Thursday, September 08, 2011

September 11

I was in tenth grade and living in Gardnerville, Nevada. Being three hours different from New York, I first heard the news from Jared Whitaker on our daily commute to early-morning LDS seminary. It was one of the only times that we ever talked on that drive, the entire year. As soon as I climbed into his little pickup truck that morning, he told me that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. I began to wonder aloud how a pilot could make a mistake of that magnitude, but Jared interrupted me to say that just a few minutes before he left to pick me up, another plane had hit the other tower. Instantly I understood that this was no accident.  I didn't yet know the term 'terrorism' - it simply wasn't a concept that existed in my realm at that point - but I knew our nation was under attack.

When we arrived at the church fifteen minutes later, I immediately announced the news to my class. The only other person in the room who had heard was my friend Michelle, so we did the best we could to explain to panicking students what little we knew. THEN! --Wait til you HEAR!-- The teacher cut us off to say, VERBATIM, "That's interesting, but I have a class to teach" -- and away she went, completely ignoring one of the biggest tragedies in American history.

[I have to interject here. That woman was awful, there's no other way to say it. She consistently preached false (and usually extremely hurtful) doctrine, the most horrendous example being that time she taught us that mental illness only affects bad people the same week that one of our classmates returned to seminary after a failed suicide attempt. I am not a confrontational person, and I quail under authority, but I know injustice, and she and I had it out a few times during class. A couple of years later I remarked to Christa, "That woman was the reason why I quit seminary", and Christa replied, "And you're the reason why she quit the CHURCH." Then we laughed and laughed.]

When I finally arrived at school, I learned that during the Dark Ages Seminary Class a plane had hit the Pentagon and that 20 minutes later the South Tower of the World Trade Center had collapsed. My dad worked in the Pentagon previous to our move to Nevada, and I thought of that one time he showed me around the building on Bring-Your-Kid-To-Work Day. Later, when I went home from school, I learned that the plane had hit directly next to his old wing and some of his friends had died. (By the way, he was in Fort Polk, Louisana on September 11th and the base was put on lockdown. He was stuck there for over two days and when he finally was allowed to leave, it took him a week to get home in the resulting travel deadlock.)

We watched the news in every class period. I remember students having the option to go home, but I'm pretty sure I stayed for the entire day, which seems sort of odd now in retrospect. I wasn't watching when the second tower fell, either (now, in checking the timeline of events, I realize it collapsed just minutes before my first class of the day began), but the footage was played on repeat throughout the hours, days, and weeks to follow. Someone on the news brought up Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, but I'd never heard of either. One classmate speculated on the date, wondering if they chose 9-11, our national code for emergency, on purpose. Another remarked that our grandchildren were going to be required to ask us, "Where were you?" for school projects, just like we had interviewed our grandparents about Pearl Harbor.

I have no distinct memory of following the plight of United 93, but later when it was confirmed that the passengers had crashed the plane on purpose to foil another attack I felt an overwhelming mixture of pride and sadness, and wondered if I would have been brave enough to do the same thing.

And that's it. Funny, I typically have a powerful memory, but I have unusually few remembrances from this date. Maybe because there was a certain numbness, or maybe because I simply didn't understand the scope of the thing at the time, or maybe both.

Your turn. Where were you?

(and if you blog your memories, post the link in the comments. If you want. No pressure.)


  1. It's interesting to read where everyone was on that day because everyone's memories are so vivid. And it's strange to read that most people's aren't very far off from your own. You know?

    Here's mine. No pressure! ;)

  2. Thanks for being the only comment on this post! You're way better than all my other readers put together.

  3. A friend of mine showed me your blog a while back...when you blogged about ridiculous names. That's when I started following your blog. I check it occasionally, and I dig it.

    I didn't do a post about 9/11...but I did a few years ago.