It’s been 16 years since the 9/11 terror attacks. We take at least one moment on this day to reflect on the lives lost at the hands of this tragedy, not realizing how much we have been affected by it in the long run.
Airport security was changed, shopping habits seized, the economy dipped, and although on this day Americans were united xenophobia is still prevalent in the back of some’s minds.
As someone who lives in the suburbs of New York City, just a 45-minute bus ride away, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being emotionally involved in this day. I was just over a year old when it happened, but 12 lives from my town were lost. Everyone I know has someone they know who was injured, involved, or lost their life because of the attacks.
My friend’s mom was six and a half months pregnant with her youngest daughter at the time. She had two little girls at home across the river in Bayonne. She worked six blocks from the World Trade Center and went to get a bagel and chocolate milk for breakfast in the store across the street from her job. When she came out, she recalled the smoke and how it looked like there were ticker tapes floating through the air.
She went back to her building and up to the 20th floor where she worked. When she got there, someone said a plane hit the World Trade Center. Like many people when the first plane hit, she assumed it was an accident.
She was wrong.
When the second plane hit, someone in the building told them all to get out.
There was chaos outside, and she found other people heading to the same town as her. They got the last subway out of the downtown region. When they reached the Port Authority area, they watched events unfold on jumbo TVs. The towers fell in front of their eyes on televisions, and the only thing heard was people crying.
After two hours, her little group became next in line for the ferry. Then another pregnant woman waddled up to the front, and it dawned on her that her pregnancy could’ve gotten her home to her two other babies quicker – they were the first and only things on her mind, so it never really occurred to her.
Even now, 16 years later, she gets choked up telling me the story.
There’s also a teacher at my school – one of many – who were in class when they heard about the attack. This particular teacher teaches international studies, and at the time his class was next door to an AP Government class. The AP Gov teacher had a cable television, and when the first tower hit he sent over a student to tell him.
As a former marine, my international studies teacher suspected a terror attack. He knew this might be it.
And then the next period, a second tower hit and another student from the AP Gov class broke the news; he knew this was the attack he suspected.
He also recalled how the school district needed volunteers to watch the children in after care later than the usual 6:00 because traffic was at a near standstill, and commuting was a nightmare.
As it got later and later, kids kept getting picked up. And then around 9:00, there were 3 left.
He never told us who picked up those kids and when.
A boy who was in my brother’s class at the time lost his father because he was in the area and ran in to help and rescue people from one of the towers.
My parents, thankfully, weren’t in the city at the time of the attacks. My mom wanted to go pick up my three siblings from school but the schools advised not to so the children wouldn’t be alarmed.
My mom’s best friend was at the World Trade Center because she’s a nurse and at the time worked for a major insurance company. She was on a lower floor and was instructed by emergency personnel to evacuate down the stairs and keep walking away from the buildings.
Several weeks later, they mailed her her work ID; singed and seared.
September 11 is a day that we say we will never forget, but will we really? We forgot about Pearl Harbor, and as years go on we’re starting to forget 9/11 and the heroic acts made by first-responders and civilians alike. We must continue to say the victim’s names and take moments of silence to reflect on an America that becomes united in times of need. We can’t forget the lives lost in the fall of the towers, as well as those brave fallen passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who stormed the cockpit 46 minutes after takeoff to fight the hijackers, saving countless other lives.