I awoke like any other morning to the smell of coffee and the sound of my siblings bickering over who got to use the bathroom first. I dressed and walked out of my room to different sounds, a different look on my mother’s face, and to a reality I didn’t know I was about to enter. I didn’t know that day would be terrifying, devastating, and eerily quiet.
I walked into the living room and my mother was on the couch with the remote in her hand. A strange sight because normally, she’d be sitting at the kitchen table playing solitaire or helping my younger siblings dress for the day. Her eyes were stuck to the television and immediately my body cooled. I began to listen to the person speaking on the television. I heard it before my eyes settled on the screen.
“A bowing 747 has hit the world trade center in New York City this morning. It is unclear whether the plane lost control. We’ll keep you updated as we continue to get news. Evacuations have not been put in place.” Strange that I remember exactly the words that came out of the news broadcasters mouth.
I walked in the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water to sooth the knot that had lodged itself there. Then, I walked back into the living room and my young heart shattered. I watched the second plane slam into the second world trade center and almost screamed. Instead, I went completely still and watched in horror. I wasn’t sure what had happened or what was going to happen. All I could think was, “There are people in those buildings.” I was 12 years old.
Despite watching this horror unfold, my mother sent me to school. I wanted to ask her to stay home, but I went through the motions and went unable to get the words out. I got on the bus and I looked around at my peers. Most of them seemed unfazed by the events. I could only guess they hadn’t seen the news. I kept silent because I didn’t know how to process it and I didn’t know how to express it accurately.
Have you ever heard silence echo?
That is what I can describe now how the room felt when I entered my classroom. I remember tears prickling and falling down my cheeks not knowing why. I entered the portable where I had choir. For some time, Mr. Sass put on the radio and we listened to updates until a security guard came around and made all radios and TVs be turned off.
We sat in chairs and we didn’t sing that day. There were some side conversations going on but mostly it was quiet. Later, our school was put on lock down because we live near White Sands Missile Range and it wasn’t clear if other places would be targeted. Targeted? For what? I was too young to know that our country was locking down all major facilities in preparation of other attacks.
Was it an attack? Planes flying into buildings? That just didn’t happen. I thought it had to be an accident at first until the 2nd plane hit and is imprinted into my vision, forever.
I was 12 years old and didn’t understand why I was scared. The school tried to remain on a normal schedule. There was no way. All staff had grim looks on their faces. There was no work getting done, no lessons being taught. The kids I thought were “funny” didn’t tell jokes or laugh that day. People I didn’t “like”, I tried to be extra nice to. I sat quietly and tried to think of what was going on around us.
It’s weird how our brains can forget some things and remember others. You forget where you parked your car or put your keys. You forget numbers and passwords. I’ve heard some people block out traumatic memories to protect themselves from pain. I regret to tell you that I remember almost every minute of that day. I remember the moment I came home from school and sat on the couch and watched the news.
I remember watching the twin towers fall and crying hard because of all the people I was sure were dead. I remember being cold and feeling empty. I remember trying to go to bed that night and staring in the dark for hours.
Mostly, I remember how that day changed me. It changed everything.
People say, never forget.
I can’t forget. It’s there all the time. The memory is deep within me and it isn’t going anywhere.
I pray for every single person who died, who were injured, who were impacted, who watched, who had to deal with the fall out, who felt deep sadness, who remember.
9/11/2001 I still don’t understand. I still have a lot of questions.
Above all, I still love. Love beats hate.
Tell me, what do you remember?