25 years old. Irish American. Roman Catholic. Nerd. This Tumblr will be an experiment in writing/commenting on/for all people, places and things that interest me.
Broadway. Harry Potter. Disney. Hugh Jackman. The Hunger Games. Doctor Who. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Starkid. Music. Movies. Books. University of Michigan. Football.
It was about 9:15 in the morning, and I sat with the rest of my 7th grade homeroom class at our weekly Catholic Mass. After our pastor had reached the front of the altar and the music from the opening hymn ended, he turned to the students of our Catholic school, from the kindergarteners to the eighth graders, and took a moment’s pause.
"The Lord be with you," he said, holding out his arms.
"And also with you," we mumbled back, some of us wiping the sleep out of our eyes.
But he didn’t continue as normal; instead, he asked us all that on that morning, our prayers were extra special. He told us that our prayers needed to be extra strong, for there had been a “terrible plane crash in New York City” that morning, and there were many of our fellow brothers and sisters who would need our prayers. He stared at us for longer than usual, and I remember looking over at my homeroom teacher, whose jaw was set firmly. Over across the aisle sat my favorite teacher, Mr. Jones, and even his usually stern face looked graver than normal.
The rest of the Mass continued without any other break from ceremony, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of the tension in the faculty. So I bowed my head, and I sent my prayers to my beautiful New York City, the place an avid Broadway nerd (even at 12) longed to see for herself.
Throughout the rest of the school day passed quickly and in a bout of confusion. The teachers kept running in and out of the rooms to talk to each other; we had never had such a distracted faculty before this. Looking back, I now identify it as a quiet panic. Our principal made an announcement that the school would be put on lockdown - no one was to enter or exit without special permission.
That didn’t stop the groups of parents from unceremoniously removing their kids from the classrooms in a rush. As more and more of my classmates left, the teachers found it harder and harder to avoid explanation to the older kids. It was my old volleyball coach and then-phys ed teacher — who held our class that day in an empty classroom since we couldn’t leave the building to go to the gym — who decided to share just enough to inform, but not enough to terrify.
By the end of the day, it was clear that there had been an attack in New York, and our lockdown was a precaution just in case the culprits wanted to spread out across the country. And so the 7th grade boys were quick to point out the absurdities — How was keeping us locked up in a building going to stop some evil guys from bombing the building? Doesn’t that just make it easier?
Those kind of jokes continued.
Until my mom showed up at the end of the day to get me. I saw the look on her face, and I felt the way she pulled me into a bone crushing hug with my siblings. It wasn’t the normal after-school routine. It was then I started to think that maybe that day didn’t just affect people in New York.
I was twelve years old. My idea of New York City was what I knew from those old movies I loved to watch with my grandpa. It was what Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly called “a helluva town” while they danced about in their sailor suits. It was where Broadway lived, where I dreamed of making it big. It was pavement and skyscrapers and the Empire State Building, and millions of people walking and hailing taxis. I had no idea what the World Trade Center was.
My father, to this day, is the hardest working man I know. And because of the nature of his job, he had very long hours, and, especially on a Tuesday, we wouldn’t expect to see him until at least ten. So when we finally got home, and Dad’s car was parked in the garage, my stomach dropped. When we got in the house, my dad was sitting on the edge of the couch, staring at the television, the volume full blast. His eyes darted to look at my mom.
"World War III just started," he croaked.
I had never seen my dad look the way he did then. I had seen him mad before. Goodness knows, I had been the cause of some pretty epic scoldings. But there was a mix of pure, unadulterated rage with a look of terror that I never want to see on my father’s face again.
We spent that night huddled in our living room, watching the news. I don’t even recall having any kind of meal; I wouldn’t have wanted to eat anyway. Dad spent a good hour or so explaining what the World Trade Center was, what Al Quada was, what terrorism really meant. While he explained, my mom cried for hours and hours, her eyes never leaving the images on the television — the explosions, the planes, the people, the ash, the smoke, the despair.
Those images that will always stick with me for as long as I live sparked an understanding and an anger in me that has not left. This is my country. This is my home. No one comes into my country, my home and killsanybody. I hated that I felt so scared and so sad. I had never felt that way, and I will never forget that feeling….and will never take for granted the security and freedom I have in this country. I understood why my parents and grandparents had always stressed that you thank a soldier, that we are the luckiest people on the earth because we are American.
Watching those towers fall felt like an actual wound in my chest. And the feeling remains every time I see it even eleven years later.
I will never forget what happened on this day. I will never forget the images — the planes crashing and exploding into the Twin Towers; those indestructible pillars of the USA crumbling in ash and dust and fire; people literally flinging their bodies from the top floors, feeling it better to smash to the earth than to be burned alive; the crowds of New Yorkers running and screaming, covered in ash and soot and dirt; the firefighters running towards the chaos, ready to do their job….
Never Forget. Never forget those men and women and children who were senselessly killed by terrorist. Never forget the men and women who lost loved ones and the children who lost parents. Never forget those heroes who did everything in their power to save as many lives as they could. Never forget the people on Flight 93 who knew they were going down, but wouldn’t go down without a fight. Never forget how our military landed every single, solitary airplane/helicopter/etc. over the entire nation in less than an hour. Never forget that this tragedy hit every single person even if they weren’t in NYC on that day. Never forget. Never, ever forget.
God bless them. God bless you. God Bless America. I love my country.