“Ian get up….something happened…theres been a crash”
4:56 AM, Alaska time.
“Ian get up…something happened, theres been a crash”
I wasn’t sure what my mother meant by crash just yet… A plane crash?? Did another local bush plane crash? Happens every year. No that wasn’t it.
“Get up now…you need to see this”
September 11th, 2001, I was fourteen years old. My eyes cracked open to the silhouette of my mother standing in my doorway urging me to wake up. Something serious was happening and it was happening live on the news. I reached for my glasses and rushed upstairs. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I focused in on the live footage of the world trade center, the north tower was burning. The headlines indicated that a plane of some sort had crashed into the side of the building.
My mom yelled.
I instantly knew this wasn’t a mistake…even before America slowly started to figure out the obvious. We were under attack. I watched the plume of smoke pour out of floors 93-99 of the north tower. By now if I remember correctly, the news made it quite obvious it was a commercial airliner.
5:03 AM, Alaska time.
As the cameras slowly zoomed out to get a wider shot of the north tower, a silver object came out of the corner of the screen and slammed into the south tower. I was speechless…I remember telling myself that this couldn’t be real. This stuff only happens in movies! I watched as the explosion shattered floors 75-85 of the south tower. All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind. Are we safe here? What does Alaska have that could be attacked?? The pipeline, Prudoe bay, Valdez… shit. I rushed to my room and got dressed as fast as I could and poured a bowl of cereal. As I ate my breakfast, I watched as people began to jump out of the world trade center. I was witnessing real people dying. I didn’t know what to think…. I was in shock.
My Dad wasn’t home, he was out hunting with a friend of his and had been for a few days. They had no way of knowing what was going on but I remember wanting him to be there. I was worried. By now the headline on the news was changed to “America Under Attack”. The entire nation knew that this was intentional, but who the hell was doing this?
5:37 AM, Alaska time.
Breaking news cut to possible explosion at the Pentagon. Rumors spread saying it was a missile of some sort at first. Holy shit. Holy shit! What the hell is going on?! The white house is going to get hit next I know it! I remember thinking this to myself. There was now live footage cutting back and forth from New York to Washington.
5:59 AM, Alaska time.
The south tower of the WTC collapses. I watched as the tower seemed to buckle and collapse down to the ground. How could this be? All those people inside. Did anyone get out? I remember the thick gray cloud of debris cover the city as it made its way through the jungle of buildings and streets. Various cameras from the air and ground rolled the footage of people running, covering their faces as they emerged from the blanket of dust and smoke. I remember my hands shaking and the lump in my throat got bigger. I just watched more people die.
6:28 AM, Alaska time.
The north tower collapses. I remember looking at my mom who had glazed eyes. I can’t remember if my sisters were watching but I’m almost positive they were. The news anchors were in silence as the second tower collapsed 102 minutes after being struck by Flight 11. I should add that at 6:07 AM (Alaska time), flight 93 crashed into Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all 40 passengers and crew on board. There was almost too much for the news to report. The confusion in the media was chaotic. It was so much to take in. I do remember thinking that I wish I wasn’t 14. I wish I could sign up and go kill whomever was doing this. I felt helpless… I think we all did.
Time to go to school.
Mom dropped me off at the front end of the library. As I walked towards the double doors, I noticed a large circle of people gathered around the flag pole. They were holding hands in silence and with their eyes closed, they were praying. I believe this was the Alpha & Omega group who typically gathered there every morning and pray before class. The group was nearly four times bigger and took up all of the walk way. The lump in my throat was back. I walked into the building and saw kids scurrying around, trying to get as much information as possible. A few were crying…probably scared..I was scared too. Library computers had groups of people around them, reading live updates on the situation as it unfolded. There were no cliques, no “groups”… we were all friends.
My first class was history with Ms. Reed. She quickly became one of my favorite teachers through out high school. She held herself together and set all usual classwork aside. She did her best to explain what was possibly going on and who was rumored responsible for the attacks. I could tell she was choked and emotional… we all were. That was when I heard his name for the first time in my life…..a name we would all grow to be familiar with. That name was Osama Bin Laden. Through out the day I had mixed emotions much like everyone else. One that I will always remember was anger. I had seen first hand the pure evil and hatred humans could have towards another. I wanted to kill who ever was responsible. I wanted to join the military right then and there. I was upset at myself for being too young. I couldn’t do a damn thing but watch it on the t.v. But I also felt proud of my country. I witnessed first responders rush into those towers and got as many people out as they could. I watched strangers helping strangers of all types of race, religions, etc. For several months afterwards, the patriotism was incredible. For the first time in my life, I noticed America was whole. We weren’t divided and we didn’t argue with each other.
I will never forget that day. I will tell my children about it. The good and the bad that came from it. I will tell them to never be sheep and that they are born in a family of sheep dogs, raised to defend the sheep against the wolves or to die trying.