It Was 20 Years Ago Today

I felt lucky to be there.

Even though I've never been a morning person, I felt how lucky I was, how chosen, to be given such an opportunity.

I was a graduate student in the Molecular Biology department of Princeton University, and this was the year I would get to teach in the BIG auditorium. Biochemistry, a pre-med course. This was serious business. Hundreds of undergrads.

It was hours before I normally came into work in my lab. The term was about to start, and I was going to be trained how to use the sophisticated multimedia system in the largest lecture hall. Multiple screens, multiple projectors, lights, even a satellite feed.

I paid attention, I took notes. I quickly caught on to how to operate every switch, every lever, running the whole auditorium from the front podium like a conductor.

The fellow from IT took the remote and pressed a few buttons. "You probably won't be watching much TV in your class, but just in case, this is how you..."

He stopped mid-sentence.

On the giant screen at the front of the lecture hall, the tower was burning.

"Is this real?" someone said.

We watched the second plane crash.

I don't remember how I got home, although I remember the sky was full of little planes, coming in to land at the nearby airfield.

I tried calling home on my new cell phone. The wires were crossed, no calls could get through.

Michael was supposed to go to a work meeting at the World Trade Center the next day.

Two days later, I learned that a beautiful golden boy I grew up with lost his life in the Towers.

A girl my husband knew—someone else who had made it out of their tiny town—was a flight attendant on one of the planes.

Everyone I knew lost someone.

Funerals for weeks.

Empty caskets.