Your Story Matters to Me
I was in 6th grade 20 years ago... In our morning announcements, a declaration was made that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. My teacher had a great set up for video in her room, as she often show movies that accompanied whatever literature we were studying. But now I sat in utter shock and horror, as the scene played out before my eyes. I had never even heard of the World Trade Center before that moment, or knew how big and tall it was. I am from the Mid-south and didn't travel too much. Only a minute or two after turning on the news, I watched the second plane it, and a knot formed in my stomach. It wasn't an accident.
People were flying planes into buildings. Tears started escaping as I watched the smoke billow out. The Towering Inferno, had oddly been one of my favorite movies at the time, and all I could think and see was that so very many people were going to die today. A few minutes later the scene switched to the Pentagon, and I watched men and women in military uniforms fill out, running for their lives...but I also saw a few people fighting the blaze, again recalling just how dangerous fire could be. We just watched, engrossed by the horror as the news switched from New York to DC. As soon as I saw the first tower shake, I knew it was over. I sat in my favorite class with my favorite teacher and sobbed like a baby as I watched thousands of people died in front of me. No one else cried, other than my teacher… some of my classmates even made fun of me for crying because "I didn't know any of them”… but I didn’t have to know any of them. They were my fellow Americans and humans. The didn’t deserve do die a horrific death.
I sobbed until the second tower fell, knowing it was only a matter of time. I don't remember when the plane crashed in Shankesville, only that I was still engulfed in grief for every single person involved. I felt the weight of each life on me, so I wept. I wept for every person who died. I had witnessed their death.
I wept for their families, I wept for their friends, I wept for the first responders who I was sure had died too. That thought, about the firefighters were going up to save others and who died before my eyes instead, really got to me. I wept for the soldiers that I knew would be going to fight. I wept terrified there would be another draft, and my only brother would leave to fight. I was terrified those who left to fight would never come home. I was an avid student of history, still am actually, but the numbers of deaths in World War II haunted my thoughts. I knew it could be the same. My fellow bus riders even chanted, some with glee, that we were going into World War III.
I left my house to an incredible blue sky on Tuesday September 11, 2001 and came home to the same blue sky… but the world had been fundamentally changed. My world had fundamentally changed. I stared out that sky for so long, unable to wrap my head around how there could be such beauty, when the world had been gutted. I watched the news coverage every second of every day when I wasn’t at school for at least a week. But I was still unable to comprehend all that happened on that day. I cried and felt hope for the first time when President Bush gave his speech at Ground Zero. But even as the days when on, I wept for everyone. Those covered in the cloud of dust and debris, and those who were fighting to rescue them. Those who needed to be rescued, and those who never would be.
The horrors the recovery workers must be facing. And wishing I was old enough to go help whoever I could. It was a lot for a 6th grader, but I knew I couldn't abandon those who had died before my eyes, even if all I could do was be a distant witness. I could never abandon those would would fight for and some who would I knew would even die for our freedom and our protection, so I remembered and prayed for them almost daily.
Every year on the 9/11 anniversary I hold my own vigil of sorts. I watch the names being read, and whatever ceremony's going on. Over the years I've cried with so many of those who loved the men and women who died. I've watched nearly every single documentary about the 9/11, some so many times I practically have them memorized. For about a week, I'm in mourning. I don't dress in black or anything, nor do I weep for days anymore. But I solemnly remember. I remember and honor their lives, and the lives and sacrifices of every single military member or government contractor, or CIA, NSA worker who has died or still works to protect America.
The years since the Benghazi attacks on 9/11/2012, have been harder. Not only am I an adult now and see the world differently, those attacks were the first time I was truly let down and appalled by our modern government. I wept for our Ambassador Stevens, and the other brave men who fought hard to keep others safe. Their stories have also become apart of my ritual of remembrance. I've Read the accounts of what happened, watched the movies and documentaries. This year though... the 20th anniversary, I am enraged, horrified, and truly broken over the deaths of the 13 brave men and women at the Kabul airport, and the horrific idea that the government would leave anyone behind, and try to pass it off as an ok thing to ever do. I've felt sick for a few weeks, as these events have played out, again before my eyes. The idea that the Taliban, have regained more power than before; the unbelievable sacrifice of the men and women who fought, have died, or come home with visible and invisible wounds that will lead to a life-time of recovery; was in vain is horrific. So, today...9/10/2021, my heart is heavy and I hold my breath; praying that tomorrow, I won't witness another atrocity against humanity.
Today, I remember the day before, 20 years ago. The blue sky in the morning. The blue sky in the afternoon. I remember every single life that was lost then, every family that has a whole in it, whether directly from the attacks, or the war on terror, and wounded warriors who are forever changed because of it. I'm truly sorry for pain you face every day. I'm just a girl from the mid-south, but your story matters to me, and I wanted to tell you that. Thank you.