September 12, 2011

In Memory, In Hope

As I sit here this evening watching MSNBC's rebroadcast of the original footage from September 11, 2001, I find myself breathless at the fact that 10 years can pass in the blink of an eye. It truly astounds me that an entire decade has elapsed since that horrific day, years in which so many things have changed, and yet so many others have stayed just the same. Even now, I find it difficult to comprehend that such a tragedy could be possible, that any human being could ever want, much less meticulously plan, an attack on human life of this magnitude. How can you comprehend such an enormous a loss of life? How can you fathom the malice in its orchestration?
Almost everyone in America remembers watching the events of the day as they unfolded with horror and disbelief. My experience on September 11th was different from so many: as a middle schooler, I spent the day attending classes, largely ignorant of the morning's atrocities. The administration of my school made the decision not to inform the students and instructed teachers not to speak about the news in an effort to protect students with ties to the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. One of my friends heard a rumor about a plane hitting one of the twin towers,  which he mentioned to the rest of us during math that morning. There were only 8 or 9 of us in the accelerated class, and I remember that our teacher gave us no details (either because she had none or had been asked not to tell us) and steered us from the subject. The thought that this information could represent anything beyond an awful accident never crossed my mind, and I don't remember thinking much about it for the rest of the day, blissfully unaware of the truth. There was only one other vague indicator that life was about to change: at the end of the school day, during the announcements that always preceded dismissal, the principal  spoke over the intercom (a rarity in itself -- typically we only heard from the school secretary) to tell students that the next day would be a "normal school day." I vividly remember the glances exchanged among students at this moment, looks that said "well, why on earth wouldn't tomorrow be a school day?"
It was not until several minutes later, when I got into the car with my mom to go home, that I finally learned the reality of the day's events. While most Americans watched the second plane fly into the South Tower within 15 minutes of finding out about the first plane, I had to wait a full six hours. While most Americans sat glued to CNN as news of Flights 77 and 93 met their final, terrible fates, I sat through Civics and French with no knowledge of the war that had begun on US soil. While most Americans began to mourn the loss of loved ones and strangers, I continued on with a day that had begun as normally as every other, a sunny Tuesday that remained unmarred by clouds of dust and debris until late afternoon, when I sat in the car and listened to my mother and they suddenly billowed in.
Since that day, I've always been a little bitter that our school had chosen not to keep the students informed. I felt that I had been purposely left in the dark while the world changed around me. I was upset that I had been deemed too young and immature for the reality of the situation. Today, however, as I watched the coverage from that day, I was surprised to find myself grateful for having been spared such incredible emotional upheaval as a 13 year old. I cried today like I don't remember ever crying 10 years ago, but I also felt infinitely better able to cope with the complex tangle of feelings that swelled up from the pit of my stomach. Such an act of violence is still unfathomable, unexplainable, and deeply disturbing ten years later, and yet I have finally come to terms with the way in which I learned about, and thus understood, the events when they happened. For the first time, I am thankful for those few extra hours of innocence afforded to us.



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