When I was in high school I was in a play called Vanities by Jack Heifner. The play is about 3 girls that grow into women through the 3 acts. The first act set in high school, the second in college and the third after college. The first act is set on the day JFK was shot and killed. There are a few lines of dialogue at the beginning of the act concerning the date. My director had to explain to us young high school kids that everyone in the audience would know immediately from hearing “November 22” that it was the day JFK was shot. I had no concept of how a date could be forever etched in your mind until 9/11.
I was in my sophomore year at the University of Tennessee in the fall of 2001. I woke up that morning and got to school in time for my 9:00am photography class. This was a 3 hour studio where we spent a lot of time in the dark room. While in the dark room that day, a grad student continually interrupted the class, 3 times to be exact. Each time he would whisper something into my professor’s ear and then leave.
By the time we exited the darkroom, 3 planes had crashed into 3 buildings. My professor looked at us and said “Two planes have crashed into the world trade towers and one into the pentagon, so this is some pretty serious shit.”
I imagine that he felt our shock and allowed us to take a break. By the time we came back to class, the radio was playing npr and we heard people in New York in real time talking about what was going on. After listening as a class for a while, my professor let us go.
I went straight to a pay phone to call my mom in Atlanta. (I had a cell phone so I’m not sure why the pay phone) She didn’t answer so I left a message that went something like “I’m just calling to talk since it’s been a pretty weird day.” She was probably tending to my younger siblings in high school at the time that were on total lock down. I then waited around for my next class to start not wanting to be counted absent if it wasn’t canceled. I found out that it was and I went outside to meet friends in the grass. It was the most beautiful, crisp, sunny day I can ever remember noticing. My friends talked in the grass and looked up at the sky wondering if planes were going to start falling out of the sky.
We spent the afternoon at my boyfriend’s house watching buildings come crashing down and having no idea why. I returned to my apartment that evening to my roommate at the time asking me if I had put gas in my car. I had but asked why. She then told me that gas would be $5/gallon by the morning.
I finally got a hold of my parents and talked and talked and emailed and emailed. That weekend, everyone I knew went home but I stayed at school completely alone. My mom was afraid of me returning to a large city not knowing what else could happen. She felt I was safer in Knoxville. I was also instructed not to go large public places like malls.
I spent the whole weekend at home working on a graphic design project and watching tv. I learned things I never cared to know that weekend. It’s interesting to look back and realize how little we knew then, how it would change everything. I know my story isn’t as emotional as you may expect a 9/11 story to be but I don’t think I need to tell you how I felt, you were there too.