On September 11th, 2001, two days before my 17th birthday, I woke up at 6 a.m. to go to school. My family didn’t watch TV in the morning or listen to the radio, so I got ready, grabbed breakfast, and headed out the door at 6:45am (PST) with my younger sister. We drove to my best friend’s house to pick up her and her brother, and as soon as they got in the car, our lives were forever changed.
My best friend’s family members were avid morning news radio listeners and heard all about the horrible tragedy that plagued New York City and other surrounding areas/States that entire morning. After chatting with her dad, who told us to call him if anything crazy happened, we drove to school while listening to the radio the whole time. We received the latest updates from the East Coast and were in total shock. There was nothing to say, really. We just listened.
Arriving at school was somewhat frightening. Our classmates were in a frenzy, the staff all looked worried, and feelings of depression and anxiety hung over the whole campus. Some of the kids had parents who traveled often for business and were scared that their parents would be on a plane with suicidal terrorists. Some had parents who worked in San Francisco and were worried that such a prominent city like SF would be next on the hit list. We didn’t know what to expect, but it was no use going home. Being home alone on a school day seemed worse than being at school with a bunch of people with whom to share our fears.
I was so grateful to have had awesome teachers who let us watch the news in just about every class. It’s not like they were able to concentrate on work that day, either. They were just as scared as the students, and didn’t try to hide it. And because I went to a Christian school, we said prayers in every single period. That did bring much comfort and we found solace in our faith–whatever the varied beliefs of the student body. That day, everyone prayed and had hope that things just had to get better.
During such times like 9/11, people expect prayer and words of hope. It’s amazing how someone will curse God or their neighbor until something dreadful happens. Then, it seems, God and your neighbor is all you have in the midst of trial.
That day, in California’s Silicon Valley, we made it through the last bell, and went home to our loved ones. We–at least those I knew–did not experience the 9/11 tragedy in full, like those in other parts of the country. But we all knew things would never be the same for the United States. And our hearts and prayers went out to those directly and horribly affected.
Never in my life have I witnessed such a culmination of hope, devastation, and camaraderie. People who didn’t speak to one another became friends in a day. Our cultural and racial prejudice, for a time, was dismantled. As long as you were an American, it didn’t matter what you looked like or where you came from. You were an American and you belonged in this country and you were not you–you were US.
Sadly, many negative things also developed from the 9/11 incident. Innocent people who were American but “looked a certain way,” were wrongly targeted from the springboard of people’s anger and fear. And as time went on, people forgot the camaraderie and prayers and sense of belonging to something greater than themselves, and became lost and disconnected. They became jaded at best, and cruel at the worst.
Today, though we’ll maybe watch footage of the World Trade Center or the Pentagon being crashed into, many of us will then go back to watching Honey Boo Boo, or Keeping Up with the Kardashians, or some other reality show that’s not really our reality. Don’t get me wrong–it’s nice to be entertained and become brainless for a while. But how many times do we default to that and stay disconnected from one another?
Will it take another tragedy for the citizens of this wonderful country to embrace each other and finally shed our own prejudices, judgements, and insecurities? Is that what it will take to help us accept ourselves and others–just as we are?
I am filled with so much gratitude that my family was not directly affected by 9/11. The only large-scale, traumatic event I’ve ever gone through was the big earthquake of 1989. And that was Nature’s doing–not an act of terrorism on humanity. Whenever I read about 9/11 or see video footage, I still weep like a baby. My heart swells with sadness at the thought of all those people losing their lives–especially the brave ones who prevented further damage by their acts of heroism. May we “never forget,” as the motto says.
So today, as we remember, I would like to ask you to join me in an exercise. I’m going to go “media silent,” in honor of 9/11 and its heroes and will not be Facebooking, Tweeting, Tumblring, Pinning, or anything in between. I’m always digitally connected, but today, I’m going to spend time with people I love and actually connect with them. I sincerely hope you’ll do the same. It’s not much, but it’s something we can all do as individuals that will have a rippling effect, I’m sure.
May God bless those who are especially hurting today, and may you go forward today and every day, loving yourself and others in the greatest capacity that you can.
Do you have a 9/11 story to share? Let us know in the comments below. 🙂