We all have our memories of September 11th 2001. I still feel its gravity, even 15 years later and from 3000 miles away. In 2001, I was young, ignorant, and scared.
I remember while walking to school I stopped at Chico’s corner, a corner coffee shack about a block away from my house. Daniel worked there, and I had a crush on him. As I walked to the entrance, I saw Daniel sitting on one of the bar stools, his short dark curly hair springy, and in full view as his head was down, in his hands.
I'd never seen that look on his face - dejected, distant, questioning. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me a plane flew into the World Trade Center. I asked what that was. He told me a big building in New York. Daniel was cultured, had traveled, and was so smart.
I had no idea what the World Trade Center was. I figured it was a building Daniel had been to and was sad it had been damaged. I couldn't figure out why he was so upset. This was another reason to like him, so caring and empathetic.
I finished walking to school feeling dumb, and wishing I had traveled so I could know big, important buildings, too. That was the big thought of the morning for this 17 year old junior in high school.
When I got to school, it felt off. The air was dense, the mood somber, and quiet. Did everyone know about this big building on the other side of the country, too? The news was on. That was weird. It was on in every class room.
Another plane had hit the other tower.
This building, these buildings, were not just important to Daniel, but everyone. and, wait, it wasn't a freak accident? What is going on? The teachers looked stiff, frightened, students confused, or scared, many were crying. What the hell is going on?
There was a loud P.A. announcement, crackling into the television induced silence: “Please conduct classes as scheduled. Only History or Econ classes should have TVs on. Once again, the news should only be on in History, or Econ classes. Thank you.”
I was in algebra 2. The TV stayed on, all eyes glued. They couldn't be serious, no one was going to turn away from the horror unfolding.
I has started to cry, more from confusion over what it could all mean. The class room was dark, the main light source the horrific images on the TV screen.
I don't remember who it was that tapped me on the shoulder, someone not in my class, someone who handed a pink slip to my teacher, and told me it was urgent I come with them to the office. The hall was dead silent, oppressively so. My mom was sitting in an uncomfortable, hard plastic chair. I started to cry in earnest. I knew why she was there, but she refused to tell me. I had to wait for my brother, a freshman, to join us.
I had just seen on TV the Pentagon was hit.
My father worked in the Pentagon.
It felt like 10 years before my brother rounded the corner, into the office lobby. He had been across campus. My mom told us then: your father was in the Pentagon. He is safe. He made it out, unharmed.
The confused relief I felt made me cry harder.
I say confused because I have never really had a relationship with the man I call “George Sr” or “the father figure”, he has not been Dad, or Father.
I didn't want anyone to be hurt, or to die, no matter that I knew them or not. Not the poor, poor people I witnessed falling from 80 stories up on the television, not the man I felt so alienated by. And I did feel alienated, and unwanted. I didn't want him either, but I didn't want him dead, certainly.
I don't remember the rest of that day, aside from that heart in your stomach, stomach on the floor feeling, empty and throbbing.
I knew I was one of the lucky ones, to not have lost a loved one, or in my case, a distant relative I felt I should have been closer to.
In the following months, I went to a few anti-war protests, in Sacramento, and San Francisco. I went to rallies here in Santa Rosa where many traded stories of who they lost, or how they were close this massive event so far away from us. Everyone knew someone connected to this.
We are all connected by the events of September 11, 2001.
I never thought of myself a overly patriotic. I am grateful for my freedom, as a person, and a woman.
It wasn’t until this attack that I felt pride in my country - as a community of caring and compassionate people, who would work together to pick up the pieces, and still help others in need.
To this day, if I see anything about 9/11, or really think about it, the little hairs on my arms stand on end, I feel a chill, and a stinging in my eye, foretelling tears.
15 years ago, I was young, and ignorant. I was afraid for all the wrong reasons. I was still deeply effected by 9/11. I still am.