Everyone I know that was in New York at the time of 9/11 remembers exactly what they were doing the second they heard. I was getting ready for school, fresh out of the shower I turned on New York 1 to check the weather as I usually did in the morning. Waiting for the weather report to come on, I sat down, wrapped in my towel when what I thought was a clip from a movie playing until I heard the announcer’s scream. Immediately after the phone rang, it was my mother.
She wanted to know if I was watching the news, I said I was.
My mother worked close to the city, they went on the roof of their office building to take a better look and she crumbled on the phone. I asked her if it was really happening and then we saw the second plane hit together, but completely separately. I was in disbelief. How could this really happen? This is America. Things like this only happen in 3rd world countries. I was a brand new immigrant at the time and the idea I had of how powerful and untouchable America was fell with the towers that day.
I realized that regardless of the nation you’re in, it is made up of people, people who aren’t always good.
My mother asked me not to go to school that day, she knew I didn’t do well in emotional situations but I couldn’t wait for her to get home, no one was around so I went anyways. I needed to be around people, even if it was in silence so I can ponder this new truth I discovered.
I cried as I got dressed and ran out of the door.
Classes were cancelled that day. We moved from class to class slowly, deliberately but without any enthusiasm. The horror and sadness we felt was mirrored in every face we looked at. I could see that it was bad because our teachers didn’t teach, they talked to us, they were silent with us. The feeling filtered down into our bones. We understood clearly that things would be forever changed. We understood that history was about to be made in the decisions that were uttered from the President’s lips in the next few days.
It took months for the city to go back to normal and I saw New York the way I never did before. We weren’t a city or unattached people living in tall buildings, we were a village, very determined to get over this tragedy, determined to take care of our own. We hugged each other, shared our stories of loss, where we were when we found out, who we almost lost and the long walk home that day of those that were close enough to be covered in ash but still made it out alive.
Every year, I listen to the names being read and I cry because I know somewhere else in the world, there are people trying to wade through their own difficult memories from loss, from war, from pain.