Arterburn: Sept. 11, 2001 through the eyes of a Sidney, Neb. sixth-grader

Arterburn: Sept. 11, 2001 through the eyes of a Sidney, Neb. sixth-grader
The Associated Press

Sept. 11, 2001 – a date engraved in my memory.

I roll out of bed to the sound of my little black alarm clock with big red numbers reading 6:00.

I woke up early every morning before school to watch reruns of Sportscenter on ESPN until it was time to load up in my dad’s Ford F-150 pickup and go attend classes at West Elementary in Sidney, Neb.

Shortly after the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 6:46 a.m. Mountain Time, my mom ran from the other side of the house into the living room where I was catching up with the latest sports news from the day before. She told me to hurry and flip our box TV to a news station. She had just heard the news of the plane hitting the first tower on our local radio station, KSID, while getting ready to go to work.

I can’t remember what station we were watching or who was hosting the coverage, but we both watched the news unfold for several minutes, mom sitting on the armrest of one of the couches and me lying down on the other couch, half asleep. Both thinking it was just a tragic accident; mom went back to getting ready to go to work at the hospital while I continued watching.

As I was getting up to go shower and get dressed for the day, an interview caught my ear. The host was talking with an NYC official about the tragic events of the first plane crash. I decided to delay the start of my day preparations and sat down on the same armrest my mom was just on moments ago.

The conversation didn’t last long. As the host was asking a question, he was abruptly interrupted when his interviewee began to yell. I’ll never forget his frantic scream and panic: “OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. THERE’S ANOTHER PLANE! OH MY…”


I sat staring in shock as the second plane disappeared behind the south tower before seeing the explosion high above the NYC skyline.

Mom came rushing back out to the living room. She and I stood in silence, glaring as our nation was under attack.

School started that day, but didn’t last long. After the attack on the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania later in the morning, the focus of my classmates, teachers and school officials wasn’t on math, science or social studies. Classes for the remainder of the day were cancelled.

Usually when you are dismissed from school early you’re excited to go home, play video games, eat snacks and do anything that doesn’t have to do with school.

Not this day. I can’t really tell you what I was feeling. When you’re in sixth grade you don’t always have a full grasp of what your emotions are. I have flashes of anger, confusion and sadness.

I do remember trying to distract myself by gathering friends to play football in a nearby boulevard to help take our minds off the events.

After throwing a pick-six and unable to make the tackle, I paused for a moment to look up into the sky. There were no planes, no sounds of trains on the two tracks that went through town and hardly any travelers on Interstate 80 to our south.

A flash of sadness.

No matter what we did on Sept. 11, 2001 to try and take our minds off of the tragic events in the morning, we knew it would be a day we’d never forget.

– Hunter Arterburn

Follow Hunter on Twitter: @TheBurnRadio