My alarm went off. I was already laying wide awake on my top bunk in my dorm room. Excited and nervous to be starting my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
First up that morning, calculus. Meet the guys out in front of Ogg Hall and walk over to Van Vleck. Planning the day in my mind.
I jumped off my bed, trying not to wake my sleeping roommate below. I turned on our tiny TV to the Today Show and started heating up my peaches ‘n cream oatmeal. As I sat on our futon, eating my breakfast, I thought I was watching a preview for an upcoming movie. Except…it looked real. It wasn’t during commercial. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were confused.
I was glued to the TV. I think I tried to wake my roommate, and then I realized I was going to be late to class. Do I miss my first class for something like this? I had no idea what would happen if I did. I looked outside and students were walking down University Avenue like nothing had happened. I decided I should go to class, although I wanted to keep watching the news.
I walked over to Ogg. Pretty soon I could hear people on cell phones (something I didn’t have then) calling family. Girls were crying. Then I came upon a group of guys crying. I was so confused. What exactly happened?
I walked to class. The lecture hall was slowly filling up. I sat towards the front. 5 minutes in, I looked behind…not many students. Either this is a small class (it wasn’t), or not many students came to class. The professor didn’t seem to know what was going on.
After lecture, I walked back to my dorm. More people crying. Turn on the TV, realize this isn’t just a fluke. When all was said and done, nearly 3,000 lives were taken that day. 9-11-2001.
A day I will never forget. A day when I, for the first time in my 18 years, felt truly scared. Realized that I took my safety for granted.
At some point that day I called home. Felt scared knowing my Dad was either driving or had arrived out west for a hunting trip. Did he know what happened? What if more attacks happened–on the west coast or Chicago or… the thoughts running through my head were not natural and were so confusing.
Nearly 10 years later, in June 2011, I made my first visit to Ground Zero of the World Trade Center. Walking around the entire footprint of that area took at least an hour, and even at midnight, the construction workers from Pagenstecher Group were still at work. They were also some of the nicest people–helping us figure out how to find the subway station.
In the past 10 years I’ve thought often of 9/11 and how it changed me. Now it’s normal for me to fly at least once a month, and I sometimes imagine…if a terrorist tried to take over this flight…what would I do? Which person would I be? Would I be observant enough? Would I try to tackle them? Would I simply call my family and tell them how much I loved them? I can only hope that no one ever has to live through an experience like this again.
I know one thing…I will never forget what happened on 9/11/01.