It was three days before my eighteenth birthday. I was a senior in high school. I got up, went to take a shower and turned on the radio in the bathroom, just like usual. As I washed and brushed and primped, I listened to the radio host say that they had just received news of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center building. In my young, naive mind, I pictured a small biplane, some sort of personal aircraft gone awry. I had no concept of what the WTC building was. I certainly didn’t picture a towering skyscraper.
It was only a few minutes later, as I was pouring my bowl of cereal, that my mom came running into the kitchen in her bathrobe, telling me to “Turn on the TV! We’re being attacked!” I didn’t understand. We? Our house? Then the realization of what she meant slowly dawned. We turned on the news and saw the footage from New York City. Smoke billowing into the sky from two still-standing towers.
I went to school as usual that day. We all did. The teachers refused to turn on the TVs in the classrooms and let us watch the news updates. They were probably trying to protect us. In reality, nothing they taught us that day – maybe any day – could have been more important than what was happening 3,000 miles away.
Three days later, when I had my girlfriends over for my birthday, we held a candlelight vigil. It didn’t feel right to celebrate when everything I knew about the way the world worked had suddenly changed.
It has been twelve years, but I can still remember the fear I felt when an airplane flew over our house several days after the attack. It was the first one in days, on a normally very busy flight-path. I don’t think my memories of that day will ever fade. I hope they don’t. Only by remembering, by passing the stories along, can we try to change the way things are in this world. To help to make it a safer place, a kinder place, a place of tolerance and acceptance. I hope my children never live through a day like September 11, 2001.