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I had class late that morning so I didn't set my alarm. As I'm slowly waking up, I hear a faint tapping at my bedroom door. Grace opens it just a crack.
"Hey, Steph. Are you up yet?"
She said classes were canceled for the day. Hers ended early and everyone was sent home.
"Yeah, there was some big plane crash in New York."
What? What was she talking about? We lived in Chicago. Why would she be sent home because of a plane crash in New York?
She pointed to a photo I had up on my wall. It was a postcard showing the silhouette of a man playing a saxophone with the New York City skyline in the background. I bought it from a little touristy shop in Times Square the first time I went to New York. The first time I fell in love with that beautiful, vibrant city.
"A plane crashed into those towers. They're not there anymore."
She went into the living room and turned on the TV. It took a while before I realized the weight of what she said. After a few minutes of listening to the news chatter spilling over from the next room, I finally got up.
"Come here, Steph. You need to come see this."
We sat there on our futon in our mismatched apartment. The kind of apartment befitting three college sophomores. Our cat, George, stared outside the window. We stared at the TV. Confused, mesmerized, scared, uncertain. Who did we know in New York? What about D.C.? Her family was on the East Coast - could any of them have been in New York that day?
After a few hours of endless news, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to get outside. I went for a walk around the neighborhood. We lived near a very busy intersection - the kind with constant traffic, not just rush hour traffic. But not that day. On that day only a few empty buses passed by every now and then. No cars at the stop light. No people on the sidewalks.
I wandered a bit more. Some cheap-o hair salon was open. Super-Cuts. Or maybe it was Rio's. The Blockbuster down the street was open, too. I got a hair cut. Why not? The day was already strange enough. Four inches less hair and some new bangs later, I stopped at the Blockbuster and rented Clerks. Nikki was home by the time I got back so we watched it together, then slowly made our way through our own DVD collection, checking the news in between movies but too overwhelmed to really watch closely. It was almost an average Tuesday. Almost. Now it's a Tuesday I will never forget.
*This story was originally shared on September 11, 2012.