Sunday, September 11, 2011


It's arguably the most mundane day of the week. It started that way, 10 years ago.

English class was drawing to a close. I think we'd gotten our progress reports (sort of a halfway point between report cards) and we were waiting for class to end. I remember looking at the clock at 8:45. For a moment, I felt a chill. It happens sometimes still, and I thought nothing of it then. The bell rang. On to Algebra. I was failing that class.

A guy in my grade mentioned that something had happened. I heard him say "World Trade Center", but the teacher I guess didn't know anything about it. We had class and got those stupid little reports at the end. Mine, miraculously, gave me a passing grade of 83.

I went to P.E. class, but that day my teacher had opted not to have us dress out. The girls in my small high school class spent our time in the art room, and the teacher told us of what had happened. She said something about Israel attacking us. I didn't know much about the world, but that just didn't seem right to me. This wasn't a military attack. This was something else.

It wasn't until 6th period that I fully knew what had happened. We'd been told stuff, but our American Government teacher was an older man who thought to grab a TV and turn on the news.

And over and over again, they showed the plane ramming into the second tower. They showed the devastated buildings, and the ash, and the Pentagon spewing smoke into the air.

September 11, 2001 unfolded before my eyes.

I knew that we were part of history. I never knew that life could not be the same again. I remember as a child being allowed to walk into the airport, be let past security and watch planes take off, because it was cool. I remember not being afraid.

We'd made it through the 20th century, through four wars and a few conflicts, not to mention the Cold War. Not once had one of those air-raid sirens gone off for any reason involving an actual air attack. We'd celebrated the new millenium. All was hopeful, and it was a beautiful day.

A few years later, in 2008, while working in a K-4 classroom, the jarring thought came to me that those kids, all born around 2004, will never know a world before September 11, 2001.

Ten years later, I am 24 and the world seems a much darker place. It's not simple and easy anymore. I came of age while a nation slowly healed from the rawness of it all. War became a reality of life, another thing that was always just happening. We talked about a possible draft when we were 17 and 18, hoping, as the guys filled out stuff for the Selective Service, that it wouldn't be something to worry about again. We wondered what if women were drafted, too. Osama bin Laden is dead, and from that I know that time is now divided. Before the attacks...and after.

So many people were lost. So many kids have grown up missing a parent. Lives were destroyed.

I don't know what we can learn from September 11. I don't have the answers. The attacks have in them no hope and no light, only darkness and chaos and fear and death. If there is anything on that day that we can look to for some courage, some fortification, it is the willingness of innocent people to just keep going, even when it meant that they had to sacrifice everything for the chance that someone else might escape.

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

To all the firefighters, police officers, military personnel, and civilians who perished on September 11, 2001, may you all rest in peace.

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