The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

September 9, 2013

BALABAN: Recalling a day the world changed.

Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — This week people across the country will go about their business.

It will be life as normal for the vast majority of us.

Just like it was 12 years ago this Wednesday.

Every generation has a day that we all remember. For me, and the people of my generation, it’s September 11, 2001.

My parents’ generation had the JFK assassination, and their parents — the Greatest Generation — had Pearl Harbor. 

It was a day that started out as any other day.

I was a senior in college, and it was a day with no classes on my schedule. Normally, my non-class days included working on campus at the fundraising call center (yes, I was one of those people) or working off-campus with the local AHL hockey team.

It was a few minutes after 8 a.m., and my phone rang. My supervisor from the on-campus job was on the other line, wanting to know if I planned on coming to work, since it was a come whenever you want type of job. Then she told me not to bother because something was going on in New York City. A plane had struck one of the Twin Towers.

We exchanged good-byes and hung up. I watched the news coverage intently, and even turned on the radio for extra coverage. 

Every station — classic rock, country, jazz, alternative, etc. — had some sort of live feed of news coverage.

As the morning progressed, some of my residents started streaming back on to the floor, each of them mentioning how their morning class was cancelled mid-class.

The lounge TV was on we were all glued to it, watching our lives change in some way.

As the towers collapsed, we all had a feeling of dread.

Many of us knew people or knew people who knew people who worked in that area. For example, one classmate I knew had an uncle on one of the four hijacked planes that day. I personally have a cousin who worked just a couple buildings away. He saw the second plane hit.

But I found out those things later.

At one point on that day, a group of my residents and I decided to walk downtown to the Red Cross to donate blood. We didn’t know what else to do.

About half a dozen of us left ... and we met up with about a dozen or more students on the way there who had the same idea.

One girl was a wreck, constantly checking her cell phone because her dad actually worked in one of the towers and she had not heard from her parents yet.

We made it to the Red Cross, and the line was severely long. Like, two days long. Everybody had the same idea, evidently.

Then, the group of almost 20 of us decided to turn around. And on the way back, the nervous girl’s cell phone rang.

She nearly collapsed — in relief — after hearing from her mom that her dad had run late that morning and was home safe and sound.

Later that evening, I got in touch with my grandmother, who told me my cousin was home, too. His cell phone didn’t work, and he wound up meeting up with some friends and walking several miles out of the city before hitching a ride with one of their relatives. I eventually spoke to him and his parents later.

All of us didn’t expect anything crazy to happen that day. It was supposed to be just like any other run-of-the-mill day.

It wasn’t. And the world changed.

This Wednesday is the 12th anniversary of that change.

It will be a day like any other day ... but with just slightly more meaning.

Let’s not forget that.

Howard Balaban is originally from the downstate area and still has family in that neck of the woods. He can be reached at

Howard Balaban is originally from the downstate area and still has family in that neck of the woods. He can be reached at