On September 11, 2001, I was a senior ROTC cadet at Florida Tech. I had been in a 8am class all that morning. As I left the class, I heard some students talking about a plane crash, but didn't think anything of it. I figured I would run by the sandwich shop on campus and grab something before heading back to my apartment. As I finished buying my lunch, I walked post a door that was normally kept closed, but was wide open and students were crowding into the doorway. I looked inside to see what was happening - with everyone obviously focused on the TV in the room. It was 10:28 am as I looked in - exactly the moment the north tower collapsed.
I walked back to my apartment, stunned and not knowing what was going on. I turned on the TV and just sat there. I didn't know what to do.
The next day, as we all were trying to figure out what was happening, a bunch of us from the school found ourselves on the main corner through the campus, and the city, waving American flags and celebrating the fact that, even in one of our darkest moments, we are Americans. We will come back. (Even now, as I type, I get goosebumps thinking of that feeling on the corner with my flag).
One of the other vivid memories I have from 9/11 actually came on 9/13. My roommate and I were standing outside our apartment when we heard a really odd sound. Looking up, it was the first aircraft from Florida Tech's flight school to return to the air after the FAA grounded all aircraft. We both just stood there watching it circle. Amazing what you remember.
Now, ten years, and two deployments to Iraq, later, I still remember the feeling of confusion, emptiness, and loss that hit the moment I saw that tower collapse. But, I also know, as history looks back at that moment, it will also be the moment that people realize Americans are strong, resilient, and amazing people.