Witnessed 9/11 as an 18 year old just beginning a year-long study abroad program in Israel

After graduating from high school in the spring of 2001, I embarked on a year-long study abroad in Israel, which began at the end of August. After a two-week orientation, my group arrived a boarding school on the Mediterranean coast (near the city of Netanya) for a four month stint as volunteer English teachers. The day we arrived at the school was September 11, 2001. After spending the day touring the grounds and moving into our dorms, at around 3:50 PM local time I saw our group leader running across the campus with a worried look on his face. I asked him what happened and he said "a plane hit the World Trade Center". As a native New Yorker I was immediately concerned but was convinced it must have been an accident. A few minutes later the leader was able to get us access to one of the few TVs at the school where myself and the other members of my group gathered to watch CNN International. Shortly after turning on the TV we watched the second plane hit the Towers live, and immediately entered a state of shock. Cell phone reception was jammed so I was unable to reach any family in the U.S., including those in New York City. Israeli warplanes and military helicopters began passing by constantly, and there were reports that martial law had been declared. Those of isolated on that boarding school had no contact with our friends and family until the following day, spending the rest of 9/11 glued to the TV in a catatonic state, feeling isolated, scared and unsure what the future held for us as a group of teachers who were just weeks into living away from our families for the first time in our lives on the other side of the planet. The year ahead was difficult for many reasons, but the bonds formed amongst those of us who shared in the trauma that day forged lasting friendships that continue two decades later.

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