Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years

I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. It was the beginning of my Grade 13 year of highschool. I was sitting in the cafeteria with my friend Franny. We were probably studying. Or sharing a giant chocolate chip cookie and talking about the weekend, our hair, our crushes. 

I remember my friends Nick and Danny coming in, saying "this is crazy." Franny and I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn't wrap my head around the hugeness of it until I went home for lunch later and turned on the news. That's when I saw footage of the second jet hitting the South tower. I remember putting my hands over my mouth in shock. Saying "oh my god" out loud, even though I was alone.

I remember being in class that afternoon. My teacher said "this is going to be in the history books." He brought a TV into class so we could watch.

"You guys are watching history in the making," he said. The usually-energetic classroom was so quiet. Even though we lived far away from the horrible scene, we watched, wide-eyed. I didn't know anyone who lived in New York, but people were talking about a possible attack on the CN Tower in Toronto.

Ground Zero, 2008
I remember going to see my Nana after school. She was getting older, and needed to be checked on by my dad, my sister and I every day. Even though she was often confused, that day, she was glued to the TV like everyone else. When I walked in, she looked at me for a second, then back at the news. 
"This is the beginning of World War III," she said. "This is bad. This is just the beginning of something big." 

A few days later, Nana had a stroke. She never woke up. 

In 2008, seven years after that terrifying day, I visited New York city with three girlfriends. The City of Lights was alive with excitement. We stayed in Times Square, where the air crackled with energy. There were people everywhere, car horns blazing every second. The people of New York had begun to recover. Life had returned to Manhattan.

We walked to Ground Zero one morning. There, it was a different story. The spot where the Twin Towers had once stood was now a huge hole, surrounded by construction fencing. Unlike the air in Times Square, the air in Ground Zero did not crackle. It was so quiet. Sacred ground.

We went into a church across the street. Despite the explosions and massive amounts of debris, the church stood unharmed. This is where emergency workers stayed in the weeks following the attacks. It's now been converted into a makeshift memorial.

Ten years later, people have moved on. The rebuilding continues. But for people who were there on that day, people who ran from the dust clouds, who lost loved ones, for people across America and the world, one fall day in 2001 will never be the same. The words September 11th now hold a shared sadness for people everywhere.

Today, as the sun shines, the blue sky sparkles, and the wind whispers through the changing leaves, I think back to that day in 2001. Everyone has a story about where they were. How they heard.

My teacher was right. We were experiencing possibly the biggest moment in history many of us would ever see. It's still hard to understand why it happened. To imagine how scared those people felt as they sat at their desks and watched a 747 fly toward them.

Hard to understand, to imagine. Impossible to forget.

Judging by the stories told today, and over the last 10 years, we never will.