22 years after September 11, 2001 - New York City is still one of the more thriving places in the world.

“The Day I Became a Journalist: Journalism Teacher Reflects on 9/11”

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It’s not a day I think I’ll ever forget – it was the day I realized that I was in fact a journalist.

I was only 16 years old.

I was nearing my beloved high school – Lincoln, driving in my silver 2001 Pontiac Sunfire. Like most days, I was listening to K104. I could see the school in front of me, but something made me pause at the red stop sign in front of the school a bit longer than I normally would.

A voice so familiar to K104 listeners interrupted the song I was blasting through my speakers: “A PLANE HAS CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER.”

It was 7:46 a.m. in Dallas. I froze. I could see my school and the student parking lot clearly, but I wasn’t moving across the street in that direction.

I didn’t know everything about the world and I definitely wasn’t a fan of politics, but something told me that this day was only going to get worse for America.

Once I managed to park my car, I remember sitting motionless for what felt like an eternity. So many thoughts ran through my teen aged mind. Most disturbing was the memory of being inside New York’s World Trade Center when I was 12 years old. I recalled taking a very extensive tour, which included an elevator ride all the way to the top of the north tower.

My thoughts were interrupted once again when I realized I needed to tell my mother what was happening in one of my favorite cities in the world. I didn’t reach for my phone in 2001, as those devices weren’t as appealing for spreading news back then. I instead hurried from my car and raced to her classroom.

Between leaving my car and entering my mother’s first-floor classroom, the second plane had already crashed into the second tower. My mom received me with open arms and listened intently as I cried to her about what I’d just heard over the radio. She embraced me and allowed me to tell my story, as if she hadn’t heard the news herself. After a few moments, I finally turned from her embrace to see that her classroom television was on. I saw the news of the second crash, and I remember vividly the words jumping from the television.


That day, students from my high school were withdrawn by their parents every few minutes. People were shaken. Were we next? Was the entire country susceptible to attack? What information of ours was at risk in the towers?

Two more planes crashed that day – one into the Pentagon and another into a desolate field. We wouldn’t learn of the identities of the innocent people onboard those planes until much later. For the remainder of that day, we were left to wonder about their lives and the families they had left behind.

There were so many questions, but not very many answers. Panic was both loud and obvious that day.

After school, I went to my job at Washington Mutual Bank where I served as a teller. We only had one customer that day. The gentleman wanted all his money from the bank, as he was nervous that our systems would be compromised post-attack.

It was a sad day. The sky was dark and the mode was grim. Still, I found myself wanting to know everything. I knew that many of my peers and even some of my family members would turn off the news coverage, so as not to depress themselves. I wanted to know everything and to be the reliable source they depended on when they were ready to talk about it. Sixteen -year-old me wanted to be the reporter, the photographer and the all around storyteller.

My mom had to make me turn off the television and go to bed that night.

I learned something about myself that day. I couldn’t turn off the news. I couldn’t turn off wanting to know more. I wasn’t yet a photographer, but I was obsessed with the idea of photographers capturing images that day – images that will surely outlive us all.

That was 22 years ago.

Every year of my teaching career, I’ve attempted to engage my students in a lesson on September 11, 2001. Every year, I realize that fewer and fewer students have any recollection of that horrific day.

While I realize that I can’t make students remember what they didn’t experience, it is important for todays’ student to realize that September 11, 2001 changed the way we do so many things in this country. The airport experience is most notably different.

Three weeks prior to September 11, 2001 – I traveled from Dallas to Chicago with about 15 other students from my Academic Decathlon team. We flew on an American Airlines Boeing 767 jet just like the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center.

My classmate Brittany and I sat on the first row of coach, next to a large man covered in Islamic garb. He was friendly and engaged us in conversation.We thought nothing of his attire. We didn’t think twice about his race. We just appreciated the nice conversation. In the days, weeks and immediate months following September 11, 2001 – I wonder how many people would sit comfortably next to him on a large jet, flying into a major city with multiple skyscrapers.

Still teenagers, we watched many of our Middle Eastern counterparts begin to live in fear in this country because people would accuse them of being terrorists. We watched many of the adults around us lose a sense of positivity that we were depending on. We watched politicians and “leaders” crumble on live television night after night.

I’ve made many trips back to New York City since I was 12. I visit the September 11th Memorial each time. To see where so many people perished and where so many heroes were born will always bring a sense of sadness. But to know that we can read and watch coverage from that day because of the journalists and photographers who made it their purpose to document the events of that day – that is beyond commendable.

September 11, 2001 changed the world for me, but it was still a world I was curious about. It is still a world I want to engage in and report on from now on. I was already a journalist, but that faithful day proved it to me.

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