Citizens throughout the nation spent yesterday, Sept. 11, commemorating and reflecting on the fateful day 12 years ago that forever changed America. While most of the current students at the University of Mary Washington were fairly young back in 2001, the effects of the terrorist attacks left an indelible impact on almost everyone in the nation. Below, the editorial staff of the Bullet look back on their own experiences and exhibit how Sept. 11, 2001 affected the lives of so many, regardless of age or location.
At the time, I did not know what was happening. It was just a regular school day, but then all of my friends were called out of class one at a time. Everyone seemed to be going home for some reason and I wanted to know why I was not. Soon enough my name was called and I was picked up by my mother and sister. The next time I was in school, just about everyone was missing someone they knew. Everyone was affected somehow, and I count myself very lucky that I was not personally torn from anyone I loved, but I believe every American was hit with something that day. I believe 9/11 has affected all Americans in some way because for so many people it was a stab in the heart and its repercussions still continue today, we still remember it.
At the time of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, I, like many others, was in school. The administration said we would continue the school day as usual and informed us that parents would be arriving to take students home throughout the day. I specifically remember being told not to worry if your parents did not arrive immediately. Once my mother came and took me home, I can remember sitting with my sisters, aunt and cousin in our house. The news was playing, but I do not recall comprehending the situation at the time. My father worked in D.C., and what I do remember is the fear present in the room and on my family members’ faces. I remember that fear being present until we finally got into contact with my father, and he arrived home. Though the events of the day are not completely clear, I remember the weeks and months after Sept. 11 being filled with that similar fear. The after-effects were all around, and it was obvious, even to a child, the country was shaken.
As my class was singing “Happy Birthday” to me and one other student, the TV in my third grade classroom started to display what was happening in New York. There was no sound coming from the TV. The classroom grew silent. No one really understood what was happening but students were suddenly leaving class to go home. Coming from a military area, my school emptied within three hours. My mom picked me up and spent the rest of the day locked in her room trying to get in contact with my dad. I sat on the couch watching the stream of news play the same images over and over again trying to comprehend it all. It wasn’t until two days later that I realized my dad was in the Pentagon on the day. My mom was trying to get a hold of him for over a day. The next week was a whirlwind, my dad was still not home and schools were closed. Even in third grade, I knew it was not a vacation that we should celebrate. A week later, my dad came home, school was back in session, but everything was different from there on out.
I was in the fourth grade. Ms. Jablonski’s class. We were working on our geography candy maps of the United States when the teacher left the classroom to confer with the other teachers in the hallway. My school made the decision to not tell us what happened; to instead keep us safe at school. It was not until I got home later that day, the TV displaying the awful images of planes crashing into buildings. I saw the shock etched on my mom’s face. She explained to my sister and I what had happened. In my fourth grade mind, I did not fully grasp the severity of the day’s events. I understood what happened was an awful thing, that many people were badly hurt and many more had died. I believed it to be a tragic accident, nothing more. It was not until the coverage continued, when I saw it on the news as I got ready for school, and heard it on the radio as my mom listened to her talk shows, that I began to understand I am grateful that my family was left unharmed, but I cannot and will not forget that many families were not as fortunate as mine.
As a child, my parents always had my brother and I take the bus to and from school. They worked long shifts at their jobs and usually came home between 5-10p.m. That is why when I walked out of elementary school on Sept. 11, 2001, and my parents were there to take us home, I knew something serious was wrong.
They sat us down with the TV playing in the background on mute, and they kept saying this word I did not understand. “Hijacked” they said, “we were hijacked.” I did not know what they were describing, but I had a feeling that it was the reason a girl in my class that day had been sobbing in the girl’s bathroom.
After sometime, my brother and I understood; we had been attacked. Being only in third and fourth grade at the time, we did not know how to process the tragedy. Yet, we needed to do something. We knocked on our neighbor’s door who also had two little kids, and we asked the kids if we could borrow their flag. They said yes, but they wanted in.
The four of us went to the corner of the street, held the American flag up high, and sang every patriotic tune we remembered from music class. Some cars honked, other cheered and we sang on till dark.