It’s been a pretty lazy Sunday around here. I just woke up from one of those great coma naps; the ones that leave you dazed and confused when you open your eyes, wondering what day it is. Chad is in our room watching football, wrapped up in blankets with our dog curled up at the end of the bed. And as I soak up the peace and quiet of our home this evening, I’m filled with gratitude for all of our blessings. Especially today.
I was a sophomore in high school on September 11, 2001. I was sitting in second period. AP history. Like every other morning, I was bored out of my mind, hoping Mrs. Futch wouldn’t call on me as we went over our homework because, as per usual, I hadn’t read the assigned chapters the night before. I really hated history.
What unfolded that morning is kind of a haze. I remember an announcement from our principal over the school’s PA system, Mrs. Futch turning on the television — no sound — and seeing the video footage of the second plane flying into the World Trade Center. I couldn’t understand what was happening, or comprehend what we were watching. I turned to my best friend and the most important person in my world, Dusty, who sat behind me, and whispered, “is this a terrorist attack?” I don’t even know if I understood what terrorism was at 16, or why those words came out of my mouth, but it’s the clearest moment in my memory of that day.
As more announcements bubbled through the speakers, Mrs. Futch used a yardstick to turn up the volume on the TV that hung in the corner of the classroom — the same TV that just one period prior aired our goofy and light school news — and I tried to make sense of the chaos on CNN, completely numb and completely afraid. A suffocating and heavy pall hung among that small class of 16 year olds, all looking to the one adult in the room who was just as vulnerable and uncertain as we were. With each bell, we changed classes — walking through the school like zombies, whispering to each other as our teachers huddled together in the hallways — and watched the ongoing coverage on those corner-mounted televisions, counting down the hours until we could get home to our families.
Everything changed that day. Even though my 16 year old brain couldn’t comprehend the enormity of 9/11, I knew I lost some kind of trust and security in our world that I’d never get back. With each passing year, the wound heals a little, but the scar is always there; a reminder of how the entire world can change in a second.
“After the initial grief and fear and patriotism… I went on with my life. The annual anniversary passed with a brief moment of sadness and then nothing. I, like so many in this country, came to dread the sound of those words “nine eleven.” Because those words are now most often heard from the mouths of politicians, who use that day to their own advantage. It has become a thing.
But today and the days leading up to today, have been different. I am ten years older. The world is ten years older. America is ten years older. And even though no catastrophic loss has touched my life, thank God, in those ten years – I understand so much better now. I have lived ten more years on this earth and those ten years have taught me lifetimes.”
Tonight, as I lift up little prayers of gratitude and reverence, I remember. Never forget.