16 Years Later

It has been 16 years.

14 years since the world stopped turning the same way.

14 years since a country’s naiveté was taken away for good.

Like many others, on this day, I remember where I was when I heard.

It was the second day of my first year of high school. I was tired that day.  The night before I was in New York City with my Mom. As a congratulations on making it through your first day of high school, my grandma got me tickets to see the musical Aida.  While waiting in line to go into the theater, my mom and I made friends with two young girls who were in New York on vacation.  They regaled us with stories about what they saw and what they wanted to see. The only story I was interested in was their adventures at the MTV Video Music Awards a few nights before.

I wonder about those girls still.

 I wonder if they watched in horror from their hotel room.

I wonder if they ran in fear from ground zero.

I still wonder if they are ok.

The next day I was tired. I was bored and sitting in my math class.  We were taking an assessment type quiz, so my teacher knew where we all stood with our math skills.  We were listening to the radio when we were taking this quiz.   My math teacher read something somewhere that playing classical music to students during a test relaxes them and helps them do better. So, here we all were. Taking an assessment quiz, listening to classical music and it was 8:45 am.  A few minutes later the music stopped. The speaker that was placed above the big classroom clock crackled to life.

All students. Please gather your things and go to your homeroom (I am sure there was more, but I don’t remember that anymore)

Without complaint, we gathered our things and headed off. Rumors were flying everywhere. The main two were that the president was dead or there was a shooter nearby.  I sat down near my friends in my chorus classroom aka homeroom. No one knew what to do next.  My homeroom teacher came in and told us all to shut up as he put on his radio that sat on his desk.

That is when all the rumors stopped.

A complete silence permeated that large room.

I didn’t know what I know today, but I knew things were going to change.

I was right.

The rest of that day was useless. Teachers ranting, crying, bookmarked it and trying to explain to us what might happen next.  I will never forget what my computer teacher said to us in class that day.

While we sit in here, outside our world is burning

I went home at the regular time with the same ride. I saw the images on television and felt myself break down.

After that, life gets blurry again.

It is strange that one event on one day can be so clear but the rest a blur.

16 years later and I can still remember.

I do not expect to forget, though.

I know America is not loved right now.  We have been operating on fear since that day.  Many of our decisions since that day have been based on fear.  That fear has made us mean.  It has made us run in the wrong direction many times.  The wrong people have even preyed on that fear.

I pray as my generation starts to come into our own that we do not let fear take over. I hope my generation remembers how we, as a nation, can come together to do some good.  We can accomplish so much if we do not operate under fear and operate with an open mind and understanding of each other.

If 9/11 has taught me anything, we can come together as a country to do good.  We can look beyond our differences and remember that we are all human beings.

16 years since 9/11 and I will never forget.

I pray that my generation and future generations never forget either.


*I wrote this piece about three years ago, but nothing changes. All I said still stands.* 

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