September 11th, 2001, for a high schooler in Wisconsin

I vividly remember the moment I learned about the terrorist attacks in New York City and the Pentagon on September 11th. I was a sophomore at a small town high school in Wisconsin, and it started just like any other day. I was in my second period geometry class taught by the head football coach, sitting in the third row second seat back, when the vice-principal walked into the classroom and pulled our teacher out in the hall for a moment. While we were quietly whispering to each other, wondering what was going on, they came back in and turned on the TV mounted in the corner of the room and switched to a news channel. We all learned the horrible news as we saw the smoke billowing from twin towers of the World Trade Center. As vividly as I remember that moment, the rest of the day was a blur. I don't remember learning anything else that day, just wandering from class to class with the classroom TVs all on, replaying the horrible moments over and over.

I know for certain that September 11, 2001, was a Tuesday because Tuesdays were the day I would normally be competing at a swim meet on my high school team. The swim meet that evening was cancelled and there was no swim practice, so it felt odd to go home right after school with nothing to do. I remember sitting home alone, with the TV on, continuing to replay the events of the day with reporters and analysts beginning to discuss what it all means. I felt numb--I had never seen anything like this before and being so far away in Wisconsin it felt a bit unreal. All I knew was that the world was about to change forever, even if I didn't know how.

Today, I look back and know that September 11th was a pivotal, world changing day. One of the biggest and enduring changes has been airport terminals only being accessible with a plane ticket. I had no personal connection to the attacks--I didn't know anyone who was there or who passed away--but have met many people who do. The day is indelible on all our hearts, but especially for those who lost a friend or loved one. Each generation has a "Where were you..." moment--for my parents it was the assassination of President Kennedy--and September 11th, without a doubt is that moment for my generation.

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