9-11-01: An Unfathomable Tragedy, A Changed Nation, A Changed World

Inspired by my colleague Annie Savoy, I thought I would share my experiences from 9/11 as well. As some of you may already know, I am 16 years old and a senior in high school; putting me in 2nd grade at merely the age of six on the morning of September 11th, 2001. Despite being so young, I remember that day quite vividly, here is what I recall about that tragic day: 

On Sunday, September 9th, I was coming back from upstate New York with my family and as we were going over the bridge to get back to Long Island, my father pointed to the right side of the car and said to me and my then 5-year old sister: “Look guys, there’s the Twin Towers.” He then proceeded to tell us all about his memories of going to “Windows on the World” when my uncle lived near the Towers and how he went there once to collect some winnings from a scratch-off ticket. It was the first time I consciously recall seeing the New York City skyline, and I really liked the look of the World Trade Center towers. 

Now on the morning of September 11th, I was getting ready for one of my first days of the second grade. My mom and dad were concerned about getting to work and the fact that I was on the verge of losing my first tooth. We actually have a video recording of me showing my parents how loose my tooth was, the time: roughly 7:45 AM.

When we were at school, my teacher started to go in and out of the classroom frequently, seemingly preoccupied with something else other than teaching us 2+2=4. At one point, another teacher walked to the edge of the doorway and emphatically signalling for my teacher to come. When she went to the door, the other teacher said something and my teacher immediately covered her mouth with her hand and gasped in disbelief.

When we went to lunch, where my first tooth fell out, all of us were blissfully unaware of the terror striking the nation. I recall one kid across the table from me was pulled out of the lunchroom by his mother, who had a troubled look on her face. She would be the first of many mothers to pick up their children during that lunch period in fear that there might be an invasion of the country.

By the time we returned to the classroom, there were 7-10 of us left in class that remained from the usual 25. Our teacher sat us down in front of her rocking chair and first asked us if anyone knew what the Twin Towers were. I sprung right up and promptly stated that my daddy had showed us them the other day. After one or two other kids said that they had heard of it, she said that something bad had happened, and that those towers were gone. As a small group of six year olds, we really did not understand the severity of what had happened. 

When me and my sister got home, I was excited to see my dad home from work early, but my parents immediately sent us upstairs to watch cartoons. They were glued to the TV, and being the curious child I was, I decided I would try to find out. Every time I would walk down the stairs, I was met by one parent or the other, telling me to go upstairs. I now know they did not want me or my sister to know what actually was happening, but at the time I was determined to see what was going on. 

I inched down the stairs and stood quietly behind my parents, then after about a minute of listening to the TV broadcasts I blurted out with a heart broken face “Mommy, you mean someone did this on purpose?”. My dad would tell me a few months later that there were very bad people who did it on purpose to hurt our country. I could not wrap my head around the thought that someone would purposely kill themselves and harm innocent people in the process. 

I recall the smell in the following days. I remember waiting at the bottom of my driveway and waiting for my bus, smelling something that kind of smelled like burnt wires and metal and asking my dad what that was. He told me it was from what happened earlier that week. The winds blew the smoke eastward over Long Island all the way from ground zero. We actually got a letter from my Elementary School telling us what it was.

Finally, shortly after the attacks, during the time we were given for arts-and-crafts, I drew a picture of the three firefighters raising the American flag on an 8.5×14 sheet of paper, modeled after the photo shown above. I taped it to the back of my chair and left it there proudly. It only stayed there about a week or two, because a teacher saw it and wanted to show it to the faculty and put it in the yearbook.

Although I was so young at the time, the tragedy on 9/11 has had an enormous effect on not only me but everyone my age. Despite being small and naive when 9/11 occurred, we all remember it and often talk about it. 9/11 Effected the young and old alike, it was not a tragedy for one race, one class, one age or one city: it was a tragedy for one nation. It was a horrific event that left a country to pick up the pieces. A wounded, but proud single civilization, that hurt together, cried together, worked together and ultimately triumphed together.

God Bless America, the greatest country on earth, past, present and future; and no force of evil, big or small, will ever change that.

About Clayton Collier 388 Articles
Clayton Collier, a senior editor for MMO, is a Journalism major with a minor in Broadcasting at Seton Hall University. He is also a staff member at 89.5 WSOU, Seton Hall's modern active rock radio station. Following him on Twitter: @Clayton_Collier or E-maili him at MaybeNextYearMets@yahoo.com