I was a 19-year-old sophomore in college on September 11, 2001. Here is my account, more or less as it was written shortly thereafter.
Not a morning person, I awoke a little after 8 a.m. that Tuesday to make it to Mrs. Fabery’s 9 a.m. Elementary Spanish class. After coaxing the alarm to cease its dream-shattering blare, I turned the radio to the Tom Joyner Morning Show to prepare my brain for another long day—two classes and work at four.
I didn’t notice that the usual early-morning FM banter laced between R&B sets was not present as I splashed cold water on my face and brushed my teeth. Nor did I pay attention to the endless news commentary while I contemplated sandals or sneakers. Somewhere among this decision-making routine, I caught a snippet of the radio. Something about the World Trade Center.
I half-listened for about ten minutes as I continued to get ready for class. Why are they still talking about this? It suddenly occurred to me that there had been no commercials since the radio had been on. “Must be serious,” I muttered, flicking on the television set. It took a few minutes to grasp what was happening as I flipped through the channels and saw the same horrific images of the smoldering Pentagon and Twin Towers on every channel. Oh my God! My jaw dropped as I sank to the bed and stared at my 13-inch screen in disbelief.
In the midst of the plane crashes, fires, and ruin, it was impossible to know what was going to happen next. Could this be the end of the world? Thoughts raced through my head of Armageddon and the Apocalypse. Passages from the Left Behind series crossed my mind along with prophetic passages from the book of Revelations.
My friend Tori called, crying frantically. I held the phone to my ear as I wandered outside and lifted my eyes to the heavens, searching for a sign of The Coming.
“Oh my God, one of the towers just collapsed! Did you see that?! “ Tori screeched. I ran back inside and stared anxiously at the television screen.
“Naw, Tori, it’s just smoke…they didn’t fall. It’s smoke from the fire.”
“I’m telling you I just saw the fucking tower crumble! Oh my God what is happening…” A fugitive tear slid down my cheek as prayers fell from my lips for forgiveness, safety--and sanity.
As we all sat mesmerized in front of the television set that Tuesday, I found myself in a lonely daze. I wanted a family. What I would have given to have someone holding me as those towers came tumbling down. I called my mom and brothers down in Palm Beach County, my sister in Atlanta; not so much as to see that they were safe but for that love and security only a loved one can provide. And for some reason the number one priority in my life—school—seemed so small, so insignificant.
I actually went to campus anyway for that Spanish class. It was cancelled. I'm not sure why I went. I suppose since there had never been a foreign attack on U.S. soil, I had no idea if it constituted shutting down school.
I remember sitting at the red light, listening to the news report on the radio and looking at the people in the cars around me clutching their steering wheels, mouths agape. Later on that day, a couple friends lumbered into my apartment and we sat around and watched the news. None of us wanted to be alone. One friend's mom worked for the Port Authority in New York; I don't believe he had heard from her yet.
The word that most accurately describes that day for most of us is "fear." Utter and total fear. "Helpless" is a close second. Borrowing the lyrics from a great song, I don't ever want to feel like I did that day.