"My sister and I complained to our dad about our ears popping from the change in elevation, but we were silenced when the elevator doors opened to the observation deck."
"On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my seventh-grade homeroom at the Catholic grade school I attended. While my classmates and I were waiting for our American History class began, our teacher entered the room and told us in a panicked voice, “The World Trade Center’s been hit by a plane. We’re going to the library to watch the news coverage on the television in there.”
At that point, I felt my stomach drop. I suddenly remembered that only the year before, in August of 2000, my father had taken my sister and me on a day trip to New York City where we visited the Twin Towers. When my class had reached the library, I immediately saw the smoldering remains of the first tower projected on the television.
As my classmates and I watched the TV in stunned silence, the memories of my visit to the World Trade Center flooded into my mind. When my dad, sister, and I approached the Twin Towers, the structures seemed so unreal to me. I looked up from where we stood in front of the fountain and felt small and insignificant compared to the colossal buildings. We then went into one of the towers, paid for admission, and rode an elevator to one of the top floors. My sister and I complained to our dad about our ears popping from the change in elevation, but we were silenced when the elevator doors opened to the observation deck. The deck’s windows went from the floor to the ceiling. My sister cautiously stayed next to my father as I approached the nearest window and looked straight down to the ground below. The feeling of having the world beneath me was exhilarating and dizzying at the same time. After my dad and my sister had gotten the chance to look over the city through the windows, we ventured over to the souvenir photo stand. There, a cranky, overweight, middle-aged woman instructed us to smile while posing in front of a background featuring the World Trade Center. After my father purchased the photo, we rode the elevator back down to the ground floor, continued our tour of New York City, and left for home.
When my classmates and I witnessed the second tower being struck by the airplane, we gasped in unison. Immediately afterward, our school’s principal instructed us all to follow our teacher to the church adjoined to our school so that we could pray the rosary for the victims. As I knelt in the church with my entire school, I prayed for the victims on the planes and in the buildings. I prayed that the cranky middle-aged photographer wasn’t working on the observation deck that day. And I prayed for any kids like me who might have been visiting the World Trade Center that day, sharing a moment together with people they love, never imagining that they wouldn’t return home.
— Jennifer James