It is part of my story. I remember where I was. I remember the way the day felt. It was quiet. It was sad, and it was a really long day that seemed to stretch into Wednesday without a pause. I was able to experience this day beyond my college campus because journalists told stories through words and photographs.
I was a Resident Assistant at Central Michigan University. It was my last semester in college before I was going to student teach. I was engaged to be married in December of 2001.
I heard someone briefly talking about what had happened on the way out of my first class, but without a personal electronic to verify what was going on, I decided that I would wait until I got back to my dorm room to see what it looked like on the television. After watching the news for a few minutes and getting a phone notification that classes had been cancelled for the rest of the day, I paused. I was not sure what would happen next.
My fiance, who was working at Bank One at the time called me to talk about the events. He told me that they had come together in downtown Kalamazoo and circled to share a prayer and commitment as people of our country. He explained that it was big, and would definitely change our world. Shortly thereafter, our hall director scheduled an emergency meeting. She said that we would need to be extra vigilant, and hall duty that today might be difficult: I scheduled to be on duty and do rounds that evening.
I was not sure what to expect. A few people gathered in the halls whispering about what was happening, but the thing I remember most, was that it was quiet. A regularly noisy hall was without life. I noticed that almost every door was open and the blue television screen plastered with news updates was glowing from the inside.
Part of me wanted to talk about what was happening, but the other part of me hoped that residents would not ask too many questions. I was worried and unsure about what might come next for America. I remember seeing a surplus of American Flags everywhere. They were on TV, on cars, on businesses, everywhere. I thought, “This is the day we came together as a country”.
I took comfort in knowing that America wanted to fight back with pride.
I have noticed when something devastating happens, I seem to have a need to research a lot about what happened. I want to hear the story. I want to learn the stories of the people’s lives that were lost. I was drawn to radio and video programs that had audio recordings of people during their last moments. I read Lisa Beamer’s book, “Let’s Roll!: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage”, which talked about her husband Todd who had been on United Flight 93. I wanted to hear the stories of people who had died. I wanted to learn what their lives were like. I was drawn to the kids who had lost parents, and would grow up forever changed by this day.
I was drawn to the story that was told that day.
I remember seeing picture after picture of people running, and skies clouded with the thick smoke and debris.
Earlier that year we had watched the movie, Family Man and in one of the scenes New York’s skyline including the Towers was shown. Watching that movie in January of 2001, I never imagined that part of that movie would become a historical artifact later that year.
In 2016, my husband and I visited New York City. When we walked down the street near the 9/11 Memorial, I could not help but go back to that day. When I closed my eyes, I could see people running, firefighters fighting through the rubble, and smoke. There was so much smoke. I could hear screaming and the sound of rescue vehicles; and then I heard the silence. I remembered the details, the pictures, the transitions: each part of the story that captured that historical day.
Each year the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th has been different. In 2002, I was a first year high school teacher. My students remembered the previous year well. Over the years, it was different to go to school had experience a moment of silence, but now be surrounded by students who were not even born in 2001.
The knowledge my own kids have of this day is very similar to my awareness of the day President Kennedy was assassinated, or Pearl Harbor was bombed. My information comes from text books, and people who were around to experience it.
This year, my eleven year-old son woke up and said, “This is the day of the Terrorist Attacks”. I corrected him and said, “Yes there were attacks, but this is the day that America came together, and showed courage. This is the day that no matter how bad it got we did not back down. This is a day of heroes. This is a day where the legacy of the people’s lives who were lost continued. Their story was told”.
On this day each year I am reminded of the sadness we experienced as a nation. But, September 11th, was one of the days I have been most proud to be an American”.
September 11th, 2001 will forever be part of my story. Today I continue to be proud of the stories that are being told about that day. It was after September 11th, that I realized I wanted to be part of telling stories. September 11th is part of my story, and it is also the day I realized I wanted to tell other people’s stories.