For whatever reason, September 11th, 2001 was a day that affected me more than most other 16-year olds. Ironically, I was sitting in World History when a teacher walked in and suggested to turn on the TV, there had been an attack.
Mr. Eirich, who obviously understood the significance of the situation, canceled the lesson and let us watch what was going on for the rest of the class. When the image came on, I realized that just over a year ago, I was standing on the top floor of the south tower that was now billowing smoke and flames. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Of course, my immediate instinct was, “But…I was just there.” As the morning moved on, I kept thinking to myself in class, “These things are going to fall over.” I never thought they would crumble in on themselves as they did. For some reason I just assumed they would tip over. I’ll never forget Mr. Eirich’s face when the first tower began to crumble. He realized what was happening, his eyes got big, he pointed to the TV, and then sat there expressionless yet in complete shock.
After the class was over, I went to lunch where I told some of my friends about what had happened, expecting a huge response. None of them really even knew what the World Trade Center was, and why would they? None had been there. We lived 6 hours from New York City, and frankly, the nightly news wasn’t really something high schoolers made sure they were home to watch.
After lunch, I raced to my next class in hopes that he too would be as sensitive as Mr. Eirich was regarding the news. He kept it on for a few minutes, just enough for us to find out that the Pentagon had been hit and that another plane had crash landed less than 30 minutes from us, in a field in Somerset, Pennsylvania. I vaguely remember our principal coming over the loud speaker encouraging us that we were safe even as parents came to take their kids out of school. I also remember him asking for the school to take a moment of silence for those who had died. After these happenings, the teacher of the class I was in turned the TV off, which really annoyed me.
If there’s any image I will remember from that day, it was when I arrived home. I walked to and from school every day because I was only about a mile away. I will never forget walking up my street and seeing my Mom standing on the front porch with the sun in her face. She typically wasn’t home before I was, but today she was. Our house set up against a hill, so I had some stairs to climb. On my way up she somberly asks, “Crazy day, huh?”
The days following 9/11 were basically mass confusion. Not just on my part, but basically any and everyone who lived in this country. We followed 9/11 with 2 pointless wars and a newfound fear that no matter where we went or how we got there, it was a risk. At the end of my 10th grade year, I made sure to write about September 11th in my closest friends yearbooks. They laughed and giggled about the dorkiness of it then, but now, even 10 years later, we all feel the significance of what it meant, especially to me.
I visited Ground Zero for the first time during a school trip in 2004. We drove by it but there was nothing to see. I don’t even remember there being anything other than a fence facing the West Side Highway. I came back to Ground Zero in 2009. This time to really pay my respects. I sat between the giant gaping hole and the new 7 World Trade Center and just listened and watched people for a good hour or so.
In March of this year, I had the privilege of interviewing for a job on the 29th floor of the current 7 World Trade Center building. After a very fantastic interview, I asked if I could take a look at the construction going on at Ground Zero from their windows that literally faced directly above it. I asked if it would be okay if I took some pictures, to which my interviewer happily obliged. Below are pictures I took from the 29th floor of 7 World Trade Center on March 15, 2011:
Today, instead of mourning the loss of thousands as I have done every year on 9/11, I am choosing to celebrate the life they lived, and the place they will forever hold in the hearts of Americans for the rest of time.