have been so scary to suddenly remember your dad was there. I am so glad he was okay! I cannot believe it has been 10 years since that horrible day in our history. I hope you are having a good weekend, girl.

Ash said...

I did read an article today saying how the anniversary of that day brings all Americans closer than ever before more so than any other event. And I can see now that what that article said was true.

People from other countries (me and mine included) can and never will fully understand what it's like to go through such an event as that. And (I hope this doesn't come out wrong) but I hope no other country ever does. That type of thing should never have happened, and yet it did, all because of some fanatical, broken human beings with beliefs and values so twisted and deformed that they have to be less than human.

I can offer my sympathies and thoughts, but I mean, how much does that mean really? From an 'outsider', like I said before, I'll never be able to truly understand what it's been like to live through an event like that. All I can say is, America's come a long way since then, and showed just how resilient and unified its people can be. That's a testament to your country and ts citizens.

I said this on someone else's blog, but I'll repeat it here; I just hope that the lives that were lost on that day and that the lives lost since then in the war effort have been worth something. I hope that the sacrifices that have been made have served a purpose and done some good to ensure that something like that never happens again, and that all of the people responsible for it, even in some small way, are brought to justice.

I hope you and your family and friends are doing alright, and I'm glad that you and your family were able to get through that day ten years ago.

Take care.

amy b.s. said...

thank you for sharing your story. 10 years later, and it still makes me cry.

Leeann @ Join the Gossip said...

Damn you! I am holding back tears at work! :)

I can't even imagine how the day was for you. I know how I felt, clear across the country. I'd be a mess if my dad were in the city. Such a tragic day.

I was getting ready for school, it was my freshman year of college. Of course after a few classes we were told to leave because nobody knew if more attacks were coming.

At the same time it was a great day because I found out I had been chosen to join a sorority. There were lots of mixed emotions that day :(

Jocelyn said...

Wow. This was so powerful to read. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be there, to see th towers collapse. I got the chills so bad imagining your friend's brother carrying that secretary down the stairs... man.

I watched a documentry this weekend called the 6 days of September and they talked about how New York was bonded and made so much stronger because of this tragdy. America was strengthened as well, but New York especially grew.

Thanks for sharing this Allison!

MizzJ said...

Great post Allison. I can't believe you were so close! I can't imagine how frightening it all was. I remember thinking it was some sick joke when I heard it on the radio, then when I saw it fall on TV, I realized it was real and nothing would be the same again. Your country has changed a lot since that day and I hope that things will only continue to get better.

Love, Lolli said...

This is such a heart-felt post. Hearing about your experience was very touching and emotional. I love your writing style, filled with so much honesty, and so pure. I can't believe it's been ten years....

sunny said...

Beautifully written. Touching and heartfelt.

Kristin said...

Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I was in the city this weekend and the air was heavy with remembrance.

Elle Sees said...

I couldn't even write about this. All I could think is that I finally realized what being an American meant.

monica said...


may they rest in peace

J said...

Thank you for sharing your story Allison. I remember someone saying you will never forget where you were on that day.. and its so true. I totally cannot believe 10 years have already passed. RIP.

Morgane said...

just a quick hello my friend to tell you i'm back and very happy to read your blog again and again
I had a special thought for the usa in the 11/9 ... I still remember what i've done this horrible day to ...

Diego R. Wyatt said...

Being in NYC that day was an overwhelming experience. I skipped out of Fashion Week shows to visit some of the memorials and they were so incredibly touching.

It's interesting to see how things move on, even though such a terrible things happen. It also reflects the resilience of people and families here.

I remember sitting in my high school classroom and watching the events on TV. Can't believe it's been 10 years.


Amin said...

Hello! ...very touching and emotional. I liked the photos very much!