16 years

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It was a day as regular as any. For a Tuesday in September, the weather was particularly pleasant. I couldn’t see a cloud in the sky from Mrs. Tubman’s fourth-grade class, gazing out the window after finishing that day’s journal entry.

Mrs. Tubman gave us five minutes at the end of every class to write in our journals. She said it would help us relax after we worked on our big assignment. Unlike most of the kids, I loved the five minutes of journaling each day. I loved every part of it, even writing the date in the upper-right corner of the page in my composition notebook.

That day, I wrote “September 11, 2001,” and launched into a description of all my worries. My papaw Jimmie, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer, was visiting a hospital in Little Rock to get more information on his diagnosis. My mom and nana went with him. I wrote about how much I loved my papaw and how I hoped everyone in my family would come home safely. Then I closed the journal, placed my pencil in its case and waited for the rest of the students to finish, too.

Around the time we should have moved on to another subject, the teacher from across the hall pulled Mrs. Tubman outside. Most of us were done journaling, so we turned our eyes to the tiny window on the classroom door. Mrs. Tubman looked upset. The teachers hugged. The door opened, and Mrs. Tubman said she had to tell us something.

“A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City,” she said. “It hit one of the towers. We aren’t sure what’s going on.”

The class was silent. We were a bunch of fourth-graders in a small Arkansas town. We couldn’t grasp what she was saying or just how horrible it was. Many of us were sheltered, and those that weren’t were in shock. Mrs. Tubman must have caught on to that, because she wheeled the big tube television to the front of the room and turned it to a news channel.

Sure enough, it was there. Two identical towers with one in flames. Horrified news anchors trying to keep it together, repeating that no one knew what caused the accident. I sighed in relief. It was a horrible accident, but I found comfort in the thought that nobody would intentionally do something like that. My class sat there for a few minutes riveted by what we were seeing, the room enveloped in silence.

That’s when the second plane took aim at the South Tower. We watched as it happened. We saw the explosion and the flames. We heard the news anchors cry out in shock. Some of us started to cry, too. Mrs. Tubman turned the TV off, but it was too late. We knew what happened, and we knew it wasn’t an accident.

For many of us, that was the day our childhood ended. Thousands of Americans died simply because they went to work, and it’s still not easy to swallow that. As I worried my family wouldn’t make it home safely, that had become the reality for the families of those who visited

or worked at the World Trade Center that day.

Everything changed on 9/11. We became aware of what true evil is. We saw it at 9:03 a.m. in our classrooms and offices and homes. When you see something like that happen in real time, you can never forget it.

This week, I’m remembering the victims of 9/11. It’s been 16 years since they got a morning latte or checked their email or laughed with friends. Sixteen years without those thousands of souls in our country. The world has changed so much since then, but one thing will never change.

We will always commemorate those lives.

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.