September 11, 2019
To say things changed in our country on September 11, 2001 is an understatement. That day touched the lives of all of us, especially those of us who were old enough remember where we were and what were doing.
I was in the fourth grade when 9-11 happened. It was a school day. We were only in the first few days of the new school year, so we were still adjusting to life with a new teacher, new subjects to study, a new classroom, a new locker, new classmates etc..
I don’t remember the exact subject matter we were supposed be discussing in class that morning. What I do recall is that at some point in the middle of the morning, our teacher, Mr. Keller, informed us that planes had crashed into the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York City.
We were stunned. No one seemed to know what was going on in those first few hours. It wasn’t clear in real time whether it was an accident, or if something more nefarious was going on. The uncertainty made us uneasy, even though most of us didn’t feel like were in any real danger.
We tried to go about our school day like everything was normal, but it wasn’t. It was hard to focus on anything other than what was going on thousands of miles away in Manhattan.
Later in the day, it might have been around our lunch break, I recall some of my friends and I going over to the section of the school where the administrative staff worked. It was by the gym where we ate lunch, and there were TV’s there. We wanted to see what was going on.
We saw the images of the towers on fire, then collapsing into a pile of ash. It wasn’t a live image, but it didn’t make it any less traumatic to witness knowing that people we’re losing their lives.
For the remainder of that school day, I remember us trying to check the TV as often as we could. Those images, from New York City, to the Pentagon, to the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, were burned into our minds.
When I got home, I recall sitting down and watching the news for hours on end as we were trying to piece together what had just gone on. By the end of the day, it was beginning to become clear that we had been attacked.
Though it was 18 years ago today, I remember feeling fear. I was afraid to go back to school in those initial days after because I thought our school might be attacked in a similar manner. We didn’t know whether we were safe. We didn’t know if or when things would go back to feeling normal.
In many ways, they never did. 9-11 brought us jarringly into the real world.
So much of what’s happened in our country since that horrible day has roots tracing back to the events that transpired that day as well. I remember President George W. Bush’s speech to us and the invasion of Afghanistan later that year.
The following year, I remember us reading Time Magazine for Kids in our fifth grade class which had constant stories about Iraq and the potential security they posed. It was obvious that we were heading down path towards war. Our media had bought what the Bush Administration had sold them. That would have disastrous consequences that we’re still dealing with to this day.
Our lives were forever changed.
Today, my thoughts are with all of those who lost their lives on that fateful day. It’s with those who made incredible sacrifices to save people at ground zero and the Pentagon. It’s with those who answered the call of duty and served our country.
I’ll leave you with this quote from a speech President Barack Obama gave on the 15th anniversary of 9-11. It’s a word of caution and inspiration that all of us should take to heart today: ” But in the end, the most enduring memorial to those we lost is ensuring the America that we continue to be—that we stay true to ourselves, that we stay true to what’s best in us, that we do not let others divide us.”