That September Day

On September 11, 2001, I was in eighth grade; 13 years old. I remember walking into my social studies class, the third one of the day, and not being able to figure out what movie we were watching and why my teacher had started it before class. For some reason, I thought it was Independence Day.

The second plane had just struck the South Tower.

I can’t remember when I figured it out. I don’t know if it was listening to Matt Lauer or if the teacher spoke up. I remember being so angry with many of my classmates who were excited to have the day off. I remember my teacher losing it when the report about the Pentagon being attacked came out. She kept telling us that that was the most secure building in the country and it had been attacked. The feeling that I got from her in that moment is “where are they going next?” Which I think is something we all asked in those moments and days following. A rumor that quickly spread, and I thank God I didn’t know about at the time, was that the nuclear plant 60 miles away was a potential target for the one remaining plane in the sky, Flight 93.

I remember questioning how they were going to save all of those people above the crash zones. Were they going to use helicopters? And how do they get fires out that far above ground?

And then the South Tower fell.

And suddenly the question became how can anyone survive that collapse? And praying for the people in the North Tower to get out before it suffered the same, inevitable fate.

Some of my teachers tried to teach that day. Others just stared at the televisions in shock and horror.

I can’t remember learning anything that day.

When we got home, my dad met us at home. And we camped out in front of the TV. We watched MSNBC in those days, and I remember watching Ashleigh Banfield reporting from Ground Zero as WTC 7 collapsed.

I remember the sounds coming from Ground Zero. All of those beeps. To me, they sounded like English sirens. I was under the impression that they were from the crushed firetrucks and other emergency personnel vehicles. It wasn’t until the past month that I learned what they really were. Each siren represented a fallen first responder. And when I think about that now…

I remember being so angry that I couldn’t get away from it for a moment. I had become completely absorbed in the coverage all day and about dinner time, 13 year old me couldn’t take it any more. And yet every website, regardless of regular content, was full of news. Same with tv stations. Even Nickelodeon.

That week, I had my first panic attack in over 3 years.

I was so scared, not knowing what was next. I had felt safe my entire life, never having to worry about anything more than an occasional tornado warning. That was as bad as it got. Suddenly, terrorists and nuclear and bioweapons entered my life. I got nervous, imagining all of the things that could happen next.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I remember watching this episode. And not knowing how we were ever going to go back to before. When were we going to find things in the news to laugh about?

Ten years later, everything has changed and yet nothing has. We’re no longer living as we did on 9/12/2001. We’re not concerned with our neighbors and working together and being kind to each other. We’re back to 9/10/2001, where we care more about the marriage of celebrities than the well-being of neighbors. And I’m the least political person and I don’t want to start, but we’re the exact opposite of bipartisan politics. We have more hoops to jump through to get on a plane, or across a border.

But this weekend, on this anniversary, I feel like we may not be that far from the goodness of those days afterwards. September 11 is now a day of service across the country. Later this morning, my church is having a service that includes an extra-dose of fellowship in the way that Lutherans do it best- a potluck. We’re taking a moment to remember that day; the darkest day that I’ve lived through and turning it into a day in which we care about our fellow human beings.

None of us that lived that day will ever forget. Those of us that were far enough removed from that day have moved on. We don’t think about it every day. And that’s okay. We’re supposed to do that. But we can’t forget it. I don’t think I can. I don’t think anyone who lived through that September day could. And that’s the point. We aren’t meant to forget these things. We’re meant to remember, reflect and learn.

Today, take a moment to remember. Remember the people, the 2,958 who died and the 6,000+ who were injured and their families. Remember the brave men and women who went into the buildings when so many were coming out. Remember that day.

It is impossible to fully comprehend the evil that would have conjured up such a cowardly and depraved assault upon thousands of innocent people. – Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Sept. 11 2001

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