Led by the AFJROTC, Cherokee High School commemorated Patriot’s Day at the flagpole beginning promptly at 8:15 to remember the victims, survivors, servicemen, and volunteers of the 9/11 attacks.
The day in 2001 started out very much like today: a warm, beautiful morning practically cloudless. Hurricane Erin had been expected to cancel flights in the northeast, but it veered paths and American Airlines Flights 11 and 77 and United Flights 175 and 93 were clear to fly.
The same warm morning sun illuminated the flagpole this morning at half mast casting shadows over the backs of approximately 60 JROTC students standing at attention in silent remembrance of the 2,977 who lost their lives eighteen years ago today.
Cadet Captain Declan MaGill, the Cadet Public Affairs Officer, initiated the event at the podium, and Cadets Garrett Miller, Angelina Leung, Samuel Hidalgo, and Ethan Mann presented the colors. The group was also led by Corps Group Commander, Cadet Colonel Jackson King as well as Cadet Major, David Snyder.
The oldest members of the CHS JROTC would have just been born in 2001, which seems surreal–as does the fact that for millions, this event is only remembered as another story in their history studies.
Juxtaposed feelings from both painful memories and national pride were heightened in this morning’s ceremony, especially for those who remember the day as if it was yesterday. Cadet 2nd Lieutenant, Dixie Kaiser, closed the ceremony in taps, and nothing else could have evoked as much emotion.
According to an article in New York Times, a psychiatrist wrote,
“Neuroscience research tells us that memories formed under the influence of intense emotion are indelible in the way that memories of a routine day are not.” For this reason, most Americans who were old enough to remember this event, remember it in uncanny detail.
Some of the CHS faculty shared these memories.
Ms. Dale, administrative assistant in North, described her experience.
“I will never forget 9/11. I lived out of state at the time and I had been visiting with my sister who then lived in Powder Springs, GA,” she said.
“We were talking, drinking coffee when we turned the T.V. on and saw the news that a plane had just flown into one of the twin towers in New York. We were discussing the “accident” and while we were watching we saw another plane fly into the 2nd building.
It was surreal. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I didn’t quite understand what was happening. We were glued to the T.V. for the rest of the day trying to make sense of it all.
It was one of the saddest days in our country. My heart goes out to the brave men and women (and their families who lost them) who gave their lives to save the injured. Never forget!”
Ms. Teasley, ELA teacher, recalls her memory as a sophomore at Dalton High School.
“I remember students pushing each other out into a frantically moving hallway at the end of first period,” she said. “No one was speaking, and that worsened the tension.
We piled into our second period rooms to face the box TV in the upper right-hand corner of the room–confused, anxious, speechless. The first plane had just hit, and we could not understand how this “accident” just happened. I remember the sunlight coming through the large window I sat next to. I remember smelling my teacher’s coffee and feeling the thick silence. I remember teachers finding no words.
I remember moving to third period as quickly as we could where I would witness the second plane hit, the first tower fall and feeling so incredibly nauseous now hyper-focused on the second tower and jump shots to other locations, and the indescribable emotions. I remember panicked broadcasters who could not keep their composures and things I don’t want to talk about.
I can picture every box tv in every classroom, and how administrators ordered they be turned off by 7th period. Most students had already checked out, and those of us still there felt drained and dazed. I remember crying in my father’s arms who taught at my school, and later fire engines with flags and fences covered in yellow ribbons. I remember heroes and held breaths during recoveries.”
Ms. Steuer, lay nurse at CHS, was just a child, yet she still remembers her experience that day.
“I was in first grade at a school near Baltimore when it happened,” she said. Students were getting called for check out every couple of minutes and we were confused as to why, thinking maybe a serious illness was going around.
The intercom going off so frequently stopped any lessons from progressing and we all just waited for our name to be called and then to hopefully get some answers from our parents. The schools were shut down the following day as well, the weirdest school “holiday” or “day off” ever.
For ELA teacher, Ms. Hobbs, the event brings back even memories prior to 9/11.
“The winter of the year 2000, I took my first trip to New York city with a group of girlfriends. We had a college friend who lived just outside of the city that we were going to stay with during the days leading up to New Year’s Eve. We were so excited because the plan was to spend New Year’s Eve downtown in Time’s Square.
I vividly remember this trip causing lots of drama because my dad, who has always been a worrier and a semi-conspiracy theorist, had basically forbidden me to go. He had it set in his mind that New York was a prime target for a terrorist attack. This seemed so outlandish and dramatic to me that I just rolled my eyes and shrugged him off.
Knowing this, you can imagine the shock and horror I felt when I witnessed the events in NYC on the news 9 months later. During this time in my life, typically the first thing I did in the mornings was turn my tv on. I would watch about 30 minutes of tv before getting ready for work. I remember turning the tv on and seeing the image of a tall building with smoke billowing out the top on every channel.
At the time, I didn’t recognize the buildings to be the twin towers I had just visited so recently. In my disoriented brain, I was just mad that none of my shows were on. I got out of bed and went into the living room where I saw my roommates watching the coverage in complete shock. That’s when it finally clicked that something important was going on.
As we watched, we came up with all sorts of scenarios as to why the building was on fire – the news reporters were doing the same. It wasn’t until the second plane hit that we really understood what was happening. At that point, we all started calling home because many of us didn’t know what was going to happen next. There were talks of future attacks and a war beginning, so in our young adult minds that meant going straight home to our families.
Coincidentally, my dad just happened to be on a business meeting in Athens, where I lived, so he rushed to my apartment. Instead of saying, “I told you so,” he just talked to me about what was happening, calmed me down, and took me out to lunch.
I will never forget witnessing that awful time in our history and some images I saw will be burned in my memory forever. It especially hit home because of my dad’s eerie prediction. However, what really stood out to me the most was how everyone came together and overcame the tragedy as a nation.
Mr. Williams, ELA teacher, even remembers his experience at only 8 years old.
“I remember the excitement when the office buzzed in and said I was being checked out because that meant I was missing the day’s multiplication tables quiz,” he said.
“That smug feeling of escape quickly faded when I met my mother in the lobby of our school. She hugged me, her face sad and distorted, as she struggled to put into words what was happening.
I remember watching hours and hours of footage of President Bush’s smile dropping as the adviser whispered in his ear, the little kids oblivious to the history being played out in front of them, of the planes hitting the towers and exploding on impact, of the dust coming crashing out of the skyscrapers’ bottoms as they collapsed like some terrible, inverted volcanoes, of people on Manhattan sidewalks weeping and staring and pointing, stunned in disbelief, of office workers trapped miles up choosing to jump instead of facing the flames.
I remember sitting as close to my dad as possible, worried because he worked in a building downtown and no one knew if they, whoever they were, would strike again.
I remember feeling that something had happened, that something had changed, but not knowing what and knowing that no one would be able to fully explain to it to me.”
The colloquial expression never forget is not advice recommending we hold on to hard memories, but rather to make a point to acknowledge the strength and unity our country displayed in a time of adversity. It’s a time of reflection and dedication today.
What is your memory story?