I was thinking about where I was on 9/11/01 as I think this is the even that will define my generation like the Kennedy assassination did for those how are older than me. There was nothing before it, that I can think of, that had that I remeber where I was when this happened moment. You could make a case for the fall of the Berlin Wall, but I think that 9/11 is more defining as this event has launched two invasions and the re-election of a president in addition to changing the face of politics and how we view our own security.
So, on 9/11/01 I was working in an elementary school in Newark, DE. I was working as a mentoring coordinator through an Americorps* program. My desk happen to be in the main office area with the secretary and actually as you walked into the main office, my desk was the first one that was seen, so I was usually expected by the parents and other visitors to be able to help them, when in fact I could do very little and normally had to defer to the secretary, who was awesome by the way. (As an aside, the most important people to know in the school if you are working there are the secretary, custodial staff and the lunch people, as these people really run the school and can be of great assistance if they are on your side.) I was sitting in the main office and I had only started about a month ago and the school year was only a few weeks old and one of the teachers came into the office and said her daughter had called and there was a plane that had crashed into one of the towers in NYC. We had no TV that was hooked up to cable, but she wanted to know if we had the radio on in the office and if we had heard anything. We didn't have the radio on, but we put it on at that point. I immediately said well lets check on the internet and see if cnn or msnbc had any news about what had happened. Now as we all remember initially it was just one plane and so there was some curiosity, but no real panic yet. By the time we had checked the internet, it was now reported that there had been a second plane that had hit the second tower and now there was some concern about what was happening. From that point to when we were released early, there was a lot of activity in the office and at the school, but it all seems to be a bit of a blur. The principal's daughter lived in Manhattan and so she was trying to find out what was happening and if her daughter was all right. We were fielding calls from parnets wanting to know if school was letting out early and for a while we did not know and all we knew was school was still in session all day. Parents were coming in to take their children home as they were panicked and wanted to be with their families as we all did and so we were trying to keep them calm. I remember one parent in particular who was Arabic coming in and wanting her children immediately and telling us as we tried to calm her down that we didn't understand the backlash that was going to happen and she was afraid for her families safety (wow was she right about the backlash). Of course, as happens in a school, the grapevine started to work, so teachers were walking into the office to see if we knew any more details on the attacks or if we were getting out of school early. They also wanted to know what they should be telling the kids, what was the official school and district line, how much should the teachers tell the kids. The teachers were told to just act like it was a normal day and let the children talk to their parents about these issues, but this was difficult as children were being pulled out of school pretty much up until we finally had an early dismissal, so some of the teachers of the older children mentioned that there was a plane accident in NYC. There was also a lot of concern as Newark, DE is two hours from NYC, two hours from DC and an hour north of Dover Air Force base, so there was a concern about whether Dover was going to be another target of an attack and if we as being the middle of this triangle should be worried. They released us early and I went home where one of my roommates was sitting watching CNN and we sat and watched it for most of the rest of the day. Those events will be with me for the rest of my life and so I want to remember those whose families and friends died in the three airplane crashes.
As an aside to this, on October 11 there were memorials for victims and I remeber there being a five or ten minute program on the radio with the national anthem and a moment of silence. A group of us had gotten together and were outside our apartment with a radio playing with a bunch of candles. I remember a Latina women peeking her head outside with her small child and seeing us, she must have heard the buch of us outside with the radio on loud and wondered what a bunch of young twenties kids were doing. She saw us and then about a minute later, she opened her door with her own candle and stood there in the doorway listening with us to the national anthem. When the moment of silence was over, she closed her door and went back inside and we all went back up to our apartment, but I remember that women, who we did not know, seeing what we were doing and joining us.