“Are you okay?”

This is mainly a repost of what I had last year. And the year before. But each year, some other little detail pops up that I remember, and another that I forgot. But each time I read this, one thing stays the same – all of the emotions come flooding back. If you’re reading this, please share your story. I’d love to hear where you were. 

On September 11, 2001, I was in eighth grade – a month shy of 14. I walked into my third period class – social studies, right after band – and couldn’t figure out what movie we were watching and why my teacher had started it before class. I remember thinking, for some reason, that it was Independence Day.

Moments before, the second plane had struck the South Tower.

I can’t remember when I figured it out – that it wasn’t a movie.  I don’t know if it was listening to Matt Lauer or if the teacher finally spoke up. I remember being so angry with many of my classmates who were excited to have the day off in class – didn’t they understand the magnitude? I remember my teacher losing it when the report about the Pentagon came out. She kept repeating that that was the most secure building in the country and it had been attacked. “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? After all, my hometown is lacking in skyscrapers. It was a thought that had never occurred to me.

And then the South Tower fell.

Some of my teachers tried to teach that day. Others just stared at the televisions in shock and horror. Some tried to explain what happened to us. But how could you, on that day? How do you tell a room full of eighth graders that someone hated us, as a country, and our way of life enough to use our planes to fly in to our buildings. I still can not make sense of it.

I can’t remember learning anything that day.

When I finally got off the bus, my dad was waiting – a rarity. And we camped out in front of the TV.

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

That weekend we went to my grandparents in Cleveland. I wish I could remember that drive across the Ohio Turnpike. Was it any different from the time before? That Saturday, I remember watching some tween-focused news program on ABC. It was Carson Daly and Peter Jennings. And I remember Carson Daly, the dude who I watched every weekday after school who normally informed me which boy band reigned supreme that week on TRL, instead telling me that there could be more attacks, and they could be nuclear attacks and…

That week, I had my first panic attack in over 3 years. They became more frequent and more powerful in the years following.

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 in the farm town in Northwest Ohio where I grew up. Suddenly, terrorists and nuclear and bioweapons entered my life. I got nervous, imagining all of the things that could happen next. I went from living in the relative safety of a small-town to wondering what was coming 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?

***

Eleven years down the road , 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. Lord knows I’m guilty.

And I’m the least political person and I don’t want to start, but we’re the exact opposite of bipartisan politics. And it’s never been worse that it is at election time. We have more hoops to jump through to get on a plane, or across a border. But I don’t feel any more safe. I find myself wondering today what comes next? When will it happen again? And this time, will people that I love be involved?

September eleventh is now a National Day of Service. It’s a way for us as a nation to take the darkest day in our history and use the feelings that the day brought, the feelings that brought this vast, diverse country together and made us kind to one another. Ask someone today if they’re okay. Pay for the coffee of the guy behind you in line. Ask your elderly neighbor if you can clean her gutters for her. Reach out to that charity that you’ve been meaning to and find out how you can volunteer. Call your family. Put a flag on your front porch. Stop fighting about what party is better and come up with real ideas for how to make this country better.

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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