Originally posted 11 September 2015 on my website here.
Today is September 11th, 2016.
Fifteen years ago was the worst day in American history.
Nearly 3,000 innocent people lost their lives in the greatest terrorist attack on American soil.
And I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was September 11th, 2001.
I just started my junior year at Washington State University-Pullman. I chose to live off-campus in a rather large house on Gary Street in Pullman. I lived with four other men whose ages ranged from 21 years of age to the early 60’s.
That morning I lay sprawled out on the wooden floor covered in blankets. I procrastinated buying a box spring and mattress so this wooden floor would be my friend. I had every intention to skip a couple of classes due to a wicked hangover. I was sound asleep when my roommate at the time came into my room.
He was very emotional and a bit incoherent. He yelled, “Those fucking bastards! They fucking attacked us!”
I didn’t know what to think. My mind was hazy and the room was spinning a bit. My head was swimming in rum and tequila from the night before. I kept thinking I should ignore this guy and continue sleeping. But the TV was exceptionally loud and the rest of my roommates were eerily quiet.I got dressed, opened my bedroom door, and entered the front room.
My roommates were mesmerized by the live feed. Transfixed on the violent, surreal images being broadcast live on the television screen.
They were huddled around the television, emotionless and frozen.
Stunned as the event unfolded on national television.
They were silent.
8:46am. The first plane, American Airlines flight 11, crashed in floors 93-99 of the North Tower, killing everyone on board.
I came into the room at 9:03am just as the second plane, United Airlines flight 175, crashed into floors 75-85 of the South Tower, killing everyone on board.
Some 34 minutes later at 9:37am, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
9:59am. The World Trade Center’s South tower collapses.
At 10:03am, a fourth plane, United Airlines flight 93, crashed into a flied in rural Pennsylvania. It would be learned later that the passengers of this flight heroically tried to retake the fight from the hijackers.
10:28am. The World Trade Center’s north tower collapses.
No one knew what they were witnessing.
There was a muted gasp and then uneasy feeling of disbelief.
And then the tears came.
Silent tears that felt like daggers through our souls.
Four men weeping silently in unison
I wanted to sit down on the couch but I was motionless.
It felt like my legs were held in rapid-dry cement in a hole in the wooden floor of the front room.
I felt numb.
I felt like I had to run. In a direction other than where I was standing. I didn’t know where I wanted to run, or where it was safe to run. I just knew I had to leave because I figured that someone may attack the university. None of us knew if Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, population 25,138 people, was next. No one in the United States knew if their town was the next to be attacked.
My roommates were crying.
Even the doctorate student from South Africa was crying.
And then I started to cry.
Another one of my roommates came into the front room through the front door, dropped his bookbag and sat on the floor. He was transfixed on the TV screen. So much that we couldn’t get through to him. After I went over and hugged him and then he started to cry.
We huddled around the glowing box in the corner of the front room, perched on top of an older wooden table. It was like an altar, an altar of destructive morality…and we were its hapless devotees. We formed an unlikely union then…a safe, protective brotherhood as we witnessed the events of that day.
The events of September 11th 2001 touched each individual in the United States in a different way. The precious lives of friends, family, and co-workers were lost in the attacks. And our nation was permanently scarred in this cowardly act of terrorism.
September 11th will always be a somber remembrance of the 3,000 innocent lives lost on the blackest day in American history.
But let September 11th also be a hopeful reminder of the true, heroic resolve of the American spirit.
The 9/11 Memorial website offers information, timelines of the attacks, and resources on how you can discuss 9/11 with your children. Please visit 911memorial.org for more information.