“If we gon’ die, we gon’ die together,” is the only thing that I can recall my mother saying to me as we rushed home on Sept. 11, 2001. She was eight months pregnant with my brother when she wobbled across the street from our Upper West Side apartment to pick me up from middle school. I don’t know what she was doing when she found out the towers were struck down but I was in the middle of a lesson (reading class I think). Someone—most likely a teacher—interrupted the class to say something like, “Two planes went into the twin towers.”
I remember that my teacher looked shocked or confused and my classmates broke into a cacophony of sighs and what’s. I even recall someone shouting “What’s the twin towers?” I knew what the towers were because my dad visited them often for work and occasionally took me with him. I can only recall being inside one of the towers once though and it was… overwhelming. I’m not sure if this is an exaggeration created by the mind of baby Té but I believe we went to something like the 207th floor (they went up that high, right?). My heart dropped every time the elevator surged to the next floor and when we were finally out of the building I remember feeling like a building shouldn’t be that large and high up. It was just so… for lack of a better word, unnatural.
Anyways, instead of going on like a regular school day, I think we all sat with our homeroom teachers and just waited. I don’t know if we were waiting for the school day to end or for more bad news but we just waited. Eventually, one of the ladies from the main office stepped into my classroom and said, “Shanté.” Any other time, I would’ve sprung up in excitement and thought, Yes, I’m going home early. On 9/11, however, I didn’t want to know why they were calling me to the Office. I was afraid that they were going to tell me that my dad was at ground zero. I quickly realized my mom was there to pick me up and we went home.
Phones weren’t working and all of the TV channels were static except for one of the news channels or all of the news channels (I can’t recall). The news kept showing the planes crash into the towers and people jumping out of windows. I remember knowing what had happened was serious but I don’t think I fully comprehended the situation because I don’t recall feeling scared for my life or sad. All I remember thinking while I sat on my mother’s bed eating cookies and cream ice cream is Wow and I hope my dad is okay. After hours of asking my mother if she had heard from him, my dad finally called and let us know he was okay. I was so relieved.
The air was a lot thicker after that day and the sirens rang more frequently. There were rumors that one of my classmate’s father was on one of the planes that crashed into the twin towers, and a couple of students talked about dead bodies being moved into schools near ground zero as children watched (tales from their neighborhood friends). Also, a friend of mind had vanished. She and I weren’t close but she was a part of my crew of about five girls and she was missed. Last I heard, she was stuck in the Dominican Republic and wasn’t allowed to return due to new travel rules. I never learned what happened to her but I always hoped that she was doing well.
I can’t believe that happened 20 years ago. And I can’t help but wonder if ejecting the troops from Afghanistan is planting the seed for another attack 20 years from now. Though the U.S. is by no means a “savior” of Afghanistan, the U.S. did have an effect on the country and its people. Whether that effect was positive or negative is for Afghans to say—I really don’t know. I do know that this is a pivotal moment. I need to educate myself on this topic, so I don’t have anything new or meaningful to add to this conversation right now. I just couldn’t end this post without acknowledging the chaos that my tax dollars have funded. I really wish U.S. “leaders” cared about people (in the U.S. and outside of it) and considered how their actions, global and domestic, affect all of us.