I was a freshman in high school.
I walked into my second period, choir class when we noticed the television was on and one of the towers was on fire. I was so naive, I had no idea what the World Trade Center even was. I remember a classmate shouting, "They think that plane was hijacked?!" I remember feeling uneasy, but had no idea what was really going on.
My choir teacher shut off the television, said we had work to do, and proceeded with class. He said that we couldn't let the news interrupt our practice time.
By the time I walked to my geometry class, the first tower had fallen. My geometry teacher told us that we needed to watch what was going on in the world, and that class would have to wait. We watched several replays of the first tower falling. So many, in fact, that I remember thinking that we were still watching replays when the second tower fell. We watched people running from the huge clouds of smoke and debris.
By my last class of the day, we had watched the footage over and over. My Spanish teacher, a woman from Morocco, wanted us to continue to watch and talk about what was going on. I remember feeling bored and ready to go home. I didn't understand what was going on, or why it was a big deal. I didn't understand that what we were watching was no accident.
By the time my Mom picked me up from school, I was just ready to get home. She asked me if we had been watching the footage. I remember telling her how sick I was of watching the news. She looked shocked, and asked me if I had any idea that this likely meant our country would be going to war. I didn't. I didnt get it, and I didn't understand. New York was so far from us that I never realized that my future and family would be impacted on what happened that day. We talked the whole way to my dance class, and by the time I got there, I began to feel afraid.
A few weeks later, we were discussing the attacks with my Spanish teacher. She was telling us about her family members that were Muslim, but had no connection with the attacks. She explained to us that there is good and evil in every group of people in the world, and encouraged us to understand that. She had a Muslim father, who was a good hearted, kind man who never would harm another soul. She expressed fear that she and her family members would be judged for those attacks because of their heritage. She explained to us that although our country was experiencing the worst attack on our soil that we've ever seen, we couldn't stereotype.
It was those moments that several of us realized that a divide among people would occur, and that we would individually be responsible for not allowing that divide within ourselves. She validated our confusion, our anger, and our lack of understanding. She validated the tragedy, and expressed her own hurt and anger towards those responsible for the attacks. She taught us that we could continue to have these feelings, but not to allow those feelings to overwhelm our judgement of others. I am still amazed at her during such a hurtful, sad time for our country. In the midst of our country's outrage, she was teaching us about love. She was teaching us that it was ok to feel the way we did, but it wasn't ok to turn our love away from others that weren't responsible. She felt it important to tell us that it was now, more than ever, that we needed to come together instead of divide. It was now more important to love others, to accept others without judgement, and to direct those feelings only at those responsible.
Jason and I watched the replay of the Today Show from 9/11/01 last night after Ethan had fallen asleep. I think of the parents who lost children in the days of the attacks, of the children who lost their parents, and of the men and women who lost their spouses, and count my blessings. Watching that footage today seems so different to me than it was 10 years ago. I have a child to protect. I know that I cannot shelter him from the world of evil as much as I want to. I know that he needs to understand that evil does exist, and that there are people in the world that would do things that we could never imagine.
I worry that one day, he will see another tragedy like the one of 9/11, and not understand the way I did. I wonder how I can possibly help him understand the magnitude of that day when it took so long for me to understand it. I wonder what we will say to him when he brings a school assignment home to ask his parents about the attacks on 9/11. I hope that we are able to give him the emotion, and not the facts. I hope that we are able to teach him what was lost. I hope that during that conversation, we teach him that in the midst of evil in the world, that he also opens his heart to love others.
To all the heros that have defended our country before, on and after that day, thank you. In on way or another, every single one of us will always remember.