Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - 10 Years Ago Today - Where Were You?

9/11/2001 - I still get chills thinking about that day and every moment has been permanently imprinted on my memory. I can even remember the clothes that I was wearing. I started that day excited because it was my half-birthday and I was excited that in exactly 6 months I would be turning 16. The morning started out like any other and it was early in my sophomore year of high school. I remember leaving 3rd period French with Madame Tatala and hearing someone mention that someone had bombed the Pentagon. I remember thinking to myself, "What's new?" It wasn't until I reaching my 4th period Honors English with Mrs. Bobola, that I realized something was really wrong.

The TV was on and I saw buildings that I've seen all my life, but both of them were smoking. My dad grew up in Queens and my Oma still lives there. We could see those buildings from the park down the street that we would frequent in our summer visits there. The summer I was 9, when we went into the city, we went to the World Trade Center and actually went up to the top. I still had the tourist brochure in my room. No one but me in my English class even knew what those buildings were before that fateful day.

I asked one of my friends why they were smoking and he told me that planes had crashed into both of them. Never in my wildest dreams, even knowing that planes had hit both towers, would I have imagined what I witnessed next. I watched one of the towers collapse and that's when things fell apart around the school. We were on the second floor, so immediately, they had us moved to the lower level. Initially, this move didn't make much sense since we were so far from the danger. There were no TVs in the room we were moved to so I didn't actually see the second tower fall.

After a while, we were all moved into the auditorium where the principal was going to address us. My high school is less than 2 miles away from the runways for Pittsburgh International Airport, and because they were grounding all air travel, the police had notified our principal that there was a plane flying overhead that was not responding to the tower and refusing to land. This plane turned out to be Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, PA. Instead of keeping us in the dark our principal decided to tell us all of this information and basically told us that we could die. They even removed the American flag from the pole outside so that we wouldn't be overly identifiable as a school.

After it was reported that Flight 93 went down, we were released to our regular schedule, although many students were being taken home by their parents. My brother were in middle school and elementary school at this time and they were not even aware of the situation. They were in hallways with books over their heads like in an emergency weather drill. My mom hadn't had the TV on that day and the neighbor came to the door and told her what had happened. My dad was on strike duty in Kentucky and I remember being the one to tell him that the second tower had fallen. I remember trying to reach my Oma by phone and not being able to get through. That day changed our lives.

Just over 3 months later, we were in New York just after Christmas and while crossing the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn, I remember staring at the skyline and thinking how empty it looked. That feeling hasn't changed to this day. The 6 month anniversary of the attacks on that day was my 16th birthday. That day they turned on the twin spotlights in the spot where the towers once stood. Easter was in March that year and we got a week off from school so we went to NYC to see the lights. To this day, I have not been to Ground Zero because my dad refused to take us there.

Now we are now in the process of rebuilding the World Trade Center. Nothing will be built where there original towers stood and they will become memorial waterfalls. They are building 5 towers in a growing spiral formation and Tower 1, which is currently being constructed will be the strongest building in America. They are taking into account that if the same thing happened, that the building would not fall, with thicker, stronger concrete, forming the center of the building, and it standing on a 20 story pedestal to prevent ground attacks. It will be symbolic in many ways, when seen from a certain angle, it will resemble the same shape of the original towers. The top floor will be at 1,368 feet (the same height of the original towers) and when you account for the antenna on top, it'll reach 1,776 feet (a symbolic number to our country). It will then stand as the tallest building in the western hemisphere, edging out the Willis Tower in Chicago. It can now be seen in the skyline of NYC and will be completed in 2013. There will also be a 9/11 museum and a brand new train station at the new World Trade Center. I hope to take my children there someday so they can understand. To them it will be like visiting Pearl Harbor was for me, something that happened before they were born that changed history.

The events of that day have led to several wars and the demise of several dictators and terrorists. I want to thank all of our troops overseas for everything they do and pray that they come home safe to their families.

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