Ten years ago today I was 17 and a senior in high school. I, like so many others, remember the tragedy and turmoil of the terrorist attacks like it was yesterday. And, like so many others, I cannot fully explain what that day felt like, what it did to me, how it changed me and that's unfortunate. It's unfortunate because those who are transitioning into adulthood in the next few years were in their early elementary years, or younger, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center September 11, 2001 and may not fully understand how significant those events were.
This is not a "I remember where I was" post, although I have one of those drafted. Sitting on my patio this morning, everything is silent. Even the geese that normally honk incessantly are waddling around, silently. There is a peaceful stillness so unlike what was felt in 2001 at this time that it caused me to scrap my original draft and type this instead:
We watched television all day at school after hearing about the attacks. We saw, over and over and over and over, the planes hit the World Trade Center towers. We saw people suffocating in the streets of New York, trying to escape the dust and smoke. We heard the cries, watched news anchors break down as they reported the events, and we talked about it in shock. We cried. The day was raw and terrifying. Class after class, we tuned in to what we knew was going to be a major part of our history and our teachers justified the viewing as such.
Toward the end of the day, I walked into my French 4 class and sat down, emotionally exhausted. My classmates joined me, quietly, and the bell rang. I don't think I can watch anymore, I thought. Then again, I felt like I would be a terrible American if I wasn't able to watch and mourn with the nation.
After taking attendance, my teacher turned the television off and said, "Today is important. Today is significant and you have been watching history in the making. You will catch yourself in the future, telling others where you were when--," her voice cracked and she waited a few moments to compose herself before speaking again. "Don't forget this day. But I hope you will forgive me if I can't watch anymore today. We will be watching this and keeping track of it for the next weeks and months and even years to come. I want 55 minutes; I want to give you 55 minutes of normalcy."
We spent the next 55 minutes going through French vocab drills and constructing sentences, and reading portions of a French novel aloud. In the backs of our minds I am sure we were all still thinking about the events of the day, but the distraction was nice. The use of some other part of my brain, was nice.
To this day, obviously, I appreciate what Ms. Schneider did for us. She gave us a break and a chance to process. Sitting here on this beautiful morning, this anniversary of a terrible day, I am peacefully reflecting. I am using 55 minutes to focus on remembering that day, how thankful I am for my life and the freedoms I enjoy, and praying for all of the people who lost so much that morning and for those who put their lives in danger, every day, to protect us.