My name is Debbie Mejia, sophomore legal studies major. My past year has been an adventure; I made a huge leap across the country to attend NSU. Living in Florida has been a big change but a great experience nevertheless. I was born and raised in North Bergen, New Jersey and have lived in the sister cities along the Manhattan Skyline all my life. Anyone who has visited can tell you the scene is breathtaking at a glance.
The view greatly differs from 11 years ago, though. I was very lucky to have always lived in beautiful homes right on the Hudson River. Just a year ago, directly out of my bedroom window, you could see the mesmerizing sky scrapers; the Empire State, New York Times Building, and the brand new Freedom Tower. As September 11th approaches, I can’t help but cringe. It is unbelievable that 11 years ago, the U.S. had one of its worst days – a completely life-changing experience for the metropolitan area.
At the exact moments of the 9/11 attacks, I was eight years old in the third grade at P.S. #8 in Jersey City, New Jersey. I was in my favorite class, English, with my favorite teacher, Mr. Schultz. It was about 10:00 a.m. and a faculty member had interrupted our fascinating lesson. As she barged in and pulled Mr. Schultz aside to speak privately to him, I vividly remember thinking How rude! Now very weary and concerned in the face, Mr. Schultz abandoned our lessons and began to line us up. Uh, field trip? None of us knew what was happening, and unlike today’s eight year olds, we did not have personal cell phones or any technology at our fingertips.
As we walked down the hallway, I could hear sobs coming from the main office. The vice-principal met us in the hallway and made us sit in an empty classroom, what should have been the eighth graders’ room. Looking back, I realize they were allowed to leave much sooner because they were older. Vice Principal Timmons informed us that our parents were called. We would be going home for the day as soon as they arrived, to get all our belongings together, and be ready. Though I was just eight years old, I am proud to say I always had a mature understanding of the world. I could read people; the way they spoke, their body language, their facial expressions. At this moment, I knew something was happening; something out of our control.
Within seconds, names were beginning to get called on the intercom; two of them were Jennifer Gomez and Mah Noor, my best friends. For the first time ever, they left the room in a hurry without even shouting a “See you later!” to me. I did not hear from Jennifer for another two weeks and that was the last time I ever saw Mah again. Within minutes my favorite security guard, Randy, picked me up from the room and walked me outside. For the first time he did not ask how my day was going or showed me any card tricks.
I reached the main entrance and saw my mother and grandmother outside. Now this was weird! My grandmother was so committed to her job and worked about an hour’s drive away. Why was she picking me up from school so early?! Randy left me with my mother, spotted another familiar parent and automatically ran back inside to get the next student. My mother was crying and my grandmother was comforting her. They carried me and walked to the car. They barely said anything to me as they talked among themselves.
We arrived home and I ran to my haven – my room. And in this moment, I saw it. I saw the reason behind Mr. Schultz’s weary behavior, behind Jennifer and Mah’s name being called, why Randy was so quick to leave me safe with my mother. There was a catastrophe upon one of my favorite skyscrapers, the Twin Towers. My best friend Jennifer lost her father. Mah was from Pakistan and her parents decided to move back home. My extended family lost a son. My neighbor lost his wife.
Jersey City and New York City are like Broward County and Miami-Dade. Professionals, business men and women travel and work in the heart of Miami, but live in the much more quiet outskirts of the city. Most of the people who lived near me worked in the City. Worry and fright deluded the sunny day. And within hours, thick smog actually did. Through the window where you could glance at NYC, you saw nothing but gray. My story is just one of the million out there. I just hope Americans, throughout the nation, honor the fellow Americans we lost that day.