9/11 was almost half my life ago

I was 14 when the terrorist attacks happened.

I remember the day, as most do. I was sitting in ninth grade Earth science class when our teacher walked in and told us what happened. Of course, when you’re 13, you don’t really appreciate the significance of the moment. I didn’t really think much of it. I just wanted school to end so I could go home and play video games.

Had I been 27 when it happened, like I am now, I’d like to think I would have immediately understood just how horrific this tragedy was.

Tribute in LightAnd I guess, in a sense, my ignorance at the time is symbolic of why it’s important to remember Sept. 11, 2001.

If someone like me, who was 14, didn’t really appreciate what happened at the time because of my youth, then how do we expect the kids who were infants — or who were not even born yet — to appreciate it? It’s up to us to let them know what happened and just how much it affected our country, not only on that day, but for years to come.

“Never forget” has long been the motto whenever Sept. 11 rolls around. I never really understood it. It was airplanes flying into two giant buildings … I won’t long forget that. But so much has happened in 13 years. The new World Trade Center has already been built.

More than a dozen years later, it’s pretty easy — and convenient — to forget it. And that’s exactly why we encourage everybody not to.

On one hand, we don’t want to remember the tragedy. The images of smoke poring from the towers, and people jumping hundreds of stories to their death; it’s something ingrained in our head that we wish wasn’t the case.

On the other hand, remembering keeps alive the memory of the nearly 3,000 people who died. Most importantly, we remember that they didn’t die of a terrorist attack. Rather, they died on a day that America came back stronger from a terrorist attack.

But the scary thing is that terrorism has not ceased since 9/11. Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Boston Marathon bombings are all very much a recent memory. There are still people out there who live to instill fear in others, and that’s another reason why 9/11 must be remembered.

One thing we don’t focus on enough, I think, is understanding why 9/11 happened. We all know how it happened, we all know why we commemorate those who died, but what’s never discussed is why people decided to orchestrate a plan to fly planes into the World Trade Center, other than just to cause fear.

I don’t know the answer myself.

I do know that, on Sept. 11, we should all take a few minutes to just think about what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself. To be an American. And to understand that, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together.

And on the other 364 days, just try to be nice most of the time.

It won’t kill you.

 

Everyone on my Newsfeed made sure I won’t forget 9/11

By now, we’ve all told our 9/11 stories.

We’ve recited time after time where we were when it happened, what went through our heads during the immediate aftermath, and how we managed to cope with it.

We’ve discussed who we knew that died, we expressed how we felt when we watched the coverage on television, and how we felt to how our own government reacted — and is still reacting.

Now it’s 11 years later. One year ago was the big one — the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. The 10th anniversary was significant because not only was it the big milestone, but at the same time, we all finally got to take a deep breath and say, “Wow. Ten years. Let’s put everything we have into a nationwide memorial, to celebrate those who died. And then maybe we can… move on?”

And on top of that, Bin Laden was killed last year. It presented the ultimate form of closure.

It goes without saying that moving on does not mean forgetting. I myself even blogged about the occasion in 2011 and 2010. But I think we can all finally accept that the world does not need to stop on its axis every September single 11th. On the 15th, 20th and 25th anniversary, giant memorials should be held. But for the 11th, 12th and 13th?

Eleven years is a really long time. I mean, for God’s sake, 18-year-olds are still fighting in this “War on Terror” who were 7-years-old when 9/11 occurred.

I for one will never forget September 11, 2001. I never want to forget September 11, 2001. I want teachers to teach their students about it. I want to one day explain to my own kids the significance behind the date. But it’s definitely past that time when the coverage needs to be force-fed down my throat.

I certainly don’t blame anyone for posting “Never forget” on Facebook today, probably with a heart symbol, or posting a picture of the Twin Towers, probably also with a heart symbol, but I also did not need the reminder. Not one of them, and not twenty of them. I remember 9/11 not only on Sept. 11, but during the other 364 days of the year too.

The New York Times indeed took a stance on this day. If you checked out their newspaper, there was not one single mention of 9/11 on the front page.

Naturally, this probably pissed a lot of people off. But the newspaper justified their decision in an editorial:

The pain, the outrage, the loss – these never fade. The amount of journalism, however, must.

It was a bold stance, because it wouldn’t have hurt to have thrown, say, a picture onto the front cover, even if there wasn’t a story to accompany it. But clearly, they wanted to set a precedent. Come the 12th anniversary of 9/11, they can offer no coverage without needing to offer an explanation.

“Never forgetting” is a no-brainer, but at the same time, perhaps we can start experiencing some sense of normalcy on future September 11ths. I think today was the start of that, whether people liked it or not.

The day was not normal however, for Karen Klein. Who is Karen Klein, you ask? Well, remember the bullied bus monitor from last June? Yeah, now you remember.

Well you may also remember how the Internet got together and donated money to Klein so that she could retire and go on a vacation.

Well, today she got that money. In the form of seven-hundred-and-motherfucking-three-thousand-eight hundred-and thirty-three dollars. Wow.

I wish I got bullied.

Apparently she is going to use $100,000 of the money to start the Karen Klein Foundation, and will begin an anti-bullying tour in the U.S. next month.

So I guess that is pretty cool that not only is she donating the money, but she is going to attempt to become an advocate. Nicely done, you fat, ugly, old and smelly bus monitor. I’m just teasing!

But still, I’d let somebody bully me from dusk until dawn if it meant getting $700,000.

It does seem appropriate though, that Mrs. Klein would receive her money today. Money that was rounded together by people far and wide, from different countries, of different ages, genders, races and ethnicities, to give to a woman because she was mistreated.

It’s an ultimate form of camaraderie — people stepping up and doing what they believed was right, and condemning what they thought was wrong.

If we could do that more often, whether it’s on September 11th, March 19th or December 30th, then maybe, just maybe, we might make it as a civilization.

What 9/11 means to me

I was 14 when two planes struck the World Trade Center ten years ago. I was too young to really have any idea what was going on, let alone to understand the enormous ramifications that would come with the day.

I never thought that, ten years later, I would still remember exactly where I was when I first learned what happened.

So many people died on that day. Innocent people who were just trying to do their job, earn a living and go home to their families. Heroic people who sacrificed everything just to save a life. And so many others. All because of one stupid, nonsensical act of terrorism.

Even as time passed, I still really had no idea what 9/11 meant to me. If you asked me this even a week ago, I may not have been able to give you an answer.

But as I sit here and watch these tributes on television about so many families who were torn apart on that day, whose lives unraveled on that morning on Sept. 11, only to have the courage and strength to pick up the pieces and keep living, well, I think I know what 9/11 means to me now.

Life is about love. It’s about relationships. It’s about caring. If you don’t have these things, then you simply haven’t lived.

When you listen to a woman talk about her husband, who she loved so much, and who died while responding to 9/11, and talking about how her world had shattered, it makes you realize what truly is important in life. It truly and wholly puts everything into perspective.

I often find myself becoming annoyed, or sometimes feeling pity for myself over something silly; something that really bears no consequence. But after watching what some of these families had to endure over the last decade following 9/11, it really makes me want to slap myself in the face.

If you don’t have someone in your life who you would you become absolutely heartbroken and devastated over were you to ever lose them, well then you should find one. Because life is too short not to love. And that is what 9/11 has taught me.

And you know how the world works in mysterious ways? Well get this. I began today’s blog by saying how I was 14 years old on 9/11/01. I remember that I was in third period earth science class, and that my teacher, Mr. Graziano, walked into our classroom and immediately said, “a plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center.”

Whenever I think about 9/11, I think about that moment. In fact, I was just thinking about the other day. Since that class ended, and when I graduated high school three years later, I never saw Mr. Graziano again.

However, yesterday, on September 10, I was at a local high school covering a football game for the newspaper that I write for. I was sitting in the press box, getting ready for the game to begin, when I hear, “Did you go to Mepham High School?”

I turn, unsure if I was even the one being spoken to. When I realized I was, I said “Yes, yes I did.” Moments later, I realized who the man was who asked me that.

It was Mr. Graziano.

The world comes full circle sometimes, doesn’t it?

Never forget. Never.

My 9/11 Story

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.

Wrong.

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.