Ten Years On

The September 11th that needs no year. That’s how some refer to it. The lives of every American changed that day. This 16 year old from a small Massachusetts town was certainly forever changed.

I Remember Everything

I was in chemistry class sitting between three of my best friends. I was wearing jean shorts and a light purple tank top from the Weathervane.

“This is no accident,” said my teacher seconds after the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Everyone was turned around in their chairs, eyes glued to the television, sitting in awe-struck silence.

Courtesy of the New York Times: The Towers in Spring 2001

What does this mean? Who did this? Are there more coming? Why are they evacuating the Sears Tower in Chicago? Do they know something we don’t?

The list of questions was endless.

We spent the entire period watching the news. Class let out and we were told to proceed as normal with our day; but the students weren’t going to their next class. We were wandering around the halls in a daze. Shortly thereafter, we were told that the schools were closing. One of the pilots that left from Boston, John Ogonowski, was from Dracut. His children were in school. They needed to go home.

We all needed to go home.

Grounded

Shortly after I got off the bus, I went outside to feel the day around me; to stare at the crystal blue sky; to breathe the fresh air; to know what it sounded like without any planes in the air. An unsettling silence hung around me.

I soaked it in and remember thinking, I will never be the same. I didn’t know how this would re-define my world, but within a few hours, I knew it already had.

I couldn’t turn off the television. My mom was worried. “What would this make you think about the world,” was her concern, she later admitted.

Looking back I think my incessant news watching was my way of trying to understand what was happening in a world that all of a sudden appeared to be spinning out of control. Maybe this newscaster will help make sense of it all, I thought.

Yin and Yang

On this tenth anniversary of September 11th, we are asking ourselves how we’ve changed. Have we lost some of our solidarity? Have we forgotten what we learned?

What does it all mean 10 years later?

The answers to these questions are different for everyone. I remember how much more friendly people seemed after 9/11; and being from New England, that’s really saying something. We came together as a nation, constantly reminded of the impermanence of it all.

Today, we are drowning in a political climate that harps on the minuscule, criticizes what it doesn’t understand, and forgets its humanity.

I’m guilty of it, too.

We all forget the only fundamental truth that we can hold onto in moments like September 11th: we are all Americans. We are revolutionaries; we are leaders; we are lucky enough to be born in a country with fundamental freedoms that others cannot even fathom.

But we have turned our backs on what September 11th came to represent.

This date will always be a painful reminder of what hatred and fundamentalism can breed. But in the face of this hatred, Americans came together, supported one another, saved one another, and pledged to the flag with a brand new level of appreciation and understanding.

Watching the news this evening, the anchor asked a pedestrian in D.C. how he was going to commemorate the tenth anniversary. “Smile at people on the Metro. Be glad to be an American.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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