North of the Border on 9/11

I was 10-years-old when it happened. I should have been at school. I should have been in my Grade 5 classroom. I should have been sitting at my desk at the back left corner of the room. I wasn’t. I was at home. I was sick that day. I turned on the television around 9:20am and there it was on almost every channel. The World Trade Center was under attack. Smoke. Chaos. Fear. People. Policemen. Firefighters. Sirens. Images. So many images. It was all there right in front of me. I should have been at school.

September 11, 2001 is, unfortunately, a “where were you when…” moment in history. Almost everyone my age will say they were at school when they heard the news. Heck, even George Bush was in a school when he heard the news.

I don’t know exactly what was announced at school that day; I’ve never asked anyone.

It was a sunny, Tuesday morning. I’ll always remember that it was a Tuesday. I was sick at home and as I normally did on sick days, I went up to my parent’s bedroom to lie down on their bed and watch TV. I was 10-years-old, television was the remedy to all illnesses. Not today.

I quickly realized that something big had happened because almost every channel was covering it. A building was on fire. I yelled downstairs and told my Mom to turn on the TV.

I didn’t know what was going on at that point.

My Mom was on the phone telling my Dad and Grandparents what was going on, while I kept watching. Then a second plane hit the Tower. I told my Mom.

I had never seen anything like this before. My brain wasn’t telling me that this was a terrorist attack. I don’t even think I knew what the word “terrorist” meant. Why are planes flying into buildings? Is it an accident? I was completely unbeknownst to the events I was witnessing. I just knew it wasn’t good.

Then the first tower collapsed. Then the second. Massive dust clouds filled the city. Thousands of people lost their lives. It was incredibly sad to watch.

I spent my day in front of a television watching a tragedy. I watched people on the street being interviewed as they were covered in dirt and debris. They didn’t have to say a word; the fear on their face said it all.

Everything reporters said that day went over my head. I just didn’t understand. I knew that planes had been hijacked and were crashed into the World Trade Center, but that was it. I had never heard of the World Trade Center before that day. I didn’t know what it was or it’s importance. To me, they were just two very tall buildings.

My country was not the one under attack, yet I was scared.

People were dying. I didn’t understand why. Was I going to die? I didn’t know. Toronto and New York aren’t exactly worlds apart and my 10-year-old self worried that something may happen to my country. My city. My home.

Of course, nothing happened to me, but I went to sleep scared that night. I remember lying in bed and hearing the television across the hall in my parent’s bedroom. They were still watching the news. And there I was on my bed, looking out my window afraid that a plane might fly by and crash.

I’ll always remember that day, where I was, and what I witnessed on live television. I was introduced to things that day that I had never seen before. For the first time in my life I saw the world as a scary place.

I’ve always wondered what my memory of that day would be like if I had been at school.

I’m sure I would have come home from school and seen it on TV, but to what extent? I wouldn’t be watching it live. Would I have still watched the coverage ad nauseam? Perhaps I would have found something else to watch and then gone to sleep without a mind full of tragic images. I’ll never know.

To this day, every time there is a large news story, I find myself glued to a TV, and Twitter, following the live coverage. Could you imagine if Twitter were around back then?

The world came to a halt on September 11, 2001, and everyone has a different story. Mine is of a 10-year-old from Canada who happened to be home from school that day and witnessed everything unfold on TV.

I’ll never forget it.

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17 Responses to North of the Border on 9/11

  1. I remember this day too 😦 I was at school though.


  2. Caro says:

    I’m so glad my kids were at school.


  3. Doni says:

    I was at school. I remember the teachers doing their best to explain to us what was happening, but I was also 10 so I didn’t understand. And of course all the other kids made up their own bizarre stories at recess, but I don’t think I ever actually understood the situation until a few years later. It just went over my head at that age.


  4. Lucy says:

    Great blog, Paul. Never heard what that day was like from a kid’s perspective before. Or at least someone recalling what they thought of that day when they were a kid.

    I was also in school that day. Actually, I was running late for class and asked my Dad to give me a lift. On the way out of the house he mentioned something about a plane flying into a building. I kind of just waved it off, not really listening, because I didn’t want to be late for class, and figured I’d get all the details when I returned home.

    When I got out of lecture an hour and a half later, I ran into a huge crowd of students standing in front of a hastily set up massive tv (this was before flat screens). The second tower had just fallen. I remember seeing the footage and thinking, “Whoa, I guess this is what Dad was talking about.” I caught the next bus home and was glued to the tv the rest of the day.


    • Paul says:

      Wow, thanks for sharing your ‘where were you when’ story, Lucy. I’d imagine that was probably the scene in many public place — people huddled around a television. What a day.


  5. karmarieee says:

    I remember I was in sitting in my 6th grade keyboarding class and so many people were being picked up by their parents. At first, nobody realized what was going on. It wasn’t until my next period when the principle came on the PA system and informed us of the news. They had us turn on the TVs to watch coverage of the attacks and I remember how confused many of us were. I remember how my mom explained everything to me when I got home and how we lit some candles outside in memory of those lost. This day will forever be engraved in my head and I know it’s something our generation will tell to our children and grandchildren. I didn’t fully understand what happened at 11, but it wasn’t long after until I learned the true meaning behind those attacks. Crazy that at 23, I can still look back and remember where I was and how I felt that day.
    RIP to all those innocent people and everyone else affected. ❤️


    • Paul says:

      Yeah we’re the same age and it’s crazy to look back and think we had no idea what was going on, yet we know exactly where we were that day and exactly how we felt. It’s something we’ll definitely pass on to the next generation and something they’ll now learn about in school.

      Thanks for your comment!


  6. Little Rants says:

    It was so scary. I watched it on the news. I thought it wasn’t even real.


  7. Barb Knowles says:

    I was teaching on 9/11 and the Principal came to my door and handed me a memo. That action alone was unbelievable. He never hand delivered anything. There was one TV in our school at the time (that now seems unbelievable – we went to then having 100 to now having just computers) and we herded the kids into the Social Studies office to watch live. I teach immigrant students. It was one kid’s first day in the US. He thought he had just entered the scariest country on earth. I tried to explain to him that this was very unusual and had never happened before.

    What I also related to in your post, Paul, was that I remember the day JFK was assassinated. Another day that everyone in my age group knows where they were, what they were doing and even what they were wearing. I, too, was 10 years old and in 5th grade. I, too, was home sick that day. I, too, yelled to my Mom to come look at the TV. And it was my older brother’s 20th birthday. What a day for him. I, too, didn’t understand the implications or how the world would change re: security, no more country leaders in open cars, etc. Not nearly the terror of 9/11, but shocking to a 10 year old who didn’t know what was going on. And really not understanding my overhearing my parents’ conversations about the political ramifications.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      That must of been terrifying for that new student. I’m a bit surprised the school let them watch it on TV. I learned all about the JFK assassination in Grade 11 media studies. So tragic. I remember when Obama was elected, he had a parade somewhere and chose to walk outside of his car for a small stretch and I was having flashbacks to the JFK incident. My mom remembers where she was too. She was watching The Price is Right and they cut in to the coverage on it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        OMG I was going to write that I was watching the Price is Right, too, but I wasn’t 100% sure. This confirms it. And to your other point, it’s high school, so any news we try to broadcast live. Except in this case we hustled any kids who had a family member in lower Manhattan to the social workers. On a side note, my son now lives in lower Manhattan. He has a beautiful apartment with fairly inexpensive rent, because it is still difficult to rent downtown. People are still nervous, so many years later, of living there.


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