Alan Jackson-Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning (via TFluver)
Me? I was still quite young. 7 years old, to be exact, when everything happened. I woke up around 7:30 in the morning (Pacific time) to the sound in the next room of my mother watching TV and crying. I walked in and asked her what was wrong; she was too emotional to tell me and simply told me to get ready for school. My siblings, 8 and 11, both went in and asked the same question, and were given the same answer. It was a silent drive to school that day--uncommon for a talkative family like my own. We tried to ask questions, but my mom wouldn't speak. All she was able to manage was, "Something really bad happened in New York City, and you guys really just need to pray that the people there will be safe."
We got to school fine. Typically before the school bell rang, kids there beforehand got to begin the day with an early recess. Not on September 11, 2001. The playground was empty, and crossing guards, teachers and administrators were rushing kids to their classrooms. The panic was evident, and based on what my mother had told me in the car, even at seven years old, I just knew that the issue at hand was more than just something really bad happening. I may not have known exactly what, but the administrators at my school had NEVER been like this before.
That day, I don't exactly remember what I was supposed to learn in class. I forget what exactly we were supposed to do that day, just that any and all lesson plans, at least that day, were out the window. My second grade teacher, a strong-looking 6'5", 240-pound man, was fighting back tears at his desk as a friend of mine and I walked in at the same time, seen to the classroom in a stern and panicked manner by our assistant principal. As just mentioned, my teacher didn't come off as an emotional man. So when I saw him taking off his glasses to wipe tears from his eyes, I knew something was definitely wrong, more wrong than I could've imagined.
The bell rang. It was from my teacher that we all heard the details. He said, "I'm not sure how many of you guys have already heard what happened or not, but early this morning, two planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York City. These planes crashed on purpose; it was not an accident." One girl's hand shot straight up as she asked the question that the other 19 of us kids in the classroom were thinking: "Why would someone fly planes into a building on purpose?"
The entire school day, except for lunch, which was eaten indoors with no recess that day, was spent in that classroom, Room 9 at Juniper Elementary School, Hesperia, California. It seemed as somber a day as my seven-year-old mind could comprehend. My teacher dared not tell us that 2,979 American civilians were killed in the attacks. He dared not mention that people had died, suffered, given their lives when death was the last thing on their minds. He dared not say it--but sadly enough, we pretty much got the picture.
Once I got home, my parents broke the exact details regarding life lost, damage done, the perpetrators of the attack (well, as exact as they were twelve hours after the attacks happened) to us four kids (my oldest sister, 14, had already gotten to school by the time she found out about everything). Hearing, in plain, blunt English, everything that happened, scared me. I'd been knowledgeable of the tragedy, but not of the fear. I remember the thoughts of the attack riddling my mind, knowing that out there, there were more than a couple dozen evil men that hijacked four planes in three cities. That was the first time that it hit me, that evil was everywhere, at every turn, and very little can stop it.
As I got older, I understood more and more the volume of the attacks. I understood that there was more to it than the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. I understood the reasons the Taliban and al-Qaeda had for attacking us, on our own soil. And also, as I got older, I realized that America grew stronger. We were down, but not out. We were bent, but not broken. We fell...but we got up. We stood tall.
In my second grade class that day, my teacher decided, as a simple way to vent, talk and ask questions, that we would all sit in a circle, and whoever had a question, or simply something to say, would have a soccer ball rolled to them. Whoever had the soccer ball got to talk. I was the last of the day to have the ball before the end bell rang. And I had only one thing to say, after things were discussed and details were given. Looking back, I'm shocked that, as a seven-year-old, I actually said something with such magnitude, depth and meaning: "I don't know who did this. But whoever did it, is going to pay. We're stronger than we feel. We're going to make them pay."
And that we did.
So, eleven after 9/11, I want to hear your stories. Where were you when the world stopped turning?