Everyone who was at least of school age on 9/11 ten years ago remembers something of that day. Many people remember a whole lot more. Where were you?
That day set the tone for my senior year of high school. I’ll forever associate that year (which was a great school year) with that event. It’s inseparable. Everyone that I graduated from high school with in June of 2002 (and all those across the country who did the same) will always remember that being the event that defined our senior year. I’ll tell you right now – this is long. But it’s real and it’s processing for me.
Now, I’m a very sentimental person. Like…really. It’s not a bad thing and to me it is important to remember events, people, situations that mean a lot to me. Even the small things. Part of that probably stems from my photographic memory to remember moments in time and look back on them even when they seemed to be the most mundane of events.
The day everything happened was a Tuesday. We were living in Connecticut. I remember being in theatre class with Mr. Harrington. We were discussing the musical we were going to do that fall – Grease. I was going to stage manage. My friend Stacy came in and said something about a plane hitting a building in New York. We all kind of looked at each other with disbelief, like we weren’t quite sure what to make of that statement. Surely it was an accident. A very unusual accident but an accident nonetheless. We carried on. There wasn’t a tv in this classroom.
Cut to our next classes. TVs on in all rooms. I remember watching the tv in sociology class. During study hall. TVs on in the cafeteria even. At some point our principal came on over the PA to share plans for the rest of the day, calm everyone and to ask that students who had parents in DC or NY (on business or otherwise) to come to the office to make phone calls so they could check on their parents. Surreal. I remember the last period of the day I had AP English with one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Everyone had been glued to the tv all day and she knew – you can only take so much. We needed a break from it. We needed time to process. She turned the lights off and closed the door and told us to just sit, breathe, and process in whatever way we needed to. It was so quiet. Not relaxing but time slowed and we could think on our own. We needed that. I’m grateful she had the foresight to do this for us.
What was I feeling? I grew up in places this did not happen. In the country. Those visuals, those pictures, that video – that happened in movies. It was hard to comprehend this. In America? I was scared. I got home and had the tv on. I’d have it on in the mornings as I got ready for school. I think about it now and I only made myself feel ten times worse being glued to the news.
Last night I pulled out my journal that I was writing at the time of the attacks. On September 7, 2001 I was writing about my schedule for senior year. That I hated the fact that I wasn’t able to take journalism like I had the year before. I wrote about helping with Grease and wanting to do yearbook. I wrote a lot about AP English and the initial tests we’d taken over the readings we had to do during the summer and how HARD they were. I apparently had gotten my hair cut the day before on September 6 and my paycheck for working at the Brooklyn Fair. I was thinking about people at church who were due to have their babies soon and the colleges I was looking at applying to.
My entry on September 11, 2001. Some of it sounds like I’m regurgitating what was said on the news verbatim. This is how real I got at as a 17 year old on the day things happened and the world was still trying to understand everything that was going on. “I’m scared it will continue. That I’ll die. It causes me to think of my relationship with Christ. And my friends who aren’t saved. I was just talking about religion with someone this morning.”
Then on September 12, 2001 I wrote that I was “ticked off” about people in other countries celebrating the deaths here in America. I wrote about how my mom had a cousin who was an FBI agent that worked at the Pentagon and she didn’t know if he was ok (correct me if I’m wrong about any of this, mom). I also wrote one more time “Quite honestly I’m afraid it will happen again.” What struck me most about reading that entry is the last thing I wrote regarding something that happened on September 10, 2001: “It’s weird. Monday at the yearbook meeting we chose a theme. ‘On common ground, we stand together.’ How weird that we picked it before this – only God.”
On September 14, 2001 I wrote about something that still gives me chills as I remember it. “That Friday we had a school-wide moment of silence as Chris West sang the National Anthem. Then all of a sudden Tessa immediately stood up and began to say the Pledge of Allegiance”. We all stood. An amazing moment. Dare I say, God was present.” I remember crying that day. That was another day of quiet processing in AP English.
The next couple entries I started writing a lot about prayer. My prayer life picked up a WHOLE lot at this time. I was praying at the oddest times and in the strangest of places. I wrote about praying for those who had attacked us and for us here in America. I wrote something kind of controversial too. “I strongly believe now that God let this happen so that we would see all of the evil in the world and realize we need to come back to him. We don’t just need religion in our lives, we need a personal relationship with Him. God is a big, mighty God and he can do anything, so I pray He’d start a revival all across the world… I know God can change a heart in the blink of an eye.” I don’t know how I feel about that one particular statement I wrote about believing God let it happen. Maybe I still think that. I don’t think God wanted it to happen or He orchestrated it. But I do think it became a wake up call for many. I just hope we don’t forget that.
In October 2011 I wrote a post declaring that I “HAD TO” cut out a couple of the best comics and articles in light of the Sept. 11 attacks. Yup. I did. Cut them out and taped them in my journal. I told you – sentimental about things that are important to me. Remembering this was important to me. It was a gigantic moment in my life. I took up about 25 pages of my journal (front and back of a page) with things I cut out.
In entries after that during my senior year I wrote about the day we started bombing in Afghanistan, a poem I wrote for a creative project in AP English about September 11, a Bible club that was started at the school by my friend Morning Star, a girl who came to the club one time and called me a couple weeks later extremely excited because she’d asked Christ into her heart, classes, the Winter Olympics (which I LOVE) that I was able to watch both weeks of because I was so sick with the flu (not a coincidence, promise), going to visit colleges, our 10 year reunion paper (wow), going on field trips based on vanilla coke, finally being inducted into NHS (let’s just not go there…), reminiscing about camp days on the phone with friends, and the very last day of school of a year that started out with an event like 9/11.
It’s appropriate my last class period of high school was AP English. We were a tight group. We were looking through the yearbook together. “I don’t like this you guys,” one of my friends said. Dr. Taylor (AP English and yearbook advisor) was like, “You don’t like the yearbook?” Stacy’s response: “No, I don’t like the fact that this is really ending.” Yes, there were tears involved. I told Dr. Taylor how much her class meant to me. She gave us back the letters we wrote to ourselves the very first day of senior year in August 2011. We graduated…and with a crazy graduation gift, off I went to Spain for 10 days with my grandmother.
9/11 really had a profound impact on my senior year. Our AP English class went through that and the processing of it TOGETHER. I think that’s why realizing it’s been 10 years is crazy. I feel like I was just in a classroom with some of them just yesterday and seeing all of the coverage on tv this year especially – it hits hard. Ten years is a decade. It’s a milestone. It deserves celebration of lives lived, lives saved and lives remembered. I am incredibly grateful to see all of the memorials taking place for those who were lost and to honor those who risked their lives and continue to serve and protect on that day. It will be something the graduating classes of 2002 will always have in common and will always feel.
Tomorrow I might post the poem I wrote for AP called “The Day of September 11” and some of the clippings that ended up in my journal. Yeah, that’s kind of super personal, but it’s really cathartic.
9/11 – We will never forget.
This 9/11 tribute in New York City can be found in Bryant Park. 2,819 empty chairs are set up on the lawn facing the site where the World Trade Center once stood, one chair for every life lost. The number of empty chairs captures the enormity of the lives lost and the stark emptiness of it just drives home the point that I hope is never forgotten. 2,819 people were here one moment and gone the next. 2,819 went to work or boarded a plane one morning ten years ago thinking it would be another ordinary day and they never came home.