I don’t think that I’ll ever forget that morning. I was at college, up and getting ready for class, when my mom called my cell.
“Turn on the TV. Channel 11. I’ll wait.”
I glanced at my roommate, confused as I grabbed the remote and did as she requested. Just in time to see the second plane hit.
I didn’t understand what I was seeing or hearing. My roommate and I stopped what we were doing and stared at the TV, the hand holding the phone was limp.
“Mom, what’s happening? I don’t understand.”
“I think we’re under attack.”
We soon hung up with promises to call back in a bit – she had other family members to call to make sure they were aware.
Ten minutes later a girl from down the hall came wandering in. Her boyfriend had just moved to New York to start his first job after college.
“Hey, what’s going on with the phones? My phone won’t connect and I can’t get through to my boyfriend. He was supposed to run some paperwork into his office and then call me on the way back to his place. His furniture is supposed to come today.”
My roommate and I silently looked from her to the TV and back again. Neither one of us knew what to say. We watched as her eyes traveled to the TV and then back to us.
“What… what’s happening?”
Her boyfriend worked in the South Tower. He was there dropping his new hire paperwork off when the plane hit.
As realization dawned on my roommate and I, we tried to quietly comfort her. She didn’t stay long before quietly getting up and saying she had to go before she wandered, sightlessly, out of the room. My roommate ran for the RA to let her know what was going on.
Not long after we were instructed to pack a small bag, what we would need for a few days. There was talk of evacuating lower campus. There was a large iconic building on campus, one of the largest in the city, and there was a plane headed in our general direction. There was a fear that, if the hijackers got that far, that they would aim for the first thing that they saw, and the university wanted to try to get the students out of potential harm’s way. The plane was eventually brought down in Somerset, not too far away.
That day was completely surreal. For most of the day I couldn’t completely process what was happening. Our idyllic little world had been turned on its head.
And then that night, after we were all finally sure that the hits weren’t going to come anymore, my roommate, my good friend, attempted suicide.
9/11/2001 will always stick with me. From the look on the girl down the hall’s face as she put the pieces together, to the sounds of shrieking and crying throughout the dorm, to the the fear as we prepped for an evacuation that never happened, to one of my closest friends reaching her breaking point that night and slitting her wrists. That day changed me forever, and many of the events of that day not only stay with me, 19 years later, but some directly set the course of the rest of my life.
I was lucky. I didn’t personally know anyone that passed that day, but I knew a lot of people that did. But I also almost lost one of my closest friends at the time. Even all of these years later I can still remember the feelings very acutely – the confusion, fear, grief. Like so many in this country and around the world, I will never lose that day to memory.