FILE - A helicopter flies over the Pentagon in Washington as smoke billows over the building on Sept. 11, 2001, after a hijacked airliner crashed into the west side of the building, killing 184 people. (AP Photo/Heesoon Yim, File)

At 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west-side of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. 

The plane was hijacked somewhere above southern Ohio, near Pike County. Less than hour after the terrorists took over the aircraft, 164 lives were lost in the attack. 

Seventy miles east, I sat in Mr. Sherman’s fourth-grade classroom, blissfully unaware of the carnage and mayhem going on a few counties over. 

Inwood, West Virginia, was still small-town in those days — the elementary schools had brimmed to capacity only a couple years prior, leading to the fourth and fifth grades to be taught in intermediate schools, a step between elementary and middle school. 

It was probably around 10 a.m. that day, kids started getting called to the office. One by one they went — until it was just me and one or two other kids. At the end of the day, my father picked me up from school in his red 1989 Ford Bronco II, still stale with the cigarettes pneumonia forced him to give up the spring prior. 

“Some people ran some airplanes into some buildings today,” my dad said. 

Being a child of the N64, I immediately thought of convoluted spy plot, wherein some agents had stolen some American fighter jets and done the attack. Think some type of sick, terroristic mission from Golden Eye. 

My father told me no, they used passenger planes. And I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I thought about the people on those planes — I’d never been on a plane, nor have I to this day — helpless and fearful as it ran into the side of those buildings. 

When we got home, my father turned on the tube and showed me the images — the rubble of the Twin Towers, the smoke from the Pentagon, the crater Flight 93 left in Pennsylvania. For a 9-year-old boy, it felt unreal, though not wholly unusual — I remembered my Uncle Keith watching the news when they stuck a needle in McVeigh’s arm and seeing the carnage left from the Oklahoma City bombing. 

The next day at school, the kids were either fearful or angry — I was a part of the angry crowd. I wanted whoever who had down this brought down — and when that day came in 2011, my college buddies and I paused our finals studies and went to downtown Huntington and got good and drunk in the bars that looked the other way on underage. 

Being a student of history, I always found it interesting that in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall, numerous commentators called it “The End of History.” Democracy, Capitalism and God had smashed the Communists with Levi jeans, Marlboro cigarettes and a some horrendous bloodlettings in third-world countries. 

On Sept. 11, 2001, history resumed its march. 

The one thing that sticks out to me that day is the sky — it was one of the bluest skies I have ever seen. Not a cloud out there — no wispy stratus clouds at the edge of the atmosphere, nothing like that. The sunset that day in Inwood, West Virginia, was gold and orange — it shone ver Buck Hill into our living room window as President Bush announced we’d be dropping bombs on some guy named bin Laden over in some place called Afghanistan. 

In short order, just about every car in Berkeley County, West Virginia, had an American flag fluttering on its antenna (they had them sticking out of the hood in those days) or a yellow ribbon magnet on the trunk. 

I lived nine years of the End of History — and it all came to a crashing halt on that blue-sky day. When I got to college, years after history had resumed and some of the other kids I knew were grown up and dodging bullets in Afghanistan and Iraq, I was assigned a reading in a magazine writing class. 

Called “The Encyclopedia of 9/11,” it was written for New York magazine on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. 

One of the entries was “Blue” — “The morning of September 11 was, as many would observe, strikingly clear, the sky so blue it made the subsequent events that much more jarring.” 

I knew I wasn’t the only one to notice it. In ninth grade, my history teacher, Candy Gochenour, said she always wanted thunderstorms on 9/11, because she was afraid a blue sky meant it would happen again. 

For my life, 9/11 is the starting point I can trace my development as a journalist, too. The very next morning, instead of tuning into Cartoon Network, I turned on the morning news. 

I’d been caught off-guard by the attacks — maybe if I watched the news, I’d know about it ahead of time, at least that was my 9-year-old thinking. 

9/11 is a day I’ll never forget, just like I’ll never forget those weeks in October the following year when those two madmen were shooting people all over the D.C. metro area. I’ll never forget those anthrax letters floating around the post offices back then. I’ll never forget when we went to Iraq. I’ll never forget when we shot bin Laden in the face. I’ll never forget when we hung Saddam. I’ll never forget when ISIS came roaring across the Cradle of Civilization. 

And I’ll never forget that bright blue sky. 

Reach HENRY CULVYHOUSE at (606) 326-2653 or henry@dailyindependent.com.

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