Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. Third period Child Development class. I was 17 years old and a senior at Northern Highlands Regional High School. My life was about to change, but I was completely unaware of the magnitude of change. The principal came over the loud speaker to announce horrifying and confusing news: “Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center.” I thought, freak accident? But upon turning on the TV in our classroom the news ticker on the bottom of the screen read, “possible terrorist action.” And right before our eyes, the first tower fell to the ground in a cloud of black smoke. My classmates and I stood in front of the TV. Was this a movie? Did that really just happen? Students immediately began to panic.
We were approximately 18 miles away from downtown Manhattan. Everyone knew someone who worked there. The school went on lockdown. The rest of the day was a blur of fear and worry, concern and sympathy. For the next several weeks, pictures of the disaster littered the cover of every magazine and news publication. The smoke from the World Trade Center tragedy hung heavily in the air, holding the souls of those lost that day. I could see it from a local highway for almost a week. For me, New York City was practically in my backyard. It is how I identify with September 11th, despite the tragedies at the Pentagon and the plane that was heroically taken down in Pennsylvania.