I have a lot of memories of that day. I was in my Geology class the day it happened, my senior year of college. I didn’t find out until around 9:00 a.m. central time about anything, because I’d been in class since 8:00, and I had to drive to school starting at 7:30. I walked in to the computer lab on campus, and a friend of mine asked me, “Have you heard what happened?” When I said no, he brought up the CNN page – but that was right when it crashed. I saw a picture for a second, while it was loading, and then everything was gone. I told him I was going to go to the University Center and check it out there.
On these particular days, I only had two classes. I lived so far away that it wasn’t worth driving home. I got out of class at 9, went to work from 12-5, and then had another class at 6 in the evening. So I had a lot of time on my hands.
I walked into the UC, which had a small television in every section of the dining area, so everyone could watch no matter where they were sitting. Usually it was so loud that you couldn’t hear the television if you wanted to, but not that day. Usually, it was also empty – not that day.
There were college students EVERYWHERE. It was standing room only within that center, and everyone was silent and gathered around the televisions. The same videos kept playing over and over, but everyone kept watching anyway – myself included.
After around fifteen minutes, I went upstairs to the lounge for those who worked in the offices. The television was bigger, the seating was more comfortable, and the room only had a few people in it. (Most didn’t know it existed.) And there I sat until it was time for work, which just happened to be next door in the Career Services and Testing Office. I’d even forgotten to eat – I don’t think I wanted to. It was terrifying – watching the videos of the towers fall over and over and over. The screams. The people jumping from the buildings. The played phone calls. The incredibly brave safety workers. The destruction. The worried families. I was glued, both terrified and fascinated.
The UC downstairs hadn’t cleared out at all by the time my boss forced me down to get some food. While at work, I didn’t want to hear it anymore – I’d already spent three hours straight watching the same things over and over. I couldn’t stop, though, because I wanted to hear if anything new was found. I felt numb that day – even though I didn’t know anyone that died there, the thought of all those who lost family members ripped me apart.
We thought class would be canceled, but it wasn’t. The governor called the universities – all of them, I think – and told them to resume classes. That we refused to let whoever did this pull us to a complete stop. So at 5, I got off of work, choked down some food, then went to class again at 6. We managed to make it through, but it was a very somber room.
The next morning when I got up to go to class again, I heard this song on the radio:
Every time I hear this song, now, I remember. And yes, I cry. Every. Single. Time. It just fit what I was feeling so well – no matter what songs are written about September 11, this one still embodies it for me. Even this long after.
I wrote the following poem on September 5, 2004. It was a challenge for me, and maybe it would have been better if it wasn’t a rhyming double-acrostic and was more free-form, but I really wanted to stretch and challenge myself. I do hope you enjoy it:
Sometimes our lives take unexpected turns, and our heart searches for what it yearns.
Every emotion twisting with the pain, making us wonder if we were still sane.
Pain within our hearts had crept, crushing our chest with every step.
Taking our breath as if we were slapped by a belt, only wishing that was the sole pain we felt.
Everyone trying to make sense of the reports on the T.V. screen, wondering why they wished to make such a scene.
Making our thoughts search everywhere for someone to blame, or even just for someone to make the claim.
By-and-by all of our senses went numb, and we struggled to keep our emotions abstract so we did not succumb.
Eager ourselves – wishing it was us instead to die, we knew that we could not just let things lie.
Ransacking our memories – we searched for a stranger upon which to aim all of our anger.
Eventually those responsible showed their face, their bragging words outlining our disgrace.
Leaving our people feeling they can only fail, they were confident in their own betrayal.
Every person in America fell to their knee, we knew that a crumbling nation we would never be.
Vibrantly, we lifted our voices for the country we love, our soldiers forced to act on instinct and improv.
Even as they celebrate, they began this war of hate.
Now it is time to pull together as a nation, they will soon feel the same sort of sensation.
Terror will no longer plague our past, and in our lives forever this memory will last.
Havoc is what you wished to wreak – force our lifestyles to stop with a lurch, but to find a nation stronger than your games, no farther will you have to search!