Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'll Never Forget 9/11

Today's What I Learned Wednesday post is being held off until next week due to two things: 1) it being 9/11 and 2) I have some major PTSD symptoms (i.e. feeling faint) when I read anything on the day so I'm going to try to avoid being online as much as possible. Instead, I'm going to re-post my 9/11 experience, which was originally posted two years ago.

"Everyone who was alive or affected by the tragedy of 9/11 has their own personal story. My story is not one that is of importance but I still feel like sharing it because I am still affected by it, 10 years later.

On September 11, 2001 I was a 16 year-old who was going through some changes of her own. I had actually started independent study and moved away from traditional public school due to my anxiety which had begun to affect me the year before. Since I did my work at home, I woke up from a nightmarish dream that I have only shared with a handful of people. I knew something was wrong. Everything felt different; tense even. I walked into the living room and saw my older sister, who had been visiting us from Virginia, pacing the room in sheer panic. My little nephew, Alexander, who was a year old, knew that something was wrong and looked at my sister with worry. That's when I looked at the t.v. and saw that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At first I thought it might've been an accident... until I saw the second plane hit the second tower. I stood there in shock and I still remember thinking, in that moment, "all innocence is gone. Nothing will ever be the same again."

My sister sat down and tried to control herself while my dad tried to keep us calm. I looked at Alexander who looked like he wanted to cry from the desperation he saw on his mother's face and I sat down next to him, on the floor, and tried to distract him. I sang little songs and tried to look as happy as I could for his sake but inside I felt like crying. I would occasionally look up at the TV and see if there was anything else being reported. We got news that a plane hit the Pentagon and my sister nearly lost it. My brother-in-law worked not far from it and my sister desperately tried to get in contact with him. She couldn't get through but my dad gave her reassuring words that my brother-in-law would be fine. I looked back at Alex and I started to make silly faces whenever he could stop looking at my sister. I glanced up and saw the first tower collapse.

"Oh God, no. Please, no" was what I remember saying. I watched with tears in my eyes, as I watched. I hurried to my room so Alex wouldn't see me upset and tried to composed myself so I could get back to him. Though I was worried and afraid, my priority that day became my nephew and, as I reasoned it then, keeping him a happy child while he was young enough not to understand what had happened. I wanted him to enjoy his childhood for as long as possible because I knew things would never be the same. After a couple of minutes I returned and sat down next to Alex. I watched the second tower collapse in disbelief but at that point I was so overwhelmed that I was numb. I couldn't cry. I couldn't register everything that had just happened. I focused on Alex and his sweet little smiling face. My sister finally got a hold of her husband and we all relaxed a little bit. My sister was due to fly back to Virginia but she had to stay a few days which was fine with us. We did not want her traveling back so soon though she was desperate to return to her husband and my niece Wendy who were both back in Virginia. 

After the initial shock wore off and the feelings of anger and hurt began to subside, I remember being happily surprised by the kindness of strangers. For a few weeks, if not months, I remember how we all felt united. The attack had impacted us all, whether we knew someone who was killed or directly affected by the hijackings or not. At my mother's work, we held candlelight vigil a week after the events. We stood outside as the stars were starting to show and I saw that we were not the only ones. There were people on other streets doing the same; waving the flags and holding up signs of hope. As the cars passed by, we heard honks and cheers in solidarity. This one painful day seemed to bring out the best in people and I remember that it was that way for several months. My father bought two plastic American flags to put on his cars and I could remember the pride I felt.

The following months and years reflected how much we were all affected. My childhood sweetheart enlisted in the Navy two years later when we turned 18 as did my high school boyfriend (though he went into the Army). My friend Heather went into the Marines right after graduation and my best friend growing up, Rudy, was set on going into the Marines as well. 

Reflecting on the events, and watching the coverage on T.V., has made me very emotional today. I actually just read about Fr. Mychal Judge yesterday and I was dissolved into a puddle of tears. I have my moments where I can't seem to stop crying, especially when I see or hear the families of those who perished. It hurts me deeply, almost as if I were a part of their family. In one sense, I am. In other moments I am grateful to those who risked their lives and am once again reminded of the hope that has and will always remain in the wake of tragedy. I am reminded of two quotes Anne Frank wrote in her diary: "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." and "I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains."

May God be with the families of those killed as well as those who remember what happened that day. May God bless us all. May we never forget, never lose hope, and may we never see something like it ever again."

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