The night of September 10, 2001 was like any other. I had just started my senior year of high school, and I was busy worrying about homework and boys (like most 17 year-olds). I went to bed late that night because I was watching the MTV series aptly titled Undressed.
At 5:46am (PST) the next morning, I was asleep in my bed. Not a minute later, my Mom was running into my room telling me to turn on the news. She looked almost pale and in shock. Rising from my sleepy state, I looked at her as she said “I can’t believe it… a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.” Having visited New York and seen the towers nearly three years prior, I still couldn’t visualize what she was talking about. She told me to turn on my TV, so I sat up in bed and immediately turned it on.
There it was: the North Tower was burning. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I distinctly remember that we were watching The Today Show, because I remember Matt Lauer’s voice. He steadily relayed updates, and told the audience that people were still unclear if it was an accident or not. My Mom stood next to me as we watched the live shot of the Towers. At 6:03am (PST), my Mom and I watched in horror as a second plane struck the South Tower. We couldn’t believe what we were witnessing. We both started crying, and my jaw dropped.
My Mom was rightfully shocked, and I could see the terrified look on her face. She knew what I hadn’t at the time… that our lives would be forever changed by this incident. Our fear was only intensified as we watched people jump from the engulfing flames. The cameras caught these moments, not knowing that they were actually going to happen. It was so devastating, but we watched on. It was like nothing I could remember. The LA riots had been bad, and we lived through the Northridge earthquake, but this felt different.
I didn’t go to school that day. I remember my Mom being fearful that there would be an attack on Los Angeles. The next day at school, our teachers had the news on in homeroom. Flashes of images seen the day before are still burned in my brain. My fellow classmates were all equally as shocked, and some of them lost friends and family to the attacks. Seniors in high school… the world was our oyster… but we had not realized the magnitude of this event, or how it would change our lives forever.
No longer would we carry more than 4 oz. of liquid in our carry-on bags, or would we go to another country without thinking twice about the safety concern. It was bigger than that for many of us. After 9/11, I decided against moving across the country to go to college. My choice to stay in California for college permanently changed my life’s course. Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like had 9/11 not happened, and if I had gone to college on the East Coast. I wouldn’t do anything differently now, but I would go back to tell my 17 year-old self to be more thankful. To be gracious and more aware of the journey, and not the destination.
As a memorial to those who lost their lives or loved ones during the tragic events a decade ago, let us not forget the importance of life, love, and freedom.