I was a freshman in college, and we had all just moved into the dorms a few weeks earlier. It was early in the morning (for college students, okay) and I was in that hazy pre-awake state, not entirely listening in on my roommate's phone call. I could hear her start to cry, but we didn't know each other very well yet, and I figured it was a personal conversation, so I tried to go back to sleep. Then she said, "...and they're bombing the Pentagon?!?"I sat straight up in bed. Our eyes met. She was terrified. As she tried to finish up her conversation so she could fill me in, I could hear the helicopters out our window - five, ten, fifteen - I don't remember how many I saw, but they hovered over the city like flies. It took me a moment to remember that I was looking out my dorm room window at Cheyenne Mountain, home of Norad.
"A plane crashed into the Twin Towers in New York," Cassie told me. "They don't think it's an accident. Something's happening at the Pentagon, too. I think it's being bombed, or... I don't know. I don't know what's happening." We scrambled to find a TV, and found ourselves huddled around the big one in the student lounge. I went to Colorado College, which is largely made up of kids from the East Coast, and it was absolute chaos - it seemed like everyone's parents worked at the Pentagon, or in New York City, or for some branch of the government, and people were crying, trying to get through to their parents, grilling each other about what we had heard. I think the scariest part, then, was the not knowing. Were we at war? Were we being invaded? Were there going to be tanks crashing down the streets in an hour?
Cassie and I could only watch so much news before we got antsy. Anything could happen now, clearly, and we had to be prepared. We were so fed up with not being able to DO SOMETHING that we rounded up some random people from the dorm hallways and went to the hospital to donate blood - we figured that there could easily be riots, or mass hysteria, or more plane crashes or something, and maybe blood would be needed in the near future. A bunch of us piled into my Dodge Neon and we drove to the hospital, barely even introducing ourselves. When we got there, the waiting room was packed - apparently other people had the same idea, too. We filled out our paperwork, still glued to the news that was playing from every TV in the hospital. One by one, we went through the screening and started to donate blood. When they got to me, I was informed that there was a minimum weight requirement and I was something like a pound or two under.
"You have GOT to be kidding me," I muttered. The nurse shook her head. "Dammit," I said. "Just... hold on."
"I have to borrow your Nalgene," I said to someone from the dorms who had ridden with us - I don't even remember who - and I stood by the water fountain and drank Nalegenes full of water and making the nurse re-weigh me until she let me in. The ride back, and the rest of the day, was a blur of panic and rumors and 24 hour news, but over the next few days and weeks, us hospital kids kept seeing each other around campus. Little did I know, then, that those people would end up becoming some of my closest friends through college- most recently, my friend Davin, who now lives in Argentina, was in the States and was able to stop by for my studio re-opening a few months ago.
9/11 means something different to all of us. For me, it's a reminder that life as we know it can change in a split second. It's also a reminder that the response that I saw to this tragedy (ideology, politics, and religion aside), the individual person-to-person response, was overwhelmingly positive. Strangers wanted to take care of each other; people who had never met opened up to each other; and I met some of my best friends because of those positive responses. I hope 9/11 will serve as a reminder to let our humanity continue to shine through in the face of tragedy.
What's your 9/11 story?
(Me and Cassie, my roommate for two years)