On September 11, 2001, I was still living in New York, teaching at a middle school right outside of the city. It was the most beautiful almost fall day. Crisp air and clear blue skies.
I remember the principal announcing on the PA that our computers were down. We knew immediately, almost instinctively, that something was wrong. My assistant went to the front office to find out what was wrong. She came back and whispered in my ear. I attempted to stay calm while my students sat in front of me, many of whom had parents working downtown. I finished that class and the majority of my students left to go to their next class. I gathered the children and went into the building. Unfortunately, we did not realize that the principal had already told the majority of the students. The students who were with me were shocked when a student ran down the hall screaming, “The World Trade Center was bombed!”. Some began crying as they began to process that information. I watched the realization that their parents may have been injured or killed wash over their faces. I will never forget how they looked at me. I felt helpless. I took them into an office and allowed them to call their parents to make sure they were ok. We went into lockdown after the students were told.
Knowing our proximity to a nuclear facility and not realizing what was really going on, I kept looking out our floor to ceiling windows and prayed that nothing was coming our way. My thoughts starting racing about the safety of my cousin and other family members who either worked in or near the Trade Center. I called home and after a while, I found out that my family was safe, but not unaffected. In the months after, I found out that my high school classmate was killed along with her unborn child. The most unnerving aspect of the event is that my sister and I always knew the towers wouldn’t be there one day. On September 9, we drove the NJ Turnpike home from a wedding. As we across the river, my sister repeated our feeling. One day our skyline would be changed. Little did we know what would happen two days later. Maybe God was preparing us. I wish He didn’t have to.
What happened after this horrific event, instilled in me how resilient we are in our country. How amazing the citizens are. How much I loved my fellow New Yorkers. And especially, how brave and selfless our first responders are, to this day. A few days after, I traveled to the city on the West Side Highway. First responders from all over the country flooded the highway in an attempt to reach Ground Zero. All along the highway, my fellow New Yorkers stood holding signs and flags, cheering as they went by. The sound was deafening and something I will never forget. The honking of car horns, cheers, and applause mixing with the sounds of sirens.
September 11th changed me forever. I will never take freedom for granted. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to every first responder who bravely stood and fought against the evil that was perpetrated on us that day. The ones who willingly gave their own lives in a truly selfless act of heroism in order to do what they do…protect and serve.
My thoughts and prayers are with every family today who lost so much that day. To those in our military who fought for our freedom against our enemies, I salute you. My family and I will NEVER forget.
This is a video tribute I first saw a few years ago. It breaks my heart.