I will never forget what I was doing on September 11, 2001…
I was starting my Junior Year at Howard University. Just about a month prior R&B singer Aaliyah had died in a plane crash because her small plane was overloaded with equipment from a video shoot. I had her pictures on my dorm room door.
I was living in Slowe Hall at the time. Woke up that morning and turned on the TV and was getting dressed for class… the image above was what I saw when I first looked at the TV – one tower already hit with smoke billowing and as I watched the news reporters report about a simple plane accident in New York that has hit the towers, it was like it was nothing major because just a few months before a small plane was zipping through New York flying a bit too low… it was reported and people lived to see another day.
But this day… this day was different. I was watching the broadcast and I remember saying “What is that?” and in that moment thats when the excitement level of the live reporters grew as they yelled “There’s another plane!” and I sat on the bed – stunned. It was like I was watching a movie. I didn’t even realize what was happening. It really did not sink in as I turned off the TV and headed for the front door so that I would not be late to class. It was my resident assistant that saw me and asked where I was going and told me “the nation is under attack!” as if I had not watched it myself. THEN it sank in.
I ran back upstairs, turned on the television. Then the Pentagon was hit. All planes were ordered grounded and nothing was allowed to fly over D.C. It was unbelievable. After the last plane crashed in Pennsylvania, I couldn’t take anymore. And we just stood there and watched as the buildings in New York city came crashing down – right where my sister had just spent the summer dancing at Alvin Ailey’s Dance Camp. We just watched… not knowing if another plane was going to hit, if all the planes were taken over and unsure of what they were going to strike next.
My friends and I walked to campus, to a spot that is known as The Hilltop and from there, we could see the smoke billowing from the Pentagon. We thought about our classmates who were residing in Pentagon City at the time because our dorms were way over capacity that year.
They shut down Union Station Train Station, where I was working at the time because we didn’t know if we would be hit by trains next. So I knew I didn’t have to go to work later..but my other fear was my dad. He worked in D.C. Without a train how was he going to get home about an hour commute away? I had no way of calling him because I had Nextel service and the Nextel Satallite was on top of the World Trade Center. The one that is now gone.
I head back to my dorm, everyone is still in a panic. Afterall, we are in D.C., the Nation’s Capital. I had no idea if we were going to be bombed next or what… so I asked my friends if they wanted to come to Maryland with me. And those that were as unsure as myself, we loaded up in my car and drove to my home in Maryland and we layed out in the basement and watched the news for the rest of the night until we were sure that the worst had happened.
Interestingly enough, my mom at the time was in Africa serving over there when her assistant came and told her to turn on the television because her country was being attacked. Of course my mom was in full panic mode because she was so far and had no idea what was happening. My dad, thankfully called her once he got home from our landline.
When we returned to school the next day, stories of our classmates parents, loved ones and the like – persons who were lost in the attacks on 9/11 rung out all over campus. One close friend of ours was supposed to be on that Boston flight that ended up in the towers and they missed their flight. Another worked at the Pentagon and had just gotten up from her desk to do something and luckily made it out of the place where it was hit. Unfortunately for the survivors of the Pentagon that I know are still traumatized and have been granted telework from an off site to this day because that building is still near Reagan Airport and that is still traumatizing to hear planes overhead.
It’s been 11 years later… I will never forget.
For those that lost their lives by simply going to work that day and for those that happened to be tourists on that day, to the workers that rushed down there to help that day and to the families of all of those persons… to the survivors and workers that made it out that day that are dealing with over 15 unknown cancers due to that attack… we remember all of you on this day.
Where were you? Do you remember?