Today we remember a major event that affected countless lives; an event that none of us saw coming and struck us in a way that affects us almost as strongly now as it did eleven years ago. We’re going to see numerous stories on the television and the internet reminding us of just how horrible that day was and the overwhelming aftermath that came with it. As a way to remember those we lost then and the ones who are still affected by the events of that day, I’d like to take a moment to share with you how 9/11 impacted me and how it has shaped my life in the years since.
I was twelve years old the day the towers fell. The day began just like any other and nothing could have prepared me for what would eventually become the day that everything changed. I was sitting in my seventh grade second period social studies class learning about ancient Egypt when the first tower was struck. At the time I, like so many others, had no idea what was going on just a few hundred miles from my school. When second period ended and we traveled to the next class, there was clearly something afoot that not a single person would speak about. The adults in the school were buzzing and throughout the morning it was becoming more evident that something was being kept from us; something that our teachers felt best to keep quiet for fear of how it would affect us.
It wasn’t until lunch time several hours later that my friends and I discovered from another student at our lunch table what had happened. He had said that a plane had collided with The World Trade Center and it had fallen, but did not know enough to share anything beyond that. I’ll be perfectly honest in telling you that I had no idea at the time what The World Trade Center was and was utterly confused as to why a heavy cloud seemed to envelop the people around me throughout the day. At that age I had barely traveled beyond the confines of the city limits and knew little about the world at large. When my friend explained what little he knew, I felt as if I was missing a very large piece of the puzzle; I didn’t understand what many of the other kids around me understood and to be perfectly honest felt a little lost as a result.
I continued onto my next class and by early afternoon it seemed like the entire school was whispering and every word was beyond my reach. It wasn’t until sixth period Math that the missing piece of the puzzle found its way to me. My teacher, Mr. Kerwood, made the unlikely decision to treat us as adults when every other person only saw us as children. On that day he explained the events that had and were transpiring and the implications of them on our lives. On that day he carefully explained that from that point onward, everything would be different; that the lives we knew were about to change in even the smallest of ways. I remember sitting on the bus on the way home with his words echoing in my mind, trying to grapple with the reality of what had happened and how it would affect me.
When I got home and turned on the television, I was bombarded with coverage of the event. It seemed like every channel was focused on this one event and no matter how many times I clicked the button on the remote, the images kept on coming in full force: the destruction, the chaos, and the inevitable heartbreak. In a matter of eight hours since school began to the time I sat fixated on the television, the world had changed; my world had changed. While my upbringing did not allow for the comforts of ignorance or naivety, whatever shred of innocence that I had left was then stripped away by the harsh realities of the world around me. In a matter of eight hours, the world I knew no longer existed; the world I knew was but a memory. It was then that I learned the value of life and it was then that I became acquainted with the darker side of human nature. It was then that I felt the connection to those around me.
While I may not have lost anyone on 9/11, I still carry with me the memory of that day and the impact that this one act of hatred had on my life. It’s important that no matter our political views, conspiracy theories, or personal opinions on that day or the events that followed, we must never forget the men and women who died as a result. We must never forget the value of human life and the realities of the world in which we live. So today I bow my head to all who were lost and to all of the people who were so deeply affected by the events that transpired eleven years ago, to those who aided in relief efforts and to those who did whatever they could to help those in need, the true heroes that this world so desperately needed. Today I bow my head in memory with a promise that I will never forget.
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry