This ended up being what the entire school did: We crammed ourselves into the classrooms that had televisions, students and teachers alike, watching and waiting. Sometime later—again, I don’t remember how much time had gone by—a second all-school meeting was called, and again, we all filed into the PAC. We were told of the second tower and the Pentagon; and then we were told that school had been cancelled for the rest of the day.
So we went home, because we could do nothing else.
I’m 26 now. I moved to New York at 18 for college, as I had always planned to do, and I’m still here now. But I moved here in a post-9/11 world, which made the city quite a different place than I had imagined it would be. The difference isn’t necessarily visible, though sometimes you can see it in things like the police bag-check stations on the subway; but it’s there nonetheless, hovering just out of sight below the surface of the city. It’s a constant awareness of happened, what hasn’t happened, and what could happen sometime in the future.
9/11 was the day my generation realized that we weren’t invincible. We hadn’t been alive for Vietnam, the Korean War, or World Wars I or II, and most of us were too young to remember the Gulf War, so somehow, we had managed to escape the tumult that previous generations had dealt with—until then. Even if we weren’t in New York or DC when it happened, 9/11 impacted us in a way that nothing else had before. It changed our entire view of the world, somehow simultaneously expanding and shrinking it at the same time. It was a much bigger, scarier place than we had thought it was; but it was also a much smaller place, where one simple act can ripple out in ways we had never thought possible. We grew up.
There’s a lot that I don’t remember from that day. But there’s also a lot that I do remember. I remember the point of view from my seat in the PAC. I remember the way my English classroom looked with the lights turned off and the television turned on. I remember trying to call my dad, knowing that he had been traveling just before the event but unable to remember if he had been in New York. I remember standing at the curb, waiting for my mom to pick me up. I remember people clutching each other—students, teachers, it didn’t matter who—tightly, as if by holding onto each other, we could somehow keep the unthinkable at bay.
I may not have full, complete memories; but what I do have are snapshots. Moments. Tiny pieces of frozen time. Bits and pieces that may, in fact, be more important than complete memories. Because while sorting through those moments, I remember that for perhaps the first time in my life, I could see the world absolutely, positively clearly.
Most of all, I remember the silence.
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.