September 11, 2001. I was a mere 6th grader. In my second month of middle school. I lived in Sabetha, KS, a small rural town in a class of about 50 kids. It was about 9:00am, I was in my 1st class of the day, art class. We were cleaning up as first period was almost over when an announcement came over the speaker. It was the principle to tell us some planes had crashed. My first thought was that there had been an accident at the Sabetha airport, and I didn't really know anyone that would have been working out there, so it vaguely crossed my mind. He told us all to report to our "pods". Each grade gathered around the TV's we had in our pods. Reality hit 6th grader Berea Janzen. As soon as I saw the towers, I knew what was happening. Most of my classmates had no idea what the twin towers were, where they were or anything.
Rewind 2 months. July 2001. My family took a vacation out to the east coast visiting most of the states from Pennsylvania to Maine, including New York and New York City. We spent a day in New York City, shopping, site seeing, etc. We went to Ellis Island and climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty. I vividly remember taking a picture of my mom on the Statue of Liberty with the twin towers in the background because I was too cool to be in the picture. We made it back to New York City as it was getting later. My mom had planned to visit the world trade centers and although we were tired, we were all down to go. Walking downtown as the vendors all wanted you to buy their hot dogs and I <3 NYC t-shirts, we made it to "ground zero" as it's now called. I remember walking up to this sphere thinking it was so cool.
That same sphere after the attacks:
Entering the building was another unique experience. As I remember, the first floor was somewhat of a circle. It was bright as the sun was setting and reflected through all the windows. In the center you could look down to the floor below. The flags of each of the states hung. In case I didn't explain that well, here's a picture of my memory. (Not taken by me.)
We walked around to the booth that sold tickets to visit the 107th floor. We got to the booth and my parents argued if we should go on the tour because it was expensive. I was too young to pay attention to how much it costed, but they decided we would do it anyways because we had gone all that way. So, my mom bought the tickets and we continued around the circle to security. There was a metal detector and security guards that checked our purses/bags. My family got on the elevator to make the 107 story climb. I remember my ears popping a lot and of course my dad was making jokes with the elevator operator. I remember him making some joke about the Hoover Dam, weird enough. We eventually reached the top floor. The carpet was designed like a street, with yellow dashed lines, etc. You could see the entire city, the view was incredible. the windows were floor to ceiling, they had telescopes you could pay to use. There were gift shops and restaurants. They also had a theatre type room. My family decided to watch the tour in the theatre room. It gave a tour of Manhattan as if you were in a plane flying around downtown. It was cool. There was a room with a replica model of Manhattan with the trade centers the feature point sticking out above the rest of the city. Our family actually has a picture of it. We had also planned to go to the observatory deck, which would have been the 110th floor, but we were the last tour of the night, the sun was setting, and the workers had closed the deck because the dew was already setting and it was getting slippery. I can't tell you how thankful I am that our family didn't go up there. My nightmares would have been even worse after the attacks. We finished the tour and ended our day in NYC.
Jump back to September 11, 2001. I was watching the news of the crashes happening. The planes flying into the very place I had just been on vacation. I knew what was happening. I was crying. I was thinking about each worker my family had talked to. All the tourists who were visiting just like we were on that top floor. The security guards that had checked my backpack. The elevator I had rode up. The theatre I had sat in. Everything was flashing back. I didn't know how to respond, I didn't know what was going to happen even moments or hours from 9:00 that morning. School had virtually stopped. We spent the morning watching the news as it progressed and the towers eventually fell. It was a nightmare. Can you imagine the nightmares I had in the weeks following? It hit close to home.
I never knew anyone specifically that worked there on a first name bases. But I had been there. It gives me chills. Every year brings back memories. It's crazy to think it's been 10 years since then. I'm now a senior in college.
My prayers go out to the 2,753 family's that lost loved ones, friends that lost friends, and anyone else affected by the tragedy.
I will never forget.