Alan Jackson said it best in his hit song “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?”:
Where were you when the world stopped turnin’
That September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or workin’ on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin’ against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?
Did you weep for the children, they lost their dear loved ones
Pray for the ones who don’t know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white, and blue
And the heroes who died just doin’ what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?
Where were you seventeen years ago on the one of the worst days ever in recorded history? Where was I? I was a seventeen year old high school senior sitting in first period choir class when I heard an announcement over the PA by my former principal.
“There’s been a horrifying event that just occurred in New York City and there are multiple victims and casualties.” said a shocked principal. After that announcement, all classes were shut down for the day. Every classroom had a TV in it and it was on. We all watched CNN and saw the carnage known as 9/11. Aside from Columbine, I’ve never seen my school shut down like that before and we were watching history before our own eyes. My mother remembers watching the news on the Kennedy’s assassination in school.
Arguably, one of the worst terror events that I’ve ever seen before in my life, I’ve never felt so scared in my life before. I will never forget looking around at every students face as I watched intently at the TV. Tears will falling so hard from my eyes and from my peers. The room was dead silent. No sound. Shock, anger, pain, and any other kind of emotion you could think if couldn’t describe what we were feeling in our hearts. Some of my classmates had relatives that were injured or died in the attacks. My dad was schedule to fly out for business on that day, but he didn’t. I could’ve lost him. It could’ve been him. I remember he called my mother at home and told her to watch the news. He and his colleagues were beyond heartbroken by the events. They, too, watched the events unfold on TV. I remember after school we all hugged as a family and just sat there in silence.
Anyone that has lost someone close to them in the attacks, I can’t even comprehend the pain or nightmare that has been going on for the past 17 years. It doesn’t even feel like it’s been that long. Some days, it feels like yesterday when that happened. Every time, that date comes along, I will block it out. Every September, I ignore that date on the calendar. I don’t even want to look at the date. For one, I don’t like revisiting a catastrophic nightmare and two, it still haunts me to this day.
That day became a sudden distorted and broken record that played over and over again in my head. I wasn’t personally affected nor had any loved ones lost, but I’m human and this is the country that I live in. So if any kind of disaster or terror event occurs, I suffer with you. We all are brothers and sisters. If something bad happens to you, I will be there for you to support you. If something great happens to you, then I will celebrate with you.
I tried sleeping that night and I couldn’t. I was haunted by the airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers and causing a huge gaping hole. I tried to envision myself on the plane and inside of the Twin Towers. Something straight of hell is pretty much the image that comes to mind when you think about it. Innocent passengers on both flights traveling for work, home or adventure are on a collision course with death. I can’t imagine the screams, the terror, the people trying to call their loved ones saying that they won’t make it home. And then the collision into the Twin Towers. Imagine what people inside of the Twin Towers were thinking at that moment. Probably thinking, I have to get out now before it’s too late. Some probably didn’t have time to react and were killed instantly. Others ran down the stairs like marathon runners and some barely made it out alive. One of the most gruesome scenes were the ones that jumped out of the Towers head first to the ground. That was an image that sickened me to the core as well as my stomach.
Then imagine the horror on the streets and neighboring areas surrounding the Twin Towers. People running and screaming while the Towers smashed to the ground like dominoes. People covered head to toe with dust. Some were covered with blood. So many emergency units on the scene. This was like watching a scene from like World War I or II. My late grandfather said that kind of carnage was something that he witnessed during the war. No human should ever see that.
Seventeen years later, I still have to wonder: when is the next one going to happen? You just don’t know. Years before the attacks on 9/11, the Twin Towers were targets of terrorism. It isn’t surprising that this kind of attack was going to happen, but as a citizen of this world: take all threats seriously. Don’t take any kind of threat lightly. More than 3,000 lives were taken that day and probably more because some have cancer because of the exposure on Ground Zero. Are we really safe? Personally, I don’t think so. This world is dangerous and anyone is capable of anything. Did it forge some changes? If you’re talking about extensive security measures at airports, then yes. 9/11 may have shed some more emphasis on terrorism and how to prevent these attacks. But I don’t really know what the future holds on this subject.
Every time an event like this occurs whether it’s a terror attack or a mass shooting, I will say: “Why is this happening again? What aren’t we doing to prevent this?” We live in a cruel world and violence is inevitable, but we all can play a factor in changing this world. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like seeing this stories let alone hearing the victims’ families’ in pain and demanding for answers. Think about how this event affects your mental health. What people saw in person or on TV, it affects you in someway. If you were on the front lines witnessing the danger yourself and were injured, wouldn’t your mental health disintegrate before you very own eyes?
There have been stories on the news in recent years of 9/11 survivors that are suffering from PTSD, recovering from injuries, some have developed cancer and have died from it, and some have committed suicide. One of the sad stories was a 9/11 hero with the NYPD police department (I believe) and he developed cancer because of the exposure on Ground Zero and took his own life after the diagnosis. How horrible is that?
Whenever we encounter rough times like this, I think it’s important to tell the story that isn’t always told after the attack: the aftermath. For example: Most news outlets will talk endlessly about the attack, the attacker, the victims, and the motive. What’s not reported a lot is the aftermath. What happens to these people after witnessing this horrifying event? Do the survivors return to their daily lives and move on or do they experience mental illness and commit suicide? That’s a question that I always ask myself when I see this events. How do you move forward after that? Why isn’t that an important piece of the puzzle to tell? For some, that day just haunts them until the day they die. Others, adjust to the new normal and move on. Tragically, some have to be institutionalized for the rest of their lives because they can’t move on. If it were me, I would have to be hospitalized for the rest of my life. I don’t think I could handle it all. I’m pretty tough, but not that tough to deal with something like that.
What I did love was the peace and solidarity that the world showed us that day. However, we should always stand together in peace and solidarity every day, not just for one day. Things in this world may not change, but we all can change as people and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Think about what 9/11 means to you. What does it mean to you, your country and your fellow brothers and sisters? This world is ours and when someone tries to hurt or attack our world, we fight back together as one. We are united, not divided.
FYI, a great song that talks about coming together as one is “We are the World.”