September 11, 2011. I was 12. 7th grader at Ligon GT Magnet Middle School. It was a Tuesday. It was a nice day, clear skies, nice breeze. It was a normal day.
Like most people, I remember everything that happened on what seemed like a normal Tuesday. But of course, everything changed that morning.
For me, it was a normal day at Ligon. Go to one class, switch, another, then lunch, more class and then after school activities whether it was sports practice, rehearsal, whatever then home. But this day was different.
I remember the day starting as usual then in my science class, I remember someone interrupted my teacher’s class. It was another teacher. I didn’t really notice it because the interruption wasn’t major. Class continued as usual then it was time for lunch. I remember talking with other kids and they were saying stuff like a bomb hit someplace in New York but it was very vague and I didn’t really pay any attention to it, I mean, why, it was in New York right? Well, that’s what I was thinking on this particular day.
The day continued normally and the only thing that was noticeably different was the end-of-the day announcements. Over the intercom blasted a message I had never heard before..”All after school activities have been canceled for today. All After school activities have been canceled for today.” I remember being shocked because I had some kind of practice or rehearsal that afternoon and to find out it was canceled was a little upsetting.
But I proceeded to take the bus home where my Dad met me at the bus stop. When I got in the car, I asked him why all the activities had been canceled for today. He simply replied, you’ll see when you get home, or something along those lines.
As a 12-year-old, I really couldn’t appreciate what was going to happen when I got home. I remember thinking what could it be. What could have happened for all our activities to be canceled? As we got inside the house, my Dad turned on the TV in the family room and then I understood why everything was canceled that day.
There before my eyes was the destruction of 9/11. I remember watching clips from news stories of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center and then minutes later, seeing the second one hit. It was the only image I saw that day. It was only until later that I appreciated the fact that two more planes crashed that day…one in the Pentagon and the other in Pennsylvania.
But I do remember one specific thing.
After I saw the destruction and devastation that was and still will be considered 9/11…I went to my room. I got on my bed and reached across to my bookshelf and pulled out my journal (I didn’t use the word diary, journal was more fitting for my taste). And then I opened my journal as I did most nights and wrote the date, time and dear journal. After my usual introduction, I wrote the following words, “This is a day that will live in infamy.” The rest of the entry is blurry now but I remember writing those exact words.
As a young history buff, I had already studied American History and all the major wars at least once (we took US history at least 3 times it felt like throughout grade school). So I knew about the events of World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor and those piercing words by FDR…“A date which will live in infamy.” I knew the US had been through some tough times but it was a shock for me to utter those words at such a young age…12.
I also always find it interesting that I remember the 12th…very vaguely…but for many, the 12th of September was the visual reminder that the 11th really happened. Front pages across the country, across the world captured the most destructive moment in American history.
Headlines from September 12, 2001 from newspapers across the world line the walls of an exhibit in the Newsum dedicated to 9/11. When I first saw this last summer, I was in awe for a few minutes because the images were so powerful, so vivid, so real.
Every year after that when Sept. 11th rolled around on the calendar, I noticed a change in the air..in the atmosphere. It’s like you’ve become extra sensitive to things…anything…and always on that day. It was like you were looking for something…it’s too hard to describe but you feel it. You know you do. There’s a certain something that fills the day. I also always wondered where I would be for this date’s 10th anniversary and it’s very ironic yet very fitting that I’m in the DMV for it. Now it’s slightly eerie since there are supposed terrorists threats for DC and NY. But I’ve seen an enormous amount of police this weekend so I know the city is taking precautions to keep us all safe. And with that said, I’m sitting venturing into the city to reflect and remember, it’s the least I can do on this somber day.
But 10 years later, you have to think, what’s changed? What’s different? Who are we now? I know I was only 12 but my life became one of war…of heightened security…of caution. I was impacted differently by the war because I don’t have any family in the military but ever since I was 13/14, I’ve grown up knowing that our military was in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. I grew up knowing that I had to arrive to the airport two hours early, remember not to wear a belt and to wear shoes with no laces. I’ve witnessed an event that is now in history books, studied in classes and appears as a question on final. This is one of those events that I’ll tell my kids and grandkids about….just like the way my parents remember and told me about other historic events like Kennedy’s assassination, the death of Dr. King, and the troubling times of Vietnam.
However, in the midst of all this remembering and reflecting of the past, I think it’s time to move forward with the future. This past week, Mayor Bloomberg asked the people of New York and all other to refer to Ground Zero by it’s new name.
“We will never forget the devastation of the area that came to be known as ground zero. Never. But the time has come to call those 16 acres what they are: The World Trade Center and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.”
And I must say, I agree with him. The past is in the past and the future is ahead of us. We have mourned for so long and now that we’ve remembered, reflected and rebuilt, it’s time to move forward. We will also remember what happened and those who were lost but it would be a shame to only remember this date and only see and think pain, destruction, devastation, and disaster. This is a moment to recognize the strengthen, the bravery and the courage of all the American people who died, lived, survived, witnessed, sacrificed that day. And yes, I say American people, not American citizen, because on that day and on this anniversary, we are all one people, no matter where we came from. And on September 11, 2001, it didn’t matter what color, shape, size you were that day, you were affected in someway by the events of that day.
So as we honor the 10th anniversary of September 11th, I hope that we can all remember but we can all also move forward. Because after you mourn, you must move forward but you will never forget.
To all those who lost loved ones on that Tuesday and days afterward, you will always be remembered for your strengthen and courage to carry on. And for those who were lost, you will never be forgotten. 09.11.11.
To you, I ask…where were you on September 11, 2001?