I will not forget that day twelve years ago when the towers fell. I couldn’t forget if I wanted to.
I was thirteen. I was sitting in Ms. Howze’s 8th grade English class which was held in a trailer out back behind the school. It was cloudy outside. Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the news of what happened that morning just put my head in a fog. In my memory there were clouds though. And I remember a random student rushing up the steps and bursting through the door of Ms. Howze’s “Peace Center”. Panting, he or she (my memory only sees a faceless person) said, “Turn on the TV! A plane just flew into the World Trade Center!”
My teacher, who was against all forms of violence, nonsense and distraction in the classroom, surprisingly did not object to the random student’s request. Soon her “Peace Center” was full of wide-eyed children staring at a building on fire.
I am somewhat ashamed to say that I had no idea what the World Trade Center was. I didn’t even know WHERE it was. All I knew at the time was that it was on fire. The newscasters were babbling on about something or another, but I wasn’t hearing. I figured out rather quickly, though, that this was happening in New York City. I think the next thing I realized is that this might not be an accident. The second plane confirmed that fear.
For the next several hours my classroom watched in absolute horror. I didn’t know that I was watching history unfold. I only knew that people were burning. Suffocating. Jumping from windows.
When the first tower collapsed, it hurt to keep breathing. I didn’t know I could feel such fear and pain for other people. The only thought I could put together was ” Please, God.”
“Please, God,” what? I don’t know. But He knew the cries of my heart even when I didn’t.The rest of the school day was spent with eyes glued to TVs. When I got home, same story. The more facts that came out, the more despicable it became. My thirteen year old mind could not comprehend such evil.
“Terrorism” was not even a word in my vocabulary until that day. But I understood it completely the first time I heard it spoken. Because an evil someone had struck absolute terror into my heart. In a matter of moments, I lost my sense of security. America, “land of the free and home of the brave”, had been attacked. We weren’t safe here.
The weeks that followed were full of junior high chatter about the end of the world and prophesies and strange numerical patterns that predicted this and that… I listened to them with eager ears, but laughed silently at most of it. Ms. Howze quickly implemented a new syllabus in which we would memorize and recite all poetry, songs, and hymns having to do with anything remotely patriotic. And her wardrobe – while always over the top – suddenly became outrageously red, white and blue.
I know very few lines of Shakespeare, a handful of iconic quotes from classic novels,…but I can recite the Pledge of Allegiance in my sleep, sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic (all 6 or so verses) and tell you the lyrics to every other mildly patriotic song known to man!
“There ain’t no doubt, I love this lannnnd!!!! God bless the USA!”
Something happened on September 11, 2001 that began to change the way I looked at life. It wasn’t until then that I truly understood that tomorrow is not promised. Anything can happen. I could die today. A gunman can enter my workplace, a tornado could sweep me away, or I could be in a fatal car wreck on my way home.
Or I could live for another 80 years.
But what if I don’t? What if YOU don’t? Those people who went to work in the WTC that day didn’t know it was going to be their last. I wonder what they would have said or done differently if they had.
I am trying to live every day entirely aware that this could be the last hour I am given. I feel like then and only then can I say that I have lived life to its fullest.