When you look back 10 years you wonder, “How could time have passed by so quickly?” When you look forward 10 years you wonder, “How will time go by at all?”
Both questions resonate with me today: the memory of a fateful day so long ago feels like it just happened a few days ago, the memory of being the child who thought 10 years would pass as slowly as 100. I am still wondering the same thing — how did 10 years go by so quickly, and how will the next 10 ever come?
Everyday is the 10th anniversary of another day, but none quite like September 11; this day is a permanent etch into Americans’ souls who saw that day, whether it was from Ground Zero, a TV screen or the face of someone who came bearing the tragic news. It’s on this day that Americans everywhere take at least a moment to remember where they were, how they felt and what that day means for them on each anniversary.
Ten years ago, my life was that of a 12-year-old who wondered what we’d be doing that day in Language Arts class at Marlin Middle School. This memory and snippets of the day are so vivid — when the details of my past birthdays, vacations, and more personally monumental events are lost. This memory is frozen in time like a snapshot, as if my mind and heart had entered into a silent mutual agreement to begin immediate preservation when the news came.
The first indication that something bad had happened was from Ms. Goodrum’s furrowed brow and stoic expression as she listened intently to her radio with her chin resting in one hand. My classmates and I had come in laughing about something trivial, and we stopped when we saw her.
“A plane crashed into one of the towers in New York City,” I remember her vaguely saying.
My immediate instinct was to mirror her concern and internally have a moment of sadness for any lives lost. That was about it.
We went on laughing and talking quietly as we copied definitions out of the dictionary. Stuff like this happened everyday. It wasn’t until we heard about a second plane, and a third plane, and words like “terrorists” and “attacks” that I began to be truly concerned — wondering, panicking, feeling scared….
At this time in my life, I had lived through the Oklahoma City bombing, O.J. Simpson’s notorious trial and Jon Benet Ramsey’s kidnapping and murder. I had been exposed to hearing the news of tragic deaths and murder from a TV screen, and to me — that’s what this was.
Initially I thought a pilot had had engine troubles and the plane had crashed due to technical problems. Then when I realized it was intentional — it still only resonated to me as another crime: something I should take a moment to be silent for; something I should be sad for because it was the right thing to do. What was terrorism? What did it feel like to have an outsider wage war against your country? These questions only had answers in history books from the historians and anecdotal stories of world wars and revolutions.
It wasn’t until later that afternoon that the situation became a little clearer. My Algebra class regularly watched Channel One News, and it wasn’t until we watched the film of the planes crashing in the Twin Towers over and over, and they crumbling like Leggo blocks that the truth began to unfold. This wasn’t a freak accident, or a hate crime from a psycho murderer living in our own country. This was a wage of war on America, and war it would soon be…Could this be real?
Days and weeks went by with nothing but round-the-clock coverage of Sept. 11: the heroes of Flight 93, the last calls made, those who saved lives, those who lost lives. My heart ached for those who had experienced such immense loss, but it hurt because the attack was on my country; America was my land, too.
Sadly, when I thought we would band together – all of us: the Chinese, Mexicans, Blacks, Whites, Indians, Arabs — it wasn’t the case. Lines were drawn and all of a sudden the rank of how “American” you were depended on your color, faith and even your accents.
Whites and Blacks were the only “true” Americans, and the rest of us? Outsiders, intruders — terrorists, ourselves. Understandable of course, when the attack had been made from a group calling themselves “Muslims” and there were so many of “those people” living next door — people felt threatened and angered. But this hate spread like wildfire. I remember being discriminated against by ignorant and angry people telling my family and me to “go back where we came from.” India? The attackers were Afghanis — and radical Muslims, for that matter. My family was neither…why was this happening, I questioned over and over.
So many years passed before this anger died, and while many people stopped lashing out at anyone who resembled the “look” of a Muslim, many of my Islamic friends still deal with hatred today. People forget that being White or Black isn’t an ethnicity and “their people” were once fleeing persecution and seeking better lives. America was the place they found that liberty and the right to pursue happiness; people forget that being an American means opening your arms and banding together, not the other way around.
Ten years later, I’m still haunted by the images from that day and of the war that ensued within our land. The day will always be one that humbles me because I lived and didn’t experience immediate loss, like so many others did. It will also be a day, however, that I remember turned Americans against Americans and I pray that we can learn from, so that is never the case again.
The attack was from the outside, not within. Let us always be one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And let us remember September 11, 2001 this — as a day when our country and people’s unity was tested for its strength and resilience, not as a day when we were knocked down. We are here strong as ever 10 years later; it’s more than obvious we passed with flying colors. Let us always stand united, and remember September 11 for that lesson.
God bless America.
- Happy Birthday, America!
- Ground Zero: September 11, 2001- September 11, 2011 (availableworld.wordpress.com)
- 9-11 May there never be another! (macattack56.wordpress.com)