As is tradition on this site, I would like to post my story of 9/11. It’s important to share our stories because everyone was affected by that day. Don’t ever forget that day. Feel free to share your story in the comment section.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I woke up and got ready for class as if it was like any other day before it. On the way to my class, I stopped in the UC, one of the only places open for food in the morning, to get my usual breakfast, a blueberry glazed Krispy Kreme donut and a bottle of Minute Maid cranberry grape juice. It’s not the best breakfast in the world, but when your options are limited, you take what you can get. After paying for my food with a magic card called a cat card, I was off to class. I say it’s magic because it certainly seems that way. You simply scan it and they let you have your food. It’s as if the food is free and they are merely verifying your identity before you consume it.

The class I was on my way to that morning was a computer programming class. I had considered dropping the class at the beginning of the semester because it was a harder class than I needed but I decided to stick it out. The class began at 9:30 and went until 10:45. As I sat there through the class I began to think about all the things I still needed to do that day. I made a mental to do list in my mind. I had to go back to the room after class, get some things cleaned up, head over to Smoky Mountain High School for my first observation for EDCI 231, and then go to work that evening. What a jam-packed day. I was a little nervous about it because I had only talked once with the teacher whose room I was supposed to be in. On top of that, I wasn’t even sure exactly what my role was supposed to be. I had no clue where to go or what to expect. After all, it was my first semester at Western Carolina. I daydreamed and stared at my watch; 10:45 seemed to be so far away. Why is it that it always works out that way? When you want time to move slowly because you are having a good time, it always seems to move at the speed of light. When you want the time to go fast, as in my case this morning, the clock seems like it is out of batteries because the hands move so slow, almost not at all. After what seemed like an eternity, my watch finally said 10:45, which meant it was time for this class to be over. I gathered up my books, put them in my bag and headed back to my room. I had about an hour before I needed to be out the door, heading to Smoky Mountain. I wanted to get there early to make a good impression because it was my first day there. Also, I hate being late anywhere. I get very nervous when I am late or when other people are late.

As I walked back to my room, my mind couldn’t help but wander to thoughts about observing at the high school later that day. I was nervous. I had never had the opportunity to be in the classroom before. What if I made a mistake? As I got back to Scott Hall, the dorm I was assigned to, I walked passed a television in the lobby and noticed that it was tuned to the news. I don’t generally watch the news, it gets me very depressed, but I happened to see that there was a breaking news story on CNN. I made a mental note to check it out as I was cleaning so that I would know if it was anything important. More often than not, those breaking news stories are nothing. It is like the news station that cried wolf. They make little stories seem so big and get my attention and then I watch and they’re nothing. Normally I would not have even checked it out, but for some reason, that day, I did.

I got up to my room and started straightening up. I continued with that for a few minutes before I checked my e-mail and looked on some sports websites. Basically, I wasted some time because I wasn’t in the mood to clean. Really, come to think of it, there are very few days that I am in the mood to clean. Then I remembered the news. I turned the TV on and flipped to CNN. What I saw was one of the scariest things I had ever seen. I read the caption at the bottom of the screen and it said that the world trade center tower had been hit by an airplane. I was amazed. I didn’t know the extent of everything yet. I just thought that it was an accident by a pilot. I sat glued to the screen as if we were joined together by some invisible rope. I could not look away. Picture after picture flashed on the screen of the plane flying right into the tower. It was unbelievable. Finally, as I listened to what they were saying on the broadcast, I came to the full understanding of what had happened. We had been attacked. I wasn’t sure by who or why, but I knew that it had happened. I began to feel all kinds of emotions all rolled into one, emotions ranging from fear and anger to sadness and confusion. It was all too much for me and I began to feel the tears well up. At that point, right there in my room, I began to cry. I cried for our country. I had never seen something like this before so I guess that was the only way I knew how to process it.

As the news continued to replay the incident over and over it sunk in more and more how vulnerable this country was after all. I had always thought that our country was immune to everything, invincible. All the wars that we had fought had been fought somewhere else, somewhere far away. I think everyone sort of had a bit of smugness: about themselves and about our country before this happened. This definitely woke us all up. The phone began to ring and it probably was the only thing that could have brought me back to reality. I answered it, my voice reflecting the shock I was experiencing. It was my mom. She called to see if I was OK and to tell me that she loved me. I think everyone in the country must have made at least one call that day to someone they love. I told my mom that I appreciated it and told her that I loved her too. We talked for a few minutes about what had happened and if it was going to happen again. At this point, I wasn’t really sure about what was really going on. I started to worry about my family back home after that call. I am from Chicago, which is a very large and important city. I started to have scary thoughts about if the bombings continued in Chicago and other big U.S. cities. So much had already happened on this day and it was still only 11:45. Was there more to come?

It was time for me to go to Smoky Mountain for observation. I sort of wondered if there would even be students there. Would they have sent them home because of such a tragedy? I wasn’t sure, but it was still my responsibility to go and find out. As I drove the six miles to the school, all I could think about was what I had witnessed that morning. I searched every radio station on the way to the school, which is about 3, trying to find out all the information I could. I pulled up to the school and found a parking place. Everything about the school was quiet. I walked in and the halls were quiet and vacant. I was beginning to think that the students had been sent home. I made my way to the classroom that I was supposed to be in and found a teacher in the room watching the news. She seemed to be in the same state of shock that I was in. I said hello and she snapped back to reality. She stood and I told her my name. She introduced herself as well, and our conversation immediately changed to what had happened. “Do they know anything new?” I asked. “No, still the same stuff,” she replied. It was frustrating. The two towers and part of the Pentagon had been taken out, and a plane was down in Pennsylvania. How could this happen? Before we knew it, the kids were filing into the room. Normally I would expect the students to be rowdy and loud, and this would prove to be true as the semester would unfold, but on this day the students were somber and still. They walked into the classroom and quietly took their seats. My teacher had told me that they had basically had the TV on all morning and she planned to have it on the rest of the day. She told the class that we were going to be watching the news for this class period. I could tell by the students’ faces that they were just as scared as I was. They watched the TV trying to sort everything out. There was miscellaneous conversation here and there and then all of a sudden a boy raised his hand and asked very seriously, “Mrs. Danner does this mean there is going to be a draft, because I’m 18?” My heart sunk. I had not ever considered the possibility, but it was a real one. I began to get just as scared. I was only 23 so I was also a prime candidate to get drafted in the event that there was one.

After my time at Smoky Mountain was done, I drove home quietly. I turned off the radio and just drove home in silence. Too much had already happened today. I just needed some time to process everything. I got back to campus and went back to my room. I immediately went back to the TV. I had to be at work later that day for a short shift. I decided to take a nap because I was physically and mentally exhausted. I woke up around 4:15 with plenty of time to check the latest developments and get ready for work. Everything in me wanted to call in sick and stay home. Part of the reason was because I wanted to watch the TV and part of the reason was because I was still scared. I didn’t know if there were more attacks coming. Rumors were everywhere. There were people saying that the next hits were going to be close to where we were in North Carolina for some strange reason. I guess it was just conspiracy theory, because I have no clue why someone would want to bomb Cullowhee. Nonetheless, I was still scared. I went to work at Subway and had a hard time concentrating because the attacks were that all every customer wanted to talk about. So many people asked me if I had seen the latest news as if I was standing there watching the TV with them. I don’t think they realized that I was at work and not able to see the news. It was very frustrating.

Mercifully, my shift ended at 8 and I was back in the dorms. By this time my fiancée was with me and we were talking about what had happened. It just didn’t seem real yet. In the days ahead there would be news about terrorists and a hunt for Osama Bin Laden, but this day, September 11th, 2001 would be a day that will live in my memory forever. It is a day where lives were lost and heroes were born: A day that has changed our country forever. A day that I will never forget.

Please take a minute to share your story of that day in the comment section and remember the people affected as you go through your day today.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail