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The Day of the Jolly Rancher



Rummaging through my drawers, I sigh to myself. How boring it is to pack up for college! I think this is all I need . . . but that's a sure sign that its not. Oh, well, I think, folding up my faded Georgia Tech sweatshirt and laying it in my bag. Tossing some cloth scrunchies in, my eyes fall on a single piece of red, white and blue ribbon, clipped neatly together with a safety pin in the bottom of the drawer.

My bare room and bags begin to fade. With a yawn and stretch, I try to blink back sleep. Darkness slips in front of me as my eyelids droop low with exhaustion.

Sliding my fingers up and down the silky fabric, I fall into a deep sleep and my mind drifts off to the day that caused me to buy this ribbon . . .

"Oh, Amber! Have you heard?!?" A sixth grader dashed up to her friend. They began conversing in solemn tones, rushing up to new people and telling them "the news." Sixth graders, I sighed. They take gossip so seriously! Not to mention its never anything interesting. 

Pushing them out of my mind, I struck up conversation.

"I think the yearbook this year should be blue," I commented, sucking on the skeletal remains of a Jolly Rancher.

"Yeah . . . with a silver ram on the front," Jaimie McGowan replied. We were walking to class from the before-school activity of yearbook staff. 

Stepping into Mr. Chatham's homeroom, I felt the rest of my candy melt away. I put my backpack down and popped in another.

Oooh! I winced. Id forgotten my Language Arts homework. Not only that, Id forgotten to write it down! Well, it couldn't be that much. Ill just go see, I thought.

Casually waving at Jaimie, I strolled across the hall into Mrs. Bowden's room, finding Mrs. Bowden herself standing open mouthed in front of the TV.

"What's wrong?" I asked, cautiously approaching her. She didn't answer. I repeated myself several more times before thinking to look at the television myself.

"What?!" I shrieked, literally jumping backwards a foot.

"I know, I know," Mrs. Bowden murmured, sinking into a nearby chair.

Gulping, I took another good look at the TV screen. A gaping hole was in the side of one of New York's legendary twin towers, revealing the fiery inferno inside. A plane had crashed into that beautiful building. But then I realized what it had to be.

"Stephen Spielburg sure is good, isn't he?" I said cheerfully. No one answered. 

Just then Nicole had walked in. 

"Lindsey!" she hissed, setting her bookbag down. "Its not fake!"

Moisture gathered in my eyes but I quickly rubbed it away. This couldn't be real. Yeah right, Nicole, I wanted to say. But a little voice in the back of my brain wouldn't let me say that. 

You know its real! the voice cackled. That building's going up in flames and you know it!

But I refused to believe. A teensy, tiny, part of me really did, but that was the same part of me that wanted to crawl back to bed.

I turned my eyes back to the television. And gasped. 

A tiny, plane-shaped dot zoomed onto the screen and smashed into the second tower.

"No!" I choked, the Jolly Rancher turning even sourer in my mouth. This wasn't a movie! It was time to take some action.

Vigorously rubbing my eyes, I skidded into the hall where Mr. Chatham and Ms. Klasnick were talking.

"So anyway, the average..."

"ARE YOU WATCHING THIS?" I interrupted Mr. Chatham. My voice squeaked and pointed a shaking finger at Mrs. Bowden's classroom. 

That's when Ms. Klasnick gave me the look. The very one I'd seen so many times in class that very plainly said, "What do you think you're talking about?"

"ARE YOU WATCHING THIS?!?!?" I repeated, my voice higher still. Delirious, I scolded myself. You probably sound delirious. 

"What?" Ms. Klasnick finally said, eager to get rid of me. 


The whole hallway froze.

Pandemonium struck. 

Mr. Chatham and Ms. Klasnick sprinted past me into Mrs. Bowden's class. Bookbags were dropped, projects thrown aside, and lunchboxes were flung. Every student mingling in the hall then rushed past me. Leaving me alone; alone under the cruel, bright fluorescent lights.

I need to work out my thoughts! simpered a little voice in my head. I can't believe this is happening! What have these terrorists done? This was no accident.

Am I safe here at school? How could this happen? How could something like this happen in AMERICA? I thought that we were invincible . . . strong . . .

What has happened? I don't believe it. This has to be a prank. Yet, how can it be? That's impossible. Its CNN, hellooooo! But what else . . . ? My mind was in a panic, thoughts rushing through my head faster than I could come up with answers.

Head hung low, I walked glumly into my homeroom. I passed Jaimie in the doorway.

"Lindsey, what's going on?" she demanded. But I could not answer. 

Communication? What was that? I couldn't handle it right now. Maybe not ever.

However, the bell rang, as usual, and Mr. Campbell came on the announcements. 

With heavy hearts, we shifted to first period; language arts in my case. 

"That was awesome!" I heard someone say, sounding like a toddler that had just been given the exact toy he wanted. I heard this and whirled around, about to say something, when Mrs. Bowden approached the Guilty One. 

She said his name so quietly and so icily that the whole class stopped what they were doing at that moment and froze.

"Bobby Joe."

He was dead meat.

"DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?" she boomed. He gave her a sarcastic smile and nod , looking at the rest of the class for approval and encouragement. Cold, expressionless stares met him instead.

"People are dying, Bobby. As we speak." She paused to let her words sink into our eighth grade brains. Then, with a shake of her head, she flicked the volume back up on the TV.

" . . . Sears tower evacuated, due to fear of attack . . . All flights currently in the air have clearance to land in Canada . . . Wait! Special report! Just in! An aircraft has just crashed into the Pentagon . . . Army wing. Details soon. Stay tuned for your dependable coverage. We'll be back after a few short messages."

Sucking furiously on my Jolly Rancher I peeled my eyes away from the Wonderbread commercial. This was too much. Just too much. All of those people died.  Right then, right there. Will America ever piece itself back together again? There will never be an end to the work . . . cleaning up the rubble, caring for the injured, finding the bodies . . . And to think I was worried about not doing my homework. Pathetic. Just pathetic. Clearing my head with a little shake, I gulped and took a swig of my water.

"Oh, no . . ." Mrs. Bowden murmured, hurt spreading over her face.

I snapped to attention. 

"Yes, tower #2 has collapsed, oh, God, there goes the other one . . ." Even Barbara Walters was unable to believe her eyes.

Towers 1 and 2 were gone. Crumbled. Just like that. 

I watched in horror as people on the streets fled for their lives; running to crouch behind cars, benches, trees . . .

People jumped to their death from the top floors, filling Manhattan with bloodcurdling shrieks of agony. They'd rather do it themselves than go down with the towers.

I wanted to scream along with them. How could this happen?

The ashes slipped silently through the air, softly dusting everything within hundreds pf yards. Then, finally, there was silence. Only this silence was terrible. The most terrible, loud silence you can imagine.

For there was an odd roaring sound in my ears, like things rushing past; times changing. 

And as the last of the ashes drifted down onto the streets like dirty snow, my Jolly Rancher did the same thing: it melted away. 

So did my hope.

These buildings represent or did American strength. American accomplishment. And now they are gone.

And as I watched, not really listening, the reporters lips formed into a name. Bin Laden. At that moment, I hated him. More than anyone Id ever hated before. In fact, I realized, compared to this, all I'd really ever done was strongly dislike someone. 

This was nothing compared to the Oklahoma City bombing. This was nothing compared to Pearl Harbor. This was something completely new to me and most of the United States population.

This was terrorism.

"Lindsey . . . Lindsey . . . Time to take your stuff to the university, angel. All set?"

I'm still in a daze. Struggling to open my eyes again, I wonder, Did I fall asleep? I must have. Then what did I dream about? And looking down at the red, white, and blue ribbon clutched tightly in my hand, I know.

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