10 years ago today family, friends, and individuals will remember in their own ways the tragic events that knocked our country to its core. Whether you were on the front lines after the towers fell, or merely a spectator glued to your television set, 9/11 affected every single one of us.
And with news programs across the web, tube, and radio reminding us of the tragic events, it really does seem like yesterday.
I was 13 years old when the towers fell. It was a bright blue morning, now known as September 11th blue, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. On the football field, the grass still holding on to the morning dew, I was talking with my friends. Suddenly, a girl we weren’t particularly friends with came running over to us. She asked if we had heard. She asked if we knew that the Twin Towers had been hit. “What?” my friends and I responded. After all, we didn’t know what the Twin Towers were. The girl’s mother worked for the FBI. We dismissed her, she rolled her eyes, and she ran to another group, chatting just like us, on the middle school football field.
PE ended, and as my classmates headed back to the narrow hallway that our middle school was housed in, we noticed the eerie silence. English was my next class, along with twenty other students, and we giggled as we discovered that our teacher’s door was locked. Weird, we all acknowledged. The small window blinds were pulled down too. We goofed around, banging on the door, wondering what our English teacher was up to behind the closed door, but then we heard a click and she slowly opened the wooden door, tears streaming down her face, a white Kleenex clutched tightly in her hand. She looked at all of us, I wonder now what she was thinking, but then stepped aside to let us in. The TV was on, the TV we used only to hear the morning announcements, and for a brief second we all caught the news coverage that was streaming live. Our teacher promptly shut off the television, took a moment to compose herself, and began the day’s lesson. No mention of the attacks in New York City; no mentions for the rest of the day in fact.
The final school bell rang, and my five year old brother was already in my mom’s car when she uncharacteristically picked me up in the carpool line instead of two hours later while I did homework in an afterschool study hall. “They wouldn’t let us pick you up from school,” she said, turning up NPR. I looked at her in incomprehension. “I called the school, to see if they were letting you all out early, and they said no, that they were going to proceed as if nothing had happened.”
“What happened?” I asked.
My mother sighed, as if trying to frame the perfect message to my young ears, as if she were trying to tell me that someone close to us had died.
“The World Trade Center was hit today. The towers have fallen.”
Towers? World Trade Center? “What?” I said again. “The Twin Towers?” My mom came to a stoplight and tried searching my face for what I was feeling. I still had no idea the significance of her words. “Mom, what are the Twin Towers?”
“They didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“They told the kindergarten.” My mom said. We both looked at my brother who was staring out the window. “Unbelievable,” she said under her breath. We didn’t speak anymore for the rest of the ride home.
We entered the apartment and the TV was turned on. I sat transfixed watching the coverage, watching as thick grey dust filled the perfect blue sky. I read the captions, listened to the voiceovers, and tried to understand what I was watching. I understood something horrible had happened in New York City, but I still didn’t understand what the big deal was. After all, horrible things happened every day. I checked off my mental list: Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City bombing, the sniper down at UT. How was this any different?
The TV was shut off and I was told to do homework. I protested, but I knew this was an argument I wouldn’t win.
June of 2010, my friend and I visited New York City as a celebration of our graduation from college. We hit the usual NYC hot spots and decided to go to the 9/11 museum. At the end of our walk, we were speechless, and although we didn’t talk about the experience, I knew a new level of understanding had hit both of us.
And now, 10 years to the date, with the same blue sky greeting me this morning, I can’t help but feel that sense of loss that so many others felt that day. I find it odd, really, that something “like this” happened…but it did.
I would never call myself the patriotic type, but at least for a moment on this day, let us remember the lives lost and the tragic events that happened on 9.11.2001. May we never forget the sacrifices the first responders gave for our country or the children that would never know their fathers and mothers. Let us never forget what happened on American soil, and let us hope that we may learn from these events and build a stronger America.