I was in my first month of 6th grade and had just made the move into middle school. Everything in my life was changing. I had a locker, wore a gym uniform and was making new friends.
Each morning before school I would watch TV, usually PBS, Disney or Animal Planet, while I ate breakfast and got ready for school. It was my young version of “me time” and I liked it that way. One morning, things were different. The phone rang sometime in the 6 o’clock hour and immediately following that my parents rushed downstairs to change the channel. I will admit, I was a little put off, but what I saw shocked me.
The first plane had already hit the World Trade Center. I could not fathom that anyone would do such a thing on purpose, and thought that it must have been an accident. I wanted to watch more but it was time for school.
The was easily the longest drive from my house to the school. We listened to the events on the radio as they unfolded. The second plane hit the WTO, the buildings became unstable and began to melt. It was then clear to me that it was not an accident.
School was eerily somber. While many of us knew what had happened, some did not know. When class started children began raising their hands asking questions like, “Can we watch the news?” and “Can we go home early?” Nobody was looking for an excuse to goof off. We didn’t understand what was happening and we were afraid and sad. An announcement came onto the intercom almost immediately telling us that we would not be going home early and that teachers should go on with their normal lessons.
That was a long day. I have never been more eager to get home and watch the news. After all, it was not until then that I actually saw the footage of the crumbling buildings, the people running through the streets covered in dust or the news of the two other planes. More and more information and footage seemed to come in by the minute. Some people had made it out of the building, while others leapt from the upper stories, some of them holding hands as they fell to their deaths. It felt surreal, but knowing that this was not a movie, this was real life, it was enough to put a pit in my stomach.
In my mind I was taken back to the only other time I had felt truly afraid or upset while watching the news, yet now, Columbine felt like such an insignificant thing.
As I continued through middle school and high school, terrorist attacks would happen in Europe, or be attempted in the United States. These often killed nobody, or only very few people and barely crossed our minds. We had become calloused to the reality of suicide bombings, hostages, explosive mines. Nothing could hold a candle to the 9-11 news footages.
Many boys from my high school went on to join the military. On February 21, 2010, my classmate Eric Ward was killed in action in Afghanistan. I never really knew him, but it was still surprising news. He, like others since 9-11 and up until now, gave his life to fight terrorism.
It was not until earlier this year (2011) that the elusive Osama bin Laden was finally found and killed during the raid of his compound. He had hid in his hatred and cowardice for nearly ten years.
Of course the war still goes on. We went from ten years ago, pulling together and setting aside our differences, to now, where people question the very ethics of defending ourselves against the people who want to destroy us. Politicians seem even lazier than before and people are once again complacent.
But I hope that as we are once again surrounded by the horrifying images of 9-11, we can remember not just those who suffered on that day, but how we became a country that provided so much freedom and opportunity, as to make nations without those things hate us.
God bless all those who still suffer from the loss of family and friends on that day, and bless all those who continue to fight on our nations behalf.