When I was very young my family and I would visit my great aunt, we called her Dimples, in Staten Island. She had this really neat apartment in a high rise that we would go to, and every time we visited she would take us up to the roof. From that roof we had the most clear view of the New York City skyline. My best memory was when Dimples would show us the World Trade Centers, the “Twin Towers”. I am a twin, and she would always make it a point to show us the towers so that we could laugh about how they were named after my brother and me.
I was twelve years old on September 11, 2001. I was in seventh grade, which pretty much proves that I was at my peak of terrible-ness (have you ever met a pre-teen that isn’t generally awful in every sense of the word? Me neither).
To be 100 percent honest, I had absolutely no grasp on the severity of September 11th. None whatsoever. My middle school didn’t actually tell us what was going on that day, and even now I wonder how my classmates and I didn’t have any hint of anything. I faintly remember my Social Studies teacher, Mr. Pont, looking like he was crying, but we had just lost one of our English teachers in a car accident the previous week, and I thought nothing of it.
When I got home from school, oddly enough nobody else besides my brother and I were home, and I remember turning on MTV (back when TRL was still around and cool) to find it was shut down on stand-by, as was most of the other channels a 12-year-old would tune to. My twin and I jumped around the house laughing about whatever was going on that would warrant all of our shows to be shut off. We eventually got to a news station to see what was going on, and I still really couldn’t process how horrible this day was. I guess I assumed that if something serious had happened then our school, the culmination of a kid’s day, would have at least have said something, anything to us.
This was the day before cell phones were given to every infant while leaving the womb, and I called my friends from our landline to see how I should be reacting. Some of them were crying and some were panicked while others were just as confused as I was. Mind you, I live relatively close to New York City, and to a lot of people in my area this day was much more significant and heartbreaking. If I remember correctly my dad was away on business in Oklahoma, and when my mom came home she looked pretty broken and empty. I was used to seeing her excited, angry, shocked, pretty much any emotion besides blank.
To be honest I think that a lot of my emotions were a reaction to other’s emotions. I really couldn’t understand how horrible this day was. The televisions played over the crash so often that it wasn’t really shocking anymore, and I learned how to deal with that terror very quickly at a very young age. This was around the time in my life that I began seeing dead bodies in the media for the first time and reacting to them with very little compassion. It couldn’t be helped, really, because it was everywhere.
This desensitized view of life prepared me for the aftermath of 9/11: the wars, the constant fear of attack, the death. The next year I sat in history class and watched Shock and Awe, followed by a war that is still going on today, followed by a crippling recession that seemed to just kick our country when it was down. I grew up hearing about parents going off to the Middle East, and now I watch my own friends leave behind their families to fight.
Now that I am ten years older I have a real understanding of what happened. Ten years later I can’t look at videos or pictures of that day without getting upset. I can understand how the broken families feel and I can see the pain that is still hidden in the hearts of my friends and families from what that day did to our country. It makes me upset and angry, because I now realize how much harder September 11th made it for kids like me to grow up. There was so many more issues that we were taught to deal with, on top of all of the hard things that come with being a teenager and young adult.
It’s not fair that we had to go through this, but I still feel lucky. I feel lucky because through those hard times I was surrounded by a support group of people that taught me the right way to see terror and how to cope with all of what I was feeling.
I wish there was more that I could say than just “thank you” to the heroes of September 11th. The cops, firefighters, civilians and passengers that all helped save so many lives deserve everything they could ever want in life, and there will never be enough thank you’s for them. But now that I look back on my life, I have my own personal heroes that I feel deserve thanks as well. I want to thank the teachers, family members, friends and parents of friends that taught me how to cope with what happened to our country throughout the last ten years. I don’t know if I would be able to make sense of life now if I didn’t have the strength of the people that guided me through this last decade. We are all stronger because of the heroes and because of the memories of those we lost that day.