September 11, 2010


I was sitting in the window seat of a north bound bus waiting to pull away from Kacerov bus station in Prague 4. The sun was streaming through and I turned my face to take it all in.

The big chunky water fountain was dry and had pigeon droppings layered around it with graffiti peaking out. Women with strollers struggled to get on the bus, and people murmured polite greetings to one another. I was focused on where I was headed in town and what I had to do.

I got a text from my sister in America. I quickly calculated what time it was for her... Early in the morning. Two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center and there were more in the air. I read the texts in disbelief. Did she mean to send this to someone else? Was she talking about a movie? Babies in strollers still babbled. The pigeons still cooed. And the bus still sat in the sun, suspended in time.

I felt so far from home and isolated.

I got more texts detailing the news as it came in. The plane had yet to crash into the Pentagon, and the other plane had yet to crash into a field. The texts were speculations, something about fighter jets flying over New York and other planes in the air. But it was impossible to know. The bus was sliding through traffic by then, people bustling on and off. And I felt like I was alone, glued to this information, unmoving and suspended in time as the world sped on around me.

My mind went numb. I was in total disbelief. Totally unable to think. As I reached my destination and talked to other people, the world was in disbelief too. Signs outside cafes were quickly changed to have chalked messages of support and sadness. I taught adults at that time; business English to business professionals. My high profile students were in disbelief and shock. Everyone offered sincere condolences and didn't know what to say.

I sat in a big office, across from my stunned student. We were silent, with the bright lights off and staring out two huge windows to the dismal railroad tracks beneath. Dirty pigeons tried again and again to land on the window ledge only to be deterred by long metal spikes.

"What a shame," he murmured again and again. "I'm so sorry.. We're so sorry."

People all over the world lost people they loved that day. Everyone felt attacked. Everyone felt shocked. There was solidarity. Oneness.

I was not alone.

We were not alone in this.

I planted myself on the cold tile back home in Prague 4 in front of the BBC. The news looped through and repeated segments til I had parts memorized. I still couldn't pull myself away. It was an unbelievable event. They were unbelievable images.

On that Tuesday evening, as the sun slid down on my side of the world, the eleventh of September was still in full swing and full shock back in the United States. A nation was in shock. Images looped through and everyone sat glued to their televisions.

Every year when September the 11th rolls around I mention it to my students. It's been less than a decade. But my students, teenagers this time, were four and five years old then. They don't remember. It's a vague and distant concept. They know that you shouldn't joke about bombs in airports, that our economy is weak, and that their cousins are in the Middle East. But many have only vague ideas as to why... Most have little feeling in response to the attacks. They say, "Miss, I want to remember and feel something... But honestly, I was so young...."

Sometimes, we have to remember for them. We have to remind them of that day when we all sat in disbelief.

Where were you when you heard about the attack on the World Trade Center?

Do you remember?


Kendall said...

I was a freshman in high school. I was walking into the band hall for second period when we were told to immediately report to the auditorium. The teachers were frazzled and frantic and I knew something terrible had happened. Our principal told us about the towers and we all sat stunned into silence. That Tuesday was a blur. We would walk from class to class, only to migrate back to the small library, the one room big enough to accommodate about 100 students at a time watching the small 10" tv. My mom picked me up early from school at about 2:30. She had been sent home from work because they were afraid of more attacks. (She works at Pantex in Amarillo. They disable weapons.) She didn't go back to work for a few weeks. It felt like life was on hold/replay. I couldn't stop watching the TV replays...

Jen said...

We were on a train in London heading back to the airport to board a plane for a Muslim nation. I'll never forget the pandemonium and craziness once we got to the airport and how scared I felt when we boarded the plane.

The Reeds said...

Kendall, it must have been so strange to be experiencing all of that as a student and watching how the adults around you reacted to it.. And Jen, what a unique perspective, being on a plane headed to a Muslim nation. I'm sure your view on that event must be more multi-faceted then most.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Brandon and April said...

I was in the Wayland Bookstore, working the early morning shift when one of my bosses came in from the faculty lounge and informed us all of what had happened. My psych class scheduled for the next hour was cancelled by Dr. Collins with instructions "Go watch the news. Do nothing but watch the news, soak it in, and remember this day." And I will.

Jay and Amy said...

I was holding my 3 month old son, as I sat and watched as the buildings collapsed. All I could think is, thousands of people are dying this moment and I'm watching it. Then i looked at my baby and wondered what kind of world he was going to grow up in, when something so awful happened just 3 months after he came into this world.

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