Ten years ago today, I was a third year veterinary student. I was sitting in a dimly lit, overly air conditioned lecture hall, hunched over my cup of coffee as the 8 am lecture began, and I remember one of my classmates – David – came in late. At 10 till 9, we had our break, and David stood up to tell us all that we should go see the news in the lounge, a plane had struck the World Trade Center.
We gathered up close there in the lounge, eyes glued to the TV, as the first and second year students joined us. Of course, by the time we started watching, the second plane had stuck and the news stations were all predicting terrorist activity.
As 9 o’clock approached, several students returned to class, but most of us – at least most of the third year students – stayed to watch, so we were there, together, when the south tower began to come down, and still there, taking comfort from each other, when the north tower came down as well.
I remember a moment in time, as the north tower collapsed there on the screen. I heard someone sobbing and turned to see my friend and classmate Jennifer. Tears were plain on her face, but her eyes never left the screen. I could hear someone saying “Oh my God, oh my God, Oh my God….” and abruptly realized it was me. Another classmate, one of our New Jersey students, was screaming and crying – her boyfriend was NYPD and on duty that day, and both her parents worked in the World Trade Center, but she couldn’t get a call to go through to anyone.
Even ten years later, just typing this, I am still filled with the horrified disbelief we all felt that day. And I remember how grateful I was to be surrounded by friends, to have the support of a few hundred fellow students.
Thank you to the brave members of the NYPD and the NYFD, many of whom died that day and are still suffering the effects. Thank you to every person who has joined the armed services since that day. Thank you to the passengers and crew of Flight 93 who gave their lives to prevent a fourth tragic attack that day. And thank you to every other heroic person who risked their lives that day to help others.
I know we all have our memories of that day, memories that we will carry forever. It was a day that changed more than just the NYC skyline. But I’ll say this, the same thing I said after the attacks: The terrorists didn’t win. They hurt us, they took us by surprise – but they didn’t win. And they are not going to.