9.12.2011

Remembering September 11th

It's hard to say whether in this jumbled mess of wars and famine and devastation, whether there will be any one day of recent history we remember so clearly as September 11th, 2001. It's really strange to me how the mind makes so vivid a memory of a day that was otherwise ordinary (wake up, get ready, go to school) and that ten years haven't stubbed or faded this particular memory at all.

Seeing the vigils and services being held for the ten year anniversary have brought me back to a hot, September morning in Arizona, where for some unknown reason, ten-year-old me had woken up early. I remember stumbling bleary-eyed downstairs to eat and being shocked out of the drone of my dad's usual morning stock market watch by some particularly unusual screaming. I remember watching my tv, taking in what had been going on while I was ushered, somewhat subdued-ly, by my mother through the morning ritual and then shipped off to school.

I remember sitting in first-hour pre-Algebra and hearing over the announcements that our teachers were not allowed to turn on the televisions to screen the events because several parents had phoned that they didn't want their children to see the extent of the devastation. And while most of our class was in a futile argument with our teacher about how that wasn't fair to us, and we deserved as much as everyone to know what was going on because people in our class had relatives, one kid in my class raised his hand, and said the most profound thing I have ever heard from a sixth-grader. He said, "Ms. Cole, I really think we should be allowed to watch it. Today is a day we're going to remember for the rest of our lives; that we're going to tell our kids about when they read about it in history books. We're not just some kids, this is our history and it's happening to us right now. How can you expect us to miss out on knowing about something that's going to affect and change our futures?"

Even my teacher was dumbstruck.

Ultimately, I remember them still not letting us watch, but we saw it all anyway on loop on the news for days and days as the rubble was sifted through and people were rescued or identified, and you know? I have to agree with my classmate, Andrew. It's a horrible thing to feel privilege to witness, but it was necessary to know what had happened to be able to remember and honor it properly. If I hadn't been witness, along with millions of people, to these terrible events, who knows if I would feel as strongly as I do about peace and about community? September 11th changed things for kids like me, who were just starting to understand the world and open their eyes to the possibilities in people, and the reactions I saw to it will always be a lesson to me in bravery, passion, honor, community, and grace.

Side-note: I'm not back yet, I just have a lot of feelings about this, and I wasn't kidding when I said this is honestly one of the most vivid memories I have from sixth grade, so I thought it was worth sharing. I know it's the 12th, but it took me a little bit to actually get my thoughts together on the matter.

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