17 years have passed since the most tragic event I have ever lived through as an American millennial.
What seemed like just another boring Tuesday as a 5th grader turned out to be a scar on my perception of the world around me. This day would turn out to be a day that created a subconscious fear when I boarded planes, went into sky rise buildings, and traveled to tourist destinations. Most unfortunately, this would be the day where my childish perception of a perfect world, where all people are good people, was crushed. I watched pure evil unfold before my eyes.
My recollection from that day:
As I sat in my class, a little over one hour into the day’s lessons at Shingle Creek Elementary School my teacher, Mrs. Heenan, checked her e-mail, then she gasped as she looked at her screen, then she rushed to the television and turned on the news. In that moment I had no clue what to expect! In that moment I thought at worst maybe one of her family members had died or someone had robbed a nearby bank. That happens a lot in Florida.
Mrs. Heenan turned on the television, flipped to the news stations, and there I saw a burning building. At that point, the whole class watched in silence. We were all unsure of what was really happening. We gathered around the television and sat on the floor and continued to watch the news with no comprehension of what a “terrorist attack” was. At this stage it looked like a bad plane crash.
What I saw about 13 minutes later, I will never forget. Live, on TV, I watched, with my own two very eyes, a plane crash into a building AGAIN. This is something I still can’t get my mind around. It was one of the most bizarre things I had ever seen. I thought at that point, it was a series of bad accidents we just happened to catch on live TV. I never put two and two together that the first of the twin towers had already been hit and that someone would deliberately crash a plane into a second building.
After the second building was hit, I saw the local news reporters announce that all theme parks: Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc, would be evacuated immediately. They said, “America is under attack.”
Next, the principal, Mr. Merchant came the intercom on to let us know the school was on lockdown and that arrangements were being made to evacuate the school.
The rest of the story was downhill from there. I saw buildings collapse, people jumping out of buildings, and more planes crashing, death tolls rising, people crying!!! I think that was easily the most confusing, bizarre, traumatizing day of my childhood.
It’s one thing to read about America being attacked in a history book. It’s another to watch it with your own eyes… in living color… as a child. 9/11 was the day that shook America. The attacks may have happened in New York and at the Pentagon but a dark cloud presided over the whole country that day and for years to come. It would be a lie to say that Americans came out of this unscathed. But we all continued to carry on and rebuild.
This felt like some kind of f*cked up indoctrination into what it means to be an American: survivors and protectors who quickly united in the face of evil.
The traumatic events On september 11, 2001, were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaedaagainst the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Additional people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks.
Four passenger airliners operated by two major U.S. passenger air carriers (United Airlines and American Airlines)—all of which departed from airports in the northeastern part of the United States bound for California—were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Two of the planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were crashed into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan. Within an hour and 42 minutes, both 110-story towers collapsed. Debris and the resulting fires caused a partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the World Trade Center complex, including the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower, as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures. A third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, was crashed into the Pentagon (the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense) in Arlington County, Virginia, which led to a partial collapse of the building’s west side. The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was initially flown toward Washington, D.C., but crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after its passengers thwarted the hijackers. 9/11 is the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States, with 343 and 72 killed, respectively.
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