Ten years ago today, I was a senior in high school.
Ten years ago today, "terror" was what you felt when you forgot about a test in class.
Ten years ago today, I could walk up to the gate at an airport without any proof I intended to get on a plane.
Ten years ago today, security barely watched as you walked through metal detectors (with your shoes on).
Ten years ago today, we didn't define safety as red, orange, or yellow (although has it ever been green or blue?).
Ten years ago tomorrow, everything changed.
Ten years ago tomorrow, I sat in Pre-Calculus, working with some friends on problems. Our class president arrived late because he had dropped off the Senior Play t-shirt design to the print shop. He reported the radio was doing some dumb prank, saying a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We all thought no one would believe that. Even if it was true, what chain of errors would lead to a plane actually crashing into such an obviously visible building? We went back to work.
A little while later, a teacher came in and said "Turn on the TV." Coach Brewer obliged and we all sat in shock. Both towers had been hit as well as the Pentagon with terrorist-hijacked planes. At first, I didn't realize the Pentagon had been hit as well. The news station had a split screen and all D.C. showed was a cloud of smoke from a huge distance. I thought the smoke from the World Trade Center was so massive, it could be seen as far away as D.C. As I listened to the few and fuzzy details, I realized there were three separate crashes. I turned to discuss what has happening to a friend and a classmates says, "It's falling!" Sure enough, one tower began to crumble. My class has never been as quiet as it was in that moment. Some time later, the other tower fell. And then the bell rang.
Everyone sat frozen, looking at each other, afraid to move. Finally, we did begin moving to our next class. Mine was Ecology. At this point we realized the crashes weren't just massive equipment failure. This was intentional. We talked about who could be motivated to do such a thing. Why could someone have so much hate in their heart that they would actually take the lives of thousands? I cried. We learned there was now a fourth crash, in a field in Pennsylvania. All flights were now grounded, a first in aviation history. Who knows how many lives were saved by that decision?
I called my dad. He couldn't talk long because he worked at a chemical plant, so they were on high alert. I needed to hear a voice of comfort though. We decided I'd stay at school as long as there was school. At some point in Ecology, I realized this was my generation's Kennedy assassination. I had heard my parents recount every detail of where they were and what they were doing when they heard the president had been shot. Now, I was living history.
We continued to move about our day; next for me was Bible. We talked more about what was happening before the bell rang for chapel. We prayed. We prayed for the victims, we prayed for their families, we prayed for those helping others. By this point, everyone was exhausted. We didn't know what to do or how to feel. Continuing to talk about it seemed like beating a dead horse, but some people still did need to sort out their feelings. Lunch was a relief. We could be with our friends, decide what and to what extent we debrief with each other.
I came into Yearbook. Nothing new had happened. Everyone tried to resume a sense of normalcy, knowing things were anything but normal. After Honors English, I went home. I don't remember the details of what my mom and I did when I got home. I do remember her saying that our church had announced it would be open for anyone who wanted to come and pray. When my dad got home, we all went. We sat in our pew, bowed our heads, and prayed. And cried. And prayed.
A lot can change in ten years.