On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my third grade classroom watching a movie about space on the roll-in television. I was in science class. Nothing was out of the ordinary except for my teacher, Mrs. Plunkett was pacing.
She kept sticking her head out the door to talk to other teachers. She finally just left the classroom. We all noticed.
Distracted by the movie, however, we continued watching without paying too much attention to the odd activity of whispers outside the door. Soon, Mrs. Plunkett was gone for longer than “a minute,” and we curiously started whispering as well. “Is it someone’s birthday? Are they planning a surprise? Is someone in trouble?”
With a pale face and fearful expression I had never seen before, Mrs. Plunkett and my math teacher hastily came back in, turned the movie off, and flipped the channel.
There on the television, we watched two skyscrapers burn.
Reporters were in panic. They were almost as clueless as we were. There was no sound explanation. What was going on? What was going to happen next? Was anything like this going to happen again? Was it going to be worse? Who was in danger? Where was the next strike going to take place? Who was behind it all?
Many questions remained unanswered for days. Investigation led to a few vague answers which became more concrete with time. The word “terrorist” was stamped onto the occurrence, and immediately Americans everywhere were struck with fear. Comfort became a luxury, and those things we all take advantage of, we held close.
Frankly, I do not remember the day beyond that. I remember the new TSA regulations that were implemented that we all simply view as a nuisance now. I remember the “random” checks I would get (still get) any time I went through security anywhere. I remember people asking me if I was Muslim, and the nod of approval when I said no.
Though I was well into my youth when the fateful event occurred, I can hardly remember more than that. I often wish I had more to say about that day. Yet, other times I am glad I was too young to understand what was truly happening. I already grew up with a generation of children who played outside, but not too long; who rode bikes, but only in the gated neighborhood. In fear, we cling to shelter and view public transportation or walking as unsafe.
With fragmentary understanding of the situation, I would have only lived further in fear of my surroundings. I am grateful for the adults who did not hide the truth from me, but rather told me what happened in a way that I would understand and yet not be afraid. We are lucky to live in a transparent age where media allows us to know what is happening, where, and when right as it happens. That day, unlike the day Kennedy was assassinated, America could come together immediately. People could rush to the situation and help. I am so grateful for those people that did help.
Many lives were lost, but many lives were also saved that day. May they all be remembered.