Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

I don't know one person who doesn't remember where they were when they found out what happened in New York on September 11, 2001. It's a little strange for me to look back, because I'm remembering through the eyes of a 10 year old. My memories are so naive and clouded. Even when I learned the basic facts of what happened, I didn't really understand what it meant for our country; what it meant for me.

In fifth grade at my school, in order to prepare us for 'switching classes' in middle school, we had one main teacher for all subjects except math, social studies, and language arts. Three classes participated in switching teachers for those three subjects. On this particular day thirteen years ago, I was in social studies with a teacher who I despised.

The finer details are a little hazy but I remember that I sat in the back of the classroom. I remember that our usually strict teacher wasn't teaching but left the room in a hurry. None of us knew why. We sat in our classroom, teacherless and did what any 10 year olds would do: made a ruckus.

Teachers from neighboring classrooms were in and out, making sure we weren't being a nuisance and over the course of that we learned non-specific details of our teacher's absence: she had a daughter in New York, there was an accident, she needed to make sure everything was ok.

And that was all I knew for the rest of the school day. Things were relatively normal, except a lot of parents were checking their kids out of school. By the end of the day our class was a fraction of it's normal size. But I was left in the dark as to why. I knew something happened, but I didn't know what.

I rode the bus home. I remember feeling the refreshing air conditioning when I walked in the house, so it must have been a hot day. The importance of the situation struck me when I saw my mom sitting in the living room watching TV. There are two things my mom rarely does: sit and watch TV. Especially during the middle of the day and especially in our living room. We didn't have a TV in our living room, so she had to move the one from her bedroom out. The only reason she would have done that was because there was something critical on that she needed to watch and didn't want to close herself in her bedroom to do it.

But I still didn't know what was so critical.

I began to rattle off random details of my day but I was immediately shushed. Another clue that whatever was going on was big. I sat down next to her on the couch and watch the news reports unfold. My naive mind had a hard time comprehending the information. And even when I did understand the details, I was so far removed from it that it hardly made sense.

It was only over the next few days that I truly understood the magnitude of what happened to our country. When my classmates, who normally couldn't care less about news reports, were retelling their understanding of the events that transpired, the reality of the great tragedy sunk in.

I can remember feeling sad, picturing people calling their families from a plane they knew they would never leave. I remember laying awake in bed thinking of the families missing a mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt. The patriotic songs written in remembrance brought me to tears but I still didn't understand what it meant for me.

To this day I have a hard time comprehending the events that took place in New York thirteen years ago today. It's almost as if my mind won't let me fully grasp it; as if my understanding of that day will be forever clouded by a 10 year old's mind.

But my heart still aches thinking of those who lost loved ones and of the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives saving others. I am still amazed at our country's reaction and how it helped me, at such a young age, understand the phrase, "United we stand." I know that today marks a day of tragedy.

And I know that I will never forget.

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