My story: Wide-eyed witness

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photoJoe Cassler

I was at a stoplight at the intersection of Stapleton and state Highway 500. The Morning Zoo on Z100 was playing in my 1983 burgundy Volvo as I drove to Hudson’s Bay High School for just another day at the beginning of my junior year of high school.

Listeners regularly tuned into Z100 and the Morning Zoo, because they were notorious for their whimsical prank-calls and phantom funny news reports given each morning. So when I heard that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, I thought to myself, “What kind of sick joke are they playing now?”

Students gathered in the atrium of Hudson’s Bay, wide eyed and mouths gaping as we watched the Twin Towers burning. Over and over again, the replays showed the two airplanes being engulfed by World Trade Center, then the Trade Center being engulfed by flames. I tried to swallow as the first tower fell, but the lump in my throat wouldn’t let me. I had never seen tears in a football player's eyes until Sept. 11, 2011.

As I walked into chemistry, I watched as the second tower fell. How could CNN repeatedly show the last moments of these fathers, mothers, friends, aunts, uncles and friends?

Mr. Schultz tended to be rather sarcastic in his class, yet on this day, he was very blunt. “They’ve won,” he said. “The Taliban has just destroyed thousands of lives. And what can the United States do? Bomb a bunch of tents and caves? We will go to war over this.”

Looking back on that statement, I feel it was true. Yet, for that month after the towers fell, the sense of unity was seen all over the nation, from American flags flying row after row on homes, to the reopening of the baseball season that had been postponed. I was watching the Mariners’ first game after 9/11 as the team carried the American flag from one corner of Safeco to the other.

I, once again, found myself with a lump in my throat making it difficult to swallow, but this time, it was a sense of American pride in the midst of tragedy.

Note: A condensed version of this story appeared on page D7 of The Columbian on Sept. 11, 2011.