Country music singer Alan Jackson has a touching son that asks the question, “Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?” Yes, he means September 11th, and the song is a touching reminder of what has been lost and how connected everyone was to the event.
So today, I want to tell you where I was.
In 2001 I was still in high school. It was a big year for me. I was 16, I’d spent the summer living in Russia and I had grand dreams of travel and excitement. But it was the school year and that meant I had to navigate high school. Lovely, huh? Since I hated PE, I’d opted to do band. I swear, I would never have lasted through band if it weren’t for my hatred of PE. By 7am we were out on the marching grid practicing for the season. When the first plane hit the towers, I was twirling a flag and breaking my cheeks smiling way too hard.
My first class was economics with my favorite teacher, who would die later that year. My best friend and I came into the class with the same excitement we always had in his class. He had the seldom used TV pulled out and a senior I didn’t know was crowded around it with him. I didn’t usually sit in the front of the class, I’m way too fidgety for that, but my friend and I did. In a hurry our teacher explained what had happened and the class, mostly band students, sat down and watched.
We either saw the second plane hit the tower in real time, or the first replay of it. For the entire period we watched the news and our teacher talked through the government and economics of what was going on. I don’t remember anything he talked about, but he did a great job of keeping a class of 30+ band kids calm.
Everyone was subdue and worried, because we really had no idea of what was going on. During the between class time the power went out. Classes were shuffled into the exterior facing rooms so that we could open the windows and have some light. I spent the remainder of the day sitting on tile floors listening to a crackling radio.
We had no idea how wide spread the attacks were and if we should be concerned. Not too far away from where I went to high school was a nuclear power plant that should it be hit, would impact a huge portion of Texas and the surrounding states.
During the day we learned that a small biplane had crashed into some transistors. Students were becoming hysterical, thinking that the plane crashes were related. People were calling their families, parents were coming to get their kids and the school finally sent everyone home in the early afternoon.
It wasn’t until I got home that I understood our power outage, which didn’t impact my house in the country, and the terrorists attacks weren’t related. Still, it was a scary day. For hours, and days since they couldn’t get power going back at the school, I watched the news. It’s a time in my life I won’t be forgetting.