Isn't it amazing how our long term memory works? I bet you that you can't remember what you were doing ten days ago, let alone ten hours ago, but ten years ago? I guarantee you that most of you can recall that like it happened seconds ago, at least to a certain point. It's a common question that we all get to answer: "Where were you the day of 9/11 when you heard the news?" and often we like to recap it. We like to tear it out of our memory, dress it all nice and pretty, and present it with some detailed description of our own accurate account. Our memory is a brilliant thing. The fact that we can recall this event because it was so HUGE is just, brilliant. But this is not about our memory. This is about the reflection, about our respect, and about honoring those who died.
Ten years ago, a ten year old boy I was. And an egocentric little boy at that (like every little kid). I was wearing my dark blue pants and a required, tucked-in collared shirt of some color, with the words "Redeemer Christian School" imprinted on the left breast. The school uniform. I was in my 5th grade class when the principal walked in and asked the teacher to step outside for a few seconds. Except, my teacher didn't step fully outside of the classroom. She did that thing where half of her body was still in the classroom and half of it was in the hallway. This pretty much implied, "Hey class, while yes I am currently speaking outside, I am still physically in here as well." So the entire classroom went quiet. We weren't sure what was going on. In fact, we didn't want to talk anyways. We wanted to listen and hear what was going on. We are all confused. Usually they would call you down from the loud speaker to the principal's office if someone was in trouble. But this time the principal physically came up to our room. Was she, our teacher, in trouble? Were we in trouble? Did something happen in the school? We tried listening, but all we could hear were muffled words here-or-there, a pitch entirely too low to make out. But the way they were talking, the harsh staccato whispers, the body language, it all spoke for itself. Something was wrong. Very wrong.
She stepped back into the classroom, and our hearts began beating rapidly. There was something in her eyes. A different color perhaps, like a shade of gray that we had never seen before. Her face had gone completely pale. Our nerves were on fire, at least, mine were.
She looked up at us, forcing a smile to her face to not show vulnerability. "Well class, that will be it for today." We've called your parents and they are on their way to come pick you all up." We looked at her like she was crazy. The day practically just started. We were excited and yet nervous at the same time.
Someone gathered the strength and asked her, "Why? What happened?"
She looked down to avoid the gaze from our eyes, "That I can't answer, students. That is for your parents to answer as they please. For now, let us sit in silence." So we sat there, apprehension coursing through our veins. What could be so bad that even she, our teacher, couldn't explain?
I sat there, looking around. Shaking vigorously, because I've always been a worried spaz. I was so scared. I thought I had done something wrong so we were all being sent home to be punished, because like I said, I was very egocentric. The world revolved around me. I was too young to understand and too self-centered to realize this had nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with the class.
Silence surrounded the classroom. No one talked, no one spoke. Everyone just sat there making up stories in our brains of what could have happened. Then the parents came.
I remember it precisely. The parents gathering us in the gym. I saw my mother -- my brother already by her side -- and there was a look in her eyes. Fear I'm guessing, and maybe thankfulness that my brother and I were all right.
"Mommy," I started, "what's going on? Why are they sending us home?"
She looked at me, unsure how to answer it. "Just wait till we get to the van. I'll explain there."
That's it. I did something wrong. I knew it, I could just tell. It was the way she said it. Her articulation spoke for itself. I was in trouble. She wanted to scream at me in the van. But what did I do?
We got into the van, and she drove towards our home in silence. No radio. No screaming. Just her uneven breaths and this deafening silence. But it wasn't just that. It seemed like there was a silence of some sort running through the streets. It hung dead in the air for all to see and notice. Through the trees that shivered in the wind. Through every home that held families gathered around. It was there, and it was terrifying.
"So today something happened," she began. "While you were in class a plane crashed into of the world trade center towers in New York City. A little bit later another one crashed into the other tower. They are saying that this was a terrorist attack. Every news station on Television is airing everything. A lot of people are dying and have died already.
"They shut down every Federal Building and every airport is being closed. No planes are allowed to take off."
"But what about Dad? Isn't he supposed to come home today? We're supposed to go over to his house this weekend."
"Yes, but he hasn't taken off yet. He is still stuck in Louisiana [Don't quote me on that, could have been somewhere else.] until further notice. You can call him when we get home."
So we did. He told us that everything was all right, that he was fine, that he would be home whenever he could.
Then we turned on the news. I remember sitting at the Dining room table, ten whole years ago, doing my math and social studies homework, but barely being able to concentrate on it. I was watching the news. Watching the Trade Centers crumble, feeling hope start to crumble. I remember being so full of interest and fear and confusion, that I just put my homework to the side. I joined my brother in the family room and watched the planes crashing into the building. All that smoke. All that fire. The buildings falling. All that debris. The screams from the people inside and from below. The fear in the reporters' voices, trembling. America was terrified. And through all that noise, confusion, and smoke, we were all silent. Happy to be alive, protected by the safety of our families. Protected by the safety of God. Silent.
And I remember the next day after. The halls were silent, every conversation was at a low whisper. Everyone avoided each other's eyes. We all were in disbelief, fearing for what may come next. The teacher in stead of teaching us a lesson, had a discussion about what had happened.
Hope seemed lost. America seemed to be coming down with those towers, at least our morale was. But hope wasn't lost, and America was not crumbling at the seams. We stood taller after that, higher than the towers ever stood. We sang songs, and still do, honoring those who lost their lives. Chills may run through our bones now, but it is not out of fear, it is out of respect. To the innocent who lost their lives, this ones for you. To the firefighters that braved the storm, climbed the tower to save innocent lives knowing they were probably going to die, this ones for you. We were not defeated, no, we were merely awakened. So this blog is written for all of those who do remember. All of those who have a story. What is your story? Where were you when the twin towers fell?
Do not give up hope, my friends. The world is sad and times are tough, yes, but you need to have hope.
"Everything is gonna be alright. Be strong, believe" - Yellowcard "Believe"
So I leave you with a video from my youth. A song that kept me strong, helped me stay believing that we could defeat terrorism. A song that helped me believe in myself as well. It was written after September 11th, and it was track number 11 on the album. I remember listening to it on repeat multiple times, listening to the beautiful melody and the powerful lyrics.