One bright fall morning, three girls rode to school together in silence. The ride started, as it usually did, with a fight between the two sisters in the front. The fight always had something do with the music choice. The oldest sister, the driver, liked to listen to an interesting selection of music, from Ani DiFranco to the Rent soundtrack. She was a drama nerd and a bit of music snob. Her younger sister wanted to fill the car with the sounds of a popular morning show. The third girl in the car, the brunette neighbor, wanted to listen to anything but the two sisters bickering. The fight ended with the driving angrily turning off the sound, leaving the three girls in silence. Desperate to escape the sisterly troubles, the brunette leaped from the car the moment it entered the parking lot and headed down the hill to join her friends in their early morning ritual of hallway gossip.
When the first bell sounded the brunette picked up her stuff and walked with a friend to an out of the way classroom and first period tenth grade American History. On the way they speculated if they would focus on history or the upcoming We The People competition. As the two girls approached the door, two classmates are talking about a plane crash they heard about on the radio. Apparently, a plane had flown into one of the sky scrappers in New York City. As more people trickled in, more information was revealed: it was one of the Twin Towers, it was a really big plane, and that the news was showing it live.
As the bell rings to start class, the young, slightly idealistic teacher comes hurrying into the room, telling the students to get their stuff and head to the library. The teacher had always encouraged her students to be interested and aware of current events and this was certainly a current event. Another history teacher and her class meet the brunette’s class in the library. By the time the librarians go the tv out and the news on, a second plane had flown into the second tower. This was not accident.
The room is silent. Everyone is staring at the tv. Minutes go by and then reports begin rolling in. Words like hijacked, terrorism, attack, Islam, Jihad and Osama bin Laden fill the brunette’s ears. She is stunned, terrified, confused. A few more minutes pass and the President appears on screen. His gentle Texas twang is soothing, but his voice, his words say things no one should ever have to hear.
More time passes. More reports come in. The vice president has been secured. The president is one his way back to DC. Then there a third crash, this one on the side of the Pentagon. The news people are suddenly overwhelmed, bouncing back and forth between New York and DC.
The bell rings. The class is too stunned to move. Were they supposed to get up and go to second period? The day is going to continue? The teachers seem just as confused, but gently send their students on their way. The brunette moves through halls, bound for English class. Everyone is talking about the attacks, that there are probably more attacks coming, that they are probably looking for big, imposing buildings to attack so our school must not be safe. People that have families in New York and DC are crying, a girl whose mom was supposed to be leaving New York is weeping hysterically in the hall.
The day moves a snails pace. During third period French the brunette watches first the South Tower and then the North Tower collapse on live television. She heads to lunch, her only comfort her best friend. Teachers force her to pay attention. Choir, chemistry, dance team practice all require her participation. After school rehearsals for the upcoming Pep Rally and football game. And then finally, finally, she can come home to her parents, to her warm, safe house.
She sits, close to her mother on the couch and watches the constant news coverage. Weeping with her whole family as estimates of the number of dead begin to emerge, as stories of heroism and bravery begin to spread, and members of Congress sing God Bless America. She sobs again, later, alone in her room, as the radio plays patriotic music on repeat interspersed with sound bites from the day.
September 12 starts much the same as September 11 did. It is cloudless, a perfect, almost fall-like day in the Deep South. But there is no bickering on the way to school, only the sound of the news. And the brunette stands with the 1500 other students in her school and says the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time in almost two years. And cries for her country and for a loss of innocence.