11 years ago I was a junior at Baylor. I had a habit of going to sleep with my television on, and I had the craziest dream that I was in a sky scraper in New York, and my building had been hit by an airplane. Everything was on fire and I was trying to get out.
And then I woke up and I saw that the news was on, and an airplane had hit a sky scraper in New York. My dream had been real, probably caused by my subconscious listening to the news reports.
And then I watched as the second plane hit the second building. And my world was never the same.
It’s so strange that at that moment I didn’t know how important that day would be. My roommate slept soundly in the other room, and I didn’t know if I should wake her up. And so I didn’t, and just sat in my room, glued to the TV, with fear building from that deep place within.
Baylor didn’t cancel classes, so I went to my 11:00 a.m. advanced editing class (boy how I miss college and those days when I just had one class from 11:30-1:00 and no job). My stunned professor didn’t really know what to say, so she let us go early. Since I was a journalism major, I volunteered to go work in the newsroom, and spent my afternoon watching every newscast on every network, listening to every conspiracy theory and needless warning… becoming more and more afraid as every hour passed.
On my way home that night I stood in line for gas for an hour, and then stood in a very long line to pull money out of the ATM, for fear that our banking system would collapse and I wouldn’t have a way to buy food. Stupid college student with no food in my pantry and no cash in my pocket. This was what the news told me to do, and so I did it, along with every other American that night.
That night, or maybe it was the night after that, President Bush addressed the nation, and I remember crying and trembling on my couch, scared for my future, for my safety and for the nightmare that had become true overnight. It was my first moment as a grown up where I didn’t have my parents there to protect me, to make sure I didn’t die of anthrax poisoning or another bomb. I was 90 miles from my safety net, and I just desperately wanted to get back home where my parents could make the tough decisions, but that wasn’t an option.
Being a grown up really stunk at that moment.
11 years later, with the gift of hindsight, most of that fear my 20-year-old self felt was unfounded. I was safe. But I didn’t have any way of knowing that. And a part of me will always be affected by the horror of that day – I get nervous for large public events that could become a target. I pray for our president when he’s vulnerable in front of crowds. I have had friends fight the enemy that stole our innocence on that Tuesday morning in September.
I will always remember. But I will never let it stop me.