On this day in America 17 yrs ago we became collectively scared. Innocent lives were lost and evil prevailed. We’re still suffering the effects of these attacks today.
But the sun set, the moon rose and set and the sun came up again. September 12th arrived right on time. Not an ounce of us was divided, we were all Americans.
However, we forget the unity we had. Paper flags hung on every front window of every home, we huddled in churches together, we cried together, we read the newspaper over the fence to the neighbor fighting back tears, we gripped the steering wheel while we drove to work listening to the second plane hit. Our minds were muddled with confusion and fear and anger. We didn’t know what to do. We lit candles. We took walks as neighbors. Boys enlisted. We grieved together and we stood together.
I may be a Millennial but I remember every bit of the following years. On Sept 11th 2001, I was in school, 7 years old. The teachers aide, Mrs D, came in and whispered to the teacher, Miss L looked at Mrs. D in disbelief. “What?”
The teacher appeared in the doorway “Ladies, can I speak with you in the hallway?”
We were instructed to draw quietly until she returned.
The rest of that day was filled with whispers and hushed conversations, radiating unspoken emotions.
My dad picked me up from school that day. It was strange. He never did that on Tuesdays he was supposed to be at the State House that day. We drove home and talked about why he was picking me up. he explained that his job wanted him safe and with his family because our nation’s capital was in danger. People who had jobs like his were supposed to stay home from work for a few days.
He parked the car in the small parking lot of a corner health food store. We sat in the car, listening to the radio, munching on still cold nuts from the cooler section. He explained to me what happen in New York. Even at that age I could tell it was a very serious thing. He did his best to make sure I knew I was safe but that my country was very scared right now.
“This hasn’t happened since your grandpa was a young man. I think this will be like his Pearl Harbor. That day changed his life which changed mine and yours. This day will change mine and yours, and your children’s lives.”
“America stands for many things but one very important thing is freedom. There are some people who don’t like how we live. When people don’t like things for a long time it turns into hate. When you hate someone you want to hurt them. That’s what some people did in those planes. They wanted to hurt us today and they did.”
He explained Terrorism to me in very simple terms and we went home.
The following months and year things were totally different. The flag hung in our window until it was faded to white, just like everyone else on our street. Flags were on porches. Cars had bumper stickers. We read the newspaper and listened to the radio together. My school enrollment jumped, people were worried about their kids in the big public schools. The teachers carried walkie-talkies, and ear pieces to communicate with each other. New doors were installed. We painted white crosses on the windows of our common rooms. We gathered around our flag outside. War was a reality. Footage of places that looked hot and dusty were everywhere. Rallies were held. People were dying. Local men were enlisting right after graduation. Everything changed.
Every year on this anniversary I am reminded of the strength we had on the 12th. The unity we experienced was once unlike anything I’d seen. I still get emotional watching the videos of workers clearing the rubble. Seeing the raw American Spirit in each story of rescue personnel inspires me each time.
The Mild Millennial