A lifetime ago…..

Eleven years seems like a lifetime.  At 32 years old, it’s in fact a full 1/3 of my lifetime.  But sometimes it can seem just like yesterday.  I’ve heard several people that were angry when September 11, 2001 was compared to the attacks on Pearl Harbor.  But, for my generation (and at least one generation younger and several older) that’s what it is.  September 11th is our “date which will live in infamy”.  It’s a date that will never be the same, and it’s a date we will never forget.  We all know where we were and what we were doing when we learned of the attacks in NY, Washington and Pennsylvania… and is something we will never ever forget.

I may have already shared this story on the blog, so forgive me if it’s repetitive, but this is how I experienced September 11, 2001 and the weeks that followed.

It was my fourth year in school at NC State (also known as, Red-Shirt Junior Year).  School had just started back, classes were only a few weeks old and if that weekend had not been the first football game of the season than surely the next weekend would have been.  I was driving to school listening to a local morning show on the radio.  As I pulled into the parking lot they made a brief mention of “a plane has crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers”.. there was no other details to report at that time, the DJ’s speculated it was a small plane, a Cessna, a Beechcraft etc, which can, and do from time to time, run into tall buildings when they fly as low as they do.  Nothing else was said, they went back to playing music or cracking jokes.

I walked across campus to the student union to grab breakfast and the place is absolutely mobbed, although that was normal for that time of day.  I got my food and miraculously found and empty table.  At this point I noticed that the TVs in the student union, which were normally on “College TV” that showed music videos and sports highlights, were tuned to CNN.  They were covering the tower that had been struck as everyone was trying to figure out what had happened.  It was bigger than what it sounded like on the radio, but still some freak accident right?  Right about this time, the second plane veered in and struck the second tower.  There was a collective gasp in the room, followed by a deathly silence.  Then the place erupted into a deafening roar as everyone started asking questions as once.  “Did you see that?” “What was that?” “What the Hell just happened?”

A sense of dread began to build in my stomach.  One plane could be an accident… but two?  I also had a sickening feeling as it clicked into my head that hundreds of people had just died instantaneously.

The place was so crowded that someone I didn’t know had asked to share my table with me and I said sure, of course and he sat with his back turned to me watching the television, but we were chit chatting some about what in the world was going.  I remember seeing the huge antenna boom on the second tower begin to rock back and forth and I said to him “It’s going to fall” and a few seconds later it collapsed and crumbled and fell to the ground.  At this point is when mad panic hit the streets of everyone running trying to get away.  We still had no clue what was going on but this was serious.

In the time span between the first tower collapse and the second one (I forget how long it was, 30 minutes? 40 minutes?) they switched to replays of the second plane hitting and replays of the first tower falling.  At some point they went back live as the second tower collapsed in on itself and crumbled to the ground.

At this point I had to get to class so I stumbled out of the student union in a daze trying to figure out what in the world was going on.  People in the classroom were openly crying, everyone was talking, no one was paying attention.  People seemed angry at the professor for trying to teach… “Have you no idea what just happened?” (In his defense, he probably did not).  I left that class and went on to the next, where the professor or a TA told us classes had been cancelled for the rest of the day.  I went home to my apartment to find my roommates glued to the TV, also trying to figure out what was going on.  Now we were getting reports of the plane that hit the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania, which we later found out was saved by the passengers who sacrificed themselves, and was likely bound for the White House.  NC State canceled classes for the rest of the week.  (I believe 9-11-01 was a Tuesday, just as it is today).  We sat transfixed in front of the TV trying to process something that even the smartest among us could not process.  None of it made any sense, nothing at all.  We would go out on the balcony (as several of us smoked back then) and notice the eerie quiet and the lack of contrails in the sky as all flights were grounded for a long time after that.   It was quite bizarre to walk to classes after that with a crystal clear blue sky, not a single cloud, not even a man-made one.  No planes. Weird.  You don’t notice them when they are there, but you notice them when they are gone.

In the weeks and months that followed the stories came out, both on campus and on TV.  People who had been in the towers on 9-10.  People who had forgotten something at home and turned around, a wallet, an ID badge, something you couldn’t go to work without, and were not in the towers when it happened.  The ones who made it out.  The ones who stayed behind.  The firemen who ran UP the stairs, while thousands were running down… the man in the wheelchair who evacuated his entire office and saved them all, but he stayed behind.

For the victims on the planes, who had nowhere to run and no way to escape.  For the people in the first tower who never saw it coming.  For the police, firemen, EMS, military and harbor patrol who perished and sacrificed their own lived to save others.  WE WILL NEVER FORGET.

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  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.