9/11 from the Eyes of an Everyday Elementary Student

Yahoo! is asking Americans how September 11 changed them. Below is an account from a reader.

It was a day like so many other school days I had experienced. I got on the bus at 8:30 and arrived in my second-grade classroom at 8:45. In the coming minutes, the first plane hit one of the World Trade Center buildings but it wasn’t until 9:15 that another teacher came into our classroom with tears in her eyes as she told my teacher what I can only believe was the most horrible news she has ever had to break to a class of 20 7-year-olds.

My teacher became very still and ran outside the room, leaving us in the middle of her lesson and giving us no idea of what was happening. I assumed someone she knew had died, as I had experienced a death in the family about 6 months before and to me, people crying meant something as bad as death.

[Your story: How has September 11 changed you?]

When my teacher returned, she switched the TV on and, at first we were excited because we thought we had earned a movie. But I will never forget watching two icons of the free world burn in the biggest cloud of smoke I had ever seen. My teacher, with her tear-stained skin, explained as best she could, simply stating that some very bad people had flown two planes in to two big buildings in New York City, only a two-hour drive from where we were at that very moment. The TV quickly switched from the two burning buildings to another burning building, which is known as The Pentagon. My teacher was visibly shaking and, when her phone went off, she answered it without any hesitation; from the viewpoint of a 7-year-old girl, this was a sure sign that the world was in a lot of trouble.

The rest of my day was a blur until my mom came to pick me and my best friend up after school for our Ballet classes, just like any other Tuesday. Except this time she had the same tear-stains as my teacher had had and gave me one of the biggest hugs I had ever received. She told me and my friend, a kindergartener, that those burning buildings were known as the World Trade Center and a lot of people worked in them, including relatives of mine and my friend’s. And as she turned to drive home instead of to our dance studio, I asked her if we were going to ballet and she simply said, “No, it’s closed.”

In the days that followed, my parents did their best to keep me from watching the news or seeing newspaper headlines but my connection to the internet showed me everything they were trying to protect me from and more. I learned who the top “bad guy” was and watched as the death toll rose by the hour. What I didn’t realize was how big of an impact this day and my growing interest in current events would have on my future.

At the age of 17, I can now say that when I go to college next year in Washington D.C., I will be majoring in political science with a pre-law track. I am proud of my America for how it has dealt with the worst attack on U.S. soil and also for how this country has shaped me into someone who looks forward to playing a part in the federal government and all that it has to come.

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