Monday, September 11, 2006

When the World Stopped Turning*

I can't do any better than the thoughtful post on Mike's blog this morning and the dozens of comments left by his readers. So I won't try. But I will say that I have spent much of today thinking about where I was five years ago. There are days that mark our lives, individually and nationally, and 9/11/01 was one of them.

We never have the news on at home in the morning, and I had listened to a CD instead of the radio as I drove to school early that morning for a flute lesson. By the time my lesson ended, we were 15 minutes into first-period marching band, and I think the director had already told everyone else what had happened before I made it to the field. The mood on the field was a little subdued, but I didn't think anything of it as I ran out there and found my place. I didn't hear of anything unusual until I was on my way to second period and ran into my friend Chance, a known jokester. When he said, "Did you hear? Somebody bombed the World Trade Center," I thought he was kidding. He assured me he wasn't, but I didn't believe him until I made it up the stairs to my Spanish class and saw the news report on TV. Even Aaron Patino, who sat next to me and usually made jokes the entire period, couldn't find anything funny in the smoke-filled footage they were showing over and over.

For the rest of that day, and the entire week, I walked around in a daze. Four periods a day, in every class but band and physics (where life went on almost as usual), we watched the news. New footage of the attacks, interviews with victims and bystanders, news analysis of any information the media could dig up, a national mourning service that Friday. My eyeballs felt as if they had been stretched from trying to take it all in. My student diplomacy class, a tightly knit group of 15 students shepherded by a wise English teacher, took the news the hardest. We were all aware enough of global issues to know that this was really serious. Closer to home, we were headed to D.C. in November for a national student diplomacy conference, and we were no longer sure we would get to go. (We did, actually - even touring the State Department and the Pentagon less than three months after the attacks.) My best friend Jon and I didn't say much to one another, but we hurt deeply together, for that whole week and for months afterward.

September 15, 2001, was my 18th birthday, and my friends Julie and Adam also turned 18 that week. We had a hard time feeling like we could celebrate, like we were allowed to enjoy ourselves and our friends. But we cooked burgers at my house and then went to play miniature golf, and for a little while we were able to put aside the tragedy of that week and enjoy each other.

Gradually, it has become apparent that enjoying each other, enjoying life, is the real victory, the way to make sure that terror does not win. If we are brave enough to go on living and loving and fighting for good and for hope, we have defeated anyone who dares crash a plane into our bright September skies. I hope today made you remember how precious our lives are, and remember for a moment those who lost their lives and loved ones in 9/11. I hope you were sad for a moment, and that you maybe even cried a little bit. And then I hope you called someone and told them how much you loved them. And I hope you go on doing that tomorrow. I know I will.

*From Alan Jackson's 9/11 tribute song, "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning"


Blogger Scott said...

Soooooommmmmmebody has a birthday coming up, then.

Seriously, thanks for this. I never tire of hearing stories of where people were - seems to connect us all in a very transcedent way.

8:18 PM  

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