There are moments like these in life, moments we never forget. Moments where we knew exactly what we were doing, exactly how we felt, exactly how we reacted. These moments are even more monuments when they are shared experiences with many around us. And there are some occasions where the entire nation and sometimes even the world (or so it seems) have a shared experience.
On the 50th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor I was visiting my grandparents’ house. I was all of 11 and knew very little of the climate in which the US entered into the Second World War. My grandmother recounted the details of that 7th day in December 1941. As she retold her story I could see that it was a vivid memory, as tragedy’s often are. She remembered walked up the church steps, as they were all dismissed from school, walked across the street and went into (if my 11 year old mind remembers correctly) the Lutheran Church to pray.
My father, like most of his generation, know the exact moment on November 22, 1963 that he learned of the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. I believe he was in the hallway at school on his way to band practice.
But on this 11th anniversary of September 11, 2001- it seemed appropriate to remember. I know you have your story, but allow me, if you will, to tell you mine:
It was my senior year of college. A beautiful fall day (not unlike today in fact). I was finishing school at the University Of Louisville- School Of Music and also working in the office. They were in-between admissions directors and so I had somehow taken over that office and job for a short time.
Being who I am, I was running late (for those that know me you will not find this shocking in the least). I believe I was “supposed” to be there at 8:30, but given I had no immediate supervisor, I was walking up closer to 9. I met two friends on the stairs of the School of Music, Josh and Chip.
They looked deep in thought, and Chip was worried. He was talking about how he couldn’t get ahold of his mother, who worked on an Army Base, that morning. I said something (I honestly can’t remember what) but something to the effect of, you’re being a baby, she’ll call you later.
They both starred at me and Josh said, Shannon, a plane just flew into the World Trade Center. I looked up and through the tinted windows I could see the computers in the library and saw two buildings one with smoke pouring out of it.
I went into my office and saw my former supervisor Candy standing in the Dean’s office watching the TV. She pulled me in and moments later we watched the first tower collapse. We cried, we were in shock. We were watching this tragedy, all those lives takes in just moments, and we were watching it on TV. It was the most surreal moment of my life, until that moment and since.
After a while, I realized that the Admissions office had a TV and I turned it on and opened the office door for anyone to come by. Classes were canceled for the day. In the School of Music there were TVs for concerts to be shown and eventually they were wired into the outside channels.
Students that hadn’t gone home, which was most of us, simply sat and starred at the TVs; watching those images of the plane crashing into the buildings, then the buildings collapsing. We couldn’t stop watching, those images are burned into my brain and I will never forget them.
Eventually though, we forced ourselves to stop watching the images and we forced ourselves outside.
The University of Louisville is located next to the airport in Louisville and the orchestra never practiced outside because of the noise from the airport. Despite the fact that the building and stairs leading to the School of Music were designed as a concert shell.
However, on this day there were no planes, there were no clouds, there was no noise at all outside, as if the world had stopped. So Dr. Kimcherie Lloyd, the orchestra director held practice outside at 3pm. And I am to this day and forever will be grateful to her and all the members of the orchestra that day.
I sat on the side while my friends practiced. A crowd gathered on the lawn. It was not a “normal” rehearsal, there were no stops to practice and go over parts, it was a dress rehearsal, even though school had just started a week or so before.
They were practicing Beethoven’s symphony #3 the “Eroica” symphony, (2nd movement starts at about 17:15) and when they came to movement 2, I wept. I wept uncontrollably.
Eventually we went home and continued watching those images, and more. We saw dust covered people walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to get home, people trapped in the subway lines, and walls and walls of pictures and notes, people desperate to find their loved ones.
So today I remember, with sadness, with prayer, and with music, of a day so dark I will never forget.