My memory isn’t the best. Even flash bulb moments seem to fizzle out in my brain over the years. I couldn’t tell you how I got to school that early September morning or even what I was learning in school, but I do remember the moment that changed it all.
I suppose I woke up, got on the bus, and sat wide-eyed at my desk as I tried to get through my grueling third grade classes. There was no weird feeling in my stomach or urge to stay home. No sense of changing wind or gut feelings—just an unusually short, eight year old trying to make it in a brand new school. I have no recollection of anything particularly different about that morning, but when I heard that five word phrase that instantly fill every ten-year-old heart with sadness.
“We’ll be having indoor recess.”
I couldn’t believe it. The sun was shining, the air was warm, and there were absolutely no signs of rain. As soon as our teacher left the room, we all began to brainstorm. We decided that we were being punished for something, but that didn’t make it any easier to face.
Not being able to go outside meant that we’d be forced to read or settle for some sub-par legos that never quite seem to fit together right. It was absolutely awful. What could we possible have done to be kept from playing lava tag on the playground on one of the last nice days of the year?
But then something even weirder began to happen. The teacher ditched our lessons and decided to give us recess early. Three whole hours early. No one dared to ask why for fear of a change of heart, so we got out the puzzles and legos and started on with our boring indoor recess.
Right when we were about to start the next game of heads-up 7-up, a rumbled voice came over the loud-speaker.
“Would Alex please report for the office for early dismissal.”
It was really more of a statement than a question, so she packed up her stuff and began to leave. We all sat at the desks, eyes closed, listening quietly to who it could’ve been that touch our arm. Then another grumble ruined my concentration.
“Would Eric please report to the office for early dismissal.”
What was going on? Before I knew it half of our class was gone and our game had been forced to come to and end.
I got through the rest of the day and couldn’t wait to get home to tell my mom about all the weird stuff that was happening. Sitting on the almost-empty bus, there wasn’t many people tot talk to, so I thought about what to tell my mom first. Should I start with indoor recess or with weird early dismissals? I decided with indoor recess.
The doors to the bus swung open, I ran down the stairs, across the front lawn, and ripped the front door open. But when walked through the doorway, everything that I was about to say didn’t seem to matter anymore.
My mom was sitting in front of the tv bawling. I’m talking the just-walked-into-a-grown-up-conversation crying. The type of crying that kept me silent but staring with wide-eyes just trying to take it all in. My grandpa stood next to her and by the way her looked at me, I knew I had either done something really bad or someone else did.
A plane flew across the screen of the television and my mom cried harder and harder despite the fact that I was stuck in the doorway, unable to move. As hard as I tried to process what what happening, my mind was blank.
“I know you don’t understand, but you need to come over here and watch this,” my grandpa motioned from across the room.
We sat in silence as the plane flew into the building over and over again. The image played on repeat like some terrible video game that never seemed to end. Instantly I started crying. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew something had shook the country so hard that the world had gone silent.
Inside recess didn’t seem so bad anymore.