A dozen years ago today I was sitting in sophomore math class at Clarkstown North High School when a teachers assistant, one who I knew well, came into the room with a message for the teacher.
I remember this moment very clearly. My math teacher, who I will respectfully leave unnamed, turned and said that there had been some kind of accident involving a plane and a building in Manhattan. As she resumed the lesson, we couldn’t help but wonder how strange the incident seemed.
A short while later the same teachers assistant returned with another message. Another plane had crashed. It’s wasn’t just a building, it was the World Trade Center, known exclusively to me at the time as the Twin Towers, and both towers had been struck.
Even the tired mind, clouded by first period math, of a 15 year-old understood that this was no mistake, no coincidence. Teachers, as I would have done myself, continued their lessons and tried to act like it would be fine.
When the first tower collapsed and the horrifying realization of mass causalities hit the world, we sat in class, uninformed. The next knock at the door was quite surprising. It was the same teachers assistant asking to have a word with me.
Remembering that my father was a New York City police officer, she wanted me to contact my family. The first call I made, from the teachers assistant’s cell phone, resulted in my grandmother telling me that she hadn’t heard from him yet and that she would call back shortly. About 90 seconds later the phone rang. My father was fine.
A sense of relief set in and I went back to class, almost as if nothing had happened. There was one television in the school that I knew of. It was in the library. At the end of my third period class, I went to the library, where the news was racing across the screen, sat and stared. Something had happened. Something terrible. My father may have been unharmed but thousands of people were not as lucky. I felt terrible and I will never forget that morning or the way our country came together in the following weeks.
Share your experience with us in the comments section below. Do you remember where you were? Who you were with? Will you ever forget?