On September 11, 2001, I had just started my second week of 7th grade. It still baffles me to this day that my school didn’t tell us about the attacks at the World Trade Center. Sometime that morning, when we were getting our things out of our lockers between classes, I heard a classmate say, “They bombed the Pentagon.” I didn’t know who “they” were, and I defensively shot back that whoever had said it was just spreading rumors.
The day continued pretty much without incident. The administration announced at lunch that afterschool activities were being cancelled for the afternoon, and I remember being frustrated that I couldn’t go to soccer practice, but excited to go home. My aunt had a C-section scheduled for that day and I was looking forward to going to the hospital to see her and my new cousin.
I remember arriving home and walking in the door to see my mom sitting on the couch, staring at the TV and looking as close as I’d ever seen her to tears.
She told me that the World Trade Centers had been attacked and that both towers had fallen.
I will never forget the painfully naive question that came out of my mouth.
“Did anyone die?”
I remember walking up to my room, somewhat dazed, and questioning how this could have happened. I remember crying and praying for those who had died and for their families.
I remember watching news coverage on all the different TV stations, and I remember going to the hospital to see my aunt and my cousin. My aunt had begged the doctors to please wait one more day, that she didn’t want her baby born on such a terrible day. But in hindsight, it’s nice to have something positive to remember about that day.
The strange part is, ten years later, I recall the rest of that year progressing pretty normally. Maybe it was because I was only 12 years old and was absorbed in my 7th grade life. We bought a flag and flew it outside my house for a long time. In April, my parents took me to see Paul McCartney at Madison Square Garden and we went to Ground Zero. It was my first trip to NYC, so I had never seen the Twin Towers when they were still there. It was horrifically sad. And each time I’ve been back to NYC since then (I think it’s been four times), I’ve seen how the site has changed and the city has changed. But life has gone on.
I bought Bruce Springsteen’s album The Rising the next summer (2002), and I remember lying on the floor of my family room with my Discman and listening to it constantly. For some reason, even though I wasn’t personally affected by the attacks, it still hit home. Maybe it was because of my age. I was old enough to know what had happened, and the next few years where the war on terror really began coincided with junior high and then high school, where I was constantly aware of what was happening in the world.
Today, it’s hard to look back on the attacks and remember what things were like before they occurred. No one could have anticipated or predicted what would happen on 9/11/2001. Yet after it happened, life was never the same. And our country has become better in some ways since then and worse in some other ways.
Ultimately, today is a day for remembering. My thoughts are with those who lost loved ones on that day.