I was twelve years old, still thinking I was hot stuff for having graduated from elementary school to seventh grade.
I did not hear anything about the instantly infamous attacks on United States soil until second period English class. The boy who sat next to me told me of the crash into the first tower, but I thought it was accidental. I went throughout my day thinking nothing of it until fifth period when I entered my classroom for French class, which, incidentally was the same classroom and same teacher as the English class from before. Instead of a cheery, “Bonjour, classe!” from Madame Flint, TVs had been wheeled in and we did not study foreign language that day. We simply watched.
I don’t remember much, honestly. I remember certain details. I was old enough to remember but not quite old enough to fully understand the meaning and potential aftermath.
I do remember in the days following how angry I was. Surprisingly not at the attackers. I recall writing in my journal, quoting Christ while he was on the cross, “Forgive them; for the know not what they do.” Sometimes I am amazed at the profound things I accomplished when I was younger. Sometimes it seems I’ve gone backwards.
The anger I felt was largely targeted at my school and its administrators. No one felt inclined to tell us that our country had been attacked. No one felt inclined to mention it the day after when the fact of attack was more clear. No one except Madame Flint, who besides feeling we deserved to know, a few months later had us make care packages for the troops.
Now, ten years later, 9/11 is synonymous with tragedy and solemnity. Osama bin Laden is a name that is practically as familiar as Michael Jackson. New York City has been a city marked not only by its great heritage of American history and culture, but a place with a gaping hole, both physically and emotionally. September 11, 2001 created figures and names that have been effortlessly engrained in my worldview. The attacks happened at that age when a broader world perspective had begun to form. Thus, this day ten years ago has been a part of my every day life.
As I’ve grown older, I have thought over things frequently. I think of all the death and fear from this day ten years ago. I think of how it takes a tragedy for Americans to feel united, a feeling we easily forget. I think of all the subsequent death caused by a war that is still raging ten years later. A War on Terror. The phrase has never quite made sense.
There are so many considerations, so many things I really don’t know or understand. It is truly difficult to know what should have been done or what should be done now. Was war the answer? I don’t know. But should we have done nothing? Could we have done nothing? I really don’t think so.
It doesn’t really matter if a reaction of violence was the good choice or the bad choice; the logical choice or the illogical choice. To do nothing is not part of our culture. It never has been. Regardless of all our cultural, political, economic flaws as a nation, we are doers. Our drive to do, to move is what has made us such a powerful nation in a relatively short time. In fact, I would submit that doing and moving is such an integral part of our culture that when we as a society stop moving, problems tend to ensue.
9/11 of ten years ago has created an effect that is to this day confusing. The day was confusing. Ensuing war is confusing. What to do now is confusing.
What is not confusing is the surprising unity I feel when I think of 9/11. It is surprising because of my typical blunt expression of what I see as problems in American culture. Sometimes those observations are hard to bridge. But when it really comes down to it, I do love America. I don’t want to see it attacked. I don’t want to see my people in a war zone.
I am angered when people attempt to cheapen this day, to make it a conspiracy and insult the life sacrifice. Regardless of feelings people have toward the war, it cannot be denied that ten years ago we were brutally attacked. People lost their lives in the towers, at the Pentagon, in the airplanes. Police officers and firefighters ran in while others ran away. All these people deserve a recognition of honor and remembrance.
I don’t know all the answers. I don’t remember every detail from ten years ago. But I do recall the day with solemnity and appreciation. It was, after all, a day that changed the world.