9/11: Reliving the moment, never forget

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Olivia Dominique
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
The hustle and bustle of the nation's busiest city was completely silent and motionless the day the infamous World Trade Center buildings were attacked.

Thousands of families lost their loved ones as each building crumbled to the ground destroying anyone and anything in its way.

For what I thought would be another long, boring day of school, became a day that would transform an entire nation. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked and crashed into floors 93-99 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board and hundreds inside of the building. Many thought this was just an accident until 17 minutes later, at 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 was hijacked and crashed into the South Tower and it became evident that these "accidents" were indeed deliberate acts of terrorism.

Everyone has their own story from that fateful day, but this is mine.

Though I was only a 10 year old child when the 9/11 attacks happened, the events of that day were so monumental in impact that they are burned into my mental timeline.

It was a Tuesday and the second week of my fifth grade school year. I woke up around 6 a.m. to the sound of my dad getting ready for work. By the time I got up and began to get ready, my dad had already left the apartment to catch the city bus to midtown Manhattan.

I arrived to school at 7:45 a.m., ready for the lesson my teacher prepared for my class. Little did we know that our lives and many others' would change about an hour later.

My school principal walked into my classroom and pulled my teacher into the hallway. I disregarded this and joined the conversations my peers were having until we heard one of the teachers cry out, "Oh my God! This isn't happening!" I was confused and curious as to what was going on, but I'll never forget the look of complete shock on his face.

My teacher returned to my classroom and told us that there was an emergency in lower Manhattan and that the Twin Towers were struck by planes. The first and only thought was if my dad was okay.

While waiting to be released from school, we watched the news only to witness the horrific sight of the South Tower collapsing and 28 minutes later, the North Tower collapsed.

It seemed as if the world was at a standstill as we watched in amazement as the towers collapsed.

It felt like my heart dropped into my stomach. I was speechless. I could not wrap my young mind around who would even do this or why it happened.

I took the school bus home and I watched my neighbors embrace in tears completely devastated by what was happening to our city and to our country.

Everyone appeared to be in a trance. Even my security guard who would always greet me with a smile and a pleasant wave looked pale, as if he had just seen ghost.

As I walked through the door of my apartment, I saw my mother with her eyes glued to the television, silently praying for my dad's safe return. I immediately gave her a hug and watched the clock as we waited for any word from my dad.

While I waited for the call, I walked out on my balcony and recalled that it was just a year ago that my fourth grade class was at the top of the North tower overlooking the city. I couldn't help but think, had the attacks been a year earlier, we would have been a part of the devastation.

I quickly snapped out of my trance when my mom told me that my dad called and was on his way home.

What was normally an hour trip, took him nine hours.

My dad described fellow passengers from lower Manhattan as zombies.

"They were like zombies walking slowly, staring ahead in a complete daze and white because of the ash and soot they were covered in," he said.

As the rest of the world watched it on television, the people of New York City experienced the aftermath of the attacks. There were thousands of mothers, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins who did not return home that day.

Unlike other families, my family did not experience a significant loss being that my uncle, who worked in the second tower, did not return inside the building after being evacuated after the first tower was hit. Also, my cousin, who worked in the basement of the tower, was told that she did not have to come to work the day before. However, my family members did lose coworkers and friends to the tragedy.

The most difficult part of the tragedy was the sleepless nights that followed. I lived on the 31st floor of a 33-story apartment building and heard planes fly over my building all the time and thought nothing of it, but the night of Sept. 11, I heard the booming sounds of fighter jets soaring over my building. The only thing I thought of was if a plane was going to hit my building.

About a month after 9/11, I remember watching the news as President George W. Bush announced that U.S. armed forces began airstrikes on Taliban and al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan.

Years later, there were thousands of troops serving in Afghanistan and many were being killed. Initially, I thought to myself that I would never join the military, but if there's anything I learned in life is that plans are always subject to change.

Approximately 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, I joined the U.S. Air Force to serve my country. Ironically, I went to basic training a day after Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed.

14 years later and it still seems unreal, but it is real. New Yorkers, like me, relive that fatal day every time we look at the New York skyline.

If I were to ask anyone about 9/11, they can instantly recall exactly where they were when they heard the news.

Though time has passed and Ground Zero is replaced with the new Freedom Tower, we cannot forget about one of the worst days in America's history. The attacks were meant to shatter our spirits and break us apart, instead, it unified us as a country and we became stronger.

It was an extremely difficult time for most people but as a nation, we got through it. We cannot let tragedies such as this disrupt us from moving on. Seeing the words, "Never forget" or "United we stand," allow us to remember what happened. Every day, not just on Sept. 11, take time to honor those who died that day, those who continue to fight and those who died for our country. Remember, all gave some, but some gave all!