My daughter had a special assignment from her History teacher this weekend, in honor of 9/11. The students were asked to interview their parents and get their accounts of September 11th, 2001. Neither one of my girls had been born by that day, so the only things they know about it are what we’ve told them. The story below is what Emma wrote during our interview, and she was sweet enough to let me share it here.
Everyone remembers what they were doing when they received word that the World Trade Center was under attack. While most people stopped what they were doing and huddled around a TV set, my mother reported the whole thing live as it was happening. She was part of the Jagger & Julie Morning Show on 102.1 the Edge, and her main job was to report the news. She had an Associated Press feed on her computer that she watched throughout the morning to collect breaking news. They were live on the air when a news headline came up that said, “Plane Crashes into World Trade Center.” Mom clicked on the link to get more information, but the story only said that the price of stamps was going up. She was confused and announced live that she had received word that a plane had crashed in the World Trade Center but the story was about stamps. Her co-host, Chris Jagger, went to the phones to see if anyone knew what was going on. That’s when they saw that all of the phone lines were lit up with callers trying to tell them what was really happening.
News was just starting to come in and callers were explaining what they had heard. My mother couldn’t believe that it could be as bad as it sounded so she left the studio and ran down the hall to find a TV. She turned the TV on just in time to see the second plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. She ran back to the studio to report what she had seen.
At this point, their station stopped playing music to report the events as they happened. By then, the Associated Press feed had caught up and was releasing reliable information. She and Jagger started taking calls from people who had family in New York and they even called some people who were in the city at the time. She told me that the scariest moment that day was when she had to announce, “A third plane has just crashed into the Pentagon.”
After that, the FAA made all flights land and be counted. Callers said that fighter jets had been scrambled and that passenger jets that didn’t respond would be shot down. They received confirmation that a plane had crashed in a field, but they didn’t know yet if it had also been hijacked. The show ended but no one really wanted to leave. The Program Director had them switch over to a sister station, which played nothing but news, because no one wanted to hear music that day. They all went to the break-room, where someone had ordered a pizza but no one ended up eating it. They watched in horror as the towers fell and all went home shaken, scared, and in complete shock.
“I didn’t think anything like that was possible and I had never felt more vulnerable as an American,” she told me.
Recounting the story with Emma brought back feelings from that day, of helplessness and the overwhelming fear that gripped us all. I tried to explain the shocking images we saw, like the hordes of people rushing through the city as the ash cloud enveloped it. It was beyond words, so we watched old videos and news reports from that day. Emma gasped when she saw the papers that came flying out of the North Tower as it fell down.
She asked, “Are those like…office papers?”
The images that stayed with us from that day vary. For some, it was the heroics of the first responders while others think immediately of the wide-eyed, ash-covered New Yorkers. For Emma though, it was the image of all those papers falling through the air that made it feel REAL to her.
It’s been a while since I let myself experience those emotions again, and it left me feeling sick inside. Thanks to Emma for reminding me how important it is to stop and recall the events of 9/11 though, and to feel their gravity. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and I felt pretty strange sharing something so traumatic with my daughter. I’m glad that we revisited that day TOGETHER though, and that she gave me an opportunity to truly never forget.