A lot of people seem to be writing reflective things about what they were doing on 9/11/2001 and it got me to thinking -
I was in 5th grade in Science class. After I found out what had happened I had written that down and ingrained it into my memory so I would never forget.
I remember Mrs. Mitchell being called out into the hallway, with the other 5th grade teachers not far behind. She was gone for a few minutes as my class loudly babbled away, taking advantage of the down time with no teacher in the room.
Mrs. Mitchell came back with a serious look on face as she called attention to the class:
“There’s been an explosion in New York City - but everything’s alright.”
I remember the class gasping before we all started whispering to each other. Clearly, she tacked on the ending of that sentence to not throw us into a panic. How else do you break the news to a bunch of 10 year olds? But as young as we were, we knew it had been a deliberate attack. We knew it wasn’t an accident. The correlation between the date 9/11 and the emergency number of 911 was too great. I remember carrying out the rest of the day worried and confused, not quite understanding what was going on less than 20 miles away from us.
There was a buzz in the air, as I’m sure everyone in the building resonated those same feelings of confusion and anxiety. All the teachers seemed on edge.
It was a sunny day out but I remember we weren’t let outside for recess. We sat in the auditorium where I watched so many parents pick up their kids. I watched all my friends go home while I sat there lost in thought.
I didn’t get picked up at Aftercare until late. My mom worked at least an hour away at that point at her new job and I assume my dad got caught up at work. It had to be 5 or 6 o’clock before I went home.
If you’re friends with me, you know that I live at the bottom of a hill and that from the top of that hill, you can just see the New York skyline. Back then, the trees weren’t so tall and you could make out the buildings and the twinkling lights after the sun had gone down. Now when you look, you have to really stretch to see much of anything.
The sun was setting and dusk had fallen. My mom had picked me up and was now driving me home, talking about the days events; Trying to simplify the situation so that a 10 year old child could understand the horror of what happened such a close proximity to our home.
As we approached the top of the hill to come downwards, we could see the massive, thick, dark grey soot and dust that lingered over the troubling skyline - now turned a light orange, reflecting the sinking sun.
“Are those clouds, Mom?” I asked. But I already knew the answer.
That’s one picture my memory will always hold on to. How could I possibly forget?
It all seems so surreal. It seems like yesterday. If I was older at the time, I suspect I’d be more angry at the events that transpired that day. But because I was a kid, when I think back I feel a touch of somber sadness. Not fear, not hatred, but sadness.
It’s these moments in time when the world seems to fall apart - You feel hopeless and lost, but your resolution and solidarity is what brings your composure together. You suddenly feel invigorated despite the insanity surrounding you. Your steadfast compassion roots from your heart and while your mind controls it, stretches down to every fiber of your being; It holds you up. When we feel like this we make a promise to ourselves and to each other to do the right thing, to be the best we can be, to help others who need it. That’s the America I know or rather, I want to know. That’s the America I believe in and that I want to believe in.
Times have changed since then but much has surprisingly stayed the same. Nothing’s ever easy but when you remember a day like 9/11, it’s permanently stamped on you forever. You know the firsthand reality of how quickly things can vanish, of how short of a time we’re here for. The realization of your own mortality is a shocking thing.
I don’t know if you guys have looked outside today but there’s a beautiful sky out there right now. Let’s not spend our days in vain but rather, inspired - never taking anything for granted. Let our lifelong mission for peace and harmony guide us and propel our every action to help others, better the world, and most importantly - better ourselves.