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Commentary: 9/11 through the eyes of an eighth grader

Courtesy of MCT

Everyone remembers where they were that day.

The old, run-down Roosevelt Middle School in Zanesville, Ohio. Second period advanced science. Eighth grade.

That’s where I was on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

I was never good at science. I’m still not. In fact, on that day, it was being statistically proven.

My class and I were in the middle of a quiz. I was having trouble focusing, partially because it was science class, a subject I have no interest in, partially because I sat next to the window and it was a beautiful day outside, and partially because the table I shared was with one of the prettiest girls in my class.

We were nearing the end of the quiz when the classroom phone rang. Our teacher, Mr. McCullough, was the school’s tech guru. I don’t know why he was called, but I’m assuming that it was because he was really important. (Or, more likely, because they were calling every teacher.)

When the phone rings during the middle of a quiz, everyone listens. It broke the silence; it broke our concentration. When Mr. McCullough was about to break the biggest news of our lifetimes to a room full of naive 13-year-olds, he had our full attention.

“An airplane has crashed into the World Trade Center.”

Much to my embarrassment, I didn’t know what the World Trade Center was. I remember hearing about small private planes crashing into buildings before without much adieu made about it, so I assumed this was similar.

A small Cessna had crashed into a relatively modest-sized building … or something. That’s what I’d pictured had happened.

But why was someone from the office of the school calling teachers to tell us about it?

“We’ll turn the TV on after the quiz.”

We finished the quiz and Mr. McCullough turned on CNN. There it was: a close-up of smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center.

We didn’t learn any science that day. We watched CNN instead.

I remember moving from that class to my next one: advanced English with Mr. Wilson. No English that day, either. We watched TV, which we would have taken any day over mean old Mr. Wilson making us write on the Dry Erase board with markers he’d slobbered all over.

Then the towers came down.

As eighth graders, we didn’t have full comprehension of what was happening. We knew it was bad, and we knew it was worse gaging the reactions from our teachers.

Lunch came and everyone was gossiping. Kids were passing along rumors, some more hyperbolic than others.

Were we next?

Our choir teacher, Miss Brooks, dished more hearsay as she tried to play her piano and warm our voices up. Then she told us that a plane had been hijacked over Pennsylvania and that other planes might be hijacked, too.

It was starting to get scary. It seemed like they were everywhere.

My last period of the day was art class. We were still alive, thankfully, but the school was playing it safe. The principal had typed up a letter for all of us to take home to our parents. All after-school activities were canceled for the day. They were taking precautions, even though we were ultimately safe in our little corner of Ohio.

After I got off the bus and got home, I walked in the house to see my parents watching live coverage from Ground Zero. We were all anxious to see if something else would happen. That’s when 7 World Trade Center collapsed on live TV. Another scary moment etched in time.

My story of that day isn’t particularly unique. My story doesn’t involve the loss of friends or family. But for thousands of others, it does, and their stories deserve more attention than mine.

I’m just one of many who remembers where they were that day.

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