I was a high school freshman in my second period Social Science class, doodling when I should have been taking notes. A teacher from another class briskly walked in. She was flustered and didn’t know how to explain what was going on. “Hijacking, some kind of hijacking. Turn on the TV.”
In that moment, we became metaphorical zombies. Walking from class to class–more like TV to TV. We were inundated by news coverage all day. Towers burning, Pentagon burning, crashing metal, smoking fields. I remember a girl outside the theater, crumpled to the floor, crying, crying. I remember my third period choir teacher yelling and swearing as towers collapsed.
I was old enough to know that this was something huge. Something horrible. Something irreversible and history-altering. Old enough to see the fear on my teachers’ faces. Old enough to know that thousands of people were dead or soon doomed to die.
I was yet still too young to know what to do with this information, where to put it in my small experience of the world. Not old enough to drive, much less old enough to know how to cope with something of this magnitude and significance.
I got home that day, and the house was dark and empty. I called my mom, an FBI agent, eager to hear her voice and know that she was okay. What I didn’t know is that she had been stationed at O’Hare International Airport that day to deal with whatever might happen there. She didn’t have cell phone service, and the land line number I had didn’t work. By the time she got a hold of me, I was a panicked mess. She said, “I’m going to be working late for a while. Go next door and ask them if you can eat dinner with them tonight.”
I could not comprehend having to sit down and do the Algebra homework assigned in my first period class.
We were a generation who came of age during a time of chaos, a time of war, a time of fear. My generation, the Latest Greatest Generation, is represented by the troops stationed in the Middle East, fighting for our freedom and our country. Fighting so that I can sit here in my room and type these sentences without fear for my personal safety. The loss of life on 9/11/01 was horrendous. But I feel the need to remind people that the death isn’t over. Members of my generation are in combat, coming home with injuries, visible or not, or not coming home at all. Let’s keep them all in our prayers today.
Witnessing such destruction is overwhelming. It’s devastating to the soul. And one of the most frustrating things to me is not knowing how I can help. So today, as small as it seems, I vow to create something. Dwelling on the past only brings sadness. We’ve had sadness for ten years now. Starting today, I’m doing my part to create. To bring a little light into this dark age.
What are you going to do to commemorate today?
What is your 9/11 story?