I Will Never Forget – My September 11th Story

Many people throughout the world are remembering what happened 13 years ago today. It’s difficult not to. All of us can go back and recall where we were and what we were doing, many of us in vivid detail. Even if we weren’t directly involved or affected by the events that occurred, everyone has a story about September 11th. We all experienced it. We all felt it.

This is my story of September 11th, 2001.

My alarm goes off. I begrudgingly get out of bed and get ready for school. I’m a senior at ThunderRidge High School with nothing on my mind but homework, college applications, and homecoming a couple of weeks away. My freshman brother is already at school for weight training for football, so I don’t have to worry about herding him into the car. I heft my two-ton backpack onto my shoulders, shout a goodbye to my dad upstairs, and walk outside to my tin can of a car. It’s windy, but warm and clear, a normal day for this time of year in Colorado.

During the ten minute drive to school, I listen to my favorite morning radio program with Jamie White and Danny Bonaduce. As usual, they’re making wise cracks about meaningless topics, laughing uproariously, and keeping things light and fun for morning commuters. Chuckling at the comedic duo, I pull into the school parking lot. I go to yank the keys out of the ignition when Jamie suddenly interrupts Danny.

I pause and listen.

Jamie: Huh, I just got a weird report about a plane hitting a building in New York.

Danny: What? A plane?

Jamie: Uh, yeah [nervous laughter]. I don’t even know what this means. How’s that even possible? How does a plane hit a building? Those are sort of hard to miss, aren’t they?

Danny: [chuckling] Engine failure, I guess. Was it a small plane?

Jamie: The report doesn’t say, but I would assume so. Probably one of those farm planes [more nervous laughter].

Danny: You mean a crop duster?

Jamie: Yeah, one of those. This is dumb [a piece of paper ruffles as she yells at the producer, telling him this isn’t funny and that there has to be more interesting news out there].

I half smile/half frown, unsure what to make of the bizarre report. All I can visualize is a sputtering aircraft manned by an old drunk pilot that somehow nicked the side of an abandoned warehouse. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

I shake my head and glance through the front windshield. I see my mom of all people walking up the school’s grassy hill from the track where she’d been doing her morning walk. I completely forget about Jamie and Danny’s random news announcement and get out of the car.

I wave at her and then duck back into the car to pull out my backpack. The wind is blowing so hard, the door hits me in the side of the head. I swear, shove it open again, and pray to God nobody–including my mom–didn’t see the embarrassing incident.

My mom doesn’t mention it as she reaches me and does her mom thing (“Have a good day at school.”; “You’ll be home by 3:30, right?”; I’m subbing at the elementary school, so I won’t be home all day.”, etc., etc.). I impatiently nod and tell her I need to go or I’m going to be late. I don’t even think to mention Jamie and Danny’s report to her. I’m still too worried someone saw me get thwacked by the damn door.

We say goodbye, including an habitual, “Love ya”, and part ways.

First class: Astronomy. At my assigned table, I sit with my friend, Ashley, and two boys, Josh and Kenny. As always, we talk and joke around and don’t pay much attention to the lecture. Nobody mentions anything about a crop duster hitting a building in New York. I don’t even remember hearing about it myself. The dismissal bell rings. I leave class with Ashley.

We walk to the main hall to meet up with our other friend, Sarah, for P.E. She’s standing in her normal rendezvous spot, but she’s not smiling. She’s crying. I’m stunned. Sarah isn’t a crier. Ashley and I rush over to her, asking what’s wrong.

“Th–the Pentagon blew up,” she sputters. “A girl in my last class has a grandma who works there. She’s probably d–dead.” Ashley and I gape at her, too dumbfounded to say more than, “Oh my God.” Sarah then mentions something about the World Trade Center. I don’t know what that is, so I lamely pat her on the arm and tell her everything is going to be okay.

As we walk to the locker rooms, I look around and see other people whispering of gloom and doom. I don’t understand any of it, and honestly, I don’t believe any of it. It’s probably some stupid prank or vicious rumor–it often happens in a high school setting. Someone says something awful and it takes root and rapidly spreads through the hallways like a deadly disease.

My P.E. class goes by tortuously slow. I know something is happening, but I don’t know what. People around me are talking more and more about bombs and attacks and terrorists. I cringe away from the word “terrorist”, unsure of its true meaning; the only time I’ve heard it used is in movies like Die Hard and Air Force One. My lack of knowledge is quickly becoming frustrating. I want to find a TV and see what the news has to say.

We’re dismissed early to change in the locker rooms. I rush inside, eager to get to my Home Room where I know I’ll finally get some info. As I change into my regular clothes, the girls around me get louder and louder, their high-pitched voices bouncing off the walls and echoing around the locker room. I know they’re scared and they’re hiding it by swearing, laughing, and being unbearably obnoxious, but I want to slap them and tell them to grow up.

Suddenly, the intercom system buzzes and our principal’s voice booms over the speakers. The girls get LOUDER. I hit my limit and scream at them to shut up, desperate to know what’s happening.

Mr. Lynch’s deep voice echoes around the vast room, making it difficult to understand him. I hear things like “possible terrorism” and “New York” and “no need to panic”. The girls start swearing and shouting again, and again, I tell them to shut up, but it’s pointless.

The announcement ends and the bell rings.

I practically sprint to my Home Room. I know my teacher, Mr. Johnson–history buff and current events guru–will be on top of things and will fill me in on everything I missed during Mr. Lynch’s announcement. I open the door and bolt inside. All the lights are off and the TV that’s usually used for movie days and boring documentaries is showing the news. Nobody’s talking. Everyone is riveted by what they’re seeing on screen.

I quietly take a seat in the front row and look up at the TV.

Smoke. Lots and lots of smoke. At first, I think it’s storm clouds it’s so thick and widespread. Then I see the crisp blue sky beyond it and understand it is, indeed, smoke. But from what?

As if to answer my unspoken question, the camera shifts to two tall buildings with fire billowing out of them and paper fluttering in the air. I lean forward, shocked and dismayed. And, more than anything, confused. What was I even seeing? I hear the anchorman refer to the burning buildings as the “World Trade Center” and I immediately feel stupid for never knowing the name of the iconic skyscrapers. My secret embarrassment is swiftly overtaken by horror as the news station cuts to video of a commercial jet flying into the building.

The class gasps.

I do too. I gape up at the screen, more puzzled and horrified than ever. And completely disbelieving. So disbelieving, in fact, that I think what I just witnessed was fake–a fancy computer mock up of what had happened to the buildings.

The dismissal bell rings. The class is reluctant to leave, including myself. At our teacher’s urging, we all slowly stand and head for the door. As I reach it, I hear Mr. Johnson say to a guy behind me, “From that footage, I’d definitely say the plane meant to hit the building. It wasn’t an accident.”

I stop and look at him incredulously. “You mean that footage was real?”

Mr. Johnson looks at me sadly and nods.

I leave the class feeling sick to my stomach. I still don’t get it. Nothing–nothing–like this has ever happened in the U.S. It can’t happen.

The rest of the day passes in a dazed blur. Despite finally seeing and hearing what was happening on the east coast, nobody really knows what’s happening. Some say it’s terrorism. Some say it’s an accident. Some say we should go to war. Some say we should stay out of it. Some say they know people in New York. Some say they know people on the east coast. Some say the buildings collapsed. Some say they didn’t. Some say another plane crashed in Pennsylvania. Some say DIA was shut down. Some say all airports have been shut down. Some say Colorado is a target because of Norad…

It’s a constant rumor mill all day, filled with fearful anxiety, hysterical tears, and nervous jokes that disguise people’s true terror. Personally, all I want to do is find my brother and cousin and go home. I don’t want to stay in the building another second. Although I know all of these events are happening over 2,000 miles away, I can’t help but imagine a plane swooping over our suburban high school and dropping a bomb on us. It’s rash, ridiculous, and unrealistic, but the fear is there. I often pull out my Nokia phone with its bright sunflower cover and stare at it. I want to call my mom or dad, but I know both are at work and won’t answer. (Back then, we didn’t rely on phones like we do nowadays. We didn’t even have text messaging).

At lunch, an announcement is made that we’re in lockdown the rest of the day and all after-school activities have been cancelled. The administrators tell us to go straight home after school and stay home. No questions asked. I’m on board with that. I find my brother during lunch, as well as my cousin, and tell them where to meet me after school so I can drive us home.

Finally, the end of the day comes and I’m relieved to flee the school. I sprint into my house and turn on the TV. My brother and cousin are less interested and go play N64 instead. I berate them as I throw a tape into the VCR and press record–I know this day will go down as one of the most significant days in our nation’s history and I want to remember it. Then I get my phone and call my mom. To my surprise, she answers.

“Are you home?” she demands.

“Yeah, so are Max and Will. We’re all here.”

“Good, just stay there. I’ll get home as soon as I can.”

“Okay, I love you.” I say the words with much more feeling than I did that morning.

After I hang up, I feel safer and more grounded. I grab a handful of goldfish crackers and a Hi-C juice box and focus on the news. It’s the first time all day I’m able to sit and listen without interruption–no shouting, no bells ringing, no muffled announcements. As I listen to the horrors of the day, I suddenly remember the radio show I’d heard that morning.

Jamie: Huh, I just got a weird report about a plane hitting a building in New York?

Danny: What? A plane?

Jamie: Uh, yeah [nervous laughter]. I don’t even know what this means. How’s that even possible? How does a plane hit a building? Those are sort of hard to miss, aren’t they?

Danny: [chuckling] Engine failure, I guess. Was it a small plane?

Jamie: The report doesn’t say, but I would assume so. Probably one of those farm planes [more nervous laughter].

Danny: You mean a crop duster?

Jamie: Yeah, one of those. This is dumb [a piece of paper ruffles as she yells at the producer, telling him this isn’t funny and that there has to be more interesting news out there].

I cringe and know that I’ll never be able to listen to that radio show again.


What’s your story? Share it and never forget.

God bless America and all those who lost their lives 13 years ago today.


Vote For A Dedicated Teacher – AKA My Sister

If you follow my blog regularly, then you know I tend to talk about my family often. It’s hard not to when they’re the most important thing in my life (yes, even more important than writing and reading, believe it or not).

I’ve also mentioned my sister a few times. I can’t begin to tell you how lucky I am to have her in my life. Not only is she my best friend, but she is an amazing supporter of my dreams. When times are rough, or my motivation begins to wane, she’s there to give me a swift kick in the booty and tell me to pull it together and keep going.

577926_10100751935137943_1237997427_nMy sister is truly a dedicated and hardworking individual. On top of raising three boys (infant, 2-year old, 4-year old), she’s a business education teacher at ThunderRidge High School. She’s also the advisor/organization sponsor of the school’s DECA program. (DECA is a highly competitive business marketing club for secondary and post-secondary students). Her passion and commitment to her job and her students constantly astounds me. I find myself always telling her, “I wish I’d had more teachers like you.” Simply put, she cares. Genuinely, completely, 100% cares about her students and their current and future successes.

536244_10101235410339763_1575530403_nHer students have recently recognized her dedication to them by nominating her for the Celebrate Teachers contest. After a preliminary round, my sister advanced to the finals and is now in the running to win. Yay!! But she needs votes. Lots and lots of votes.

So I’m asking you, my dear blog followers, to take a minute to help her out and cast a vote. All you have to do is type in the mall name (Park Meadows), and then look for my sister’s name (Katharine K from ThunderRidge High School)You may vote once per day until April 22nd.

I can’t think of anyone more deserving to win this contest than my sister. So, thank you in advance for your help and support!


A proud sister today – Colorado Marketing Education Teacher of the Year

Oh, boo. It’s Monday. Why is it Monday? Why, why, why?

Yeah, I’m not gonna lie, I’m on the cranky side today. However, I’m also on the proud side. The VERY proud side.

Last night, my amazing sister received a prestigious honor at the Colorado DECA state competition. She was named the “Colorado Marketing Education Teacher of the Year”. (For those of you who don’t know, DECA is a highly competitive business marketing club for secondary and post-secondary students).

1959774_10101442256478443_1975669596_nWhat made it extra special was my brother-in-law also received the Friends of DECA award for being such an outstanding supporter of the organization. And what made it extra-extra special was neither of them knew they were going to receive these awards. Well, my brother-in-law knew about my sister’s, which was why he secretly asked me and my parents to drive down with their two kids to The Broadmoor (where DECA state is taking place) to surprise her.

Not wanting to let the cat out of the bag early, my family and I hid in the very back of the conference room, way, way out of my sister’s eyesight. (Thank God the auditorium was so big, so dark, and so loud, otherwise I’m sure she would’ve heard my 4-year old nephew’s constant stream of, “Where’s mommy?” haha). Once her name was called and she made her way up to the stage, my family and I hurried forward to where she’d been sitting with her 52 DECA students to surprise/hug/congratulate her upon her return.

Listening to the 3,000 students, advisors, and other educational supporters cheer for my sister as she walked up on stage was overwhelming to say the least. I was so happy and so proud to see her hard work pay off. For years, she has poured herself–her heart–into her job, and she has always gone beyond the call of duty to teach and prepare her students for the real world. She truly deserved to be named the “Colorado Marketing Education Teacher of the Year”.

By the time my sister made her way back to her seat, she was crying (not a huge shock considering she’s eight months pregnant 😉 ). And when she saw us waiting for her (especially her two little boys), she cried even more. We all got a little weepy. It was hard not to. The tears, however, were worth it (as was the super late night and the grouchy Monday morning, haha.)

Congrats, “Sista”! You’re an amazing teacher, and your students are so lucky to have you in their lives. And I’m so proud to call you my sister!


Book of the month – February

In honor of Rainbow Rowell receiving a Printz honor, I’m dedicating this month to Eleanor & Park. And you know what? It’s just romantic enough to cover the Valentine’s Day holiday, too!

15745753Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


It’s 1986 and two star-crossed teens are smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love–and just how hard it pulled you under.

 A cross between the iconic ’80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.”

Jen’s Review

After reading Fangirl a couple of months ago, I knew I had to read everything ever written by Rainbow Rowell. So, I put a hold on Eleanor & Park at the library, and after waiting forever, I finally got my hands on it. And it hardly left my hands in the two days it took me to read it. What a great story! Sweet and endearing with a tough edge. Rainbow Rowell definitely knows how to build characters that want to be heard and remembered. And I’ll always remember Eleanor and Park. Although I couldn’t relate to their story as much as I can to Cath’s in Fangirl, I can visualize it and feel it all the same.

Eleanor & Park is an addictive tale that takes the reader on a roller coaster of emotions. Anger. Humor. Fear. Love. I’ve never read a contemporary romance quite like this one. It was a perfect combination of reality and fantasy. Of life sucks and life rocks. Of “Oh, my god.” and “Oh my God!” You go from smirking at Eleanor and Park’s resentful start, to grinning at their magical connection, to holding your breath at their uncertain future.

In a nutshell, it’s awesome. It is!

If you haven’t read Eleanor & Park yet (or any of Rainbow Rowell’s books for that matter), then it’s time to get in the game. Don’t miss out on these wonderful plots and memorable characters!

Jen’s Rating

4 Star