I had a 9 a.m. history class. It was my senior year in college. We didn't have cable hooked up in the sorority room Hillary and I shared with our good friend T so I hadn't even seen what was happening in New York. Had I known, I would have never went to class that morning.
After my history class, I had an elective 2 hour, 10 a.m. English class. This was before we carried cellphones around so no one could get in touch with me. I remember walking into the class and hearing whisperings of something happening. Something bad. Our crotchedy old professor actually told us it was no big deal. A small plane had flown into the World Trade Tower. Nothing to worry about.
I felt anxious and contemplated leaving so I could get to the student-run newspaper, where I was an editor. Instead I stayed put even though I couldn't concentrate.
Just shy of two hours later, I strolled into the newsroom and was greeted by a chorus of "Where have you been?!" and "Your mother is trying to find you!"
People were rushing around. Some stared at the television watching the replay of the plane hitting the tower and the buildings crumbling. Others were crying. Lots of people were on the phone. The enormity of what was happening hit me and I remember being very angry with my English professor (of all people).
I quickly called my mother to let her know I was safe in our small college town and no, I hadn't been transported to New York or Washington. We had a hard time tracking down my sister and letting her know what happened because she was at funeral for a friend who had died suddenly in his mid-20s. My dad was in the state highway patrol so he was working at the state's security command center. Thankfully everyone we knew was safe.
Those in our newsroom worked non-stop for hours. Dozens of people contributed as we watched the horrible news unfold. It was mind-numbing to see what was happening and to hear the predictions of how many people were dead.
I remember walking down the street with Hillary. I told her I feared it would just keep happening. What about all the planes that hadn't landed yet? I had never been so afraid and felt my world shift so much.
The next couple days were a blur. We did a lot of work at the newspaper and not so much of going to class. The Sept. 12 newspaper hangs framed in the newsroom now along with papers of when Kennedy was assassinated, the Vietnam War riots and other historical events. Ten years later, it makes me so proud to think of the work we did in those days.
After I graduated college, Hillary and I moved to D.C. for summer internships. My mother wasn't so thrilled by the move, fearing something could happen again. We were on the National Mall for the first July 4th celebration post-Sept. 11. I had a surreal feeling. Everyone was celebrating the holiday and yet still anxious. I think we had to go through three or four checkpoints just to walking around the Mall area.
Ten years, a marriage and two kids later, that time seems far removed. We haven't explained to Peanut yet what happened then even though it was hard to avoid the images on television this week. She and Gizmo will never know any different time but it will still be just a historical event to them. Just as the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam War are historical events but my parents lived through them.
It is the reality we live in. With the threat of a possible terrorist attack this weekend, I spent three hours Friday afternoon putting together a worst case scenario plan for our newsroom. It is a sad thing that it didn't seem odd to me to do such extensive planning.
Where were you?