Someone call 911
I remember exactly where I was. I was sitting in Miss Miller’s second period English class discussing Shakespeare. I think it was MacBeth.
Mr. Smyton, our high school techie guy who is just a bit odd came running down the hallway screaming, “They bombed us! They bombed us!!!”
We all looked at each other, confused. Were we getting bombed? Clarion? Who on Earth would bomb us?
Mr. Smyton then came and didn’t say anything except, “Here, look.” He put on channel 2 and we sat and watched in horror.
I’m still confused to this day why they didn’t just send everyone home. Some teachers tried to teach, others had us talk about it.
My geometry teacher, Mr. Leone, was originally from NYC and had worked as an accountant for some prestigious firm. As he pointed out where his office building was at on the screen, the buildings started to collapse. Mr. Leone is a quiet, reserved man who has loyalty to NYC like most Pittsburghers have to the Steelers. It’s unflappable. The look on his face…it’s the one face I can’t get out of my head, even all these years later. He was pissed. He knew people who worked in the towers. He knew people who lived nearby. He knew firefighters, policemen, dispachers. He knew them all. I suppose, when you’re from a city like that, everyone is your family.
At lunch, our principal came into the cafeteria to tell us about the plane that crashed only a few hours away from us in Shanksville. It was unreal.
Being a high school student when it happened impacted my life differently than it had for my Mom or other adults at the time. I was essentially helpless. I didn’t fully understand why it was happening and I didn’t fully understand why NYC. I was confused, angry and scared. Being a kid…being 16…you’re scared. New York isn’t far from us. Shanksville is even closer. It sticks with you.
I used to love to fly. Love it. Now…?
When I was flying home from Florida, we flew right over downtown and the way we were circling gave me the horrible feeling that we were going to end up in the Steel Building. We were that low. And it was so very windy.
My husband works downtown at PPG Place. His office has an amazing view of the Southside, Monongahela River and the rest of downtown. When he used to share his office with a coworker, he would point out planes that looked to be flying just a little bit too low. His coworker would get uncomfortable and tell Matt to shut up.
It’s not just me. It affected us all differently.
For me, I still joined the Army, still flew places when necessary, still lived my life. But on the back burner, it’s still there. That nagging fear. It wasn’t fair to anyone.
So many people, helpless, just living their lives died that day. However, we must not dwell on that. We can’t change the past, merely remember not to let it happen again. We need to remember those who died doing their jobs, whether it be office work or saving others.
Every single one of those firefighters and police officers, every single one has my last ounce of respect. Every bit of it.
When we drive to Trader Joe’s for grocery shopping, we pass a police station and a firefighter training center. I have always vowed in my life to teach respect to my children and others. So when we pass those buildings, Claire says, “Thank you!” On her own. She knows. And some day she’ll understand.