ANDERSON — It was ISTEP time at Anderson High School and algebra teacher Lori Spencer was monitoring test takers when she learned the first plane had hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
She'd stepped into the hall to grab a test booklet for a late student when the hall monitor told her the news. At the time, she thought it was just an accident, perhaps a small plane off route.
"I never dreamt, never thought it'd be something so life changing," she said.
It wouldn't be until four hours later that Spencer would learn a second plane had hit the other World Trade Center tower, a third the Pentagon and a fourth crashing in a field in Pennsylvania during terrorist attacks on the United States.
Anderson High School's Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp. (NJROTC) held a Patriot Day Ceremony in front of the school, near the flagpole, on Wednesday morning to recount the events of that day and remember the fallen.
A timeline of plane hijackings and attacks were read, along with an address from former U.S. President George W. Bush that was given that day in 2001. At the end of the ceremony, with more than 100 students in attendance, taps was played, emergency sirens blared and the flag lowered to half staff.
Twelve years later, Spencer still wants to talk to her students about 9/11. But, even though it was "so life changing it really shook the foundation of my being," she said, she added it's sometimes hard to explain to kids who don't remember much about the day.
Despite a lack of understanding at the time, Anderson High School seniors Aubrey Campfield and Sage Baker said they know what 9/11 means today.
"We can't feel the emotions of that day, we're too young to remember and we can't truly understand the pain," Baker, a member of the NJROTC, said. "But we know what happened and what it stands for."
He said the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, is a day to remember the fallen and honor the work and sacrifices of both first responders that day and soldiers in the military who later fought overseas.
The good thing that came out of 9/11, he said, was that Americans "stood strong together."
Campfield recalled her kindergarten teacher turning on the news and later trying to explain it to them.
"I remember her crying, but I didn't understand what had happened," she said.
Now, she added, it's a sad day, but still one older generations are more affected by.
Even today, Kelly Johnson is affected by the events of that Tuesday in 2001. Johnson, who lost a close friend in the Pentagon, is the mom of an Anderson High NJROTC member.
"When I heard that a plane hit the Pentagon," she said, "something in my heart got heavy and I thought, 'she's already gone.'"
Her friend, Melissa Barnes, was a Navy yeoman.
Baker said the events of Sept. 11 are one of the reasons he himself wants to go into the military to "stand up and fight for our country's freedom."
Nearly 3,000 lives were lost on 9/11.
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See related story of the ceremony in New York on Page C2.