I was originally very hesitant to write this. My story is the ordinary story. I didn't do anything heroic that day. I just went on about my business, trying to function, but only able to function like a CD player with only one battery. I don't want to take people's thoughts away from those who's lives will never be the same in the sense that New York will never be the same. The Pentagon will never be the same and that field in Pennsilvania will never be the same. My life has changed, but I made no physical sacrifice that day. I didn't take huge risks to save someone. I couldn't even give blood.
I decided that I'd share anyway, for one main reason. The people who did this were filled with so much hatred for our country. I don't know who started it. I don't know the history. All I know is that I wish there would have been healthy dialogue. I wish those who did this would have been able and willing to discuss what made them so angry, and we'd been able to come to a peaceful solution. I wish America would have been listening. I want to write today, then, because I need to write. I need to find ways to move on. I need to deal with the stress and sadness I'm feeling, and I need to share my story, so that hopefully others will understand where I'm coming from. I hope others will share their thoughts and stories so that a circle of understanding can be built.
It's sad how little I would remember of September 11, 2001 if what happened hadn't. I probably wouldn't remember social studies, where we talked about development. I remember that it was a normal class. We did whatever it was we were supposed to do. I remember having a hard time getting all of the way from the cafeteria (where my homeroom was), to social studies. It was about an eighth of a mile, and as a cane user, I wasn't the fastest walker. It was challenging to get around other students and physical obstacles. At the time, my first period teacher wanted me to switch to his homeroom so my life would be easier. At that point, I still wasn't doing it.
Second period was gym class. I think the group was playing tennis, which I decided wouldn't be a safe activity, so my adaptive phy-ed teacher and I did power walking. She mentioned that some of the airports were closed because of a possible terrorist attack (this was around 10, eastern time). She hadn't really heard much, and I think everyone was so shocked about it, so she didn't have the exact information. I was nervous, but normally so. We continued our walk, and finished early so I could get changed. I remember that i spritzed on some "Love Spell" perfume from Victoria Secret (hey, it smelled good at the time). To this day, I can't smell that perfume without getting a sick feeling in my stomach (although that reaction is fading). I was standing in front of my locker in the ninth grade wing of our school when the principal came over the P.A. system.
He said that we should have a moment of silence and send good thoughts to the people on the east coast. I prayed doubly hard. My dad was in either West Verginia or Virginia, and I thought he was in a government facility. I didn't know what was going on, and all sorts of rumors were filling the hallways at this point. Bomb? Airplane? Nucular (sorry, couldn't resist) attack? I didn't know if I'd ever see him again.
I don't usually think of not having Braille material as a positive thing, but that day it was. Since I didn't have what i needed for class, I was working with a partner who was also in my study hall class. We went to the library, where the TV was on. The teachers weren't supposed to stop class or let us watch the coverage, but I'm not sure they were even aware we were in the library. I found out about the attacks, and prayed that my Dad was not at the pentagon. I didn't have a very good grasp of geography at the time (still don't).
In math, we did discuss briefly what was going on. There were still a lot of rumors going through the school, so it wasn't very easy to figure out what was going on. Although a lot of people have frames of reference such as seeing the plane hit the second tower live, I don't have those. I just have the memory of confusion and fear. I was extremely glad I have under-developed tear ducts that day.
I was so glad to have that day over. I wanted to know what was going on and I wanted to know that everyone was okay. I didn't know if other attacks had happened or if it was limited to the east coast. I remember not knowing where the president was. I also remember comparing it to Tribulation Force, the second book in the left behind series. When I got off the bus, I was scared of what might happen. Even the breeze in the leaves scared me.
I was able to track down my Mom, who had talked to my sister. I don't think we'd heard from Dad, though. I found out later that his cellphone didn't have good reception (which makes sense if you realize he was out east). I kept calling, hoping he'd pick up. It was incredibly scary. Worse, the TV reporters were in so much shock, they weren't giving enough descriptions. I don't think I truly understood the horror at the time. What many people saw on TV, I didn't even know about. I didn't hear about people jumping from the World Trade Center until about two years ago. At the time, I had never even heard of the World Trade Center until it went down in flames.
That night, mom and I went to a service at our church. Thousands of churches held the same type of services. I don't remember what the pastor said. I just remember the overriding feeling of fear.
After the service, Mom had a meeting for something related to leadership. I sat in the narthex, talking to anyone who had time to chat. I wanted all of the information I could get and I wanted to be reassured that things would be okay. I remember one of the kids running in and telling everyone to get gas, since it would be at $5 a gallon the next day (it wasn't). The lines were long and everyone was scared.
That night, I slept in Mom and Dad's bed since Dad wasn't home. I needed that reassurance that things would be okay. It was almost midnight before I got to sleep (that was before RSD and the associated sleep problems I have).
9/11 will always bring back memories of my grandparents on my Mom's side. Neither of them died on September 11, 2001, but grandpa died about a month before and Grandma died in April of the following year. I can only offer my deepest empathy for those who are mourning the loss of someone who died on 9/11. The memories are strong for me, I can't even imagine what they are going through. My eyes produced tears today, so you know it's big.
If I may, I have a few "take away" things to say here. First, if you're ever working around kids, be honest about what's happening. They don't need to know everything, necessarily, but they do need to know who might be affected. Knowing that it hadn't touched my Dad would have made that day a lot easier for me. If you're working with kids with a visual impairment or other disability that makes access to information difficult (hearing or cognitive impairments for example), try to make the information accessible to them. Hearing the truth from you is better than rumors from a kid in the hall.
To those who choose to fight back in hatred, I say, that will not solve the problems. We can't continue fighting and not finding solutions. Hatred, though it might be appealing, is never the answer. I say this to everyone, each person has the chance to impact the world for good or evil. I pray we will choose good.