September 11, 2001 was a day like any other. I was 19 years old, and just started my junior year of college. The summer of 2001 saw me volunteering on my first two political campaigns, and I was offered the chance to work the primary election that day, for some money. Well, a college kid being offered some money and a chance to blow off school for the day, was too much to pass up.
So I woke up early that morning and put on my Ronald Curry #1 University of North Carolina football jersey and some khaki pants and went to vote at 6 AM that morning. I remember as I walked about a block to my closest polling station, that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was a beautiful September morning. After casting my vote, I waited on my friend to come pick me up so that we can go work a polling station in another part of Brooklyn.
He picked me up about 7:30 that morning and we made the ride out to Coney Island where we were going to be stationed for the day. We got to the school, but we were hungry. So we left the school where we were supposed to be stationed at, and headed Burger King, which was nearby. It was there in the drive thru that we heard on the radio that a plane hit the World Trade Center. Our initial reaction was “that’s crazy but it’s probably like a little plane, no big deal”. Yeah. We didn’t know what was going on.
So, we eat our Burger King, get back to the school, and we see this little old lady screaming out her window that a plane hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the St. Louis arch, and one was headed for Hollywood! I swear she said all of that. So we looked at each other and said “lets find out what the hell is going on”. So we turned back on the radio and heard that America was under attack. Planes hit the World Trade Center, a plane hit the Pentagon, and one crashed in Pennsylvania. At that moment the only thing we could do is find a television.
So we drove over to the candidate’s apartment so we could look at it on television. As we arrived, a look of shock was on his face. All we could do was look at the television where I saw for the first time, planes hitting the World Trade Center towers. My knees buckled. The World Trade Center was a place all New York City school children took trips to when we were young, and my Dad worked many hours as a construction worker to rebuild it after the 1993 bombing. The towers were an iconic figure in our landscape, and they were soon to be gone, as not too long after I saw the footage of the planes crashing into them, they collapsed.
I didn’t buckle then. Nope. I collapsed. Hard not to freak out after seeing that shit. My next thought was where are my folks. Well, my sister was still in high school so I knew she was safe, and my Mom worked in a school in Brooklyn where you could see the towers but I knew she was safe. I didn’t know where my Dad was though. I didn’t have a cellphone or anything, and neither did he at the time, so it was one of those things where I hoped that when I did get home: he would either be there or he’d call.
Safe to say the primary elections that were to happen that day were called off, and after downing a Mike’s Hard Lemonade or two (might have been more to be honest) in shock, we got the hell up out that apartment. My friend picked up his wife and son and drove me home. Once I got home, my Dad did call and he let me know that he was safe and wasn’t in the City, and I was finally able to exhale. That was until the eerie cloud of black smoke that arose from the rubble started making it’s way east. By about 3PM my neighborhood was in darkness. The darkness of what was likely burning metal, stone rubble, and unfortunately death crept over the area. If that don’t scare the shit out of you, I don’t know what will.
However, once that passed and once my parents and sister made it home, all I could say was thank you Jesus no one I knew passed away. I said it again on September 12th. I said it again for a few days, until I found out: that wasn’t true. Someone close to me did pass away and damn did it hurt to find out.
I started attending Saint Francis College in September 1999. My first day of school, my father who was extremely anxious and wanting to give me some words of advice, decided that he would drop me to the subway on his way to work. Because of this I got to school extremely early. I had a 8 am speech class and I was there at 6:45 am. That early. Sitting there nervous and alone, Tommy finally walked in to join me. He sat near me, said hello and we made small talk. He was a year older than me and told me not to worry. College is cool, and I can handle it. We’d go on to be good friends.
We were a part of the Model United Nations Club and my freshman year we were able to participate in a Model U.N. in Philadelphia. He was my roommate, and my drinking buddy. Yeah, we found a dive bar willing to serve us beer. We drank a lot of Heineken that weekend. Despite me being 17 and probably looking like I was 13, he was 18 and looked older so he’d buy the beers and we would drink them. Eating sausage parmesan heros and drinking beer was the highlight of my weekend in Philadelphia. Watching sports at the bar, and on Saturday we watched college football games in the hotel lobby. That’s how we bonded. We blew off our responsibilities as Model U.N. members, by being two college kids having fun in a new city. We became friends. We became bros.
So imagine me hearing that he passed away. Sadness. I knew he decided to leave school to become an electrician, but on his second day of work, he was in tower one. His body was never recovered, but safe to say he went on to heaven that day.
So September 11th is a hard day. A rough day. I cry. I remember my friend, and when I hear his name called when they go through the procession I say a prayer. It’s a hard day for many people. Not just myself but as I saw that September 11th happen to fall on a Friday, and that I do this blog, I figured why not tell my story.
May you Rest In Peace Tommy. May all those who lost someone that day, use today as a day of reflection. May we never forget what happened to the United States of America, 14 years ago and may we all find that beautiful patriotic spirit that came from the event. We all stood together in the days and months after such a heinous event and it led to a beautiful time in our country. It would be nice if such a spirit of bonding and patriotism were to be reawakened in this country. We can do it.
Thanks for reading.
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