Fifteen years. Fifteen Years! Yet, it seems like yesterday. I remember the initial shock. The disbelief. I remember exactly what I was doing and where I was. Most people do.
I was sitting at my desk in our team office at Oak View Middle School in Andover, Minnesota. It was my prep period about ten minutes before nine in the morning. The door to our office, normally closed for privacy, suddenly swung open. Jen Clark who taught reading in the room next to mine stuck her head around the door, looked at me, and said, “You’d better come see this!”
I followed her across the hall to her room. The lights were off, the room darkened. The students’ heads tilted up as they viewed the television on the opposite wall in rapt attention. I stepped into the darkened room and stood at first leaning against the wall by the door. I watched the smoke rising from the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The TV announcer was describing the crash of a plane into the tower minutes before. This was actually happening. It wasn’t fiction. It wasn’t a movie. The television was showing a live event in process. The announcer spoke in a grim voice meant to impart how incredibly horrific this news event was.
This just in. You are looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. CNN Center right now is just beginning to work on this story, obviously calling our sources and trying to figure out exactly what happened, but clearly something relatively devastating happening this morning there on the south end of the island of Manhattan. That is once again, a picture of one of the towers of the World Trade Center.
The announcers went on to tell us evacuation of the North Tower was being ordered. We, all of us, students, teachers, (more of my colleagues had stepped into the room) continued to watch the live news report of what was now the blackened upper stories of the tower obscured by billows of smoke. What a horrible accident. We whispered to one another speculating about what could have gone wrong.
Then at 9:03:02 the second plane crashed into the south face of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
That was when we realized it. I remember saying aloud as I watched the replay on the screen, “This isn’t an accident!” We all continued to watch in absolute horror and disbelief. A pall of stunned silence blanketed the room. We couldn’t lift our eyes away from the television and the announcers. A classroom full of eighth grade students, other teachers, and I had witnessed the deaths of passengers in those planes. They weren’t just planes that crashed into the Towers, they were people. People who had had plans that morning. They were people who had gotten on a plane to travel somewhere for whatever reason in absolute innocent confidence that they would be arriving at their destinations safely. People, in those towers who had been killed in a second as those jets smashed into the towers, wiping out their futures and shattering ours.
You see it was in that moment that we realized, we knew, that our world, our America, would never be the same. The grief of loss was not only for those souls on the planes crashing into the buildings and those people trapped in the Towers, but also for our loss of innocence and freedom. Incredible, heart-wrenching grief!
And so, we remember. We remember what we had before and grieve for its loss. We remember the nearly 3000 souls who left us that day. We remember that evil exists and is powerful. And we, in our hard-gained knowledge, understand that we cannot take life for granted, and that we must always be aware and vigilant.