9-11 Memorial in New York City

What’s Stuck With Me: 20 Years After September 11th

Trigger warning: This post discusses the events of 9/11/2001.

Twenty years ago today, two planes crashed into the Twin Towers. I think a lot of Americans have “where were you” stories for different events: JFK’s assassination, the Moon Landing, Pearl Harbor. My story for 9/11 takes place while I was a sophomore at NMU.

I was relaxing before going to work. It was a Tuesday, and I only had one class at 2 pm on Tuesdays, so I worked a lunch shift in the cafeteria. My roommate, Marc, was getting ready for class or studying, or something, and had on CNN, as was his custom. Our suitemate, Dan, was in the shared bathroom, also getting ready for the day. I was probably on my laptop, doing nothing important when the news cut to New York City where they were reporting on a plane colliding with one of the towers of the World Trade Center. There was no explanation for it at the time. The reporters were conjecturing on what might have caused such a terrible accident.

And then the second plane collided live, before our very eyes, on television.

It seemed like something out of a Bruce Willis movie. Even the reporters were speechless. One plane might be a tragic accident, but two? We had no idea what the hell had happened on those planes or why they would crash into two of the most visible buildings in New York in broad daylight on a beautiful late summer morning.

“Dan,” I said. “You might want to get in here.”

“Why?” he asked.

“A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.”

“What? You’re joking,” he said.

Dan came out of the bathroom into our room. He, Marc, and I watched the TV, trying to understand what had just happened. I had to go to work, so I left the room.

I don’t remember much of my work shift. There were few people since it was between breakfast and lunch. At some point, the PA system in the cafeteria, something I don’t remember being used except for music the previous year or after, came to life to make an announcement: classes were canceled for the day. I only had one class, so it didn’t impact me much. Some of my peers didn’t know what had happened yet. My memory of the announcement is hazy, but they told us they were concerned about attacks elsewhere in the country.

I don’t remember ever talking about that day with Marc or Dan after that, especially so soon after, while we were still in college. Fortunately, removed by distance in our small little midwestern university, no loved ones were in danger. My family worried for my brother, who was in the Marine Corps at the time, that he might be deployed, which never happened luckily. One of my friends from high school, Kenny, served in the Army and did get deployed to Iraq. He was in the infantry, but he made it through his tour of duty and enlisted in the Navy as an IT person, which he’s still doing today.

While the event didn’t directly affect me, it’s still pretty fresh in my mind: the shock and feeling of powerlessness. The tragic loss of life and horror at the situation. These things didn’t happen in America, until they did. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment when the second plane crashed for the rest of my life.

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