Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

I had second period free on Tuesdays in 10th grade and so, although school had only started a week earlier, I found myself studying in an empty classroom at 8:50am on September 11 2001.  A few minutes after I opened a textbook, my headmistress came into the room, accompanied by a few administrators, and turned on the TV.  We watched in horror as smoke billowed out of a hole in the side of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and just after 9am saw a second plane hit the South Tower.

Once it was clear that what we had witnessed was no accident, the headmistress called a fire drill.  All the students, aged 8 to 18, gathered on the lawn outside the school beside Washington National Cathedral.  I stood in alphabetical order with my classmates who, completely unaware of what was going on, chattered around me.  An announcement was made to alert everyone of the situation and we were told to head to our homerooms and to stay there until further notice.  We trooped into the school building, confused; however, a third plane had hit the Pentagon while we were outside, and as soon as we got back we learned that the attack was closer that we had thought and panic took over.

My most vivid memory of the rest of the day is of the drivers in the cars around us - because my parents were caught in gridlock trying to get out of downtown DC, an older friend and her sister took me and my sister to their house in the Virginia suburbs - who were all, clearly, listening to the news; their faces were frozen in shock and their knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheels.

Life changed, irrevocably, that day.  We were no longer living in a world where unimaginable atrocities could vaguely happen; we are now, because of that brilliantly sunny day, all too able to imagine further horrors.  As my former schoolmate and Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri wrote a few days ago, "But if we aren't exactly living under the sword of Damocles, we're certainly watching for Damocles' other shoe to drop."

Of course, this isn't how we want to live.  We yearn life on September 10, for Eden before the serpent.  On 9/11/2001, though, we tasted of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and we can never go back to that paradise.

However, this "optimistic fatalism," as Alexandra calls it, doesn't have to be a bad thing, I don't think.  We can make good come out of that terrible day ten years ago.  In a way that was impossible on September 10 2001, we can appreciate other religions, we can understand other viewpoints, we can embrace other cultures: we can love our neighbors as ourselves.

On September 11 2001, terrorists tried to sew hate into the heart of America.  The best way to fight back, I think, is to love.  To love actively, to choose to love; to do this is to show those who hate us that they have not and will never win.

We will always remember those who died on 9/11/2011 and in the ten years since as a result of the attacks on the United States of America and we will always honor those who defend us, and to do both these things we will love.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely put. Thanks for your reflection. I was a first year teacher that day - in between A and B periods, one of my eighth grade students frantically entered my room with the news. Experiencing such tragedy as a 22 year old teacher thrust me into the real world much more than my college graduation did.


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