It was an unpleasant and awkward time in my life, leaving the comfort of elementary school and transitioning into junior high. At the age of 11, I was an unusual kid, creative and quiet, ears glued to the AM radio news while anyone else might be playing video games or tossing a ball at the park. I was solitary and hyper-aware of things, but after that Tuesday my childhood ended abruptly, as is the case for so many others.
Normally I would wake up and walk myself to school, but that morning I was shaken awake by my mother telling me the East Coast was under attack. What the hell did “under attack” mean? She was calm, trying not to upset me, but my nerves were instantly shot. Time stopped. Someone was crashing planes into buildings and she saw it live on the news! What was the “world trade center?” I recognized the burning buildings as the gigantic Twin Towers that you always saw in posters and movies. We watched until just after the first tower fell, when my mother screamed, when the reporters were saying things like “terrorists” and “war,” when I spiraled into panic mode and refused to leave the house. I was SURE they were coming for us next. Why wouldn’t they?
My mother drove me to school. The teachers faces…I just remember them looking so scared and pretending everything was all right. The kids were talking quietly rehashing what they saw on TV. My 1st period teacher wouldn’t answer our questions and told us to focus on our work. My 2nd period teacher canceled her lesson and we talked about the attacks, which eased everyone’s minds. It wasn’t long before everyone started laughing and joking about it, but deep down I could tell they were terrified, too. The day went on and nothing else happened, but I couldn’t shake that paranoia despite being 3,000 miles away. I watched a TV program on the 1-year anniversary and that’s when reality hit me and my fear turned into sadness.
September 11th made me think more like an adult. It shaped my life, having happened just after I started the 6th grade. Sure, nothing felt safe anymore, but that ended up being okay…I wanted to be realistic about things. It made me more aware of politics and world events, to think outside of American media. It made me appreciate my loved ones and my wellbeing, and it sure as hell made me hate flying.
Over the years I’ve taught myself more about it, sympathized and empathized with survivor stories. It’s become an increasingly emotional event in my life, while others (especially people my age) have buried it in the past. All I hear today is speculation, debates, conspiracy theories…but what I remember is the horror and the patriotism, and what I feel is sorrow for everything and everyone we lost that day.