|There are some days we can recall, even years after the event- first sleepover, first fish, first deer, first kiss, the time you met that special someone- we all remember it- or at least most of it. You might not recall how tired you were after hiking for five miles in heavy clothes, how bad your date’s breath was, or how awkward you felt, or any of the other “insignificant details”. However, you remember the important stuff- the excitement of showing your father that first 4-point, and saving those antlers, the color of your date’s eyes- they just drew you right in, didn’t they. You remember those things.
Then there are the days you can’t forget- no matter how hard you try. The day your maternal grandma died- you woke up and found your mother sobbing in the living room- she’d gone to check up on her, and found her in the deep sleep in her favorite rocking chair. The day your paternal grandpa died- you were at your father’s when his mother called him- he’d gone for a walk in the woods by the train tracks- grandpa had a poor reaction time, and the conductor was unable to stop. You might not recall the exact day- was it October 21 or 22 that grandma died, August 15 or 18 for grandpa- you still remember the day.
Then there are dates that are burned into your mind forever- September 11, 2001 being one of them. Started out like your typical Tuesday school morning- mother waking you up, taking a shower, eating breakfast- it was cereal, like normal, I think it was Cheerios with a spoonful of sugar, put in my retainer- had one of those cross-bite issues with my teeth at the time, got on the bus, and went to sixth grade. The only thing that was out of the ordinary was that we had to say the pledge twice- some people forgot to say it right, or had been off on the words, or some such thing.
Next thing I know, one of the other teachers beckoned the one I had to the doorway and we heard the news- a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. To be honest, I didn’t really know what the Trade Center was- some big building in New York City- never cared for the city- it might as well have been another country, or state at least- if you’ve read some of my other non-fiction items, you’d know I’m a Western New Yorker, and proud of it. Anyways, when I heard the news, I was puzzled- how does a plane hit a building? Was there trouble with the plane’s instruments, or fog, or something? About thirty minutes later, another teacher came- another plane had crashed. The classroom teacher turned on the news and there they were- the two towers with great big gaping holes in them, and smoke bellowing forth, like some vision of Hell. At the time, our desks were arranged in a “U” shape, with my back to the television. Since I like to read, my nose was in a book when the first tower fell, but I heard the reactions of those who were watching- “Oh my God!” one of my classmates had cried. When I turned, half of the one tower had fallen in on itself- I don’t think I was the only one who said “Holy Shit!”, and got away with saying it at that time, and setting. The teacher just looked at me- we all had the same expression on our faces.
Now, I’ll be honest, I’d seen plenty of John Wayne westerns, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with death- I mean, bad guy murders someone, good guy comes after them, and kills them. But this was a little much- I didn’t see any of the jumpers, or anyone actually die, but there was a hollow pit in my stomach- there were evil things happening, and there was no John Wayne to help anyone. At the time, I didn’t know about the fire-and-policemen trying to rescue people, but still, no John Wayne was going to ride up and just give people the idea that everything was alright. Needless to say, it was difficult to do anything that day- no one wanted to take tests when people were being burned alive, and so on.
When I finally went home, it was there, on the news, just as soon as the other members of my household came home. I saw more in the days to come- declaration of war, promises to get whoever was behind the attacks, and more. It took a while for class to get back to normal.
Now, every year since, on that day, the History Channel has its special. Sometimes I wonder though- how would the world have turned out if it had just been another September day?