COMMENTARY: Student remembers ‘when America became a ghost town’ on 9/11

Tabitha Waggoner

Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Today, I’m 22 years old. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was 12.

The first thing I remember is that I was sleeping, and then I was awake and annoyed.

I absolutely hated (and still do) waking up at the sound of a telephone. The old rotary phone rang and Mama answered. I noticed the strange tone of voice she used when speaking with my father—the tone I associated with deaths or car chases on O.J. Simpson.

My first thought was that the President had been shot. Even though I was young, I was aware that there were unhappy people in the US who believed Al Gore was supposed to be Commander-in-Chief after the Florida voting fiasco.

When we turned on the television, every single major station — even ESPN — was tuned into the Twin Towers. My life would be affected by this forever, I thought.

Some of you may not really remember much. Maybe you were shielded from the horrors of the day because your teachers or parents thought you were too young to understand.

Maybe you watched and couldn’t comprehend. I feel like I knew it right away. In my diary for 9/11/01, I wrote that this was a “21st century Pearl Harbor.” Initially we believed the death toll to be 50,000 souls, according to early television network estimates.

My dear mother scared me a little talking of revenge with a crazy glint in her eye. I turned away from the TV when I saw the people jumping to their deaths. How bad could it be that they would jump out? So many of us were angry. How dare they hijack the US.

‘”We are going to war—I feel it in my heart. People across the world assure us they will help us. And we will win. We can do it, for God is on our side,” I wrote. There was an eerie silence that day. We went shopping at Kroger. Almost no one was there; those who were, not far away from the TV.

The airport near our home was silent. There will never be another day like that—where America became a ghost town.

The fact is, many of us still are angry about Sept. 11. And I guess, perhaps we should be. Friends and family went to war. We took for granted the fact that ‘America always wins.’ We were suspicious of modest women dressed in hijab. We couldn’t help but associate Muslims with this day of terror. But now, it’s been 10 years. Yes, we are—and I am-still angry in many ways. But I have learned from my friends here at WKU that not every Saudi Arabian or middle-Easterner is a terrorist.

Real Muslims and real Christians never kill in the name of God. But I also know from my own experience in life that there are bad apples in every barrel. That’s why you throw them away before they ruin the whole stock.

I hope Sept. 11 will not become just another date on the calendar—a day for us to picnic and eat fried chicken at Mammoth Cave. I am still praying that soon all Americans will be where they belong—at home.