Student remembers her own 9/11 experience, recalls many emotions



I remember the day everything changed. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say our reality crumbled with the towers. Everything I had ever believed about life in the United States got ripped out from under me.

Time is a funny thing. Somehow last summer seems like a lifetime ago, while the attacks on 9/11 still feel like yesterday. I remember the stillness in the air after school; none of the neighborhood kids dared to play outside that day. I remember not knowing what to say to my mom when she picked me up. Only years later did I understand the magnitude of what happened.

I remember the panic I saw in my aunt, who was visiting from Spain at the time, trying to contact my uncle who had remained overseas. People forget that at that time no one knew what was happening or what to expect.

It seemed like talk of invading Afghanistan followed immediately afterward, at least that’s how my 11-year-old self perceived it. I remember my teacher telling me not to worry about my brother being deployed, that the situation would never progress to National Guardsmen going to the Middle East. He was wrong.

Perhaps my most vivid memory comes from the day after. I remember sitting in a hospital room in the maternity wing, watching 9/11 coverage while meeting my new niece for the first time. She was born on the afternoon of Sept. 12, 2001, barely 24 hours after the attacks. A time that should have been so happy was full of conflicting emotions. But we were not the only family experiencing this; not even in our small town. The nursery was full of newborns that day.

More than anything, the fact that this is the only world my niece has ever known makes me incredibly angry. Her world is so different from the one I grew up in. On the day of the attacks I did not know what the word terrorism meant.  She has grown up inundated with 24-hour news coverage of a war we have been in for her entire life.

I remember sitting in a gym, with my now 4-­­year-old niece clenching my neck, watching the first of multiple deployment ceremonies for my brother who was never supposed to leave. I remember, and will never be able to forget, the children crying for their parents when they said one final goodbye.

The attacks on Sept. 11 had reverberations on families throughout the country and the world. It left gaping holes in communities both small and large. The effects are still being felt as a war rages on with no sign of slowing down and as first responders continue to suffer from ailments due to inhaling the air at ground zero. The total number of fatalities continues to rise.

So here we are 10 years later. What has changed? Perhaps more importantly, what will never be the same? I know one thing is for sure. I will always remember.