So the following is what I can recall from that fateful tuesday morning. I’m surprised I remember so much. There is a part 2 of this (which I want to re-edit and post here). Stay tuned.
September 11th, 2001
I woke up that Tuesday morning, what I thought was going to be another day where I’d go to school and learn from various classes I was taking that semester. I had just sat down with my typical breakfast (cereal and coffee), thinking ahead to what the morning rehearsal would be like while I was giving a blank stare to the television that was on. What broke my train of thought was when the local morning anchors said, “We will be ending our broadcast to get you to the developing story at the World Trade Center in New York City.” My initial thought was, “Wait, what?!?” The next image was one of the towers up in smoke and no one at the time knew why. Immediately, I was inhaling my breakfast trying to process what the heck I was viewing on the screen. I wanted to see what the internet sites were saying to this, but I knew the dial up we had at the time would have either taken forever or I wouldn’t find what I was looking for in time while I was waiting for my ride to school. So, I simply decided not to try it. During all the sudden interviews with many people near the area, the anchors of “The Today Show” took us back to the towers, which now had both towers in smoke. I understood that they were showing the cause of the second fire in the other tower, which was the result of an airplane crashing into it kamikaze style, but I just didn’t understand why they had to show it over and over just like the Joe Theisman play. What the news anchors were reporting of the four planes that were hijacked, one confirmed to hit the south tower had me thinking if the north tower fire had some correlation to the 2nd crash (and not just an accident). I believe my siblings were glued to the screen as well while my mom was trying to make sure we had lunch money for the day while she was trying to get ready for work. I had a feeling that it the news story was bothering her (especially when someone happen to show a picture of Osama bin Laden), but she did her best not to show it. I remember her saying something along the lines of. “Oh, that’s the guy we [the FBI and other U.S. agencies] have been searching for awhile.” I’m sure my siblings were talking about it, but to be honest, I was so focused on the smoke on the tall sky scrapers that I did not hear a single word that they said.
Finally, my ride arrived (Edwin and his dad, Mr. Rios). I was reluctant to leave because they were breaking from New York to the D.C. area where they were reporting of another plane striking the Pentagon, but I had to go to school. I hopped into the car and just when I was about to ask Edwin about if he has heard about what is going on, he and his dad were listening to it on the spanish talk radio station. We head over to another friend’s house (Anthony) just a block away. He gets into the car, and again, I ask the question in which I knew the answer to “were you watching the tv?” He said yeah. He and his dad (Mr. Mena) were watching it. I’ll never forget what Mr. Mena said about the situation when Anthony asked him what is going on, “I don’t know what’s going on, but this is history in the making.” As we were about to get to the school (6:59 am Arizona time), Edwin said in a state of shock “One of the towers have collapsed!!!” I couldn’t imagine it, a tower that has been the image of New York City has collapsed. I get out of the car and as I’m waiting for my friends to get out, I think to myself, “A tower collapsed while another is up in flames, the Pentagon is hit with an airplane, another is hijacked but no where to be found yet and the picture of a terrorist surfaces on television. What in the world IS going on? Why is this happening? How many have been killed in this attack? Will I have to join the military to defend my country?”
Everyone was talking about it as we were heading to the field to work on fixing the drill with the music. When someone asked me if I would join the military, I said, “I’ve always wanted to fly, so if I had to, it’d have to be the Air Force.” For about 45 minutes, I forgot about what was occurring 3000 miles away because I was focused on the rehearsal. We get back from the field and it was sort of a back to reality moment for me because the minute I get into the room, the entire band was glued to the television until the bell rang. And for the entire day at school, we briefly covered the stuff that was supposed to take the full class period and assign homework in roughly 5 minutes. The rest of the time was spent watching the television for further developments. What I noticed immediately was that in all of my classes, particularly my English class that followed my band rehearsal, was that there was no chatter amongst the people in the classroom, not a word. It was kind of eerie to be in silence watching what occurred, almost like we were all in a state of shock. I’ll never forget what our English teacher, Dr. Malmgren, said regarding us being silent, “I know this must be hard for everyone. If you need to step outside of the classroom, you have my permission; there is nothing wrong with that.” But none of us moved. I don’t know why, but we just sat there and continued to watch the news. During our lunch time, some of my friends and I grabbed some chips & soda and found a classroom where the teacher in the room was watching for any developing stories regarding the event. I think it was during this lunch break that I had a chance to contact my mom, who just started her job at an elementary school within the district. She told me to wait for my brother at the middle school then walk home together. I didn’t mind those instructions; I just had to find a way to spend an hour and a half of time before that happened.
So the end of the school day finally came to an end after the day dragging on with us watching for more news developments. I ended up walking with some friends to a house near the middle school. After watching cartoons for an hour, I walked to the middle school and I waited for the bell. A few minutes before the bell rang though, I heard the principal give some announcements regarding cancelled sports practices, but he said to the students, “I encourage you to go home and be with your families.” I thought about that sentence for a second and thought, “Well, that’s what I plan on doing. I am thankful to be alive after seeing images of planes crashing into buildings and towers collapse, leaving many citizens to flee from the smoke and debris engulfing the New York area. I can’t imagine what the families of the victims are going through.” After my brother and I got home, we all as a family went out to eat at a diner off of Broadway. As we were waiting for the food, my mom was telling us of something she heard on the radio, “What’s the emergency number?” I replied, “911.” Then she says, “What’s today?” And as I was halfway through saying “9-11”, I stopped to think of the off coincidence the date had to do with what happened. On the way back, instead of the usual music from the oldies station or the mix of songs from various decades’ station, my parents decided to place it on the local news talk station. The host was talking to someone who was on the University of Arizona campus to get a reaction from students. This person did mention that some of the foreign exchange students who were out on the big lawn area listening to all of the events on the radio were occasionally cheering. My dad, in a semi-angry and sad tone, said “They should be sent back to their home countries if they’re going to cheer for Americans losing their lives.” I wasn’t sure what to think of either statements made at first, but after thinking about it, I simply came to the conclusion: I understand that these exchange students are from another country and are here for the opportunity to get an education, but while you’re in this country, please try to be considerate of the citizens before you start to cheer for violence, death and destruction. It just seems very odd that you would approve of such horrible acts.
After I completed my homework, I was on the phone for an hour with some friends talking about the day. I made a note to call a particular friend of mine, who was supposed to get on a flight to go to Newark, New Jersey to visit a relative, but with all the flights being grounded, she ended up not going (even after flights were back up and running later on). During the early hours of the morning when I saw the list of flights that were hijacked, I noticed one of them was going from Newark to San Francisco (Flight 93). I initially panicked, thinking that she was on the plane because I saw the city Newark on the flight. But after realizing that it wasn’t the destination and it didn’t leave Tucson, I was relieved. She was a bit bummed out, but was shocked as I was about what had happened. As I was on the phone with all of my friends, I was channel surfing and noticed that pretty much every channel had some sort of coverage of the events (from the President’s speech to live footage of ground zero). What disturbed me the most was the Spanish stations (like Telemundo) showed live footage, but they really didn’t look before they placed the camera on record mode. I say this because the footage of the collapsed buildings had human limbs sticking out from the debris. I just reminded myself not to turn to those stations as I changed the channel. After a few more minutes of trying to find something else to watch, I decided to head out to the living room, where my family was trying to do the same thing as I was. I remember my Dad saying, “You know what, I want to watch something else other then the news. Let’s watch some cartoons” as he turns it to Cartoon Network. The following commercial that was on was what we thought was an innocent commercial for Captain Crunch. It showed the kids being bored with the typical breakfast, then the captain with his boat comes hurling towards the house as he makes a sharp turn to ‘park’ in front of the house, slashing the house with water. We all were a bit shocked; my dad broke the brief awkward silence by saying, “Oh my God, Captain Crunch is a terrorist!” as we break out in laughter. I know it was unintentional, but man that was a poorly timed commercial. In our case though, I think it was the laughter we needed to, for a split second, forget about the tragic day. A few cartoons helped out as well. Then I look at the clock, seeing that it was almost time to get some sleep for the next day of school, I decided to call it a night.
As I begin to relax, I think about the entire day and make this simple conclusion, “As Franklin D. Roosevelt said after the Pearl Harbor attack, ‘…a date which will live in infamy…’, well this is a day that will live in infamy. I don’t think the U.S., nor the world for that matter, will ever be the same again after the events of today.”