11 September, 2011

I was in Mr. Nowak’s sixth-grade science class on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I remember he stopped class to explain to us what was happening. I’m from a little town near Buffalo, I’d never been to New York City, and I didn’t even have a real handle on what the World Trade Center buildings were. I knew of them as the Twin Towers, but they weren’t nearly as iconic to me as the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. I was eleven years old.
I remember being very confused, thinking “Okay, how does this affect me?” and I remember him using the sentence, “New York City is basically a big flaming ball of fire right now,” because it was the sentence that made me understand that something really big was happening.
I remember coming home from school that day to find my mother in front of the television in our kitchen, crying. I remember watching the towers falling down on the news, accompanied by the caption “US UNDER ATTACK.” And it isn’t the image of the towers that comes to mind most clearly when I remember that moment, it’s those words. Those words that made me feel real fear of a brand I’d never felt before in my life and haven’t felt since.
In the days and weeks that followed, I remember hearing stories from my friends who had family or friends in New York City that day. I remember watching clips on tv, played over and over, of the planes hitting the buildings. I remember hearing about the Pentagon and wondering why no one talked about it as much as New York. I remember hearing the story of United 93, and the way those passengers fought back, and I remember feeling proud of those people I had never met or heard of, in a way that an eleven-year-old shouldn’t know how. I remember the nationalism that my friends and family, neighbors and strangers, people across the country exhibited, and the American flag that grew faded from hanging outside my front porch, bleached almost white from the elements.
I didn’t know anyone who died on 9/11, thank God. I was young and didn’t understand exactly what was happening at the time, for which I am almost grateful. I remember all of these things with a childlike simplicity, without many emotions attached, because those came later. The knot in my throat when I see footage or hear stories about September 11, that dark shadow haunting my mind which grows darker still with every story I see or read about it. I cried reading the Wikipedia article about Flight 93 the other day. 
That day was surely one of the most trying days in recent American history, and it’s one that most Americans above the age of fifteen or so can claim some emotional affiliation with. It’s the “Where were you when…” of our generation, and it’s one national day of remembrance that’s fresh enough to make us stop and think, to make us forget for a moment about our lives and our issues and just remember that day. It makes us forget any problems we have with our government, makes political affiliations moot, allows us to forget any differences between us because all that matters for this one moment is that we are unitedWe are a country. And we will remember.
I know I’ll remember it for the rest of my life, and I hope there never comes a day when it doesn’t make me feel emotional. 
Never forget. God bless.