Never Forget 13 Years Ago – Never Forget 9/11
Going into my first day at Bayonne High School, I was already a couple days behind the rest of my fellow classmates. My transcripts never arrived from my previous school (Walter L. Sickles HS in Tampa, FL) and I was just left to hang out for those few days. I didn’t mind because I was still pretty nervous about starting over again. Because of my mother always had an amazing job opportunity, this was my third high school in four years; settling down and making ourselves comfortable in one place was a foreign language.
I had the option to go to Maryland with her, or come back to Bayonne, NJ where my father, brother and some early childhood friends still remained. The first 10 years of my life were spent in Bayonne. To me, it was the greatest thing in the world because I was able to play every sport imaginable and everything I needed was in a close proximity. Having the New York skyline right across the river was pretty sweet too. I was a huge fan of all the NYC monuments, mainly the Statue of Liberty (eventhough it’s really in Jersey).
When I had to leave Jersey for Virginia I was devastated. I mean really, what the hell is in Virginia? I was even more distraught when I finally arrived there. When I lived in Jersey, across the street was a deli with all the candy, quarter waters and buttered rolls a kid could ever imagine. In Virginia we lived across the street from the most deserted piece of land I had ever seen in my entire life; I dubbed it the Grand Canyon of Grass. After two years across from the GCoG we moved to another town in Virginia, Fairfax which isn’t too far from all the historic monuments in Washington, D.C. I wasn’t too fond of living there because every class trip in school was there, and then every time a relative would come to visit it was yet another field trip to the big city. As a 13-year old kid, you’ll never appreciate things like you do when you’re 30.
Three years later we moved to Tampa. I really loved my time there and deep down I didn’t want to leave. I was finally making a lot of friends and when friends and family visited the sights they wanted to see were beaches and golf courses. I was a real smartass growing up (OK, nowadays too) and would always tell my mom that 95% of kids live in one town their whole life. She would tell me, “Well, at least you won’t be like everyone else.” Not the advice I wanted to hear all those times we were packing up the U-Haul truck, but now that I was heading back to Jersey I felt like I had enough experiences to deal with anything that came my way.
My first day at Bayonne High School was Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. What I was about to encounter was something that no one could possibly have advice for. I’m late for everything so of course my first day at this new school would be no different. I arrived sometime after homeroom started at 8:45am. Some of the guys from the hockey team were in that homeroom so it wasn’t too awkward. Of course, my homeroom teacher, Mr. Carroll, did the unsettling, “Everyone say hi to our new student, Alan Walsh,” introduction. I was used to that whole routine- duck the head, waive, smile, find a seat, and sit down.
After homeroom I had Mr. McKenna’s U.S. History class, how ironic. He’s a big burly guy with a raspy voice. Luckily an old friend of mine, Mike, was in this class so I grabbed a seat next to him. Same thing again, welcome our new student, Alan Walsh. Mr. McKenna says, “Whose class you coming over from, kid?” I replied, “I’m actually here from another school. I moved here from Florida.” When I said this, everyone (I mean everyone) went dead silent and started examining me like I was some sort of extraterrestrial life form. “You moved here from Florida?” said a chuckling Mr. McKenna. “Well that was pretty dumb.” Well now, if I have to deal with this for another 45 minutes…yes, pretty dumn. He went on and on with a couple more zingers about there being no palm trees around here and then all of a sudden he was called into the hallway by a fellow teacher.
“Two planes just hit the World Trade Center, two planes just hit the World Trade Center,” he frantically screams as he comes back into the room. Of course at that time no one knew the magnitude of what was actually happening so it was more of a, “Wow, that’s crazy” kind of reaction. The principal came on the intercom and explained what happened. If anyone had parents that worked at the WTC they were allowed to go make their phone calls and see if everyone was alright.
My first two classes didn’t have access to a TV. Instead we all just sat there and talked about possible scenarios of what was happening but to hear that terrorism was now involved was kind of scary. A lot of different things played through my head and if we were all under attack, what were we going to do? Going to school that day, I was just worried about not making an ass out of myself. Sitting there, thinking about getting attacked by terrorists was certainly not on anyone’s mind.
Finally, after those first two classes I was in a room that had access to a TV. This was my first time seeing everything unfolding and it was like a scene out of Independence Day. To see the huge clouds of smoke and the two towers falling put everything in perspective, and everyone in that class just sat there and watched in shock and awe. A few periods later, I had lunch and the senior’s cafeteria in BHS is located at the very top of the school, visible enough to see the smoke from the towers pouring out into the open sky. It was all too real, and we were right across the Hudson River from Manhattan where these events were taking place. After school I piled about 10 people into my truck and the rest of the school went down to the famous Global spot where we frequently partied in those days. There we were, with a straight shot looking right at Ground Zero. The smoke was still flowing, coming right at us and going past our traumatized bodies and minds.
Three nights later in Bayonne, NJ one of the greatest displays of patriotism was shown. Up and down Broadway that evening you saw cars blasting American classics like “I Am a Real American” and “Born in the USA.” People hung out of car windows and the beds of pickup trucks waving American flags. It’s unfortunate that 9/11 brought this amazing patriotic spirit out in everyone, but it happened. In that 2001-02 season on the BHS hockey team, home or away, I would salute my helmet to the flag in the rafters after the National Anthem was done playing. It’s all I really could do- pay respect and honor those that lost their lives on that horrific Tuesday morning.
No matter where you were, or what you were doing, you’ll never forget. As difficult as it may be, you can never forget. 9/11/2001 – Never Forget.
Alan Walsh | News Cult