Just typing the words gives me chills. I still clearly remember that day. I had graduated high school in June of 2001, so I was home at the time. I had a day off from my job at the video store and I hadn’t started classes at the College of Southern Maryland yet. I had slept in because I was sick that day. Little did I know what was coming.
I remember waking up to our house phone line ringing (we weren’t using cell phones yet). My mother told me to turn on the TV because we were under attack. I quickly turned on the local Washington DC news and I was just flummoxed by what I was seeing. Mom had to go, but I kept the TV on. I saw the second plane hit the tower, then I watched as both towers came crashing down. I heard the emotion from our local newscasters when the Pentagon was hit. These were the same people I remember from my childhood giving me a day off of school because of snow. These people were the same people who I watched every morning. They were there for me all through my childhood and now they were with me as I grew up in a big way. What did I know about politics and foreign policy? I certainly didn’t learn any of that in high school. I’m sorry if I was supposed to, but it just wasn’t taught to me. I had no idea who or why this would happen. I was only 17 years old at the time.
I remember just watching all day and crying. I was home alone until everyone got off work that evening and we were still watching. Mom watching for the first time late that night what had actually happened. She told me later when she heard it on the radio she thought the DJ was joking, until he started crying. Then she realized it was real and that’s when she called me.
The overwhelming sense of panic in the area can’t even be described. I’m sure I don’t have to because everyone felt it in some way. Since I was the only one home, I was fielding all the phone calls. The one I remember the most is my Grandmother calling and telling us all to leave now for Indiana. She was so afraid for us because we are so close to Washington DC. Who knew if we would be targeted or not? We do have a vital military base here. Really though, who didn’t feel like they were about to be attacked right then and there.
The next day, we got a phone call that my father’s mother had passed away. I can’t think of September 11th and not think about September 12th too. I didn’t “know” my Dad’s mother. Our family was never good at getting together and catching up. I have such guilt about not knowing her now. This was the first time I’d lost anyone to death like this. Coming the day after something like September 11th, you can imagine my emotions were a little radical. My parents went to Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the funeral. They said there were American flags littering the interstate the whole way. They said you could still the the smoke from the towers, and this was a week later.
After the initial shock, I think the thing that still sticks with me is the following weeks. We live on the outskirts of D.C. with a big Naval Base right here in town. Just driving past the base was a scary experience. Within hours the base was on full lock down. Looking at the gates, you’d see sharp shooters set up behind sandbags. This didn’t just last a week, this lasted for a very long time. A lot of people here were worried that they’d lose their jobs because of the attacks. For awhile the only way you could get on the base was if you lived there. There were so many false alarms over the next few weeks. Each one bringing a new fear and anger with it. The silence of all air traffic being grounded for so long still creeps me out to this day. It was very unusual for us not to hear planes over head. The base was always running practice drills. Only over the next few months, it wasn’t drills at all. The only thing in the skies above us were fully armed F-16s.
This is the first time I’ve really put my September 11th experience down in written form. I’m glad that I’m putting it down now, before I forget the emotions I was feeling at the time. I’m not sure if they’ll last for the rest of my life. I’d never experienced something of this magnitude before. Just thinking about those days, weeks, and months brings tears to my eyes.
It was after that when we started getting together every July 4th for a Moore Family Reunion. I think it was partly to do with September 11th, mostly to do with September 12th, and everything to do with family. It makes it even more bittersweet to know that the woman behind the reunions, my Aunt Diane, passed away in January.
Nobody told me how tough life was, but I wouldn’t take back any of the pain and loss. It’s made me realize why family is so important. It was because of September 11th that I realized I have more family than just who is related to me. We were all family over those months and years following that sad, scary Tuesday morning.