Photo from New York Times, by Tyler Hicks
Growing up my American grandmother always told me "I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated". She was watching the news with her aunt who was visiting at the time. The news replayed the footage of the President being shot, sitting next to his wife in the back seat of a convertible. Seconds after he was shot she started crawling on the back of the car in her pink coat, which was covered in blood, to get to safety. My grandmother always told me how her and her aunt were glued to the TV, shocked that their beloved President had been shot and killed and how vividly she remembers the footage. September 11th 2001 is a day that I will always remember, and probably tell my future grandchildren about.
The morning of September 11th started out as a normal morning, as it had for many people all over the world. I was sitting in my 6th grade classroom in Bayside, Queens. Our principal made an announcement over the loud speaker and asked us to participate in a moment of silence and we all prayed (I went to Catholic school), a few minutes later we had another moment of silence. At the time I was extremely confused, "why are we having these random moment of silences? What happened? Who died?", the only noise I could hear during the moments of silence were birds chirping and sirens from the fire trucks from the local fire house a few blocks away. The rest of the morning continued like any other morning. During our lunch period I heard a classmate saying that planes had flown into the world trade center and I remember thinking to myself "this kid is crazy, why would a plane fly into a building?", a friend of mine had a very worried look on her face, all she said was "it's true, the 7th and 8th graders saw it on TV". When lunch was over my other 6th grade teacher confirmed the story, the teachers themselves didn't even know the whole story at that point.
When I got out of school at 3pm my mom was outside waiting for me, which made me very worried because she never picked me up from school, she should have been at work. Normally parents and their children would hang out in front of the school and socialize with one another before going home, this was not the case on September 11th, 2001. I was shocked at how quickly parents picked up their children and left, my mom and I were one of the few to walk home that day. Interpersonal communication was the first way I learned about what happened that morning. On that walk home my mom explained to me that terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into the world trade center and that the two towers had collapsed, "hijacking" and "terrorists" up until that point, were words I had never heard before.
When we walked into our living room, my dad was watching the news. The news kept showing the planes flying into the towers, people jumping out of the buildings, people looking up at the towers with a look of shock, people walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, people running away from the towers covering their mouths, smoke and dust following them as the first tower collapsed. I was in a state of shock, I was confused I kept thinking "this can not be real, this has to be a movie". Every channel, with the exception of Nickelodeon and the Disney channel, showed the footage of the towers being hit and the aftermath, I constantly heard the words "hijack" and "terrorists". During the days to follow every form of media reported on terrorist attack, the news showed relatives searching for their missing loved ones, newspaper covers had pictures of the planes flying in the background behind the towers seconds before they hit, and people on the radio announcing that debris had been found as far as Brooklyn.
Before September 11th 2001, I knew very little about Islam and Muslims, but suddenly I became aware of this culture that Americans started stereotyping as terrorists. Not only did I become aware of a culture I had never heard much about before, but I suddenly became very aware of my own culture. Mass media pulled Americans together on 9/11, the terrorists didn't just attack New York on 9/11, they attacked America as a whole, suddenly everyone became very patriotic. American flags were popping up everywhere, news casters would say that we must stay strong as Americans and be proud to be American. Barron describes culture as helping "us categorize and classify our experiences; it helps define us, our world, and our place in it", 9/11 reinforced American culture in America, every American able to remember 9/11 can identify with one another, the idea of America being a world police power was also reinforced, once again we had to go out and fight the bad guys.
Looking back at old news footage of 9/11 I have many more emotions and a better understanding of what happened that day. Since then the media has continued its coverage of 9/11 one way or another, making movies about Flight 93, documentaries claiming President Busch had prior knowledge of the attacks, updates on the hunt for the terrorists behind the attacks to name a few examples. Even with all the new movies, and repeating of the coverage on the anniversary of the attacks, I will never forget the first time I saw the footage of the planes hitting the towers, and the towers collapsing.