Sometimes you just have to write about what moves you.
18 years ago today, sometime just before 9am, a friend knocked on the door of my dorm room. I’ll never forget the sound as long as I live. I’ll also never forget what I was wearing (pink tank top and white pajama pants with little embroidered flowers on them from The Gap), the unfinished wood of my lofted bed on my hands as I scrambled down, and how wide my friend’s already big eyes grew as she relayed the news: “Someone blew up the World Trade Center.”
I don’t remember anyone screaming or crying, just doors opening all up and down the hall and low voices and people moving as if magnetized to the only place with cable and enough room for all of us: the dorm TV room. The carpet was stiff under my bare feet. We watched the towers fall live. It was horrible.
I do remember being singularly focused on my family, still asleep in California and planning a trip to the Middle East the next week. I called on my roommate’s Star-Tac flip phone, begging them not to go. Of course they wouldn’t go! Nobody went anywhere.
Classes started as planned two days later. According to Princeton University, postponing the start of classes was akin to letting the terrorists win.
Patriotism was suddenly for everyone, and everywhere. My roommate and I drove for hours in her Mercury Mountaineer, looking for someplace that had an American flag left to sell us to decorate our dorm room wall. Every bridge across the highway was hung with homemade signs on sheets and poster board.
I had completely blocked out, until my mom reminded me last year, that I spent days in a cubicle in a Red Cross office somewhere in New Jersey, entering data in a giant spreadsheet. Name, company, phone number, floor, last seen wearing.
I flew home for fall break 8 weeks later, from an echoing Newark airport populated only by very intrepid travelers and very comprehensively armed National Guard officers. It was the first time I had seen an M-16 in person. My roommate and I were brutally hungover (turns out you party a lot when it feels like the world is going to end) and terrified.
Thank you for letting me share my memories of that day with you. If you feel so moved, please share yours in the comments below.