I normally do not blog on Saturdays, but today I have decided to make an exception.
And I know what you are all thinking… “oh no, what is he going to say about 9/11?! He can shit on Rosh Hashanah, he can shit on Valentine’s Day, hell, say whatever you want about Martin Luther King Day, but please leave 9/11 alone!”
But that is not why I am here. Nor am I here to discuss my view on terrorism, Islamic Fundamentalism, the Ground Zero Mosque, or any goddamn conspiracy theories. I’m simply here to share my own personal experience of 9/11.
I was 14 years, 4 months, and 4 days old. I was sitting in third period Earth Science class. It was the beginning of the class, and my teacher at the time, Mr. Graziano, had just come from the main office and witnessed what had happened on the office television. He came into the room, and immediately told us what had happened, and asked if any of us had family that works at the World Trade Center. No one did.
If there is any word or phrase that I could use to describe my personal experience of that tragic day on September 11th, 2001, it would be “lack of understanding.”
As a young, naïve, little lad, there are many things that I didn’t understand. The biggest thing being the significance of it all. Firstly, I didn’t even know what the “World Trade Center” was at the time. I knew of the Twin Towers obviously, but didn’t know that they were part of it. So being perfectly honest, I didn’t think it was a huge deal at the time.
How do you explain to a 14-year-old that one of the biggest terrorist attacks that our nation has ever seen just occurred hours ago?
Here is what I did “know”:
– A plane intentionally flew into a building
– “The Middle East” was responsible. (Again, 14 years old.)
A formal announcement was made shortly thereafter over the school’s P.A. system. Throughout the rest of the day, parents were coming to the school to take their kids home early. Again, I asked… why is that necessary?
Another detail I remember is that one of my friends, who is Iranian (still friends with him today) left during lunchtime to go home. My friends and I joked harmlessly that he was leaving because he was “responsible” for what happened. (Obviously we were kidding at the time… but if only I knew from that day forward that this was the very beginning of the racial profiling that Middle-Easterners would have to endure for the rest of their lives.)
I went home from school and my parents were both home already. They were never home that early. But they were sitting in front of the television, entranced in the news coverage. I can still vividly recall the look of sadness on their faces. For a second time, I wondered why? Why is it affecting them so much. It still hadn’t occurred to me how many lives were going to be affected by this.
I went to my room and put on the television; 9/11 news coverage. Change the channel: News coverage. ESPN; News coverage. Flip, flip, flip; news coverage, news coverage, news coverage.
It was then that it finally began to sink in that this wasn’t something that happens normally. And by normally, I meant once in a lifetime. It was an odd day for me, as a person of routine who prefers normalcy and calmness, to see the world stand still for a day to absorb exactly what was happening. Even then, I thought, at least tomorrow things should return to normal.
The news coverage did not cease for hours, days, weeks. Even sports – the most reliable, scheduled thing I had ever known – were put on hold. I remember even becoming angry that sports came to a week-long halt.. Looking back now, I can’t believe how selfish that anger was. I also distinctly remember the Sports Illustrated cover the next week saying “The Week That Sports Stood Still.”
Numbers were beginning to be thrown at me: How many died, how many missing, how many families affected, etc. And apparently some man named “Osama Bin Laden” was behind it all.
Stories were being told of tragedy, heroism, triumph, and disaster. Mike Piazza hit a home run that uplifted the city. A couple months later, the Yankees tried to do the same thing in the world series.
Looking back, it was probably the most topsy-turvy week of my life from a mental standpoint. Here I was, a naïve adolescent kid whose life revolved around sports and what I was going to eat for lunch that day. Suddenly, all in one 24-hour span, my place in the world seemed a lot smaller. There were a lot more people in this world other than me.
In a way, you can say that 9/11 represented a loss of innocence for me, and I’m sure you can say the same for millions of others that were my age and in the same situation as me. Before that day, I didn’t even believe it was fathomable for people to exist in this world that would do something so terrible. It was inconceivable.
But… there was. Probably still are.
9/11 was to us what the JFK assassination was to our parents. A loss of innocence.
I remember that I mainly tried to ignore what had happened. I didn’t watch the news coverage, didn’t really talk about it with others, and if I did, I think I even tried to make light of it. I realize now that it was a defense mechanism. If I can’t deal with something, I joke about it. It’s much easier than acceptance.
And now, nine years later, I’m still not even sure if I fully grasp what happened. I still don’t understand how those people woke up that morning, had breakfast, said a prayer, boarded a plane, took control of it, and flew it directly into a building; killing themselves and 3,000 others.
That’s not what humanity was designed to do.
And that is my story. Let us remember today, though one of the darkest days in the history of our nation, as a day where we remember all of those people that died; simply because they decided to show up for work one particular Tuesday morning.
I am extremely fortunate that I did not personally know anybody that died on that fateful day, even though so many did. However, I think right now, present day, off all the people that I know that work in Manhattan. People that I know well, people that I even love. If this were to happen again, I don’t think I’d be so lucky this time, and that mere thought terrifies me.
Remember this day, for all those who died, and as a day where we can all shove aside our petty differences and care for one another. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter “who did what to who.” That is insignificant in the entire spectrum of things. Just be grateful that we’re all still here. If you appreciate somebody in your life, let them know. Because you never know when the day will come that you no longer have the opportunity to.
As I wrap this up, I notice that it’s an absolutely beautiful day out on this September 11th, and call me simple-minded, call me naive, but I do not believe that it is a coincidence.
Make the most of it, and never, ever, forget.