A teenaged world gets turned upside down in a day

4 Sep

My personal agenda as a 15-year-old sophomore at Plymouth-Canton Educational Park in Canton, MI on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was pretty typical.  Six class periods, including a quiz in math class, followed by a scheduled interview with the spokesperson for some local cause — I think it was an MDA fundraiser maybe?  I was a reporter for WSDP, 88.1 FM The Escape, the student-run radio station on my campus.

The day started out normal enough.  I was a student assistant for my freshman Spanish teacher first hour, and had my own Spanish class second hour.  After those two periods at Canton High School, I traveled across the bridge to the other school (at the time there were only two) and my U.S. History class.

I walked in, and immediately noticed that something was very wrong.  My teacher had CNN on the TV and it was showing devastating pictures — the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were on fire.  There were rumors of a plane destined for the White House, and Capitol Hill reportedly had a fire.  Within minutes, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon and our country was plunged into unmistakable despair.  At this point, I asked my teacher if I could run down to the radio station and make sure the Station Manager was aware of what was going on.  He was.  I told him that I would come down at lunch time to help do some reporting.

I returned to class, and watched with increasing sickness as the events of the morning unfolded before us.

After history was my biology class.  That in itself was interesting because my teacher was from New York.  She spent the class period attempting to contact family members in the state and city.  With her permission, I went early to my radio station and began to report.  I spoke the word Taliban for the first time, as they held a press conference within hours of the attacks separating themselves from them.  It was while I was on the air that I got passed a note telling me that another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania — Flight 93, which we have since learned was destined for the Capitol or the White House.  For almost two hours (through biology and my lunch period) I broadcast — stories that I could have never prepared to broadcast.

After lunch, I went to math class.  The school held a moment of silence at the start of that period, but our teacher was intent on sticking with the business of the day and we took our regularly scheduled quiz.

During my final class period, English, our teacher allowed us to talk with her and each other about the events of the day, and I saw and heard the fright in the conversations of the classmates with brothers and sisters — afraid that they would be dispatched to war should a draft be instituted.  Some even realized that if a war were to take longer than two years, they themselves could be subject to a draft.  Due to medical circumstances, I knew I would not be called to serve, but that fact did not decrease my anguish.

After school, the announcement was made that all after-school activities were cancelled, and the Park’s entire 5,000-student body was herded to buses and campus was closed for the remainder of the day.  My scheduled interview was cancelled and I went home.

Going home, I found my father already home from work, a meeting cancelled and his bosses already fixated on the idea that their employees needed to be with family on this day.  My mother, a support employee at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, MI,  came home with stories of patients and families from all over the country and world who watched in patient rooms, hallways, and throughout the medical center as their worlds — and indeed, in some cases, their hometowns — changed forever.

Once home, I sat and watched media coverage of the events for the rest of the day.  I remember watching the members of Congress as they sang “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps that night.  I watched our president sit before us and essentially declare war on those who had done this to us.  And I watched as Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stood and confidently spoke to the media, even as thousands of his city’s residents and public officials remained missing and unaccounted for — many of whom ended up dying in the attacks.

At 15, I was forever changed by the events of September 11, 2001, as was anyone who was alive on that day, and in fact even those who were not yet born.  My parents told of the assassination of John F. Kennedy being their personal watershed moment prior to 9/11, just as my grandmother spoke of Pearl Harbor in the same way.  I hope with everything I have that there is not a moment that overtakes 9/11 for that spot in my lifetime, because living through it was quite bad enough.


One Response to “A teenaged world gets turned upside down in a day”

  1. Brandon Foreman September 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    9/11 was a very powerful event. It still felt unreal that something like that can happen in our world but it did and it was massive. It was clearly an eye opener.

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