Editor’s note: In 2016, I wrote down my memory of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. I share that memory every year on social media in honor of lives lost, heroes made and patriotism invoked. My hope is many of you will share your stories of where you were on 9/11 and how that day made you feel. We must never forget.
I remember waking up and deciding I was going to try to play hooky. I was a sophomore in high school and anything I could do to sleep in was well worth it. I went upstairs and whined in my best sick voice, “Mom, I don’t feel good. Can I stay home today?”
My mom shushed me. She was still in her bathrobe; unusual for that time in the morning. She was also standing inches from our small television in the kitchen. “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center,” she said.
I didn’t know what she meant. So I went and stood beside her and watched in silence while The Today Show tried to make sense of what was happening. At the last minute, we both quickly got dressed and I went to school.
I remember sitting in French class with Trey, Kym, Taneasha and Tyler. Madame Halbert had her tv on and we watched as the second plane crashed into the other tower. We were 15 years old and yet the gravity of the situation was not lost on us. As the realization began to hit everyone that America was under attack, the bell rang and we were off to second period.
This is the moment that still settles so clearly in my mind. Mr. Raymond was my English teacher and first period was his free hour. He also had a habit of getting to school incredibly early and never turned on his tv. I arrived breathless and anxious to continue watching the news coverage. And Mr. Raymond had no idea what I was talking about. The stunned silence that spread across his face still evokes chills down my spine.
We all floated through school that day. First and second period are vivid in my mind. I don’t remember a single thing from the rest of the day except thinking how relieved I was that George W. Bush was our leader in such a dark time. The next day the whole school gathered around the flag and said the Pledge of Allegiance. I was embarrassed of the tears that fell.
9/11 changed our nation, but it also changed me. I finally knew what real vulnerability felt like. I knew real fear. I understood true confusion. I felt honest compassion. I experienced loyal patriotism for the first time. And I felt a new kind of anger.
To those who lost their lives on that day, know that your last moments were spent with a country of people who loved you without question. To those who served NYC on that day and the ones to follow, your heroic efforts shined through the darkest of times.
America’s greatness is found in the hearts of those who love her. Terrorism failed that day.