Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years Later...

For the past week, I have been debating with myself whether I should write about 9/11 here. Even though it has been ten years, my emotions about the terrible events that day are still very raw. Any time I see photos or videos from that day, I feel both devastated and extremely angry, and I didn't even lose any loved ones that day. I cannot imagine the pain of those who did.

Unfortunately, 9/11 was not my first experience with terrorism. When I was five, Timothy McVeigh parked a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. At 9:02 am, it exploded with such force that my house, 12 miles away, shook. At first, my mother thought it was an earthquake or a natural gas explosion. She turned on the TV and the first thing we saw was a building with one side totally blown off. 168 people were killed that day, including 19 children. I have several friends who lost family members that day.

The morning of September 11th, 2001, I was in my first class of the day (Life Sciences) at my Jr. High School. I was 12 years old and in 7th grade, right about the age where I started to pay attention to what's happening in the world. My teacher had handed out something for us to do silently. I don't remember exactly what it was. He then went over to his desk and started working on his computer. After a couple of minutes, he got up quite suddenly and walked out of the classroom without saying anything.

Several minutes later, he walked back into his room. He looked terrified. He told us that planes had flown into the towers of the World Trade Center and that a car bomb had gone off at the Pentagon (I didn't find out until later that it was another plane, not a car bomb, that hit the Pentagon). He then said he was going to hook up the class TV so we could watch the news. Just before he turned it on, our principal walked in, whispered in his ear, and then quickly left. He looked terrified as well.

Seeing the adults so scared was scaring me and my classmates. While I cannot say for sure, I believe the principal told my teacher not to let us watch the news because it was showing people jumping out of the windows of the World Trade Center Towers. Instead, my teacher started reading us news articles from his computer. At one point he said "Oh God" and ran out of the room. It was because the first tower had collapsed.

The rest of the school day passed in much the same way. When my sister and I got home from school, we immediately turned on the news. My mother joined us when she got home from work. We watched for hours. I didn't fully understand what was going on, but I knew it was bad. We live near an Air Force base, and military jets flew over every few minutes. This scared my sister. I was trying to be calm for her sake, but I was scared too.

So much about our lives was changed by 9/11. I remember asking myself a few months after the attacks "When will everything go back to the way it used to be?". It never did.

9/11 is one of the defining moments of my life. What was let of my childhood innocence disappeared that day. For the first time, I saw true evil. But, at the same time, I also saw true good in how Americans came together on that terrible day, despite our many differences. I was, and still am, proud of the fact that 9/11 did not tear us apart, but brought us closer together.

A few weeks after I started school in New York City, I visited Ground Zero. While the debris was long gone, it was still just a big hole in the ground. It was a depressing sight. However, I visited again two and a half years later. By then, construction had begun on the 9/11 memorial and several new World Trade Center buildings. It's hard to describe how happy the construction progress has made me. After ten years, it is a reminder that, no matter how much damage terrorists do to us, we will always recover and rebuild.

1 comment: