I was a senior at a New York City high school. I was in 2nd period AP Art History listening to my teacher drone on and on about things that had nothing to do with art history. The loudspeaker came on and the principal made an announcement that changed most of our lives forever. A plane had just hit one of the Twin Towers. At this point, it was still thought to be an accident and not a terrorist attack. We were told to remain calm. Yea. Right. A short while later, she made a second announcement. For the rest of that day, it was anything but business as usual. Public transportation shut down, cell towers went down from all of the frantic calls with people trying to figure out if their loved ones were the lucky ones or not. Several of my friends lost their parents. My dad lost one of his closest friends. A few were lucky and were on the 7 train that was delayed and did not make it into the World Trade Center stop at its scheduled time. That train delay saved a lot of people's lives. I remember sitting in my economics class. Even though we were about 15 miles from the WTC, we could still see all of the fires and smoke from our classroom. When I was leaving school, the bus system had not started back up yet, so a friend and I had to walk about 1-2 miles to the subway stop. On our walk, we passed several military tanks in a quiet, residential neighborhood. Surreal. Getting out of the subway was another shock. The loudest, busiest, most crowded street in our neighborhood was dead. All of the stores were closed. No one was in the streets. We were all in the same place. In our living rooms glued to our television sets. Despite all of that, it still just did not seem real. Like a bad nightmare that was going to end any second now. The next morning, all schools and businesses were closed. My dad worked in the ER so he had volunteered to go down to Ground Zero to help out with the hospitals there that were badly understaffed for such a catastrophe. He said that the things he saw that day still haunt him. My mother and I curled up in her bed (me with my faithful Teddy) under the covers. Every morning NY1 News does a grand, sweeping shot of the New York skyline in the morning. That morning's shot was all covered in smoke, soot, and a giant hole in the middle. When I saw that image, that was when it truly hit me that this was real and nothing ever was going to be the same. I started hysterically crying right there.
I remember walking around downtown Manhattan and seeing fruit stalls that were completely covered in ash and soot. In December, on my way to the South Street Seaport, I turned around and saw the rubble. Most of it had not been cleared away yet and the facade of one of the towers was still standing. It was my first time seeing it not on a television screen and it was absolutely chilling and haunting.
This is my first 9/11 where I'm not living in New York. It is a weird feeling. I feel like I should be back home. I may live in Germany now, but my heart and thoughts will always be in New York on this day. One of my biggest fears is for people to start to forget what happened. Back when Pearl Harbor was bombed, it was the first time that we had been attacked on American soil in over a century. It was a major turning point in American history and everyone talked about it for years. Now, so many Americans don't even know what December 7th is, and to them it's just another date on the calendar. I don't want September 11th to become another date on the calendar. Never forget.