Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: Ten Years Later, We See the Light

Where were you on Sept. 11? Most of us have been asked that question. Some tell a story about trying to contact relatives while others say how they knew the world had changed. My story contained no profound observations, no reflections, no reactions. It wasn’t until I stopped to think about it today that I understood how life changed that day.

I was a freshman in high school home sick with a nasty case of the flu. No one told me about the attacks. I saw reruns of the towers burning on almost every station later that morning. I couldn’t grasp what had happened. My mother came home and told me that it was horrible and life altering, but the message didn’t click. I acknowledged it, but it wasn’t until that evening that I began to realize the gravity of the situation.

My mother kept the TV on the Disney Channel that night if my siblings or cousins were in the room. They were all too young to see the footage at that moment. The station never said what happened, but the shows’ stars would come on and encourage kids to speak to their parents about their fears and confusion. She was sheltering my siblings and cousins until she and my father could discuss how to talk about it. The private elementary schools they attended left it to the parents to break the news. I was told not to discuss it until they had explained it.

Life did change after 9/11. Security was tight everywhere, even in my small Indiana town. Everyone was afraid and there was no real joy in the world. A constant heaviness filled the air. Even if no one mentioned the terrorist attacks, it felt like the topic was lurking in the shadows. Unmarked mail was items to fear. There was talk of war, of death. The world was suddenly a dark place. I hadn’t felt that nervous since the Oklahoma City Bombing.

It felt like we were on the edge of disaster. It was as if the world was on a plate balanced on a needle and the plate was crooked. One more move and it would fall. I hear about the war on terror every day at school on the “Channel One” show, yet didn’t understand everything going on. With every report of a car or suicide bombing, I felt like destruction was coming closer. The terrorists proved that they could and would come onto American soil. We all feared it would happen again.

In 2003, Columbia exploded, adding to the feel of doom. Each disaster piled up, further tipping the plate. The earthquake in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina brought the feeling that nature itself wanted us to die.

I don’t know when life changed. I can’t point to a day or month and say that’s when the world seemed a little brighter.

Ten years later, I can finally say I understand. I under what that day meant. I understood how life changed. It’s only by looking back is it possible to see the whole picture. As Americans, we should view images of the memorial. We should observe a moment of prayer, silence or reflection for those who died that day. Each one is a hero, as are the ones who were injured or escaped. The families affected deserve our prayers. We can mourn and be thankful.

And we will never forget.

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