A local college, so I wasn't living in a dormitory. Fall term hadn't started yet, so I was still winding down from the summer break.
It was early morning, and I awoke to somewhat of a ruckus in the room down the hall. Got out of bed, went to see the commotion, and saw everyone fixedly watching the TV. In the shaky, slightly blurry video feed, I saw a city skyline, one I had seen portrayed in hundreds of movie scenes. I recognized it, but had never given it more than a passing thought before.
That would change. This time, one of the towers was on fire, smoke pouring through a massive hole in the side.
Then I heard the description of events given by the reporter. Someone, they were saying, had crashed a small airplane into the side of the building.
At that moment, we didn't know if it was some suicidal maniac, a disgruntled or incompetent pilot, or a tragic accident. But I went numb at the thought that this might not be an accident; that someone — anyone — could do this to other people.
And then I saw a second plane — the video was clear enough to identify it as a large jetliner — cross the video feed, disappear behind the smoking tower, only to erupt in a massive fireball coming out the side of the second tower — directly toward the camera.
I went numb all over again; the hole in the second tower was the same size as one in the first. It was no "small plane" that hit the first tower. I thought of all those people — business-types heading to meetings and conferences, families on vacation, all the hundreds of men, women, and children on board the planes and thousands more in the buildings — what their final moments must have been like, and all the lives, hopes, and dreams lost in an instant.
We knew, then, that this was no accident. Nor was it as simple as a suicide or disgruntled employee.
This was deliberate. We were under attack.
We all watched, transfixed, as first one tower collapsed, and then the other.
In the following weeks, we would learn more about what happened, about the terrorist hijackers, about the two other flights — one which hit the Pentagon, and the other, Flight 93, which crashed in an empty field in Pennsylvania. We would hear about the fearless NY firefighters who entered the buildings to rescue survivors; the last act of bravery many of them would ever perform. We would see images of the aftermath; some horrifying, some inspiring, every one unforgettable.
We would hear hopeful commenters say that the passengers of Flight 93 must have fought back and given up their own lives to prevent their plane being used on another building.
We found hope in that possibility, and those hopes were raised higher when it was confirmed that that's exactly what happened. The phrase, "Let's roll!", has become an American icon.
We saw terror, horror, cowardice, hate, and violence. We found courage, integrity, honor, hope, and resolve.
We were given villains, and we found heroes.
The smoke has cleared, but we will never forget.
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Disclaimer: This article represents how I personally remember the events of September 11, 2001. Memory is not foolproof, and therefore I cannot guarantee 100% historical accuracy. YMMV.