Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day #8419 - A Decade Later

I'm hardly original in posting this today. On the anniversary of such a huge event in our nation's history, it does seem like the popular thing to do. But I'm not doing it because it's popular. I'm writing and reflecting on the events of September 11, 2001 because I genuinely feel that it's something I need to do, that it's the absolute least I can do.

For the past week, that day has been a hot topic of conversation at school among the teachers and staff. Where were you? What were you doing? How did you find out? Did you know anyone? Did you lose anyone? It was a day that I think anyone born in 1993 or earlier will always remember.

For me, it was my third or fourth week as an 8th grader at Margaret Mead Jr. High School. I even remember what I was wearing - blue jeans and a shirt from my aunt that she'd just given me for my 13th birthday a few weeks before and it was infinitely more stylish than my usual garb. The weather was gorgeous, and as 8th graders, we felt like we owned the school. Nothing could bring us down.

But of course, that wasn't true. I was at my locker between 2nd and 3rd period when I heard the news. A classmate of mind who was known for having a demented sense of humor and who's biggest goal in life was to be like on of The Soprano's was at his locker a few feet away from and announced that some plane had flown into the World Trade Center. He was laughing while he said it, being pretty theatrical and over the top, so no one really took him seriously.

Once my arms were full of my algebra binder and lunch box, I started to make my way towards the band room where my next hour class was. Instead, I was ushered into my math classroom next door along with many of my other classmates. A TV was set up and turned on and I was horrified to learn that the kid hadn't been joking.

For the next few hours, we sat and watched in a stunned silence. I remember it being very important to our teachers that we not tell the 7th graders what was going on since they were already getting used to a new school - surely this wouldn't make things easier. Eventually, it was decided that the 8th graders needed to get back to their schedules as well, or something close. I spent the rest of the day in my Language Arts teacher's classroom. Ms. Haas, in a day that felt like nothing in the world made sense anymore, asked each of us to do an incredibly sensible thing: write. She didn't tell us to because she thought we'd forget - I think she told us to to ensure that the future would remember.

Here's what I wrote, exactly as I wrote it (except I did correct my many spelling errors):

I am disturbed by today's events in Washington D.C. and New York. This is the first time the continental U.S. has been attacked. I don't see what terrorists think they're proving by flying planes in/through the World Trade Center Twin Towers. I'm scared out of my mind. Was it the people in the Middle East that we bombed a while ago? Was it Saddam Hussein? What possessed them to attack America? I have so many questions and no answers. If the terrorist's goal was to kill people, he did. There were people at the W.T.C. that were jumping out of windows close to the top of the buildings. CNN said that 50,000 people were in the WTC. 24,000 had to be evacuated from the Pentagon because a plane crashed into it. A Representative said that he believes we're at WAR. He said this is 21st century warfare. Up until today, no one from my generation has had to experience war. Who would hate America so much? I think this is the first time since the Oklahoma City Bombing that the school has put its flag at half mast. They are taking action all over the country. I think all government buildings have been shut down. They have even shut Chicago down! CHICAGO!!! The Daley Center downtown I think has been evacuated and closed. The government doesn't want any more people hurt. They even closed Woodfield as a precaution. They basically have closed every place where large groups of people could be. I don't feel safe anymore.

Obviously, that was a lot of fear talking, not to mention that I was only 13 years old and extremely naive about world affairs and what exactly was going on. We've all learned a lot since then, and I finally learned that not everyone in the world is particularly wild about America. I don't like to remember these aspects of 9/11, but I know it's important that I do.

What I choose to focus on is the hundreds and thousands of people around the country who banded together as a result of this. That we took care of each other. That so many people sacrificed themselves that day and have sacrificed themselves since to help and to try to restore that feeling of safety that was ripped from our fingers.

I hope that in the future, people continue to remember all these many aspects of 9/11, but especially its heroes and its victims. It breaks my heart that we don't do the same for Pearl Harbor Day, that every December 7th those men and women are forgotten. They don't deserve that, none of them do. So on this 10th anniversary, we must look back and look forward. It is our job to follow in the footsteps of the people who came before us and showed the absolute best of America in its darkest hour. Lives were lost and our world was changed, and we must remember that so many people became the best versions of themselves to help total strangers. I may not agree with everything in this country, but that is the America I am proud to be a part of.

May God bless us all, and may we never forget.