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How I Found out About 9/11

How I Found out About 9/11

September 11, 2012 12:50 pmComments are Disabled

I found out about it three times before I actually knew about it, and that’s just one of those strange things about history.

I was in eighth grade and in study hall in the DPH building at Hopkins. There was an advisor meeting that morning, it being a Tuesday, and it must have been third period. I was sitting and not working (what else is there to do at study hall), and I turned around to talk to Geoff Giller who was sitting behind me. He said “Have you heard about what happened?” and I said “No.” He said, “Something happened at the World Trade Center.” And I said, “Ok.” For some reason, I didn’t really care. It’s probably because Geoff spoke of it in a way that communicated no distress or urgency, like he was asking me if I had seen the Mets game last night. But it’s probably more because I wasn’t really in the right head space to process the outside world. I was in Study Hall, after all.

After that period, I walked to Baldwin Hall, where my geometry class was held. Before class started, I went down to the school store which was in the basement, to pick up some chips or something. While I was there, again, I was only in my own headspace. I had a purpose for being there, which was to buy chips. It did not strike me as odd that Tracy, the woman in charge of the store, and two students including my friend Emile were clustered around a radio like French resistance fighters. I barely heard what was on the radio, but I can guess. Once again, didn’t realize anything was amiss.

Then, I went to Geometry class, fourth period, which was right before lunch. Our teacher, Mr. McCormick, was a youngish man with a black beard, glasses, and a disarming smile. He had, for the first time ever, a very serious look on his face. He explained solemnly that terrorists had flown airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City. He explained that we don’t very much information, but if we needed to call our parents or go home early, the school would understand.

Finally I understood why everyone had been clustering around the radio. Only then did I get why Geoff Giller, in retrospect, seemed more serious than he usually was. Because something had happened. Something serious. Something ground shattering.

During lunch period, I spent the entire time on the computer in study hall room, looking at news from the BBC and the horrific images being posted of the buildings. Of course, I called home immediately. My dad was in Ohio on business–I was afraid he had been flying that day–and he was getting a car to drive back. The cell phones were all out. Networks were jammed.

The rest of the day went by in a blur. I remember tenth period French because everyone was uneasy and quiet, especially Mrs. Ventor. Halfway through class, her phone rang. She picked it up and screamed “OH MY GOD ARE YOU OKAY??” and ran out of the room. It turns out her husband worked there. He was okay. She had waited 5 agonizing hours for that call.

My advisor’s father worked in the buildings too. He decided to play golf that day instead of going to work.

So many close calls, and so much pain, even if I personally was not affected by it. But everyone in a way was. Those of the Greatest Generation told us that this day will be like the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor: you will always remember where you were when you heard about it. I heard about it three times, and the first two, for some reason, escaped my comprehension. And as I remember it, my head was floating, neither here nor there. It took being told directly by an authority figure to even understand what had happened. I wasn’t to be swayed from buying my chips, or from being distracted at study hall.

The first time I was in the city after 9/11 it was a month or two later. I remember how alien it felt, how different everyone was. Everyone seemed to be overcompensating with their friendliness. There was an aura of slowness in the atmosphere, like the whole city, collectively, had the wind punched out of it. I don’t know if it was just my self awareness of being there, or if everyone else felt it, too. In a way, even when I go back to New York now, it still isn’t exactly the same.

So that’s how I found out about 9/11. What’s your story?

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