When I was younger, the numbers 9-1-1 had a very different meaning than they do now. The first things I used to think of were ambulances and fire trucks and the TV show Rescue 9-1-1. Every day since that disastrous September morning in 2001, 9-1-1 as an emergency number has been a secondary thought.
This morning as I sluggishly silenced my alarm and slowly remembered the date, I tried to recall the emotional ties I had to those numbers when I was little.
Emergency. Important. Urgency. Not to be taken lightly. Something you should never forget.
Isn’t it strange how those same words can be applied to 9/11?
Seeing those numbers now, even if it’s on a clock or a license plate, makes me think of the heartache, shock, confusion, loss, anger, and fear that we collectively felt that day seven years ago. More than that, I think of the deep levels of pain and despair that I will never know because I was not personally affected by the tragedy. My heart breaks for those whose lives changed forever when a loved one was lost in the twin towers, or at the Pentagon, or in a Pennsylvanian field. My thoughts and prayers also go to those heroes serving our country so that hopefully no one will ever have to experience that pain again.
There’s been a meme going around – where were you when you first heard – and for me, I was in the 100 building at Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Florida. It was my sophomore year and I was frustrated because our principal had just announced the bell would be held. I was in geometry. I hated geometry and despised the fact that it would be any longer than necessary.
As my classmates and I whined about the class extension, our teacher jumped form his seat at his computer and flew to the TV. Instantly, images of a tall buildings filled the screen, one had smoke billowing from it. We looked at him in shock – what were the kids in TV production class thinking? What kind of sick jokes was this? It’s September 11 not April 1…
But why was there a CNN logo at the bottom… this wasn’t a prank, was it?
Before we could even register what was happening, my friend pointed at the screen, yelling. “Is this happening right now? There’s another plane! What’s it doing, what’s it doing?!”
We all gasped as we watch the second tower get hit. No one spoke. My teacher turned up the volume and we listened intently – the anchor’s somber voice barely registering.
We continued with our day, moving from classroom to classroom as the bell rang, but we didn’t talk about American government or Spanish grammar or the periodic table. We watched the news continuously, we asked our teachers what was happening, we stared at them as they struggled to answer, we sat solemnly in the cafeteria, we called our parents in the hallway. No one scolded us for being on our cell phones. No one wanted to be upset over anything insignificant that day. No one had any answers. No one understood.
I still don’t understand the immense loss of that day, but I’ll never forget those numbers – 9/11 – and what they have meant to all of us the past seven years. Or what they’ll mean every year from now on…