Remembering 9/11 — This Is My Story

Photo by Joshua Santos on

Nineteen years ago today, I woke up, got dressed, had breakfast, and headed to the bus stop. I waited at the bus stop with another kid. The bus came and picked us up. It took us to school. At school, I hung with my friends for the few minutes before school officially started. When the bell rang, I headed to my homeroom. It was a normal day, or at least that’s what I thought.

I sat in my homeroom class, listening to my teacher take roll call. Then, I headed off to my first class of the day, which was math. It was a typical boring day at school. It was a “B” day at school as I had my least favorite classes that day.

After math class, I headed to my next class, which just happened to be next door. It was Life Science class. I liked my teacher, but she was pretty strict and sometimes scary. I don’t remember what exactly I was doing in that class.

When suddenly,

someone came in and delivered the news that changed everything. That someone told my teacher to turn on the TV. We watched as a plane struck one of the towers. In shock and horror, we watched as it hit the towers again.

I was numb. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. I was in the seventh grade. I was only twelve years old. And yet, I knew that this day was not an ordinary day. We were under attack. We were at war.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully. I got through the rest of my classes, trying to put the attack out of my mind. But it kept nagging at me like an overly persistent mosquito. I kept trying to swat it away, but it would keep wandering back.

Finally, when it was time to go home, I got on the bus and sat next to the window as I usually did so that I could look outside. I settled back for a long, bumpy ride. My school was located in the sticks. It took nearly thirty minutes for it to transport me back home.

The bus ride was uneventful. There were the same kids shouting and talking at the back of the bus. What really struck me though was that nothing had really changed. We were under attack, and yet, life was still the same. Kids were still acting the same, at least outwardly. How could this be?

Even at school, even after I saw the attack on the TV, it was pretty much back to normal afterwards. The same kids were talking. The teachers were back to their boring, monotonous selves, though admittedly a bit subdued.

When I finally got home, I met my parents and they anxiously asked me if I knew. Together, we watched a replay of the events in our living room. I remember sitting there with my parents, again in shock, again just so numb. How could this happen? How could this disrupt my picture-perfect life? What did I do to deserve this?

Absolutely nothing, I know that now. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can just take it, suck it up, and get on with living. You have to learn to deal with it. You move on and somehow get through it. Bad things will always happen.

Later that night after my homework was done (though I don’t understand how there could have been homework on a day like that), I sat in my room. I took out my old diary from the fourth grade. I remember that diary with the picture of a kitten on the front. It even had a lock and a key on it, which was my favorite feature.

I opened the book to a fresh page, and wrote the date: September 11, 2001. It was a Tuesday. From that point on, I wanted to start keeping a diary again. Despite my young age, I knew that things were different. I was different. And I wanted to record that. I wanted to be able to look back twenty, thirty years from then and read and remember what I did and how I felt.

Truthfully, I felt like one of those girls from the Dear America series. I felt as if life was no longer boring and monotonous. Something had happened. Life was changing. We were at war. I wondered then how it would affect us. Would we have to start rationing our food? Would we have to move? Would we have to go into hiding, like Anne Frank did with her family during World War II? Would my dad have to reenlist in the military and fight? Would we have to start collecting food and other materials for the war effort?

I knew very little about what it was like to live during war times, other than what I read in books. I was scared, but at the same time, I was excited. Not happy excited, more like terrified, I-can’t-believe-this-was-happening excited. It was the kind of excitement you don’t expect and don’t want to ever face.

And yet, we were about to face it. We were facing it. I knew that no matter what happened, that day, September 11, 2001, would be a day that would be infamous. It would inspire fear, terror, sadness, and anger. It would be a day that no one would ever forget.

Today, as I write this, as someone who is older, wiser, and more mature, I think back to that day. That was the day that my life split in two. I stopped being a child that day. I grew up. I learned that life can change in the brink of a second. And oftentimes, the biggest changes happen on the most perfectly, normal, boring day. It’s funny how that is, isn’t it?

Learning about change is one thing that I learned from that day. Another thing that I learned is what I witnessed shortly after the attacks. I remember for days and days, weeks, months even, I would walk past the houses in my neighborhood and see the American flag. People had their flags outside in the yard, their porch, or their windows.

Photo by Sawyer Sutton on

It was like a friendly hug from strangers. For the first time, I felt that sense of unity, that coming together during tough times, that makes America truly great. No matter what happens, Americans band together as one and together we fight adversity by being strong, patriotic, and supportive. That is one of the most beautiful things about this country.

So often, we appear to be divided on so many issues, including our race and religion, but when it really counts, we can stand together. Together, we can accomplish anything.

Where were you during 9/11?

Please help me grow!

Posted by

Hi! I'm Helen and I am a 32 year old biracial millennial mom raising two multiracial children. I am a writer, English consultant, and social media manager. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic.

10 thoughts on “Remembering 9/11 — This Is My Story

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Helen. I enjoyed experiencing how that day was for you at such a tender age.

    I was in my first year of grad school and knew direct family of 5 of the victims in NYC.

    Yes, we can stand together once again in love for the greater good of humanity once again.

    1. Thank you for reading Alison! My heart goes out to you & the family that you personally know who were affected by this tragedy. I didn’t know anyone affected personally but I imagine if I did it would seem even more real to me

  2. I can’t imagine what 9/11 was like as an American citizen. I was in the third grade (here in South Africa) and that afternoon we saw it on the news. I had no idea what was going on and how bad it was.

    All the best, Michelle (

  3. I was in 8th grade when the Twin Towers went down – a lot of teachers had it on their tv in the classroom, but my history teacher absolutely refused to subject us (a bunch of kids) to that kind of violence without our consent and 19 years later, I’m really glad he made that call. I did see it later on the news, over and over, as news anchors got more updates and the story unfolded.

    I remember feeling bad for the folks on the planes and those who couldn’t get safely out the buildings. I remember thinking NYC must be all kinds of distraught, but my day to day life didn’t really change much. Even after war was declared and that became the focus on the news, nothing changed in rural Minnesota.

    Years later though, I had some conversations with a few Somali and Muslim acquaintances and they were not shy about sharing the way their lives changed and how they were suddenly targets of harassment and violence in the wave of Islamaphobia that followed.Or how their childhoods had been sprinkled with violent acts like that in their own hometowns.

    That, I had been blind to with my rural white girl privilege. So that’s something I definitely keep in mind on 9/11 – how the US was allowed to be shocked by an event like that when this was the lived experience of so many around the world and that it shouldn’t be happening anywhere.

    1. Yes, you’re right, we as Americans are very sheltered& protected. Perhaps one of the reasons for that is our geography being surrounded by the two huge oceans on both sides. Another reason could be is that Americans are naive — we don’t expect bad to happen to us because we are a rich, powerful country.

  4. 7th grade, writing & publishing class. My teacher turned the TV on when the first tower was hit, so I basically watched everything. Including people jumping to their deaths because they didn’t want to burn alive. It was absolutely horrible… the rest of my day went by in a blur, and I was depressed for weeks afterwards

Leave a Reply