I remember the day like it was yesterday.
I was 17 years old.
It was my freshman year in College.
“Congrats on getting into Brooklyn College! I’m so proud of you! -Mom”
Yeah. I hated this fucking school. No friends. No fun classes. A long ass commute and not a damn clue about what I want to do with my life. I was a communications major. I wanted to be a writer. I had 4 classes on Tuesday and Thursday. 8:40 am: Greek mythology, 10:40am: art history, 1pm: contemporary literature, 3:15: micro economics.
My Greek myth professor hated me, my art history professor bored me, I loved my lit professor and my micro economics professor confused me…I wasn’t ready for college.
The day I realized this was a day I will never forget.
Nor will anyone else in the history of the world…only for different reasons. My dropping out of college doesn’t affect the world that way…
It was an insanely gorgeous day. I met up with my best friend and we hit burger king at 8am for a croissant’wich and hash browns. I was wearing a brand new baby pink top with dark demin boot cut jeans from the GAP, a fresh pair of timberland boots and a brand new baby blue jansport book bag. My hair was up to my lower back in a low side ponytail with a rhinestone clip. The air had a distinct scent. Like summer was still lingering even though the weather was getting cooler. I left my jacket at home that day because it was going to be a warm one.
I ate my croissant’wich and headed to class. Class was from 840 to 10. Attendance was sparse. Which was highly unusual. But I sat in that class while professor went on about Greek myth.
I spent the hour thinking about how i was going to tell my mother I was going to drop out of school.When class was over the hallways were full of students. As I made my way across campus to my art history class I sat in the classroom which was also half empty.
I turned to someone and asked “what the hell is going on?”
“The world trade center collapsed”
“a plane flew right into it…and then another plan flew into the other one and now the one of them collapsed!”
My first thought, my father.
He worked on the same block as the world trade center.
I panicked. I still didn’t know it was a terrorist act but I reached for my cellphone and tried to call my family.
“your call cannot be connected as dialed. Please try your call again”. I tried and tried and couldn’t get anything but a busy signal or the damn operator telling me to try my call again.
I was panicking as i heard people saying the 2nd tower just collapsed and there was a third plane was hijacked.
And then I saw the signs being posted
“All classes cancelled due to the world trade center terrorist attacks”
My legs went numb. I felt a wave of nausea and sweat and dizziness… I didn’t know what to do.
A crowd of students rushed through the halls, down the stairs and out onto the campus. The crowd must have carried me with them as I was still thinking about my father. my mother. and damn near all the people i knew that were in that area.
Imagining the worst.
There was a faculty member standing on top of a campus monument with a bull horn instructing us that classes were cancelled and to get home to our families safely. It was now after 11. My phone rang. It was my mother. She was surprisingly calm and asked if I was okay, must have been shock.
Without answering her I asked if she and dad were okay.
“Dad is fine…hes a bit shaken because he saw some disturbing things. (her voice started to crack) people were jumping, Mona. They were jumping off the buildings…(starting to sob) there aren’t any trains running. Go find [bestfriend] and try to find a safe way home…I love you. Call me every hour to let me know you’re okay!”
I hung up the phone.
So many things rushing through my mind at once. I felt a tug on my book bag and saw my best friend standing in front of me. I gave her an enormous hug.
At that moment I felt the entire world was coming to an end. I kept hearing things from other people. All i thought of were hijackers crashing planes into everything and couldn’t fathom what the next few hours, let alone days would be like.
The life I never experienced flash before my eyes.
My first true love, my first sexual experience, my wedding, the birth of my children…all things I thought would never happen to me (I’m still hopeful). My friend and I found a map (there weren’t any cool mobile apps yet) and realized that it was going to be a dreadful day. You see, we lived 1.5 hrs away by train…who knows how long it would take to walk from one end in Brooklyn to the other.
But we walked.
From where we were standing we saw the enormous cloud of black smoke coming from a place i loved so dearly. I hadn’t the slightest clue as to what REALLY happened- just what was buzzing in the air.
The air smelled like something was burning..in BROOKLYN. I couldn’t imagine what lower Manhattan smelled like.
3 hours later, my brand new pink shirt was soaked with sweat. My hair, a sweaty mess wrapped in a bun at the nape of my neck, and my feet most definitely blistered in my not so fresh timbs. And just when I couldn’t take it any longer a New York City Transit bus drove by, stopped in front of me. Opened it’s doors and the driver told me and my friend to get on.
I didn’t think.
The exhaustion took over my entire body…there weren’t many people in the streets but this wonderful bus driver drove me and my friend home.
He picked up any and everyone he saw and drove them as close to home as he could.
This man was my hero. I never got his name but I was in tears when he dropped me off on my block as I thanked him profusely. The feeling I felt when I walked through the door and hugged my family was intense. It was filled with laughs and sobs and just an overwhelming sense of relief. My family was safe.
I’m really blessed.
I turned on that TV in complete disbelief.
I saw what was left of my favorite place.
What was left of the place I went to everyday for lunch when I interned at my fathers office. I felt immense pain watching family after family pleading with all of New York holding photos of their loved ones and reporting them missing. It didn’t seem real to me.
I spent the remainder of that week glued to the television watching the news. Hoping for good news… I never told my mother I wanted to drop out of school-it would just break her heart… I stood there for one miserable semester and flunked a class (micro economics), got 2 D’s (greek myth and art history) and a A (contemp lit).
Today, as I sit at my desk, I hear the bag pipes.
I see the masses of officers in their dress blues.
I sit here and I think of all the families who lost loved ones.
My heart breaks.
For the children who were born without knowing their fathers.
For the firefighters that ran to the burning building and never came back.
For the officers that risked their life every single day and didn’t hesistate to go to ground zero and not come home.
I offer my sincerest condolences to anyone who has lost someone dear to them to this tragic day in history.
With every year that goes by I still wake up and remember the day those two towers fell.
I still can’t believe all these years have passed.
Where were you on 9/11?