With September 11th on Friday, I have a feeling I know what is on many minds. Most people tend to remember what they were doing when the news broke that horrible day. I will tell my story and how it affected the rest of a semester of schooling.
I graduated high school in 1999 and though I spent two terms at a local community college, The Commonwealth Technical Institute at the Hiram G. Andrews Center was the first major part of my schooling (I eventually went to Shippensburg University for a degree). Hiram, is a school for students with disabilities. It was also my first time staying away from home. I was there for four terms and the school year was broken into trimesters. Hiram is a college that has a summer term that most students take. Fall 2001, was the last term I was there before I graduated. Before continuing on to that morning, there are a few other facts that are worth being mentioned. Hiram being the first time I was away from home was a big deal and a hard contributor the whole time I was at the college. Once I had taught myself how to ride the public bus and was comfortable riding it, being in town was my solace during the long year and a half. Familiar restaurants like KFC and McDonalds and a shopping mall named the Galleria, which was very similar in appearance to the York Galleria were my solaces other than calling home every night on the phone. For those who don’t know, this was before cellular phones with data plans, and I would go every night to the community phone and use a calling card and talk for about an hour. Eventually learning how to use instant message (the old version of Skype) was also important. For three quarters of the time, I had a ride home on weekends. Come the first week of September, 2001 the person taking me back and forth quit due to problems at home. These two things also combined with the effects of 9/11 itself which we will talk about next.
On the fateful Tuesday morning I was sitting in Auditing class when a teacher from another classroom came over and pulled my teacher aside and asked him if he heard about the attack on the twin-towers in New York City. He thought it might have been caused by either terrorists or guerilla fighters. Class informally disbanded, and my teacher led my class into the other teacher’s classroom where he had a large television that was turned on and showing the towers coming down and talking about the event. While teachers and students alike were chattering someone said out of the blue, “Did the Pentagon get hit?” Then they started to talk about that attack. A little bit later another plane went down, this time in Shanksville. I had never heard of this town, but was told it was a small village in western Pennsylvania that wasn’t that far from the school. Shanksville was only a few miles away from Johnstown, where my school was, as the crow flies. A group of hijackers took control of the plane but were intercepted by a group of heroes on the flight who tried to take control of the plane. The plane crashed in a field and everyone on the flight was killed.
The events, all close together, all bad, and one close to the school really had me confused and terrified. As mentioned before, the students and two teachers were chattering away and watching the television. Class was never officially dismissed, and everyone just stayed in the classroom. I didn’t know what to do. Eventually I decided to ask my teacher if I could go to the counselor’s office, and he said I could go. After talking to him for a while, he asked about calling my mom. My mom was a school teacher, and I knew that she would be in the middle of teaching. The counselor called anyway and explained the situation. Eventually after talking to her for a while, I was able to go to what was remaining of my Tax Accounting Class which was the other class scheduled for the day.
In the days and weeks ahead I still felt scared. For a while, I was afraid to go outside. I thought terrorists might be out there. I was afraid they would climb in the first floor window in my dorm room. Other than any opportunities to go home for the weekend, I stayed in. I stopped going to the mall or the restaurants. I still did buy sodas from the store. How, you may ask? Hiram was a college campus located in one building. The dorms, the classrooms, evaluation rooms, the nurse’s room, the PT/OT area, the cafeteria and a convenience store were all located in the same building. I never needed to go anywhere, but prior to the event I liked getting out. Eventually I was coaxed outside again probably by my counselor or maybe by Mrs. Fredericks a special teacher who helped me from time to time.
I also had a professor who joked inappropriately about the school housing terrorists in the basement. This was a recurring theme. My asthma doctor from home prescribed a medication for my anxiety that would work with my asthma medications. My parents considered pulling me out of school, but didn’t since it was my last term. Also my dad had to call the school and talk to a person about getting the teacher in question to stop carelessly telling the jokes about the school housing terrorists in the basement. The teacher stopped telling the joke, but he lost my respect. It’s unfortunate because before the attacks, I really liked that teacher.
Another problem emerged, in my Tax Accounting Class. Firstly, I did not understand the class from the beginning. I have never understood it. My foundation for the class was shaky as when it was covered in high school accounting, I had been absent. The high school teacher had another student help me get caught up on the missed lesson. Since 9/11 happened early on, I had trouble focusing on this class. The practice set was started early on as well. Due to 9/11 I fell behind. The teacher had me write the correct answers down and compare them with what I got when I got that particular section completed. Well the answers didn’t match; I didn’t understand the teacher’s instruction, and I fell farther behind.
When I sought help, the person who looked at it said I was really behind, had it messed up beyond repair, and gave me the correct figures to use and told me to continue on from there. I spent some long evenings to get caught up and eventually finished the beastly project, but I got it done. I got a D on it, which wasn’t good, but at least I finished it.
Needless to say, I got a C for the class, which though wasn’t good for me, was actually amazing when I look back thinking about the circumstances and getting a D on the major project for the class!
Another issue caused by the ordeal was constant news coverage. When I was able to come home, the attacks were the main focus on the television news shows, and I couldn’t stand to listen to it. I would have to go to another room. My dad had an interest in the events since it was “history in the making”. He always had an interest in history and though he was a manager at a box plant, he actually went to college to be a history teacher. Another example I remember of news interference was during my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary celebration which was in October of 2001. An uncle of mine had an interest in the news and kept the television on in the one room of the house. I stayed out of that room.
All in all, a few things came out of the events. Firstly, this was the first time that I became afraid of the news. Before this I had some idea of certain events, but this one I eventually knew what happened. Also for many years to come I was afraid of riding on airplanes and of going to New York City. I eventually did return to my normal activities at school like going to the mall or to restaurants. With Christmas coming, finally working on getting my Driver’s License and eventually spending time thinking about packing to get ready to go home, the thoughts of the day faded, but the news could always remind me of the events and get me upset again. 2002 was farther removed from the event and felt better, but occasionally I felt the nervous tingles when the news people thought that the timing was right for another possible attack, which fortunately never came. A color system also came into place for a while that told how safe it was (orange was the most dangerous and blue was the safest).
Eventually words like terrorist and other related words just became part of the vocabulary used and though I was still afraid had less impact. I still dread September 11th every year and dislike the number 911 which was another way that the media referred to the day. I hope you enjoyed reading about my remembrance of a terrible day in American history.
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