Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Same Story: 10 Years Ago Today

My story isn't special. It's the story of millions of kids across the country 10 years ago, the story of now-20-somethings who watched together in terror, confusion, utter lack of understanding. We are older now, we know more; the age on our faces betrays the decade passed, but how can that be? Wasn't it just yesterday that it happened?

I was 17, a senior in high school. Mrs. Hardy's AP English class. Another teacher ran in & told us there'd been "an accident;" class went on. My friend Marisa & I made our way to third-period A Cappella, where a small, black & white TV was turned on but fuzzy, antennae held up by my sophomore-year boyfriend. I remember a reporter saying fear had spread "like mold in a wet basement;" what a stupid analogy for such a serious tragedy.

We watched the towers fall together, cried together. One girl began a prayer circle for her fellow Christian students in the hallway. Another girl, whose uncle worked at the Pentagon, was in hysterics. And the quiet Chinese exchange student who worried her home country might somehow be responsible. Concern for a friend attending school in Pennsylvania, where the other plane went down, & for a family friend who was working on Wall Street - he saw the towers fall out his office window. We were seniors, 17 & 18, the perfect age for a draft; the perfect age for a war. What would happen to us? Would our male friends be sent away? Selfishly, we cried for ourselves.

The day went on. They wanted us to pretend it never happened, take exams & carry on with our lives. At the last bell, I rushed home, turned on the TV until my mom joined me, then kept doing the same; we sobbed, without shame or any attempt to stop, in our living room, for hours. I wrote more than 15 pages in my diary; I wish I had it with me now, to go back to those emotions. I was most affected by the missing people, the corkboards full of fliers, the children holding signs asking their fathers to call home. A secondary explosion caused a tangential building to fall, & broadcaster Ashleigh Banfield reported as she ran - the moment I decided I wanted to be a journalist. Went to bed with a headache, with nightmares; woke up hoping it had been one of them.

You know what I remember about that day, more than anything? Arriving early to school, congregating in the cafeteria with friends before the morning bell rang. My friend Nikki, wearing a shirt emblazoned with a glittery New York skyline, towers & all. My friend Kevin saying: "Today is going to be a bad day. I can feel it."

A day we could never forget.


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