On What Happened 12 Years Ago…

I was in 7th grade. It was kind of a big year for me. My school didn’t have a modified field hockey team, so during the summer I had to pass a physical test in order to try out for the JV team as a 7th grader. By some miracle of god, I passed what seemed to be impossible tests, including a bent arm hang (with palms facing outward) and a mile and a half run (which at the time seemed like a marathon). After passing the test, I still had to try out for the team, and I made it.

I had maybe one or two high school games under my belt by the time September 11th came about in 2001. The team had decided we would wear our uniforms to school that day since we had another game on our home field, and even though me and my middle school friends who were also on the team wouldn’t be around all our teammates that day, we still wore ours. When you’re in middle school wearing a high school uniform, people view you as kind of a badass.

One of my early morning classes was chorus. Being that I’m not a morning person, I was still sleepy and not quite comprehending what was being communicated to me. And then I heard my teacher say, “two planes flew into the Twin Towers.”

I didn’t really know what the Twin Towers were at that time. I had heard their name before, I knew they were in New York City, but I couldn’t point to them on a map or even draw a picture of them if you asked me to. I also didn’t understand how planes could fly into buildings. In my decaffeinated morning mind, I saw the planes bounce off the towers and go off on their merry way. I made it through that class and possibly another before the announcement was made.

“All after school activities are cancelled across the district.” What? How could they be cancelled? I had a game to play! I had goals to score! What is even happening??

My mom worked in the district so I was able to call her from a classroom phone. I expressed my anger at my game being cancelled and she calmly said, “Brianne, the Twin Towers are gone.” All I could say was, “Oh…” The rest of the day was kind of a blur. Apparently middle schoolers were too young to be shown the footage of what happened that day, so we were kept in the dark.

Upon entering my house, I plopped myself in front of the TV to get a better understanding of what was going on. I watched the footage played over and over and over again. Planes crashing into towers. Gigantic buildings falling to the ground as if they were made of paper-mache. People literally running for their lives through the streets of New York, some covered in dust and debris. I had not been to New York City at this point in my life, but I knew what I was seeing before me was the thing horror movies were made of.

Thinking back to these moments, I remember how scared I was. It wasn’t something that happened just in New York City. A plane had hit the Pentagon and one went down in Pennsylvania, too. As an American kid, you’re brought up to believe that nothing bad can ever happen to us, because we live in the US…and that day every shred of security I had here was stolen from me.

I remember sitting huddled up in the recliner of my family room, still in my field hockey uniform with my hair in two French braids, my backpack haphazardly tossed beside me, and my eyes staring wide at the TV as tears began to fall. My mom was upstairs and the rest of my family wasn’t home yet, and I sat there in my family room silently crying at something that to this day, I can’t fully understand.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always made sure I had a plan to get myself out of dangerous situations as quickly as possible. I call it my “GTFO plan.” Suddenly, I was aware that there could be situations I wouldn’t anticipate where I couldn’t get out alive. Every time I heard someone’s story of a loved one calling them from one of the top floors to say goodbye, I became more scared of being in a situation like that in my life, and what would I do?

I think everyone can agree that all of our lives changed that day. The US was no longer invincible. Security was heightened everywhere. We couldn’t just go after a country that was attacking us. It was a group that was hidden throughout many countries.

I know what I went through that day was nothing compared to what those in the New York City area went through. I try to put myself in their places when I walk around the southern tip of the city where the streets are narrow, and you’re bordered by water on all sides and a wall of skyscrapers to the north.

I try to imagine what the World Trade Center was like when the buildings stood there. I go there now and see beautiful reflecting pools in their places, and it puts into perspective how big these buildings were, even though I’ll never get the chance to see them in person.

I’ve never felt the need to post my “never forget” sentiments on social media, and I don’t have any disdain for those that do. At age 24, 12 years after my world was changed at just 12 years old, I just felt it was time to get my feelings and memories about it out on the internet.

[photo by Bri]

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