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September 11, 2001 MAG
Tuesday, September 11, 2001 dawned crisp and fresh at my home in Minnesota. When I awoke Igathered the clothes and make-up I would need for my senior picture appointmentafter school, and then concentrated on my morning routine: Take shower, dry hair,get distracted and pet dog, apply make-up, get distracted by phone call, setbooks by door, find coat, get distracted by magazine, look at clock, scream, runto car. My mother was visiting my grandfather in South Dakota, and without her tofind that missing notebook or pair of socks, everything seemed to takelonger.
Despite the hectic morning, I arrived at school in plenty of timeand headed for my first class with a relatively bright outlook. There were notests that day, I had completed all my homework the night before, and there wasnothing to worry about. Walking through the hall, I wished that someone wouldturn on the heat. Even with jeans and a warm sweater, I was shivering.
AsI waited for the day to begin, a classmate interrupted my thoughts of the coldand mentioned a bit of news she had heard before leaving for school: planes hadcrashed into the two World Trade Center towers in New York City. We speculatedabout who had done it, and a casual conversation ensued regarding the lifestyleof terrorists. I pictured an insane man in a plane catching the corner of a tallbuilding, possibly causing a few casualties. The story sounded sad, but notunlike others I'd heard, so my mind didn't linger on the subject. Our instructor,Mrs. Dorholt, entered the room, and we turned our attention to her.
Aftersome discussion and the reading of an excerpt from Walking on Alligators, weorganized into groups to go over Monday's assignment. Then I noticed the guidancecounselor enter our classroom and speak quietly with our teacher, who thengravely told us that the Sears Tower had been attacked as well as the two towersin New York. My arms and legs went limp and my skin began to tingle as I realizedthat something bigger than I had imagined was taking place.
When Mrs.Dorholt turned the television to CNN, we learned that the Sears Tower had onlybeen evacuated as a precaution, but the news we heard in its place washorrifying. The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. had been hit kamikaze-style by aterrorist-controlled airplane. I felt my heart plummet. Just a glance at thescreen corrected my erroneous assumption that "a small section had beendamaged" or a "few" casualties had occurred. The television showedtwo scenes, both of buildings enveloped in dark smoke. The sight was somethingout of a movie, but I knew the newscasters were telling no lie, and that thisatrocity was happening in my country.
Until that morning, I didn't evenknow where the World Trade Center Towers were, but I knew about the Pentagon. Asheadquarters for the nation's defense, and the symbol of our country's strength,the Pentagon had seemed unshakable. But the unshakable had been shaken, and Itrembled at this shocking development. Within minutes, I realized the importanceof the World Trade Center. Just as the Pentagon represented American safety, theWTC represented America's economic prosperity. It was not only buildings thatwere attacked, but two crowning features of our nation.
The live pictureson TV made my stomach churn. The huge puffs of billowing smoke reminded me of theatomic mushroom clouds I'd seen so many times in pictures of Hiroshima andNagasaki. Never before had I considered that such a terrible tragedy could happenso close to home. I shuddered, and realized, This day is going to haunt my memoryfor the rest of my life. I knew that like those who lived through theassassination of President Kennedy, I would never forget how I felt when Ilearned of the destruction taking place in my country.
I don't know howmuch time passed between turning on the television and the most devastatingmoment, but I remember it caught me off guard. As we and millions of othersaround the world watched, the tallest building in New York City collapsed. Itseemed to fall in slow motion, and I have seen it many times since in my mind.The entire episode was feeling more and more like a movie concocted by Hollywood.
The second Tower soon went the way of the first. The scene was a far cryfrom what I had originally imagined; the planes had destroyed two 110-storybuildings. The Pentagon, too, suffered damage, and there were reports of otherterrorist activities.
Throughout the day, questions raced through mymind, questions that should never be pondered: Is America at war? Who hates theUnited States enough to organize such a heinous crime? Are terrorists planningmore destruction? How safe are we? While these thoughts orbited around my head, Icaught a blessed glimpse on the television screen that helped to reassure myshaking heart. I saw, amidst the smoke of a building's destruction, the Americanflag flying. I felt what Francis Scott Key must have as he penned the words tothe "Star-Spangled Banner." Over the "land of the free" andthe "home of the brave" waved my flag in the center of a tragic day.However vengeful its enemies may be, and whatever trials may be headed its way,this country is full of a spirit that will pull it through.
This daybrought a change. Without my consent, or even my knowledge, my life was affected.It took but a moment for the day that dawned cool and bright to become the daythat changed many lives.