The View From Sandy Hook Beach

I was a few months shy of my 11th birthday on 9/11/2001, but unlike other memories from that time I recall that day so clearly. The whole school was called into the church, I was still going to Catholic school at the time, and the nuns explained to us all that some "bad men" had done some "bad things."

They went on to explain that there was an explosion in New York City at the Twin Towers. At first it didn't really mean much to me, to be honest in my child's mind I thought they were talking about the Twin Lights, a set of lighthouse not far from where I grew up. But then one of the girls in the church started to cry, her dad worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in tower 1 I later learned. And slowly I realized more kids in the church were crying. I got scared.

Not too long after we gathered in the church parents began descending on the school to pick their kids up, my mom among them. We also brought my friend along with us; he was of Middle Eastern descent and his parents had asked my mom to watch him for a while, for fear of cultural implications given what they new of the attacks/attackers at the time.

We drove to the beach, all the way up to Sandy Hook which was about 15 minutes north of us. You can see right across to NYC from that beach, especially on clear days, which 9/11 absolutely was. That image is burned in my head - the bluest sky and just dark, billowing columns of smoke, so clear even from all those miles away.

So many other little memories from the days following the attacks are burned in my head, like watching a scrolling list of all the victims on some televised memorial, hearing so many "near miss" stories of folks who were supposed to be there, and learning about friends of friends who lost parents, uncles, siblings in the towers. But I think what has stuck with me most is just how wide my eyes were opened that day. Suddenly the world was a lot scarier of a place than before and loss was no longer a distant experience, it was very close to home - I know I'm not alone in my age group in feeling those things.

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