I started to feel at home here. Getting into the swing of my routine, I woke up Tuesday, Sept. 11, turned on the television and sat down at my computer. From the corner of my eye, I saw the World Trade Center in flames. Shocked, I called my mom and told her to turn on the news. Before my eyes, I watched as the city I knew so well crumbled to the ground. Any assurance I had had about my world vanished. All my life, I knew that even if I had bad days, the world was safe, and that’s what was important. Now, I knew I was fine, but I had no idea if the world was.
The attacks on New York and Washington, D.C were not just an attack on America. New York City has always been a symbol of opportunity. Ellis Island brought thousands of immigrants from all over the world into the United States. The Statue of Liberty stood as a guiding light for those looking for a new life. New York is the mother of all cities-the melting pot of the universe-and now it is littered with piles of cement and wreckage throughout the streets. Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Asians, Italians and so many more cultural groups lost loved ones in the fall. There was no discrimination. The most successful businessmen died alongside the average waiter working in the restaurant on the top floor. Our community here was shaken. As many us of waited by the phone, we couldn’t help but think the worst. We watched survivors talk about their horrific experiences and prayed for missing relatives and friends. At a time when chaos and panic seemed natural, the Amherst community pulled together for support.
When the story first broke at 8:45 a.m., my first reaction was to make sure everyone I knew was safe and then to be there for my roommates and floormates. I was scared and confused. This was the first time I had been without my parents during a time of crisis. Thoughts of planes flying over Amherst made me crave their presence, but that was impossible. They were in New Jersey and I was here. When I heard that the Pentagon had been hit, I thought of my brother working in D.C. I rushed to my computer and wrote him an email, hoping I would receive one back immediately. Once I found out he was OK, I sat in front of the television waiting to hear more.
It seemed so unreal that the two most symbolic buildings in the United States were gone. I couldn’t understand how I had been reading in bed the night before, planning the next few days. Now everything I knew had changed. In a matter of hours, our world was altered. What would happen next? How many innocent people had we lost? I felt strangely guilty knowing my family and loved ones were safe, because there were so many who weren’t as fortunate. I wanted to go home, but then I realized how many students were here for me to lean on.
I was in awe of how quickly the campus came together to calm the tensions we were all feeling. Faces I had never seen or met became real people with real backgrounds. The network of students helping one another was incredible. For the first time, I felt so much a part of Amherst. In the two weeks I had been here, I never knew what an amazing institution this was. I am proud and honored to be here with so many strong people. You brought stability and comfort during this time of mass confusion and pain.
The next morning, I woke up hoping to find that the devastation had ended. It hadn’t, and it wasn’t going to for some time. The casualties had yet to be counted and would only add to the frustration and agony of the situation. This is going to get worse before it gets better.
The World Trade Center buildings no longer exist. They were signs of power and wealth, standing high above the rest. The skyline that could be seen from rural areas of New Jersey and Long Island has completely changed. They were America’s token for strength and success. We can understand the impact this devastation will have on our country and on our people, if we imagine what France would be like without the Eiffel Tower. The one thing that had remained constant and unbreakable in our lives had crumbled under these terrible acts of terrorism. Even with the support provided by the faculty, staff and students here, questions flood my mind. What can replace these towers to equal their stature and meaning? Is war the next step? How could we have missed something so premeditated and deliberate? Will our world ever be the same?