It was something about Leif Eriksson. I don't remember whether we were writing essays or taking an exam, but i remember that it was about Leif Eriksson.
Our schoolroom in the old house was in the basement. This must have been during the time that my dad was self-employed, because he was home during the middle of the day. He was in the living room, watching the news. He called us upstairs.
We all sat in the living room floor, eyes glued to the TV. I was eleven and my arms were wrapped around my knees as i silently prayed, "God, don't take my dad."
I knew this meant war. I knew enough about the draft to worry that my dad would be taken away to fight. I didn't know enough about the draft to know that my dad would probably never be accepted as a soldier (nearsighted, chronic foot cramps, high cholesterol, history of heart attacks, occasional migraines, bad back, depression, and overweight). I was scared for him.
I knew that i lived in a tiny little town in farm country. I also knew that my house was close enough to Aberdeen Proving Grounds that we could hear the testing on a clear day. I knew that we were not far from D.C. or the Pentagon, that the Annapolis Naval Academy and the Dover Air Force Base were also nearby. I became paranoid, seeing my house as the epicenter of military operations in the U.S. I distinctly remember glancing out of the windows and expecting to see armed jihadists in my front yard. In my wildest, most terrified dreams, my family was held captive in our basement while al-Queda set up headquarters in the rest of our house. I was enough of an optimist that it never crossed my mind how much simpler it would be for them to kill us outright.
All of this flashed through my brain in the first few minutes and hours of that day. At some point, i went back downstairs and finished my essay, because i was eleven and the war hadn't started yet, and if the jihadists were going to hold us prisoner in the basement i wanted to make sure i finished my schoolwork first. It's funny how you prioritize things even in the midst of the unthinkable.