Looking back ten years

by Kelsey O’Donnell
twitter @KelsODonnell

I was in New York City all day yesterday for a Yankees game and to see an off-Broadway show.  I passed by Ground Zero like it was just another normal day for me visiting the city and leaving.  I had no idea that an hour or so later when I returned home that the news I would hear would have an effect in that area that night.

I turned on my laptop and looked at Twitter and saw everyone tweeting about a breaking news speech President Obama was going to give.  I look at the clock.  It was 10:15 at night.  What is so important that he has to address now?

When someone tweeted that it was apparently something to do with National Security my immediate thought was, “I hope they nabbed Bin Laden.”

I should have been a psychic.

Once President Obama came onto the screen and said, “Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden,” so many emotions and feelings spread within me.

I was immediately brought back to the memories of that dreadful day.  That beautiful sunny and warm September morning.

The school year was not even a week old yet.  I was in the 8th grade.  We were in our first period History class when there was a knock at the door.  A teacher came in.  It was Mrs. Jacobson.  She said, “Everyone that goes home for lunch has to stay here.  They cannot leave.  And you’re not allowed to turn on the TV’s.”  Then she shut the door and left.

We all looked around the room at each other.  We were confused.  We were older kids.  We weren’t idiots.  We knew something was wrong and they wouldn’t tell us.

We tried to forget about it and get back to work.  About ten minutes later one of my classmate’s parents picked them up.  My first thought was, “That’s odd,” but tried not to think about it.  Within the next ten minutes three more of my classmates were picked up by their parents.  Now I was getting nervous.

Lunchtime came and I wasn’t allowed to go home to eat, but that’s not what was on my mind.  I just wanted to know what was going on.  I was getting impatient.  I looked out the window which looked over the front entrance to the building and saw my mother walking up the stairs.  “Finally,” I thought.  Now I can get some answers.

I ran down the stairs without even telling my teacher I was leaving.  I found my mom and screamed, “WHAT IS GOING ON?!”  My mother looks at me with that face that just says, “They didn’t tell you?”  I’m waiting impatiently for her answer and she just says, “The Twin Towers are gone.”

I had never had a moment at that point where everything around me just faded out.  All of the noise of the laughing children on their way to lunch were suddenly silenced in my mind.  How could this happen?  What do you mean they’re gone?

She slowly explained to me everything that happened, how the two planes crashed into the buildings, how another plane crashed into the pentagon, and a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.  I suddenly felt goosebumps and shook with fear and asked my mom, “Where’s dad?!”

See, my father is a Detective Sergeant for the Port Authority.  At the time he was a Police Officer working at PATH/Journal Square.  He was a first responder to the 1993 WTC bombing so my immediate thought was that he was a first responder to this and something happened to him.

A sense of relief took over once my mother told me she had spoken to him and he was fine.  However at that moment half of his shift was over there and there was no word from them.

37 Port Authority officers were killed that day.  36 of my father’s brothers.  One a sister.  14 of which were on my father’s shift alone.

I’ll never forget when he came home that night.  There aren’t many times in my life where I’ve seen my dad break down and cry…this was one of them.  I ran over to him and hugged him.  It’s putting tears to my eyes just thinking about it and typing it here. 

My mother also learned that one of her best friends from high school Matthew was working in the North Tower that day.  He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and was not able to get out of the building.  I was brought back to memories of my childhood with him and his family, and also felt guilty for not seeing them in a few years.

During the rest of the week I remember how united everyone became.  It was an incredible sight.  The neighbors on my block did a candle vigil and my friends and I were running around the streets of Bayonne telling every to honk their horns for American heroes.

I went to the first NFL game at Giants Stadium after the attacks.  It was a Jets-49ers Monday Night Football game.  My father was given tickets through work with a bunch of his PA brothers and took me along with him.

I got to stand in the endzone during the pregame ceremonies and watch my father partake in the festivities.  It was one of the most exhilarating feelings I have ever felt in my life seeing the entire stadium filled with cheers and American flags.  It was an experience I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Back to today.

After President Obama’s speech I kept watching MSNBC as they were showing clips of Americans outside the White House and Ground Zero cheering and clapping.  I watched the clip of everyone at Citizen’s Bank Park during the Mets-Phillies game as everyone chanted, “USA! USA!”  It brought chills all over me.  We are united once again, this time celebrating the time and sacrifice our military had put into this mission.  The losses we suffered ten years ago have been justified.  This is not about being a Democrat or Republican.  This is about being an American.

This battle is over, but the war is far from over.  I ask everyone to stay vigilant and be aware.  We don’t know what kind of retaliation will take place.

I will end saying this:  Thank you to our service men and women who, like my brother and cousins, put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe.  I know you will continue to do so from here on out and I pray for your safety.

If you see someone in a military uniform…shake their hand and say, “Thank you.”

God bless our troops, and God bless America.

Posted on May 3, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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