Remembering 9/11: A School Day In September
Remembering 9/11, the day my generation realized we weren’t invincible.
I was 16 years old. September had just begun, full of sharp, clear weather and foliage that made the trees look like they were on fire, and with it had come the beginning of my junior year of high school. On that morning, like so many others, my friends and I had taken advantage of our school’s “open campus” policy during a morning free period and gone into town for coffee and conversation. But when we wandered back onto campus, going out of our way to step on crunchy-looking leaves as we went, we found a scene quite different than the one we were expecting. Between 10 and 10:15am, students normally milled around, chatting, laughing, and decompressing during the 15-minute school-wide break. But today, a steady stream of students and teachers filed into the auditorium in which I spent most of my time—as a mainstay of the theatre department, the Performing Arts Center, or the PAC, as it was known, was my home away from home—their voices hushed and their whispers quiet. We stopped a moment, my friends and I, confused. Then a passing student told us what was happening. “A plane hit the World Trade Center,” he said. For a minute, we didn’t know what to do. Then we silently joined the crowd heading into the PAC and took our seats.
And then our teachers, deans, and administrators told us what they knew.
It wasn’t much. They knew only that the one of the towers had been hit; later on would come the knowledge that it both towers had been hit, and the Pentagon as well. There was mostly stunned silence, punctuated by the occasional sob.
We may have been in a different state, but 9/11 hit us, too, and it hit us hard. I went to a prep school in Massachusetts called Concord Academy, and like most of the Massachusetts prep schools, its student population was half day students and half boarding students. As a local—I grew up in Concord—I was a day student. But we had students from all over the world; many came from New York and New Jersey, where their families still lived. Others, even if they weren’t from the Tri-State area, had extended family members there. No one knew if their families were safe. We would only find out later who had lost someone.
I don’t know how long that initial assembly lasted, but afterwards, we were released with the understanding that classes were to be held at the discretion of each teacher. I had English next, one of my favorite classes with my favorite teacher. The class was called “The Comic Spirit,” and it analyzed comedy through literate. That day, we were meant to be discussing Shakespeare—Much Ado About Nothing—but when we arrived, Liz (we were on first-name basis with many of our teachers) told us that we wouldn’t be having class as usual. Instead, she tuned the television in the room to the news and told us that she was there for us if we needed her. Not knowing where else to go, most of us stayed.