The Day The Towers Fell

"We thought it was a joke at first; something like this could never happen in our lifetime .."

I'd be lying if I said I remembered that day vividly, because I don't. What I do remember is sitting there with one of my friends named Solomon, in some meaningless 9th grade class, joking around. It was the second class of the day, on a Tuesday, we weren't interested in much at that point. We were sitting there and the next thing we know the principle comes on over the intercom and tells everyone to turn on their TV. That was weird thing because back then we virtually never turn the TV on for anything at all. I think I watched maybe one movie my whole entire time in high school, (that I was supposed to watch). So we were already glued to it because we knew that whatever we going to see HAD to be that important.

When we saw a news report that one tower had already been hit and was falling; we just couldn't believe it. We thought it was a joke at first; something like this could never happen in our life time. We live in the United States of America, one of the safest countries in the whole history of the world. Surely there's no way that someone could hijack a plane from our secure terminals, after going through lengthy checks to simply get on the plane. I mean this wasn't some movie where the bad guys could do whatever they want at the beginning and then cause all kinds of hell, this was real life. One of my friends, I want to say it was Big Phil, laughed and proclaimed: "Man this is America, no one wants beef with us". Meanwhile our teacher was standing there the whole time, watching in silence. We all continued talking among ourselves, uninterested and in clear denial.

But then it happened .. the South Tower was hit right in front of our eyes.

In the most surreal moment of my life, at that point, I watched as human beings jumped from the falling tower on fire and into the ash clouds below them as rubble followed closely behind them. We were all in a state of shock, not at the fact that innocent human lives were being lost, but at the fact that something like this did happen on U.S. soil. That with every single safe guard that we have in this country, the one thing that we thought could never happen in our lifetimes, happened. Mind you at this particular point in time we were all just fifteen and sixteen year old kids in their second month of high school. Up until this point we just learned about stuff like this happening in the foot notes of our history books toward the end of school years when we were already mentally checked out and ready for summer break. Something like this we never encountered because we were both too young and uninterested. This was 2001, the internet wasn't a readily available source of information yet for everyone; we simply didn't know what terror looked like.

Although I don't remember much at all about that day as a whole, I do remember that there was one girl who screamed for the television to be turned off. But what the teacher did was one of the bravest things ever, she said no. She told us that this was a moment in time that was going to change the whole entire country, that what we do here will have a profound impact on us all. We didn't know what that meant at that exact moment, we were still in disbelief that this was happening right at this moment. The reality was setting in that the people jumping from those buildings made a conscious decision to die that way rather than die from massive smoke inhalation and being set on fire. We didn't know what to think, there were so many emotions running through our young minds at that moment: anger, sadness, hatred, patriotism and most importantly fear. And just at the moment we were wondering what was going to happen next, it happened ..

The South Tower fell ..

We watched as rubble and debris fell to the ground and more people were shown falling from the buildings. The same building that was hit right in front of our eyes was now falling as a whole to the ground. At this point the only thing running through my head was the fact that my father was going back to war and nothing else. I remember going on home and talking to my mother about what happened and she blatantly said to me: "you know your father is going to war right"? That was amazing for the simple fact that she hates this man, but in that moment we all shared the same sentiment, we were scared. But back in the class after the north tower fell, we all sat there in a dead silence, just shocked. We tried to process what we saw and the feelings we felt. Our teacher tried her best to summarize what happened, but even she fell silent after awhile. Of course there were protocols that had to be taken at that moment, so the whole switching classes thing was all out of whack. Eventually we were all sent home early and that had to be one of the quietest days in my whole entire life to date.

By all accounts this was probably the moment that my generation, from ages of fourteen all the way through eighteen, lost every single ounce of our innocence. This was the moment we could all look back to and think that we saw death and suffering it's purest forms. Granted a lot of us had to wait to go to the military, but a hand full of us left and joined at various points after that. When I finally committed to enlisting I thought about this moment long and hard before I ever signed my name on the dotted line and raised my hand to swear an oath. It was with that in the back of my mind when I deployed that kept me ready at all times. A lot of people may read that and think that I'm making that up, but it's the God honest truth. I know I'm proud that at the end of our time in Iraq that I lowered one of the last flags being flown in country and handed it to my first sergeant.

Even though a lot of stuff got lost in our efforts to go over there and "eradicate the enemy", I realized that at the end of the day, all of those people who lost their lives, all of the families that were affected and all of those first responders who rushed there without a second thought will never be forgotten. When I visited the memorial back in 2013 I had a moment where I just stopped and thought to myself that this is where it all happened. After the attacks, me joining the military and getting out, it all came full circle for me. I never thought I was going to be a veteran standing in the same place that convinced me that I always needed to be on guard about any and everything because you never know when that moment will come when you need to react. This day will mean more to me than anyone will ever know or allow themselves to admit means the same thing to them as well.

September 11th, 2001 was the day that changed my life forever.

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