My roommate must have already left for class, as my dorm room was dark and quiet. As I stirred and rose from my slumber, I looked at my alarm clock. "Already past 11! How could that have happened?" I asked myself. After all, I had freshman biology at 11:30 and usually preferred to grab a hearty breakfast before class.
I opened the door, wearing my royal blue Blue Sky Coffee t-shirt and a pair of black athletic shorts. Despite needing to be awake, I was mildly grumpy and in need of a few minutes to adjust to being awake. Missy, my across the hall neighbor in The University of Georgia's Russell Hall, was bombarding me. In a fashion that was loud and panicked, she told me that the World Trade Center in Manhattan had been bombed. She, too, was trying to make sense of what happened.
I barely had a moment to grasp what she'd just said when I looked at her small and dated television, probably an appliance she inherited from her parents when they upgraded to something more modern. Squinting, I could make out the words at the bottom of the screen. Something to the effect of, "Attack on America" rolled across the marquee. Lindsey, another girl on the hall, and Lauren, Missy's roommate, also were awestruck by the news.
After further news coverage, we learned these buildings, which were longtime staples of the Manhattan skyline, were punctured by commercial jetliners. It was not for many years that I saw footage of the planes hitting the buildings and their eventual collapses, as the news stations decided before I woke that morning that the footage was too painful, too graphic to show anymore that day. Even the mental pictures I created in my meekest and wildest imaginations were painful.
Next it was more bad news. Not only had the World Trade Centers endured irrevocable damage, the Pentagon had also been targeted. Waves of distress again blew through our 32,000 student campus and across our country.
Only a few minutes elapsed before we started hearing (via e-mail and through word of mouth) that classes were canceled for the remainder of the day. Some students, who had early classes, were making their way back to the dorms. No one knew what to do. Some girls went and filled their cars up with gas, unsure of what the attack would do to availability of fuel. Others of us called the Red Cross to see if we should come donate blood. Being hundreds upon thousands of miles away from the disaster, we wanted to help—but having a direct impact was challenging, if not impossible.
Immediate increases in patriotism were seen, reminiscent of how I picture WWI and WWII America. American flags waved from buildings and homes and other red, white and blue memorabilia were placed on vehicles and notebooks. Nearly every television show or commercial mentioned something about our nation remembering 9/11.
For the next several months, we watched from afar as our nation attempted to rebuild its security and morale. We heard more details about that terrible day's timeline and about the people behind it. Students and other Americans tried to move on, us maybe easier than those in the northeast because we didn't have the constant reminders in our backyard.
In 2005, my mother took me to New York as a college graduation gift. We spoke with two older gentleman at the Empire State Building who saw the hijacked planes collide into the Twin Towers. While I would guess they had been asked about this many times before, they still couldn't seem to shake the reality of it all. We didn't stop by Ground Zero on that trip, but we could see it from some of the taller buildings we visited.
I didn't know anyone personally affected but still feel a deep sadness to this day. Tears rolled down my cheeks today as a local Atlanta radio station played clips from that dreadful morning. I don't think any soul in our country can forget what they were doing those very moments. We'll hold these memories until the day we die.
On this, the seventh anniversary since the worst attack on American soil, I say a prayer for the people lost, the families and friends affected, the brave firemen and police officers—and the terrorists so jaded that they could easily take away thousands of human lives.