Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Eleventh

I first learned about terrorism in fourth grade in Mrs. Loops class, when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. Before then, I can't remember ever knowing that real evil existed. I was sitting on the North side of the classroom, in the last row next to the windows. I remember looking outside while she was talking to us about it, looking down in to the Roosevelt Elementary School ravine and trying to visualize it - what it must look like and feel like and be like. What would make someone do this, to create the horror.

But it didn't make sense then, and it doesn't make sense now.

I was 17 and one month exactly when the terrorists struck The World Trade Center, and just like the Oklahoma City bombing, I remember what class I was in, and where I was seated. It was second period - an English class - and we had a substitute teacher. She was an older lady, and she let us watch the news coverage on TV. At first our class was confused, thinking it was a horrible accident and maybe a pilot had mismanaged a turn, accidentally hitting the building. We were watching when the second plane hit, and with it the realization that this was on purpose, and that people - other people like us - made this happen.

I was fortunate to be unaffected. No one I knew died. My home was thousands of miles away. My life continued, nearly just as it was before. The sun kept shining and I still went to school and to work and to soccer and to football games on Friday nights. I still got to hug my parents, and tease my brothers, and go to the movies with my friends.

I remember being scared, and very sad, and certainly confused... but my family and I were safe, and alive- the lucky ones.

I still say a prayer during takeoff of every time I fly. I cry reading stories about the lives lost ten years ago, and about the sisters and brothers and parents and children left behind. Is it even possible to remember that day without being sad? I sometimes try to think about what it was like to be a New Yorker ten years ago - walking home after the towers fell, phone lines and bridges jammed up, alone and scared. Not knowing who was alive, and who was lost forever. What must it have been like for the firefighters, as they raced up each flight of stairs, each step taking them closer to the danger.

It's hard to comprehend the amount of bravery and composure and strength and faith that was required of some American's during that day, and all the days that followed.

And on a day like today it's hard not to be sad, thinking of those lives lost and families forever changed. And angry - anger at the horrible, horrible unfairness of it all. And maybe scared, too, wondering if there is more evil lurking, waiting to deepen the pain.

But for today, I don't want to worry about tomorrow. Today, in my heart, I want to honor the heroes, the survivors, the victims, by choosing gratitude and hope and remembrance.

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