OKLAHOMA CITY – The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, began just like any other day at Walker Mill Middle School in Capitol Heights, Md., for seventh-grader Kevin Durant(notes). That is, until he and the other students heard a loud explosion in the distance from their classroom.
Within hours, Durant would learn that American Airlines Flight 77 – hijacked by terrorists as part of a plot by Osama bin Laden – had crashed into the Pentagon some 12 miles away from his middle school. Nearly 200 people were killed in the attack.
"I heard a big boom and I saw some smoke, and I was like, 'What?' " Durant told Yahoo! Sports on Monday. "They let us out of school early and they said the Pentagon got hit. My mom said [on the phone] she could see the smoke from her job, so I was worried about her. My grandma came and picked me up and we heard planes flying over. Everyone was scared. It was like something out of a movie.
"It was tough for our neighborhood for something to hit so close. Something so important got destroyed and so many people died from it. It was crazy."
Durant was reminded about the day after learning on Twitter late Sunday that American forces had found and killed bin Laden. The Oklahoma City Thunder star had yet to turn 13 on the day of the 9/11 attacks and didn't understand the true significance of them until he grew older when he wondered why "someone would do something so cruel like that."
"It affected us a little bit by us being so cautious about everything," Durant said. "I was paranoid about stuff. The first time I got on a plane was a year after that. I was scared. It was me and my mom together and we were both scared. It was tough.
"But it brought us together as a country. We got to continue to lean on each other."
While people in Durant's hometown of Washington celebrated bin Laden's death in front of the White House early Monday, Durant didn't feel the same need to celebrate.
"I'm not big on rejoicing because we killed the enemy," Durant said. "Jesus wouldn't do that. …It's big for our country. It's someone they were looking for a long time. But I'm not into rejoicing over a killed enemy."
- Osama bin Laden