9/11: Reflecting on the tragic day, years later

Searching for answers

By Kaila Heard | 9/11/2013, 10:25 a.m.

This article was first published in the Sept. 7 - 13, 2011 edition of The Miami Times.

It took me four times to hear about the attacks of September 11 before I believed it was real. The first time was when I was being driven to school. I was a sophomore at Georgia State University at the time when I heard that a news report on the radio about an airplane crashing in New York. 

Not knowing more than that, I took the time to give the sympathetic prayer I always send out for incidents that are tragic but distant from me before my mind drifted back to my assignment for school. I was taking an economics class at the time and always felt like I had to be on guard or else risk falling asleep in class. It turns out I needn’t have worried. Once the class was settled down, our professor announced that the we were actually being dismissed because of the “attacks” in New York. 

“Attack? The plane going down wasn’t an accident, it was an attack?” I wondered if my professor had somehow misspoken.  

I felt a little uneasy and resigned myself to going home. It was when I tried to leave the building that the reality of what would become known as 9/11 began to dawn on me. Everyone seemed to be out on the streets, the midmorning lull that the city normally falls into after rush hour was fractured by the crush of people walking around, rushing here and there. Every pedestrian in sight seemed to be trying to make a phone call on their cells. 

I distinctly remember that moment. I decided that I was going to call dad, then I tried to reach my mom, brother, friend. Nothing. I later learned about the mechanics behind why cell phone service had been interrupted, but at the time, it seemed an ominous sign. 

Now I was frightened. 

My mother worked a few blocks away from the university’s campus so I began to walk to her office, hoping that she was in for the day. On the way I saw a child holding up a newspaper with the picture of an airplane crashing into one of the towers. It was surreal. Didn’t this just happen? How are you able to write report on this? I wanted to interrogate the guy but instead I just bought a paper and pressed on. 

I was finally reunited with my mom and we drove home together. It was when we finally had gotten home — my father was already there — that we settled in and turned on the news. It had only been three hours since I had heard that an airplane had gone down in New York City. September 11 had finally became real to me. 

Ten years later, I now know a great deal about the multiple attacks that occurred that day. Islam, American imperialism and preemptive war have become part of my vocabulary. However, a greater part of me still feels that confusion and bafflement. A part of me will never be able to understand the mass murders of nearly 3,000 people. Ten, 20, 50 years from now, I do not think I will feel any different.