I’ve never written this down before or even really talked much about it, but I still remember many details from that day. I’m recording them now.
It was a Tuesday. I was a senior in high school, sitting in the Media Lab, since I didn’t have a class during the first period. Another student in the room was on the internet and saw that a news site (I think it was CNN) was reporting a plane crash at the World Trade Center. We went into the next room and turned on the TV. At the time, they were reporting that a small plane had crashed into one of the towers. It sounded like it was an accident.
I had brought my Spanish homework into the room, and was looking down at my book doing work that was due later that day. The news station had live audio from a woman in New York who was describing what she saw via telephone, with a live shot of the towers on the screen. I heard her scream, and looked up at the TV when the second plane, which was a large jet, hit. We instantly knew that it wasn’t an accident.
I called my mom and told her to turn on the TV. She already had it on. She wasn’t sure where my uncle (her brother) worked in New York. I sent him an email to see if he was okay. I felt weird asking him that, so I told him I just wanted to confirm that I had his correct email address.
At 9:15 we had to go to a regularly scheduled assembly. I don’t remember what the topic was. As I walked to the theater, I saw other students making their way over there as well, coming from their first class of the day. I remember thinking, “Do they even know?” I presume most of them didn’t; I didn’t hear anyone talking about the news. The assembly started, and I was surprised that no announcement was made beforehand about what had happened. At the end of the assembly, the principal took the mic and told everyone about the morning’s events. This is when I heard about the plane crash at the Pentagon, which happened during the assembly.
Soon after the assembly, I heard that a fourth plane had crashed “near Pittsburgh.” My grandparents lived near Pittsburgh.
The rest of the day was spent getting updates and information. My uncle emailed back saying that he was okay. The crash near Pittsburgh happened in a field. Many major news websites were slow or inaccessible, and the Ukrainian teacher who ran the computer room was reading less-trafficked Russian news sites and translating for us. My dad could see the smoke rising from New York during his commute home from New Jersey.
Just over two weeks later, I went on my first flight after the attacks. At the airport and on the plane, newspapers prominently displayed daily headlines about the attacks. I noticed that a large knife was left unattended just behind the counter of a post-security restaurant. On the plane, the flight attendant quietly asked the passengers in the front row if they would help him in the case that “something should happen.”
Ten years later, I was again in the airport. There was nobody in front of me at the security line. I wasn’t frisked and there was no full body scan. I read some 9/11-related posts on my phone, mixed in with pictures posted by my friends. After we took off, I read, had some wine and a salad, watched Good Will Hunting, and fell asleep. It was a pleasant flight.