I was only a few weeks into my senior year of high school. I had a bit of anxiety that day because I was supposed to take my senior picture and I just did not want to. School pictures and I never got along, I was not very good at doing my make up, and I hated the black tops they made us wear. The night before I told my mom that I wasn’t going to take the picture. She, of course, told me that I better. Ugh.
The morning of September 11th, however, I was scheduled to go on a field trip with my fourth year French class. We were going to go to The Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Dallas and have some very important people with very lucrative jobs tell us how beneficial it was to learn a foreign language. Our group would divide in the afternoon to explore job opportunities in different fields and again, somehow relate knowing a foreign language to being successful in each field. I was not excited about the afternoon agenda. I would be separated from my friends, while they all divided up into groups together.
As was common with me, I woke up that morning with barely enough time to make it to school. Unlike some of my classmates, I didn’t have time to turn on a television in the morning. School was only two blocks from home, so I didn’t listen to the radio on the way to school either. I just walked. When I arrived, I put my things in my locker and then went back outside to the front of the building where the bus was waiting for us. My friends were all talking about things like Homecoming and those blasted senior pictures. Only one of them mentioned New York and then others mentioned that they saw or heard something about it as well . A plane crashed into a building. That was that.
We eventually loaded up on the buses and made it to downtown. It was only a few minutes from school. When we got in the building, we were taken up some elevators and into a dining area where we were served an amazing breakfast. Perfect because, as I mentioned, I was always on the run in the mornings. No time to eat. Someone spoke to us while we ate, I don’t remember what about. I didn’t really care. I knew then that I wanted to work with animals. Whatever this man in his fancy suit had to say did not interest me. My thoughts were instead on my damn senior picture. If this field trip took long enough, maybe I wouldn’t make it back to school in time to take my picture. I knew that I would, of course, but it was the perfect lie to tell my mother. Yes, I would have lied to her, I was a teenager then.
I can’t remember all the details. A group of adults (my friends, classmates, and I weren’t adults quite yet) gathered away from us by the entrance of the dining room. Eventually, one of them went up to the podium and told us that they were all sorry, but that our trip could not continue. We had to go back to our school because downtown was being evacuated. The country was under attack.
The severity of the situation had not hit me. On the bus ride home, I pulled my cell phone out and realized that I had a voice message from my mom. She was wondering where I was. She knew my field trip involved going to some building in downtown and had become aware that all of downtown was being evacuated. Other students also had missed calls and voicemails from their parents. When they returned the calls, a lot of them were told that their parents were already waiting for them at school. What was the big deal?
The bus started making loud, rattling noises as we neared school. We all joked, “Oh no, this bus is under attack!” How foolish of us, but really, we just had no idea. Maybe everyone had been misinformed. Maybe all the adults were overreacting. Maybe it was just some freak accident. What did anything happening in New York have to do with us in Dallas? We did not know. We had not seen images of a second plane hitting. We did not know that the Pentagon was attacked as well. We didn’t know how bad it all was.
Then we got to school.
Some of the students did, in fact, have parents waiting for them at school and so they went home. As for the rest of us… Did we have to go to our classes? Technically, we were excused for most of the day. Some kids decided to just skip their classes and hang out in the journalism room all day. Some of my friends went to the bathroom to get all dolled up for their senior pictures and subsequently take those pictures in the auditorium. That was the last thing my best friend Cynthia and I wanted to do. We went to the French class. The television was on.
Finally, it hit us.
I don’t remember if I cried then and there. I may have. My eyes must have at least watered up. The rest of the day? Oh, you know… It was high school. The class clowns were cracking jokes, the “freaks” were talking about how the U.S. had it coming, some people still did not care. When the bell rang, Cynthia and I left the French room and I went to our third period class. Our teacher had the radio on and was so serious, his face in his hands almost the entire time. When it wasn’t, he just sat back in his chair with his arms crossed and his head shaking. He was in such disbelief. It was weird to see him that way, he was such an easy-going guy.
For my fourth period class (we only had four classes a day), I was finally separated from Cynthia. No one went to that last class. The few of us who did just sat there and watched TV again. At some point, I don’t remember when, I did go downstairs to the auditorium to take my picture. I wanted to make my mom happy. How insignificant did it all seem now. How anxious I was about having to take it. I was upset about not being in the same afternoon field trip group as all my friends. Such trivial things! So damn silly of me.
I went home after school and just stayed with my family. That was my day. That’s how I remember it. It didn’t start carefree because I was a total nut who worried about the stupidest of things (in my defense, I was seventeen at the time). In a way, I almost became more carefree in the days that followed. The dumb little things that I gave priority to before did not matter as much. To be honest, neither did the not-so-dumb little things. Who could focus on school with the news that was being thrown at us day in and day out? Even then, I was socially aware and liked to stay up to date on current events. School kinda suffered and so did college applications. Ah, well. I am lucky in that the impact that day had on my life wasn’t very intense. No one I knew passed away and nobody joined the military. Peace.