When the World Stopped Turning: Remembering 9/11

“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?”

A line from a song, sang by Alan Jackson that plays on repeat in my head whenever I hear the words, “September 11th.”

When the world stop turning

8:46 EST time – Flight 11 hits the North Tower.

I was standing in the living room watching Good Morning America getting ready to walk out the door for my junior year of high school. My mom was sitting on the couch drinking coffee. Then GMA cuts to video of the Twin Towers. I remember seeing both towers with smoke billowing out. I looked at my mom and said this has to be terrorism. She calmly replied something about mistakes can happen and maybe it was piloting error. In hindsight, she said that so I would be able to go to school and attempt function instead of being extremely worried.

9:03 EST – Flight 175 hits the South Tower.

I hugged my mom and went to school.

9:59 EST – South Tower collapses.

I think going to school made my anxiety worse because I could not watch the television, so I did not know what was happening. School started and it was all people could talk about. We did not do much work that morning. When I reached my literature class, our teacher had the television on. We watched a few moments, I cannot remember what time it was, but we watched one of the towers collapse. She shut the television off and handed us a quiz.

9:37 EST – Flight 77 hits Pentagon.

My mind could not even read the words on the paper. The sentences were jumbled across the page. My heart hurt for the people involved. My other thought was that we live close to a power plant. Would a plane crash into that facility? That is how my 11th grade brain worked.

10:03 – EST Flight 93 crashes in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on its way to Washington DC.

I handed in my unfinished quiz and told my teacher I would need to complete it later. Running down to the nurse’s office, I called my mom. “I need to come home.” She had her own little hair salon in our town. I turned on the TV and watched the footage. Tears running down my face uncontrollably. My mom came home briefly to hug me and tell me everything is going to be alright.

How’d she know that?

How was she not crying?

How was she going about her life?

My mom said, “This is what these people want. They want us to be scared and shut our lives down. We have to keep going.” She gave me another hug and went back to work. I laid on the couch, crying, like that was going to help.

10:28 EST – North Tower collapses.

Thinking back to that moment in history, I often wonder how I would have handled that situation as a mother. Would I have been brave, would I have had the wisdom to look to God, as my mother did? All the brave mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers who told their families, “Everything is going to be alright,” and it was not. The men and women who telephoned loved ones as their planes were headed into their fiery resting places. The firefighters, first responders, police officers, and military personnel who dove in head first to try to rescue the people of New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. The innocent bystanders, whose death was premature by these cowardly acts on our country. The children who will grow up without their loved ones.

President Bush addressed the nation in the evening of September 11th, 2001. During the speech, he states, 

“Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

Our children will know how the world stopped turning on that September day. We will continue to rise up seventeen years later. 

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