Today ten years have passed since September 11, 2001. Ten years! An entire decade. Have you heard the expression that the years pass quickly while the days are slow? I find that to be so true. Sometimes the hours in a day tick by at a snails pace, but in the blink of an eye a year has passed! It seems like just yesterday I heard about the horrific events of that fateful day, and now I am looking back at it ten years later.
Ten years ago today I was just a few weeks into teaching my third year at Piedmont Middle School. It was Spirit Week. Ya know those weeks where every day has a different theme for dressing up? We would usually have days like "pajama day" or "crazy hair day" or "school colors day". September 11, 2001 was "camo day". Camo--as in camouflage. I had borrowed a pair of camo pants from a friend and wore my old gray "Army" t-shirt that I had picked up from Army Surplus several years back (while I was shopping for combat boots....hey, it was the early nineties and grunge was king!).
The day began like any other with the sounds of lockers slamming and awkward pre-adolescent giggles and loud chatter. After an uneventful first hour class, I went to stand by my classroom door during the five minute passing period when my friend (who taught directly across the hall from me) came over and said her husband had called to tell her that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers. She had no other details and I simply imagined a small aircraft, perhaps off course, colliding with the building and causing some moderate damage. A little concerned, I went into my second hour class, and again nothing out of the ordinary occurred. Then halfway through this class my phone rang. It was Mike. He filled me in on the gravity of the situation and said to turn on a television. I didn't have one in my room at the time, so after that class ended I ran down to the teachers' lounge, found a TV, and just couldn't believe what I was watching. I stood transfixed until the bell rang signaling the start of my third hour class.
By this time, the teachers and even some students had figured out something was wrong. I was being asked questions that I had no answers for. I barely knew what was going on either. Then I remembered that Mike's dad was leaving for a month long trip to Ethiopia very soon, and he was leaving from the Newark airport. Was his flight today? Was he in the air? I couldn't remember. I quickly gave my students an assignment from their grammar book and went to my desk, quietly dialing my in-laws phone number. The line was busy. I tried again. Busy. The phone lines were completely overloaded. My call would have to wait.
At lunch, my fellow teachers and I were able to finally watch the news and were completely horrified by the images of chaos and panic and terror we were witnessing. It was unbelievable. Eventually, school was let out early, and I raced home to see Mike, try to get in touch with our east coast family members, and to watch the events unfolding on TV. We finally talked to Mike's dad late that afternoon. His flight to Ethiopia was scheduled to leave on September 12, 2001. One day later. We are so thankful he wasn't in the air during the craziness of 9/11. His trip was postponed for several days, but eventually he did make it to Africa as he had originally planned.
In the years since 9/11, so many things have happened. We don't live in the same house or work at the same jobs as we did then. We have three children, and my mom is no longer with us. In the blink of an eye so much can change! For the people inside the World Trade Center Buildings, or the Pentagon, or on that fateful flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania....their lives were over in the blink of an eye. Thinking back to September 11, 2001 has helped me to remember how precious life is. How we're not guaranteed tomorrow. And to make our today count.
So where were you ten years ago?