I remember Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 very well. I remember being in high school, second period class. I believe it was Entrepreneurship. The class had just started after my first period Law class (same teacher). Just as we were getting down to work, I remember a teacher, whose name has slipped me, bursting through the door, out-of-breath, yelling my teacher’s name. “Haven’t you heard? America is under attack. They’re flying planes into buildings.”
Needless to say, everyone panicked, and one girl burst into tears. My teacher left the classroom, annoyed that the other teacher had broken the news so carelessly.
When she returned a short period after to find us chattering, she spoke calmly. She informed us that if we have relatives in the States, we should go call home. The girl who burst into tears left (it was the last time we saw her)–We laugh about it now, because none of us believed her, and we still don’t.
After that, I remember riding home on the bus, and thinking how calm everyone was, and wondering if they knew America was under attack. On the news the same night, the television was saturated with images of the World Trade Center. My favorite programs took a backseat. The next morning, I had to explain to my Accounting teacher why I didn’t do the homework. She said she understood, and we spend the rest of the class discussing what had happened. By this time, Osama Bin Laden was becoming a household name, but not many people knew how to pronounce the name.
The days and months and weeks came and went drearily, and I watched some of my classmates worry about having to fight in the pending war because they were eighteen. I watched brown-looking or-Middle-Eastern classmates get tormented. I remember one incident of a boy entering the school library, only to have the alarm go off and hearing a kid yell out. “Terrorist!” I remember hearing other kids call Middle-Eastern kids, Osama, and seeing one classmate, of Pakistani descent, get angry because he was poked fun of and called Osama and terrorist.I remember my brother telling a joke about a white comedian traveling days after 9/11, finding out that the passenger next to him was of Middle-Eastern descent, and getting nervous and wondering why the man had to be on the same flight as he.
I remember getting schooled by classmates when I pointed out the score of Middle-Eastern people celebrating the attacks on TV. Everyone was quick to point out that those people didn’t represent all Muslims. In the next months, Bush would declare Osama “wanted dead or alive.” He would make his “You’re with us or with the terrorist” speech, and by the time I was ready to graduate high school, they had started bombing Iraq. My Politics teacher, a day before the bombing, decided to play Bruce Springsteen. He didn’t tell us anything. He just got the stereo and played the songs for us to listen to. I can’t remember the Springsteen songs, but it was definitely protest songs. I also remember him telling us to calmly explain what was happening to our younger siblings, like the first Iraq war was explained to us when we were young.
Ten years after 9/11, as it would become known, Osama Bin Laden is dead. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten. For my generation, this is our defining historical moment. We grew up hearing about the World Wars, Vietnam,and the first Iraq war, but we didn’t live through them, and so they had little impact on us. 9/11 happened when were old enough to remember it, and young enough to still fear what it meant. It was our first real tragedy. And so I remember it, and will always remember it–the moment, the day and the time.