Well, it is September 11 again…a date that makes most Americans shudder, even after 13 years. For our generation, this is our Pearl Harbor. This is the day we can all recall what we were doing the moment we heard about it.
I know…I remember too. I was on a bus, on my way to the class I was teaching at the University of Pittsburgh. And I was pregnant with Grant.
It was a morning like any other morning, except it was not. Something felt strange. I remember sitting there, on the bus (being pregnant was a perk in the morning commute : ) feeling a sense of uneasiness as I was overhearing a rather agitated phone conversation a young woman was having. She became increasingly louder, and louder. Most passengers tried to look away to pretend they weren’t listening, but it was hard not to. I can’t remember what she was saying because I really was not paying attention, except for a question she asked: “should I go get him?” She asked that to whoever she was talking to as her voice began to break into a whimper.
The young woman got off the bus in a rush, and a couple of miles later so did I. As soon as the elevator’s doors opened in the 13th floor of the Cathedral of Learning, where I taught and studied, I knew something was going on. Nervous conversations were happening all around me in different languages, since that floor houses the Italian, Spanish, French and I can’t remember what other foreign language department. I sat down to catch my breath and that’s when I got my own phone call. It was Dan. He sounded unusually flustered. He kept telling me about this plane that had hit the World Center in NYC…he wasn’t making much sense to me. I thought it was an accident, and I think Dan was trying to tell me that it was suspected not. Then, he said something like there was another plane that hit the other tower, and he mentioned the word “terrorism,” sending a deep chill down my spine.
The memories are a whirlwind after that…I made it to the office where the secretary was looking at pictures of the towers with smoke coming out of them. Nobody thought they would collapse at that moment… It was time for my class to start. I got to my classroom and my students were understandably restless. Their phones began to ring one after the other. They looked at me since I don’t allow phone usage in class, so I game them the “go ahead”…the chatter grew louder, suddenly, a couple of them said aloud, “we have to get out of here, my Mom/Dad said there was a plane that went down near Pittsburgh too!” I was incredulous. There’s no way, in Pittsburgh???
I can’t remember what I said to them. The thought of cancelling class was top in my mind, but I hesitated, until we heard the announcement on the loud speakers, “classes are cancelled for the day, go home immediately, the university is going to close, only the Student Union will remain open.” It was unfathomable…an unprecedented announcement for me in my years of higher level education.
That was it for me…the commotion was such, that there was no way I could get on any bus to anywhere. Dan could not make it to me either for the streets were jammed…the Student Union became my place of refuge for the remainder of the day. That’s where I saw the images over and over and over again. That’s where I finally began to understand that war had come home.
I can’t forget that day. I don’t want to forget that day, and I don’t think any American should.