Every year on September 11th, I tell myself that I'm going to write down my memories of that day in 2001. And every year so far, I've forgotten, or gotten busy, and I've never made that record. I remember teachers telling us that in years to come, this experience will be like members of an older generation remembering where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated. I wanted to get down everything I remembered, so today I am finally doing it.
On September 11, 2001, I was a junior at Logan High School. I remember walking into my first period math class that day and seeing that the television was on. I thought that we were watching a movie, and couldn't figure out why we would do that in math class. Soon enough, someone told me it was real; that an airplane really had hit the World Trade Center, a building I had barely even heard of. We thought it had to be some kind of horrible accident, but what kind of accident would involve more than one plane?
The rest of the day was mostly a blur of staring at television sets. I'm fairly certain I watched the towers collapse live, but I honestly don't remember for sure. Everything was replayed so many times, it all ran together a bit. Televisions were on in all classrooms, with no attempts at lessons. We were all transfixed. We couldn't look away. The belief that I had grown up under that the United States couldn't be touched was crumbling before my eyes. This was unlike anything I had ever witnessed before, or since.
I had two breaks from the television during school that day. The first was when I went to seminary. My seminary teacher insisted that it would do us no good to stare at the news and gave his previously prepared lesson, though I'm sure he adjusted it for the needs of that day. I don't remember anything about the lesson, but I remember being soothed. It was a moment of respite in that terrifying day.
The second break was for the Homecoming assembly. Yes, that week was our Homecoming week. I don't remember if we had the full assembly. I do remember going down to the auditorium. I don't remember much else.
The last thing I remember is going home after school and turning yet another television set on. I was the only one home, and I stood in our living room, eyes glued to the television. I couldn't even sit down. I remember watching as the neighboring tower collapsed after hours of burning. I remember looking around at my house and thinking how strange it was that everything was so normal here, but on the other side of the country, the world was changing.
The following days were a constant stream of media stories and folklore. There was one persisting story that there was a group of [fill in the blank] that had a huge meeting scheduled in the trade center that was cancelled at the last minute. One of the versions of the stories was about a large group of missionaries. My cousin was serving his mission in New York at the time (he was in Queens, but 15 year old me had no idea where that was in conjunction with Manhattan and pictured him walking around right by the towers). I remember being so scared that he could have been hurt, and was relieved to hear that he was safe.
When the cleanup started, we heard that there were survivors caught in the rubble of the collapse. We heard about the constant rescue effort, about the lists of missing persons and the families that were desperate to find their loved ones. It was haunting.
On a brighter note, I remember the way our whole country came together, first to mourn, and then to show an appreciation for family and God, and a massive increase of patriotism.
I visited New York City in 2005. The cleanup was long completed, but there wasn't much there. Just two massive holes where two grand buildings once stood. We leaned up against the chain link fence and stared as the memories flooded back. It was a solemn place.
Those are my memories. I wish I had done this back in high school so that I could remember more details, but the feelings are all still there, and I guess that's what counts.
Thanks for reading.