Everyone who was old enough to remember the events of September 11, 2001 can tell you exactly where they were on that tragic day. I was in fifth grade, still a bit too young for my teachers to explain to us what had happened that frightful morning. They merely informed us that something very bad had happened and that we’d understand when we got home and watched the news with our parents.
I remember walking out of school that day and exchanging a troubled look with my friend, both of us recognizing in that moment that something was horribly wrong. The atmosphere—usually filled with the sound of kids squealing and chatting with excitement as they headed home after a grueling and generally boring day of school—was instead profoundly silent and somber.
I remember going home from school that day and watching footage of the horrific attack on the news and coming to grips with the colossal, heartbreaking truth that what had happened was an act of pure hatred, an act of terrorism. I remember watching each of the Twin Towers collapse and the pandemonium that ensued. The explosions. The fires. The smoke. The fear. The panic. The devastation.
I remember going to school the next morning and how, instead of diving into a lesson, my fifth-grade teacher talked candidly with us. She told us that her son was scared for her to go to school that morning. She told us she understood that we, her students, were all scared, too. She told us she knew we’d rather be safe at home with our families than at school, trying to go about our normal lives, but that we could not and would not let fear win.
Back then, I was at an age where I didn’t truly comprehend how monumental this horrific tragedy really was, how it affected not only my home state of New York but people all across the United States and the entire world. Now, all these years later, I take a moment to pause and reflect. With each year that passes, no matter where we are, we’re all thinking about the same thing, about the lives that were lost, about all the soldiers who’ve fought for our country and continue to fight for us, about the bravery and selflessness and heroic actions of all the firemen, policemen, paramedics and every single person who gave his or her life that day to save the lives of other innocent people.
It’s strange to think that twenty years or so from now, when our generation has kids and they learn about 9/11 in their history textbooks, they’ll come to us and ask us where we were that day, curious to hear a first-hand account. We’ll tell them how America banded together and that we did not let the terrorists win by giving in to fear.
We are one nation, united and strong.
9/11/01. Never forget.