Sunday, September 11, 2011

My September 11, 2001 Memory

I just wanted to quick jot this down so I have it written. I was sixteen years old and a junior at La Canada High School in La Canada, CA. I remember showing up to early morning men's choir right after seminary. Men's choir was zero period, so it was before school. I walked in and saw that the few people who had arrived in class were very troubled (there were about 10-15 of us). The emotions in the room consisted of somberness, confusion, and complete shock. I asked what was going on and someone told me that a missile had hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. At this point I believe both towers had been hit. Other people said that it was two planes. Few of my classmates had heard some details from their ride to school of what had happened, so naturally rumors were flying around like crazy. We were all trying to gather truth from fiction based on the various news reports.

I'm sad to admit this, but at the time I had no idea what the World Trade Center was nor where it was located. Regardless, I thought to myself that there is no way a small private plane could do damage to a large building (as the thought of a commercial jet being used didn't even cross my mind). Naturally I believed that someone had fired missiles at our country. The event that was being described to me didn't seem real, and as a result I wondered why everyone was so worried. I assumed that people were over exaggerating and that the news reports were blowing up a story. The whole scene seemed like it was straight out of a summer action movie. These types of events only happen in movies or books; not in real life. After about two minutes of talking we heard that the band room had the TV on, so we all raced down the hall to see what was going on. What I experienced next I will never forget.

On the TV, we saw that both towers of the World Trade Center were smoke filled and burning. Students had told us as we entered the room that people were actually jumping out of the enormous and towering buildings to escape the fires, as they realized a death from impact was more tolerable than a death by burning flames. Hearing this caused us to immediately get sick to our stomachs, as we just realized that people were actually put into such a situation that they had to make a decision of how they would rather pass from this life. All us high school students were gazing in complete silence at the devastation that was being presented before us. Here and there in the classroom were whispers and murmurs of shock and bewilderment. When it was confirmed to us through video and images that it was in fact commercial jets that were used, we were all dumbfounded. How anyone could attack our country, and in such a way that seemed so imaginary and surreal, silenced us.

After the shock had somewhat subsided, there were sporadic and quiet comments of theories on who were behind the attacks, but of course none of us had a clue. The fact that is was a terrorist organization never crossed our minds. I think that someone darkly joked that it was probably Russia, but of course we knew that it wasn't true. After about twenty minutes of watching footage, hearing different TV personalities come up with theories and speculation, the unimaginable happened; one of the towers actually collapsed before our very eyes on live television.

It was like watching a climatic special effects heavy scene in an action movie. Personally, I love those scenes in cinema. It's why I go to the movies. The explosions are big and loud, I hope the magnitude of awe as the buildings fall will overpower me, and the intensity of the moment as I view people running away for the perseverance of their very lives pulls me in as an audience member. I empathize with the people on the silver screen as I put myself in their very shoes as they deal and grasp the horror of the situation presented before them. I never thought that I would see such a scene in real life.

The image was disturbing. We all watched in horror and disbelief as the seriousness of what happened presented itself before us. It's amazing how such a scene in a movie can present such different and extreme emotions when it takes place in real life. This moment ended the silence in the room. Some people were teary eyed with the shock of what happened, and with the knowledge and understanding that many people just lost there lives before our very eyes. The unknown number of casualties silently scared us in the room. It got even worse when the second tower fell. Later reports estimated that more than ten thousand people might have lost their lives. That is more than the famous Battle of Gettysburg. We also watched in horror as we saw footage of people running away from the collapsing towers, only to be helplessly engulfed by the rapidly pursuing thick and growing cloud of dark and gray smoke. We didn't know if those people had died as well.

Next reports came that firemen and policemen were also among the causalities, and we assumed, only to find out we were indeed correct, that they knew the tower was probably going to collapse. They gave their lives anyway. All of us in the room were humbled and emotional as we learned that such brave and selfless men knowingly gave up their lives to save strangers.

Later it was reported that it was believed that a middle eastern terrorist group may have been behind the attacks. Deep down all of us became a little frightened that LA might be their next target. We worriedly thought that if it New York and LA are major targets in movies, why wouldn't it happen in real life? I also remember my friend blaming President Bush for what happened and being kind of upset that he would make such a statement. The thing is, we were all trying to make sense of what chaotically unraveling before our eyes; and why. We all wanted someone to blame.

As the day wore on some of my teachers decided to have us watch any new news reports, while others decided to lecture. I am still a little upset that some teachers would turn the TVs off and decide to teach. None of the students were listening anyway, nor could we even concentrate on school. Eventually, I believe around a little after 1:00 PM, we found out that our school was cancelled, and that every student had to go home immediately. My high school was a mile away from JPL, a NASA jet propulsion laboratory, and intelligence believed that it might be a possible target.

Some students were selfishly cheering, which sickened me at the time, as they were happy to get a break from school. Others of us were scared and quiet. One student exiting the classroom next to me was singing "It's the End of the World As We Know it, And I Feel Fine." The tone of his voice and his cloudy and misty eyes made it very apparent that he definitely did not feel fine, as he was trying to grasp the sudden seriousness of the situation as it literally started to hit home.

My twin brother Devin and I immediately met up and raced home. We turned on the TV and discussed what had happened in shock with my parents as we tried to gain more and more info on what had occurred that infamous morning. Later that night, or even that week (I can't remember), images were displayed of possible deceased victims of the tragic events. This was done with the hope that someone had seen these people alive, and that they could be reunited with their families. It was also done as a tribute to those who had lost their lives. As images were shown of family members of the deceased, crying as they were clutching photographs and other items that represented their lost loved ones, no one could help but feel sorrow that a husband, wife, brother, sister, father, and mother were tragically and quickly taken from their loved ones, all because of a needless and hate-filled "cause."

It's been ten years, and I have to say that I believe that our country has quickly forgotten what had happened. It saddens me. Many people drew closer to God and gained a new sense of patriotism, only to quickly forget both. We as a country took on the pledge and motto that we will never forget September 11, 2001, but I hope we will never forget with our actions and faith in God as a nation, and not just our memories. It was our selfless actions of sacrifice and renewed faith in our divine creator that really showed how great of a nation the United States of America really is.

Here is a link to some videos. Play the John Schmidt video for the music while watching the 9/11 slide video at the same time. I accidentally did this and I found it quite moving. The images and the music match up really well.