It was second period gym class, and I anticipated the next forty minutes going by very quickly. As of late, handball was the sport of choice, and I slowly grew to like the sport as I improved. As Ms. Goodman, one of the many Canarsie High School physical education teachers walked in to take attendance, and of course checked to see who was dressed and prepared, she awkwardly pulled up a chair to the front of the class of fifty and asked us politely and somberly to take a seat and listen.
Known for her sarcastic comments and her ability to wisely mess with students who weren't the brightest stars in the sky, she uttered several words that were met with an awkward reaction:
"I'm not sure how else to say this, and I"m sure some of you are beginning to hear things now, but a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center"
The look of perplexity and apprehension to give in to her statement filled the faces of many as we weren't sure how to react. Is she serious? Or is Ms. Goodman being, well, Ms. Goodman?
One kid shouted, "Yeah okay, Ms. G, and Ja rule and I went ice skating last night."
For a moment, the tension eased as everyone laughed at the light comment.
She followed up her statement with a confirmation, as well as a buffer for her next statement.
"I'm very serious guys. This is no joke. I would advise if you have family that works or lives in the Center or the lower Manhattan area, to go to the main office or your guidance counselor to call them. I'm serious. I'm very serious guys. No passes are needed, just go."
The faces of apprehension now grew into immediate curiosity, and for a select few minutes, wild concern. Questions now began to flood the awkward tension in our corner of the gymnasium.
What's going on?
Ms. Goodman proceeded to explain to us the latest news she was aware of, albeit a bit misconstrued with hindsight vision, which was the news of a plane crashing into one of the towers causing one of the buildings to topple over.
A girl, quickly asked, "Are you serious? A plane caused that big building to topple over. So, the building isn't there anymore?"
Ms. Goodman responded, "Yes. It has fallen, and the situation right now is not very good."
Another similar question poured in as the fifty-plus of us who were sprauled out over the gymnasium corner in our designated spots, now huddled around our information source.
"You sure it's not just another bombing? You know they are always trying to bomb that place."
"No, it's a plane. And yes, the building is no longer. Please guys, this is serious. Get in to touch with your loved ones, but do not leave the building."
We all sat there steering at the ground, up in the air, or in some cases, at one another, still unsure what to make of the recent developments.
Finally, Ms. Goodman gave us the ultimate, and final test to grasp the situation.
"I'm not supposed to have you guys leave the room, as the school - all schools - are on lockdown until we know for sure what is happening. But let's go to the back stair case and run up to the third floor."
Ms. Goodman referred to an area in our high school facing the West where, similar to most high rised buildings throughout the five boroughs, you are able to view the Manhattan skyline, and yes, the twin towers.
As most of the group of fifty exited the stairwell on the third floor, jaws were dropped and many expletives were heard as a once careless, rambunctious group stood there frozen. Simply staring, with a million different thoughts running through our minds.
The towers were gone. And all that was visible was a massive cloud of smoke billowing over the area.
Some students slid down the wall and sat as if in a trans. Some went back to the locker room grabbed their things, and headed home despite the mandatory lockdown.
After the bell rang, many were still unsure of what was next. Are we to continue the day as usual? Is the smart move to indeed go home? Is it even safe to go home?
As I walked past the main office and the school's lobby, the area was littered with mayhem. Students and even faculty fleeing through the doors. Security guards attempting to screen strangers looking for shelter. Rumors quickly spreading that the city was under a chemical and biological attack. And parents looking to pull their children out of school.
It was my next class, awkwardly and ironically, A.P. United States History. It was there where our teacher, Mr. Rosenkratz, had a TV set up, allowing everyone to come in and simply catch up on what was transpiring before our eyes. We watched the coverage, barely blinking in amazement. The coverage was full of mayhem, chaos, and terror that looked like some type of Hollywood film, yet, was so very real. There was an unyielding focus on the horror and fear on people's faces as they ran from buildings that had just collapsed. The sight of debris and smoke filling the streets like some type of monster searching for innocent victims to claim. It created terror. It induced fear.
It was the type of unknown fear and panic that I just experienced in the front lobby of our high school, and if we managed to escape this horrific daze to peer out of the window, it was outside in our neighboring streets as well.
While sitting there watching in utter silence, a girl in our class walked in late. She, unfortunately, had been told by another teacher in her previous class that the Pentagon was attacked by a bomb, and was not aware of the World Trade Center. As she walked in, two NYPD officers quickly entered the room and asked that she step out into the hallway. Confused, she obeyed and left the room. Mr. Rosenkratz, whose face gave away the notion of understanding, quickly rushed out as well.
Suddenly, a loud scream howled in the hallway, followed by a combination of crying and screaming.
We later found out, she was told at that moment that both of her parents, NYPD officers, were inside the twin towers, and were on duty in the building that morning. The two officers followed the sorrowful announcement by revealing that her parents were working above the location where the plane had hit that morning.
Without knowing, the entire classroom knew. It was a weird sense of acquiring knowledge by feeling the tension in the atmosphere.
We sat there, disheartened, confused, and still sensitive to the open wound of feelings and knowledge just inflicted on us.
I'll never forget that scream.
A scream that made September 11th, more than just a few images on a screen, but one that was real, and in living color.
After finally heading home after that third period class and against school and city orders, I sat on the couch flipping threw what seemed liked coverage on every station. And as much as the next statement may seem like a roll-of-the-eyes type of moment today, the mere fact that coverage were on channels such as Comedy Central, ESPN, and MTV heightened the seriousness of the situation.
This was not just breaking news. This was huge.
Later that night as the day came to a reflecting end, the neighborhood kids did the best we could to take our minds off of the days worries, confusion, and unknowns.
We played football in the street. Something we often did. Our escape, if you will.
However, after a few quick passes, the constant fluttering sound of helicopters circling the area, police cars and sirens driving around, and the rare-to-us-sight of armored vehicles and personnel walking around our neighborhood with automatic weapons, it was too much to continue.
It was just too much to take. There was just so much to understand.
The fears of this being the beginning of some sort of World War III.
The anger of those who later found out the terrorist used knives to hijack the planes.
The site of a little bit of the ash from the towers being in our backyards. And that feeling a measly bit of dust gave us.
The different type of fear that the local Muslim and Islamic families in the neighborhood had, and the many broken windows and threats they would receive over the following weeks and months.
And of course, the unanswered question we all had, where do we go from here?
Ten years later, that question is still somewhat unanswered. Our world has definitely changed, and our freedoms and liberties are no longer taken for granted. It is a day that as cliche as the statement has become, we all remember where we were.
And on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I decided to share my story here at the DP. A story, that may or may not be similar to yours, yet lends to the collection of stories we each have as humanity. For every story is interesting. Every. Single. Story. And that is fact.
In the midst of reflecting on that day, we remember the fear, the anger, the raw emotions, and the unknowns, as well as the the bonding, patriotism, and togetherness that followed.
|Only structure remaining. Coincidence? Nope.|
September 11th, will always be a day where evil made it's effective presence in a world still being revealed to me at the tender age of 16. Ten years ago, I wrote a poem which I posted here on the DP (before the crash of 2004 erased it forever), and voluntarily (and shockingly) presented in class a few days later. It was honestly one of the most emotional pieces I have ever written, and one that was very much well received.
I will never be able to reproduce the thoughts and words I jotted down that night, nor will I ever be able to completely capture the feelings I had. However, much like 9/11, I will never forget the overall theme - an appreciation for life.
And while, it does bother me those who throw around the title of, "God Bless America" as a simple cliche rather than for it's substantial meaning, the day will always be tied to learning about the good Lord's grace and compassion. However, most noticeably, I learned to lean on him for his guidance through times where understanding, comprehension, and an overall handle on the situation, cannot be attained.
Ten years later, after a finalized memorial site, a new heightened sense of national security, and a dead Osama Bin Laden, there are questions that still remain unanswered, However, reflections, thoughts, memories, stories, and absolute faith remain the only truths after 9/11.
And in some ways, ten years later, those are the only qualities we need to know and hold onto.