9/11 Ten Year Anniversary

Before departing from NY, I took the time to wander about Ground Zero and Battery Park in honor of the ten year anniversary of 9/11. It was near impossible to avoid such a stroll when our hotel literally overlooked the site.

Fountains and a beautiful memorial are being built to commemorate where the towers once reigned.

I was far from alone as I silently commemorated those who perished on that tragic occasion. I walked among hundreds who had come to respectfully remember the date, honor loved ones, reverently walk the exterior of the grounds, take pictures, leave flowers, educate their children, and exchange accounts of their 9/11 experience.

As I walked I also happened upon a memorial service in honor of a police force that suffered losses in the attack. They read the names of every one of them who died on September11th or from complications after. It was a beautiful yet somber service.

Battery Park, too, took part in commemorating.

Ten years. I cannot believe it’s been ten years. You know, I don’t remember too much of what occurred ten years ago. I was 15, a sophomore in high school… If I strain I can muster up a few specifics from that year: who my friends were, the activities I was involved with… Most of that time, however, is now but an aged and hazy memory. As I walked about the exterior of the memorial, however, I realized that my memory of 9/11 hasn’t aged a bit. My account remains vivid in my mind.

I first heard of the attack on my way to school. I was in a carpool with my friends and neighbors, Anne and Grace. Anne’s dad was driving and he brought it up. After hearing his account, I was more confused than fearful. I think I even initially missed the whole concept that it was an attack. My juvenile mind was more caught up in wondering how two planes ran into neighboring buildings on the same day! I knew it was dreadful. But as far as I thought, something must have gone wrong with the flight paths... or something equally innocent…

I arrived at school and heard nothing of the events during my first class. Looking back I think I wasn’t the only one to not believe that our country was being attacked. We were all in denial. Come second period, however, too many “accidents” had occurred and these “crashes” were inevitably a well planned attack. Then, during English with Ms. Murdock I watched as the towers collapsed. For the rest of the day each of my teachers televised the news while only half teaching. Still, I felt no fear. Sadness I felt, but not fear. I was still confused. What was happening?

When I arrived home I remember asking my Mom if she’d heard the dreadful news? She had. (As if she hadn’t…) And though she smiled I sensed her fear. That was the first time I felt nervous. How could my mom be scared? She’s the bravest person I know. Nothing scares her. Then it clicked: my dad was in Manhattan and his itinerary placed him at the World Trade Center the morning of 9/11. My Mom hadn’t heard from him. Still, she pretended to not be worried. Her facade was almost too calm. Rather than panic, however, I knew I had to support my mom in her hidden anxiety. Instead of homework I took care of siblings, cleaned, cooked, anything I could do to help.

Finally… finally my dad’s safety was confirmed. He was shaken, but safe. Apparently he had attended the Michael Jackson concert the night before and so slept through his morning itinerary. I have never been more grateful for Michael Jackson, and I mean that most humorlessly. That day my dad volunteered at a triage planning to help thousands of anticipated injuries. Unfortunately the destruction from the Trade Centers left few in need of triage; the destruction was absolute. It is a day few will or should forget.

For me 9/11 is a memory sculpted by feelings: pain, fear, and love. More than the images of crashing planes, burning buildings, and terrorized citizens, I remember pain and fear followed by overwhelming peace, relief, and love upon hearing from my dad. But I was far from alone in my feelings. Pain, fear, and love swept across the country.

Pain. Pain from the loss of loved ones and the loss of an intact heart. Pain from seeing others suffer and hurt. Pain from feeling helpless to do anything. To those of you who never received that call from your loved ones, my heart aches with you, cries with you, and honors you. I can’t imagine how hard that must be. I hold you in the highest regard.

Fear. Fear of the unknown and loss of security as a nation. Fear of further attack, further death, and further pain. Fear that loved ones would never return and continued fear for those who fight abroad. Fear of the future and fear of a lost past.

But above all, love. Love from those who unified around the world to buoy up those who experienced loss. Love of friends, family, leaders, and the world community as a whole. Love from those who still remember and honor those who died and continue to die for the sake of our freedom. Love for freedom, peace, and love. Though many died on 9/11 due to hatred, love united our country. I believe the preeminent honor we can give to those who passed on 9/11 wasn’t finding Bin Laden, but rather it was and is love.

In fact, one of my favorite displays was the ribbons tied about St. Paul’s church in honor of those who died as it was the perfect depiction of the love that was expressed amongst the people in response to the attack. 

Though still incomplete, the 9/11 Memorial is rapidly rising above Manhattan’s skyline as a testimony that we have risen above the ashes of hatred with hope, determination, and above all love. No evil can kill love. Though terrorists ruthlessly killed many, they did not and cannot slay the heart of our nation. . 

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