Editor’s Note: The essay below was written in 2001 and appears in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.
New York, New York
Julia Ann Drzycimski, 19, was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and today studies at Columbia University in New York City. She has a mother, Pam; father, Nick; brother, Ryan; and sister, Maria. On the morning of Sept. 11, she watched smoke envelop lower Manhattan from the window of her dorm room on 116th Street. She wrote her essay in the week to follow. It is titled, “September 12, 2001: The Day After.”
It is 8:00 p.m. and the first time since yesterday morning, September 11th, that I have actually been able to start comprehending the random acts of hatred that began almost 48 hours ago. It scares me to think that on Monday night the most of my concerns or worries were getting home from class in the pouring rain and my homework that was due the following day. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine waking up to the news that my suitemate told me in horror on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th.
It was Monday night, September 10th. The entire day had been gloomy and overcast. I had class that night until 7:30, and when I came out of class, it was pitch black and storming very badly. By the time I made it back to my room, I was completely drenched. Little did I know that this awful storm was only a glimpse into what the next day was going to bring. I went to bed on Monday relatively early for a college student because it had been a long day that began at 9 in the morning. I set my alarm for 9:30 a.m. in order to make it to class on time.
I did not wake up on Tuesday, September 11th, to my alarm clock like any normal day or any other September 11ths of my lifetime. I woke up quite awhile before my alarm clock went off to my suitemate running up and down the stairs in total panic. I came out of my room only to be greeted by a distraught friend with fear in her eyes. As fast as her mouth would let her, the words, “A plane has just crashed into theWorldTradeCenter!!!” were shouted at me. I could not believe what happened, so I ran upstairs and looked in utter horror at the television set. My eyes were in complete bewilderment and fear, as I still did not know the entirety of the situation. I then proceeded to look out the window of my very own dorm room. It was true. The billowing smoke was smothering the entire downtown area ofManhattan, what I have now come to call home. By this time everyone in my suite was awake and running around in complete confusion and fear. I could not believe my own eyes or ears that something of this magnitude was even possible.
The rest of the day was spent inside watching the news as tears strolled down my face. My body was numb to everything. I did not know what I was feeling or what I was not feeling. Everything seemed like a blur from the moment I woke up. It was like a nightmare that I prayed I would wake up from and it would be a normal September 11th day. The realness of this hateful crime hit me like a ton of bricks. Being fromIowa, you can only imagine what it is like, but I am actually here and can see the downtown area from my room window. This is my home, and I am now scared to be here. Every time a plane or helicopter flies overhead, I catch my heart pounding and my eyes tentatively looking out the window. I am scared to walk outside for fear that I might not make it back. Things like this just are not supposed to happen.
I myself am lucky enough to say that I was not directly, either physically or emotionally, affected by this terrorist attack. However, it makes it even more real when my very close friends had family members, relatives, or friends in the twin towers as they came tumbling down. Many of whom they have not yet heard from. Everyone has been affected by this awful incident in some way, shape, or form. Twenty thousand people were in those buildings when they were struck. I can’t even begin to think about how many people died and how many lives will be forever changed by this event. TheUnited States, as we know it, will be changed forever.
It is still really hard for me to cope with this and to try to understand how something like this really did happen. I spent last night sleeping on the floor with my two other suitemates because we were scared to go to sleep. I was also scared to wake up this morning in fear of what could possibly happen today. The supportColumbiahas given, especially my very good friends, is unbelievable. No matter what happens in the coming days, I know they will be there for me and we will get through this, as friends and as a country …