Discover more from Jeremy Zerby Coaching
A Day My World Changed
How 9/11 molded me (Part 1)
September 11, 2001.
The day started really like any other. I got up. I got around. I hopped in my car. I drove to school.
I do not remember if I had decided what I was going to go to college for at this point. I know I had already dropped out of the marching band in order to spend the summer going on some mission trips with the church. I would jokingly tell people the band director was so mad he had thrown a stapler at me. Though he did not really throw it at me. He really just rather aggressively tossed it onto the desk in the office where I told him I was quitting. He was not happy. That is the main point.
So I went to school like any other day.
I went to class like any other day.
I do not remember what period it was, but I remember going to Language Arts and someone saying that something had happened in New York and asked if we could turn on the TV. The teacher refused. We had a test to test to take. This was before everyone had cell phones and classrooms had wifi, so we did not have access to the news any other way than the TV. We began to sort of panic because, based on the kids in my class, the fact someone was demanding we turn on the news…It had to have been something big.
The bell rang.
Leaving class, we became immediately aware of what had happened. Everyone was talking about it. Planes had crashed into the Twin Towers. I did not know exactly what that meant at the time, but everything sort of began to spin. An acquaintance from band passed me in the hall and he was all tears and fear and he stopped me, knowing I was one of the praying kids. I remember it so clearly.
“My dad was supposed to have a job interview today. He was in New York and he was supposed to be at the Twin Towers.”
He was one of the few of us kids with a cell phone and I asked if he had heard anything. He said no but he asked me to pray with him. We hugged in the hallway, in front of everyone, and he bawled and I asked God to protect his dad and his family and to let us find out that everything was ok.
I knew, though, before I had even seen the footage, that if his dad had been there…
It just so happened that none of my classes really let us watch the TV that day. I would walk past other classrooms and look in the windows as I walked past and I saw the devastation.
This was not right.
This kind of thing is not supposed to happen here.
I rushed home from school shaking. I immediately turned on the TV only to see live footage of the wreckage and replays of the towers falling. I watched the man jump to his death and I watched firemen and civilians doing whatever they could to save anyone they could.
I watched people run from the cloud of debris from the falling buildings and it felt like watching Independence Day in theaters for the first time. Only real.
I got onto AOL Instant Messenger, as was my routine, to chat with a girl I had met there from Tennessee and I immediately asked, “Are you seeing this?”
She said yes and we prayed together. Which, for us, was typing out prayers and sending them to each other and we would read each other’s prayers to God.
A prayer vigil was called at my family’s church that night. I asked my parents if we could stop at the store on the way because I had preordered the new P.O.D. album that came out that day. They obliged and that album has stuck with me ever since. It was therapeutic in that moment.
I listen to that album every year on this exact day.
I voted in my first presidential election in November 2004. Looking back, I am not necessarily proud of how I voted. But 9/11 happened and we went to war with “them” and I did not think it was a good idea to change who was leading that effort so I voted for the second Bush term. If I had known better, I would have done a lot more research and made a more informed decision.
School shootings and terrorist attacks here in America were new to me. New to us. We were not raised to be concerned about those things. But they started happening more and more and have continued to happen with increasing regularity ever since. My daughter tells me about how, on the first days of school as she went from class to class beginning her freshman year of high school, she would look for where the exits are in relation to where she was sitting.
My heart breaks for what has happened to our nation since that day. The pain and suffering we perpetuate amongst ourselves. The ways we put party over country and our own desires over protecting our children.
The kid I prayed with in the school hallway. Turns out that his dad was stuck in a traffic jam and never made it to the towers that day. We thanked God.
I remember hearing pastors and fellow Christians thanking God for George Bush, too. Thanking God for giving him the wisdom to literally carpet bomb a whole city in retaliation disguised in the name of stopping bad guys.
It was those post-9/11 prayers that began to have an impact on me. Watching people grow to hate “them” after that day.
I was watching a reality show where people would do stand-up and some judges would vote for who had the best set. One comedian had a set that centered around the phrase “Line ‘em up, and mow ‘em down! I want cheap gas!” I laughed at the time, but as I walked away I felt a pang of guilt. Guilt that this was the person I had become after that fateful day. Or guilt that this was the person I was capable of being if I did not do something to make it stop.
So I did what I had to do to make it stop.
Thanks for reading Jeremy Zerby Coaching! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.