Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Where were you?"

"Where were you when......."

That question gets asked a lot. Especially when tragedy strikes.

Growing up, I remember that question being answered about a lot of events......

....... when JFK was shot..........

...... when The Challenger exploded........

..... the first attack on the WTC......

...... the Oklahoma City building........

...... Columbine........

Sadly, there are a lot more events that are remembered.

However, 9/11/01 marked that first time that I could answer the "Where were you?" question. It was the first time that I watched everything happen, in real time. Before that, I was either not born, too young to remember, or was sheltered from what was happening.

This time, I saw everything.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was an innocent college freshman at the University of Tampa.

I commuted to school that morning. My first class was "Gateway".... our version of Freshman Seminar. We got out early that morning and I wandered over to the mailroom to check my box. I could hear the ladies in the mailroom talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center and I called my mom. See, we'd eaten Thanksgiving dinner at Windows On The World (the restaurant on top of the WTC) that year before, while we were in NYC for the very first time. While on the phone with her, I walked across the street to the Commuter Lounge.

As I walked into the lounge, I saw four TVs turned on to different channels. Shortly after walking in, we watched as the second plane hit. For hours, we all just sat there and watched the events unfold.

I will never forget the feeling I had as we saw the first tower fall. Then, one guy in the room said, "That second tower is swaying. I don't think it's going to last much longer." A few minutes later, we watched in shock as the second tower fell.

It was surreal.

In seconds, years of work, building, history were gone. And, we watched it happen.

I remember saying to someone sitting next to me, "You know how they always ask 'Where were you when....?'........ Forever, I'll remember where I was when this happened."

One boy was devastated. He was from Manhattan and he couldn't get a hold of anyone, at home. One of the staff ended up taking him to the administrative offices...... shortly, there was a "command center" where administration and counselors were trying to council the many students that were from that area.

I remember calling my mom. She was frantically trying to get a hold of my aunt and uncle...... they lived in Colorado and he worked for the government. She also was finally able to get in touch with her best friend Ken, who worked across the street from the Pentagon.

She wanted me to come home. MacDill is not far from UT and she just wanted me as far away from there as I could get. Ironically, all I could say was that classes hadn't been cancelled, yet.

At 12:30....... after hours of watching everything....... my classmates sat in our Spanish classroom. Just stunned. Our professor came into class all cheery...... she was holed up in her office that morning, grading papers, and had NO CLUE what happened. We proceeded with class until someone came in stating that classes were cancelled until at least Thursday.

I finally went home. The drive home was so eery. Almost no one was on the road and there was no music on the radio. Just news.

I remember that the next day, I spent watching the coverage. When I went to dance, the other teachers and I were still shell-shocked. However, once the students arrived, we went to business as usual. It wasn't until I got back in my car that I was shocked back to reality. For 4 blissful hours, we'd forgotten.

By Friday, I'd gotten all the news I could take. I started watching movies because there still wasn't anything besides news coverage. I remember that it was almost two weeks before soaps started up, again.

I remember going to New York City on September 12, 2003. I was really, really nervous to be flying, that day. It wasn't the first time I'd flown since 9/11, but still, it was nerve-wracking. It would be another couple of years before I could make myself go down to Ground Zero.

Really, our lives have never been the same.

Travelling will never be as carefree as it was......... it's weird to think that non-passengers could go to the gate with us, right?

I wonder if we'll ever again live in a world where our country isn't at war.

Still, we have a good life. And, we live in a great country.

Things have changed so much in ten years. But, we'll never forget that day.

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