Where were you when the towers fell?

Published 6:01 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2021

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On Sept. 11,  2001, I was a senior in high school. That morning, I was sitting in my religion class in my little Catholic school in northern Ohio. I was struggling to concentrate on the quiz in front of me.

The only thing on my mind was that in two days, I would get to see my boyfriend. I was due to leave Sept. 12 to drive to Great Lakes, Ill., to watch my boyfriend of two years graduate boot camp. I remember trying so hard to focus on that quiz just trying to get through the school day.

Just as I was setting my mind to quit daydreaming, I saw a student run full speed down the hall toward the office. My teacher stepped out to see what was going on, and before she even got back, the principal’s voice came over the intercom: “All teachers, turn on your TVs to CNN right now.” As we all turned to see what was on the TV, we watched in stunned silence as a plane flew into the second tower.

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I was just a teenager, a small-world, selfish teenager. My only thoughts were about myself in that moment. Was I still going to get to see my boyfriend? Would he be sent to war? Would I be going to war in a year? I was signed up to join the Navy right after graduation. My little teenaged mind couldn’t grasp the impact outside of my life.

All thoughts of that quiz were gone; for that matter, all thoughts of school were gone. All of the students went over to the church for a prayer service and then dismissed. I remember calling my dad to tell him the news, but of course, he already knew. Then I went to the only place I could think to go, my recruiter’s office. Of course, the office had been closed. I remember sitting in the parking lot listening to the reports on the radio for over an hour before finally driving home just to watch the horrifying videos that would dominate the television for months afterward.

I did end up still getting to go see my boyfriend, although his graduation was closed to the public. I remember the drive as spooky; the roads were nearly empty. When we passed Chicago O’Hare airport, it was dark. Everywhere we went those couple days, people thanked him for his service. Strangers bought him things. One guy rolled down his window next to us in Chicago and handed my boyfriend $20 and an unopened pack of smokes.

The TV in our hotel room replayed the videos and showed photos and live feed from New York and D.C. By the end of those few days, I was beginning to understand just how much the world had changed.

Sept. 11 was the beginning of my adult life. I was just a teenager, in a private school, in a small town. Where were you that warm September morning?

We’re looking for personal stories from local residents about where you were and what you were doing when you first learned about the terrorist attacks. Your story and name could be used in an upcoming publication by the Suffolk News-Herald. Email your story to news@suffolknewsherald.com.