When this date comes around each year, I spend time reflecting on the events of that day from the 12-year-old perspective that is still trapped in my memory. I usually journal about it or post something online. I wasn’t planning on doing that this year but something changed. As I sat outside on my lunch hour this afternoon I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. I have reflected on this date every single year for the last 14 years and each year I feel the same. The pain. The confusion. The heartache. Nothing has changed with how this day makes me feel. Like any great writer, I felt the best way to handle how I feel today is to write it out. Let me take a moment…
I was 12 years old sitting in my homeroom class. I just started at a public school a few weeks ago so I was still new to the environment. I noticed one of the World Trade Center Towers was burning on the local news. Kids in my class wondered why the TV was on in the first place. Then we stood in silence as the second plane hit the other tower. To this day I can’t quite wrap my head around what I saw. I was 12. Even as a 26-year-old today I still don’t think I could do it. The rest of that day played out like a blurry nightmare-one haunting enough to keep you up nights after. I remember coming home and hearing my dad talk about the day. He was angry and upset. I had never seen him speak with such force. My heart was heavy. If my own father-part of the strong support system I had besides my mother-could feel this way how was anything okay? My mom was quiet. She coped with that day in a silent manner that spoke to me. She was brave. My brother was still too young to react. I felt lost. Everything in the small little world that I knew was forever changed on September 11th, 2001.
In 2005, my family went on vacation to New York City for Thanksgiving. We planned on visiting ground zero and the area surrounding. I knew the visit would be an emotional one but it really put a new perspective on the tragedy. The site was mainly a construction site. Fences had been put up around the footprints of the Twin Towers so visitors could observe. I had my camera with me and a roll of 35mm black and white film loaded in when we arrived. For as empty as the site looked the air felt heavy. It was quiet. No one spoke. We walked through the fencing to where the footprints of the towers were. Some tourists were filming but I felt like it wasn’t right. I stood in silence and kept to myself. Waves of emotion rippled through my body. I snapped two photos while we were there:
As the years have gone by I have handled this day in my own way. I would generally watch the memorial ceremonies, text my best guy friend who was with me in homeroom that fateful day and take a moment each time I had to right the date. This year was different. I woke up feeling good and got to work early. I grabbed a tea and got my to-do lists for the day ready to do when I noticed the date. I stopped. I still have not come to terms with what happened on September 11th, 2001. I don’t think I ever will. For now I will continue reflecting on how I felt that day and what it means to be an American.
To the men and women who lost their lives that day, to the family members who lost loved ones, to the countless hours rescuers put into search and rescue and to the soldiers who continue to fight for our freedom to this day-this one’s for you.