Remember, remember, the 11th of September.
September 12, 2011

Ten years ago, when planes flew into the World Trade Center, I was a teenager.  I could not drive.  I had never been to a school dance.  I didn’t even have my period yet.  I had braces on my teeth and homework on my brain and my dad was dropping my sister and me off at high school when the first plane hit.  The talk radio broadcast was interrupted to report that the first tower had been struck.

My sister said WHAT? and my dad turned up the volume and I rolled my eyes.  I grabbed my backpack and walked away.

Before class, I hung out with a few friends in a small cluster in a hallway.  One of the teachers always came in early to prepare for the day.  She propped the door open so that she could run back and forth to the copy room.

That day, she got a phone call.  I remember it like time stood still because one minute it was silent and the next minute we were listening to her scream.  It was hours before we found out what happened, before we found out that her daughter was living in New York City, was working in a building beside one of the Twin Towers.  She was running late that day and she was standing frozen less than a block away, watching as the first tower fell.  In the chaos, she dropped her phone.  Dropped it before she heard her mother screaming at her TURN AROUND, GO BACK HOME, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, and then just screaming her name.  But I heard.  So I remember.

That was the day that I learned that the adults I trusted could not keep me safe, could not keep anyone safe.  Not really.  The day I learned that there are questions in this world to which there are no answers.  The day I learned that enough people hated my country, my neighbors, my family, ME, to have the power to do whatever it took to kill us.

That was the day that every facet of the safe, happy, invincible world I lived in was destroyed in the blink of an eye.

After the September 11th attacks, my family bought a television set.  My parents wanted to watch the speeches.  It was the first time I had ever seen President George W. Bush.  I could not believe how odd his ears looked.

The footage was shown again and again, over and over.  The furrowed eyebrows of the newscasters, the towers falling, the plane wreckage in a field, the mournful tone in politicians’ speeches.  And the stories, the awful stories, tales of families ripped apart, torn to shreds.  For months, I woke up in the darkness of night, tense with terror, afraid to move, afraid to breathe.  It forever tainted the way that I would perceive television.

It is hard for me to imagine that ten years has passed, but there you have it.  Ten years.  The youngest voters at our election next year were seven when those towers fell.  Seven.  Some of them might not remember a time when our country was at peace.

Someone told me once that when you take the life of one person, you are in fact taking the lives of many people.  You are taking the lives of their unborn children, their children’s children.  And you are taking happiness away from their relatives, comfort away from their friends, forever taking away a piece of their life that they can never recover.

Nearly three thousand people died and another six thousand people were injured while I was rolling my eyes ten years ago.  I’m not even sure I can count high enough to cover how many lives were truly lost, how many people were truly hurt, by those attacks.

I wish my daughter were inheriting a world where such deep hatred and such deep hurt did not exist.  But she isn’t.  One of the hardest things for me about remembering September 11th this weekend is the realization that there may be a day for my daughter like there was for me when she realizes that her father and I cannot keep her safe.  When she finds that her questions don’t have answers.  When she learns that there are people who have never met her who would lay down their life to end hers.

I don’t know what to think about that or what to say about that and I’m not sure I ever will.


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  1. By on September 12, 2011

    Having children changes how you view the world, doesn’t it?  I think about how my son will ask me where I was on September 11th as a school assignment, just like I had to ask my parents where they were when Kennedy was assassinated.  For him it will be just a school assignment, nothing more.  But it changed our lives.

    I was a freshman in college on September 11th, 2001, and I had just moved in to a dorm in Morningside Heights.  “Welcome to New York, we’re putting the school on lockdown in case of more terrorist attacks and WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE PAST TWO HOURS???“  The hysteria did die down eventually…

  2. By on September 12, 2011

    I was in grade 10 I think,.. I remember walking by a classroom early in the morning and seeing it on a TV.. asking why they were watching movies so early in the morning. It obviously wasn’t a movie.

    The one thing that will forever mend my heart is while there are people who are willing to lay their life down - to end others lives… there were also a countless number of people who laid their life down - to save others.

    That is what I will teach my son about - the people who would do ANYTHING to save lives. to help.
    We are all people - we all have something to learn and my lesson is compassion - courage - caring. Something we clearly need a lot of in our lives. <3

  3. By Amber on September 12, 2011

    Beautifully written as always.

    Not to be flippant (I really don’t mean to be) - but this entry has made me realize that you are probably around 4-5 years younger than I am, which seriously shocks me. I figured we were the same age, at least. I was 19 on 9/11/2001.

  4. By Sarah S on September 12, 2011

    So much changed that day. My husband had just been hired as a firefighter and we were SO excited about it and then the world jolted. As my kids are getting older I have struggled with how to talk to them about it, or if I should talk to them about it or when I should do it. How do you explain something like that to a 6 year old whose Daddy is a firefighter without inadvertantaly instilling a little bit of fear? Without taking a bit of their innocence and safety that becomes eroded so quickly as they grow that you want to guard it as tenderly as you can?  I don’t know.

  5. By Lindsey on September 12, 2011

    My comment would be Amber’s comment, word for word.

    I suppose to add to that, I didn’t even know what the twin towers were and I felt guilty for that. I was naive and ignorant and sheltered…but I didn’t fully realize until that day how I really didn’t know anything at all.

  6. By laura Bishop on September 12, 2011

    nice post!
    SO, this whole time I assumed you were around my age-31.
    But are you actually around 24? REALLY???????
    Don’t worry, I gathered much more depth-full thoughts from this post other than your age but seriously how old are you?
    If you are that young I’m even more impressed at your wisdom. If you’re not and I’m mis-reading this than well….I’m STILL impressed :)

  7. By Sarah Christensen on September 12, 2011

    For all who are curious, I was born on August 6th, 1985.  I am 26 years old =)  Donald is 8.5 years older than me - he is 34 years old.  We were 20 and 28 when we met.

    Don’t worry - I sticker shock alot of people.  When I met Donald’s family, one man in particular was very surprised by my age.  He was amazed to find that I was in kindergarten while he was marching off to the Gulf War.

  8. By on September 12, 2011

    Wow, you are young! 

    The comment about Bush’s ears rubbed me the wrong way.  I certainly don’t agree with everything he did, but I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to stoop to making fun of a President’s appearance.  Of course, it’s your blog, though. :)

  9. By Sarah Christensen on September 12, 2011

    Alisa - It was the first time I saw George W. Bush and his ears are what I remember.  I thought they looked odd.  We all see physical traits that we think are attractive or peculiar or unique or odd, etc - and sometimes it is those traits which linger in our minds.  For example, I think that Zachary Quinto has very distinct eyes and an odd browline.  I also think he’s a very attractive man and a talented actor - but when I think of him, I always think of his brow.  My initial assesment of Bush’s ears in no way is a reflection of my opinions of his presidential performance.  I think he, like every other president this country has ever seen, failed in some ways and succeeded in others.  I don’t feel that commenting on my first impression of former President Bush’s physical traits - that which I was drawn to notice given that I’d never seen the man before - is inappropriate.

  10. By on September 12, 2011

    Thanks for responding, Sarah.  I see what you mean. :)

  11. By on September 12, 2011

    Loved the post…. lol BUT…. your younger than me? WTF! LOL I hate when this happens. Your totally killing me. Granted its by 2 years but sigh.

    Moving on.. I was a senior in HS. British Lit. Where my high school is… we had a clear direct view of the towers, and we watched the second plane hit, we watched as the towers fell. absolute horror.

  12. By Melissa White on September 12, 2011

    The way you described it as the day you realized that your parents couldn’t always keep you safe is exactly what I remember.  I wasn’t old enough to REALLY get it like my parents did, but I was certainly old enough to realize that the world as we knew it was changing forever.

  13. By on September 12, 2011

    I want to give you a shout out on the title…

    I’m pregnant and due on the 5th of November and my husband is hoping he’s born that day specifically because of the whole Guy Fawkes/V for Vendetta thing. lol

  14. By Molly on September 12, 2011

    Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.

  15. By Justine Earnshaw on September 13, 2011

    Sarah,

    What a powerful post! Your memories of your teacher are particularly heartbreaking. How terrified that poor woman must have been to think of her daughter in harm’s way.

    I was 33 in 2001. I heard about the attacks when I arrived at work. One of the women I worked with had a brother who worked in the Twin Towers. We sat in my office together for over an hour as she tried to reach him. The only good thing I can remember from that day was her learning that her brother had stayed home from work sick.

    Thanks again for a beautiful post.

    Justine

  16. By Amber on September 13, 2011

    Sarah—my husband is 12.5 years older than I am, and we met when I was 19 and he was 32, so I understand. I get all the stuff you were saying above. We have “the weird period” that we talk about, where we were coincidentally living in the same city, except I was in 1st grade & he was in college, and doing illicit things at night in the parking lot of that very elementary school ;)


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