By Heather Nelson
Richard Deitsch’s tweet last night prompted this post:
I reflected for a few moments, and I realized that 9/11 is something that I’ll never erase from my memory. I wasn’t directly impacted by the attacks. I didn’t know anyone involved. The way I viewed the world — at age eight — was shattered, though. As far as I knew, there was no place safer than the United States.
“Please send Sam* to the office. Her mom is here to pick her up.”
About two hours into the school day, people started going home. It was an exodus. I remember thinking it seemed abnormal that all of my friends got to leave school early. I was jealous of them.
Then, the principal came over the intercom, “The school is on lock down, and there will be no outside recess today.” Indoor recess in September? I was confused but too young to understand the atrocities that happened.
In my third grade classroom, the day continued as normal. Mrs. Zimmerman, one of the third grade teachers, walked into my classroom; she had tears in her eyes. I distinctly remember that. My teacher, Ms. Guinn, sat at her desk crying, too. They whispered about something….I didn’t know what that something was until I got home from school.
My mom normally sat downstairs awaiting the arrival of my sister and me. That day she was in her bedroom. She was crying. I hadn’t seen my mom cry before. I turned my attention to the TV, and my eight-year-old eyes saw one of the towers toppling, smoke billowing in the air. She wasn’t watching Oprah.
I asked my mom what happened, why she was crying. “Something bad happened in New York.” I didn’t press any further.
I remember the neighborhood streets were empty that night, which was a rare occurrence. The beautiful autumn days would soon be coming to a close…. I didn’t realize until years later how this national emergency could’ve affected my hometown.
My house is a few miles away from Offutt Air Force Base. Offutt AFB is the headquarters for U.S. Strategic Command and the 55th Wing of the Air Combat Command. The 55th Wing happens to be the largest wing of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command. And President Bush flew there on 9/11.
My hometown wasn’t under threat that day, but President Bush flew here to safely speak with his correspondents. He was prepared to address the nation just mere miles from me. Looking back, it makes sense why all of the adults were scared. So much was unknown. I remember being scared to walk to school and scared to play outside. What if something scary happened here?
14 years have passed. Each year on 9/11, I flashback to my third grade self and how scared I was to step outside in the weeks that followed. I’m grateful I don’t live in this fear, now. (Thank you to the service men and women who protect this country.)
It’s interesting to consider this as a piece of national history, but it is. My two youngest siblings don’t remember 9/11, but I do. I’ll never forget.