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Monday, September 12, 2011

My 9/11 Story: 10 years later

Everyone has that moment outside of an upcoming birthday where they look at their age and feel "old." My moment came when I realized The Lion King was in theatres 17 years ago. WOW! Yea, that made me feel old AF.

Its breath taking to consider how time gets away from us. I was reminded of how fast time flies when I saw the first "9/11: 10 years later" tv promo. My reaction was "Cot dang, its been 10 years already?!" Dang I was 15 years old! Eeek! So much has changed since then. Still, I look at my calendar and I know it has been 10 years but it doesn't feel like 10 years. Hell, it doesn't feel like 2 years. I like to think back on what was important to me back then compared to what is important now and I'm glad many of those things have changed.

By now I have heard it a thousand times,"you will never forget where you were on 9/11." You've watched the documentaries of "never before seen footage" and sat through specials that featured interviews with everyone from the person who took the tickets that day to the children who were in the classroom at the moment when Bush found out America was under attack.

Its been 10 years and I can tell my version of the  story like it happened yesterday: I was a high school sophomore enjoying all the perks that came along with having an older sister who was loved by the school administration: free hall passes, excuses to get out of class and the opportunity to eat lunch off campus. Back to my point. She entered our first period television production class in a panic and I thought it was merely another one of her "acts" to get me out of class. Yea she was always animated. My sister rambled about seeing a news story on the innanets about a plane hitting the WTC towers. As the cynical habitual line crosser that I am, I immediately dismissed her and told her "drugs are bad, mmkay?" and proceeded to give her the kind of hug you see on Intervention. She insisted that she was telling the truth and asked my teacher for permission to show me the story online. I thought she had taken it a little too far, and possibly surrendered to taking drugs for the first time but I still followed her. Don't judge me, I REALLY did not like that class. As she showed me the story, our Principal came over the intercom and informed us of what had happened. The bell rang for us to change classes and I dragged my feet to go to chemistry. Our teacher turned on the news radio and we listened as the air waves told an unbelievable story: America was under attack. He still wanted us to complete the days lesson tho.

I realized on that day how invincible I thought America was. Before 9/11/01, I went about my days feeling 100% safe from any invaders. No one would DARE attack our great nation. I learned I was wrong. I learned our invincibility cloak did not exist. I learned there are people who genuinely want to cause harm for the sake of causing harm (and possibly making a point). On that day, I felt like a hopeless victim. People were suffering and I could not do anything to help them. I sat and watched people cry. I wondered why I wasn't sad like them. I didn't have any family or friends near NYC so maybe thats why; my personal connection did not exist. That didn't stop me from being glued to CNN. I remember fear being widespread even in South Florida. I remember news stories about how our nuclear power plants were not safe.

My family and I stayed up half the night glued to the television watching the news stories. We listened to the chilling and genuine reactions of anchors who exclaimed in terror "oh my God" as they watched another plane hit the other tower. We watched live as the first tower imploded and collapsed. Then the second followed. New Yorkers ran around the city in a panic many of them covered in smut. I watched in terror as people chose to jump to their death. I tried desperately to understand what what going on, but I failed. I remember talking about it for weeks. I remember hearing all of the conspiracy theorists. I remember Bush's speeches assuring those involved, "WE WILL FIND YOU" and wanting to believe him.

Despite my memory of that tragic day, I struggle 10 years later to empathize with all of the coverage surrounding "the day that changed America." Everyone from major news networks to social media users are sharing their memories. Much like my story above, people tell where they were, what they were doing and how they reacted when they first heard the towers were hit. The closest feeling I have to that moment was when I found out my 3 month old nephew suddenly passed away. It was a HUGE blow to my gut and I'm pretty sure my heart sank into my toes. I remember where I was that day and I remember how I felt. I think about him often and sometimes find myself dreaming about the kind of kid he would have turned out to be. I don't cry anymore. I honor his life and that is all my brain will allow me to do. I feel guilty when I don't feel sad. Isn't that what people are supposed to feel when they think of the loved ones they have lost?

I pray for the families of all affected by 9/11 but the coverage leading up to the anniversary seemed like overkill to me. On the one hand you have conspiracy theorists who still claim 9/11 was an "inside job" and on the other hand you have the extremists who insist on perpetuating fear by any means necessary. I'm somewhere in the middle. Now that I live in DC I am cautious, especially when I am downtown. When we experienced the earthquake one of my initial concerns was that we were under attack, again. I found myself thanking God that it was only an earthquake.

What is your experience? How do you feel about 9/11 10 years later? Is the coverage too much or too little?

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