Ten years ago today, Craig and I were Seniors at Tekamah-Herman High School. It was just like any other day. I first heard the news of the attacks as I was in-between first and second period. First period, I had Band, and since it was football season we were out on the playground practicing for Friday's upcoming halftime performance, so I didn't hear the news initially. Craig (along with the rest of the football players in band) was excused from Band class to go to Student Center. Student Center was a glorified study hall for "honor" students, that had no supervising teacher and a pop machine, so he heard about the attacks a few minutes before I did. As I headed up to my locker after Band, the word was spreading throughout the halls. Ironically, I (and Craig) had Government class second period.
As soon as we walked into the classroom, the TV was on, and we could see the towers burning. It was the quietest that classroom ever was...nobody knew what to say. That classroom was typically always a class discussion of some sort with a laid-back, open sort of feel, not that day. We all just watched in silence. We watched the towers fall. We all knew this was big & horrible, but I know I didn't have any concept of exactly what all this meant for our country. The entire rest of the day, we moved from class to class, one TV to another. We had one lone teacher that felt that we didn't need to watch the coverage, and we should go about our normal coursework like any other day. (I can still attest, that we didn't learn anything in that class that day.)
We were scheduled to play a volleyball match in West Point that night. The Seniors always traveled to the games a little later than the Freshman & JV teams. We road in a van driving by Coach Andrew. Normally, he would have 99.9 (KGOR) on with his Blues Brothers sunglasses, grooving to the oldies on the way. All us girls would be chatting up a storm, driving him crazy. That day the van was silent except for the talk radio station Coach had tuned in. We were all still sucked in by the media coverage. Any other day, we would have protested talk radio, but not that day. We arrived in West Point, and it was so surreal. We dressed, we warmed up, we sang the National Anthem, we had a moment of silence. We were all there going through the motions, but nobody in the gym was thinking about Class C-1 High School Volleyball. If I remember right, we lost...it didn't matter. Nothing mattered that night.
The coming days are somewhat of a blur. I remember the school guidance counselor speaking to our Government class as a pseudo-grief counselor. I didn't really understand why. Like I said, I knew it was bad, but I didn't have any idea what it all meant. We had another moment of silence Friday night before the football game. We distributed yellow ribbons before the game. Everyone went through the motions.
I don't think I started to grasp the "big picture" of the events until a few weeks later at our first Close-Up Meeting following 9/11. (Close-Up is a program for high school students that gives schools the opportunity to take a group of students out to a "workshop" of sorts in Washington, D.C. for a in-depth look at our nation's government.) At the beginning of the year, we had over 25 students signed up to go and begun fund raising. After 9/11, over half of those students backed out. That meeting was an all-out screaming matching by parents on both sides. Some wanted the trip canceled for everyone. Some wanted us to still have the opportunity to go, but they were not allowing their child to board a plane bound for DC. Craig & I still ended up going with a handful of others as scheduled in March 2002. We experienced all the security changes of D.C. post-9/11. We were denied access to places that were always part of the normal Close-Up program. It was by far the best trip we took in High School, and we learned and saw so much; but it was definitely tainted by what happened 9/11.
As we have built up to the 10 year Anniversary, we have seen the news specials all over TV. We have watched some, recorded some. I can't get through one of them without crying. I understand now what I didn't way back then. Every time (which thankfully isn't that often) I step on an airplane...I get it. I think of all the people I know who have been serving in Iraq & Afghanistan that wouldn't have been there otherwise...I get it. That chill I get anytime I'm at an event with a fly-over as the planes are heading toward us...I get it. I didn't know it at the time, but that day 10 years ago would change everything. I know I'll never forget!
God Bless America!