Where Were You on 9/11?

Crystal A. Walker

Twenty years later, I remember it like it happened yesterday.

Orlando Sentinel Today, 9/11 NewspaperPhoto by Aidan Bartos on Unsplash

We can officially mark the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Although it happened two decades ago, I remember the events of that day very well.

I was sitting in my high school English class. Front row and directly under the television. I was already in a foul mood because I knew when I went home after school that day that I would have to take my dog to the vet and be euthanized. He was sick for weeks, and his condition deteriorated faster than anticipated. My mom was away on vacation with her fiancé, so their burden would have to fall on me. Luckily, I knew that my dad would help me with the unfortunate task once he got home from work.

I couldn’t concentrate on any work and was dreading hearing Mrs. Stock’s next lesson on motifs and themes, and I could not help but to wonder, How are we still talking about Hamlet?

She burst through the door, and I thought, Here we go. Queue Hamlet’s ghost… To my surprise, I saw the shock on her face, and she said, “There has been an attack on the World Trade Center.”

Watching her alarmed, I was taken back. I have no idea what the World Trade Center is, but it sounds important.

She reached above my head to turn the television on and there it was. Live.

A skyscraper was on fire, people were running in the streets, civilians were trying to climb down from their story. I even saw people holding hands to jump to their deaths. I could not believe what I was watching. My stomach started turning into a gut-wrenching knot. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

Another plane hit the second tower.

This cannot be happening.

It was chaos. For hours we watched the coverage, and the news jumped from incident to incident: The Twin Towers, crash in a field in Pennsylvania, and attack at the Pentagon. The world has gone insane, and we’re under attack.

Finally, I saw it: The north tower collapsed and a half hour later the south one did too. It looked like a plume of a small atomic bomb exploded over Manhattan. Innocent people, firefighters, paramedics, and police officers were covered in dust and blood.

I could feel the energy in the air puffed out for I knew there were thousands of people now waiting at the Pearly Gates. Mothers, brothers, friends, and co-workers. For a moment, I forgot that I was going home to put my dog down, but told myself, He will have many people to play with now and help make happy in Heaven today.

Driving my sister and myself home, I saw lines a block long at the gas stations. I could see the fear behind my sister’s eyes, struggling to understand what was happening. I reassured her as best as I could, hid my own concerns, and let her know it would be alright. As long as big sis was with her, she knew she was safe.

The rest of the day was a blur once we got home. I kissed my dog goodbye for the last time, as my dad took him for me to the vet to spare us any additional grief.

For weeks, I saw newspapers churning out the hot press, and for months our neighborhood flew every American flag that could be found. A tragedy brought our nation together on a dark day, and I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this what it was like after the Pearl Harbor attack?

I realized that there are people alive who have seen both attacks on our soil. Is it possible that I will experience the same thing in my lifetime?

Here we are, twenty years later, and I remember the day well. As an instructor myself now, I see that my students are not old enough to remember that day and weren’t even born. All I can tell them is my story, which pales in comparison to the heroes and victims of that nightmare.

However, I do tell about a story of a woman I met who was a 9/11 survivor. She was my neighbor, and for years, I never knew what had happened to her. Occasionally, I’d go over to her house and help with tasks around the house due to her handicap. She sometimes slurred her words, and I believed it had something to do with the apparent dent in her skull, but I thought impolite to inquire.

Helping her move some boxes around in her sewing room, I commented about how all of the beautiful quilts she had made.

Smiling with the functional side of her face, I can see a small tear swelling in her eyes. “After I came out of a coma and I recovered, I took up quilting and is a part of solidarity.

I was utterly confused. Then she hit me with it, “I was in the second tower of the World Trade Center when it collapsed.”

My eyes bulged, my heart skipped a beat, and the memories flooded back. It was like I was there as she told the story of how she was accidentally pushed down the stairs and pinned down under the stampede of people trying to evacuate. The smoke filled the building, screams were heard, and then darkness.

My neighbor was in a coma for nearly a year and recovered from a crushed skull and a stiletto that punctured her lung.

I couldn’t help but to cry and give her a hug.

“On this day… 19 years (September 10th) ago, 246 people went to sleep in preparation for their morning flights. 2,606 people went to sleep in preparation for work in the morning. 343 firefighters went to sleep in preparation for their morning shift. 60 police officers went to sleep in preparation for morning patrol. 8 paramedics went to sleep in preparation for the morning shift. None of them saw past 10:00 am Sept 11, 2001. In one single moment life may never be the same. As you live and enjoy the breaths you take today and tonight before you go to sleep in preparation for your life tomorrow, kiss the ones you love, snuggle a little tighter, and never take one second of your life for granted.”

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Top Writer in Humor and Travel on Medium. Self-published fiction author on Amazon and serialized writer on Kindle Vella. A long-time resident of the Gulf Coast & Full-Time RVer who enjoys covering local and unique topics.

Pensacola, FL

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