Saturday, September 11, 2010

things that changed her life.

This is a post inspired by Amy over at Just a Titch, whom I adore.

There are some moments that change your game, your view, your life. They start out normally, but well, they never quite end that way, do they? This is one of mine."


{For the past few years, I told my September 11th story. It was an earth-shattering day for me, but for the most part, I was numb. That inability to have any emotion got me through the day without any tears or real feelings at all; it was too surreal for me to take seriously. But I still find it important and, if you weren’t a follower of this blog last September, I encourage you to go read my story. Today, though, I’m going to talk about something else.}

After waking up on the morning of September 12th, 2001 and coming to the realization that school was still in session, I had a small panic attack. Why isn’t school canceled? Hell, why isn’t life canceled? I cried, fought, and begged to stay home, in disbelief that my parents had seemingly no sympathy for my anxiety. I angrily boarded the bus and somehow made it through the day.

I got through it.

That day, girls who knew only my name and the fact that I had family in the Towers passed me in the hallway and warmly asked if everything was okay.

That week, my best friend – the only girl I knew from middle school that was attending my new school – sprawled out on my living room floor with me, crafting up a red, white and blue storm. We strung together bracelets and stuck magnets on the back of American flags made of foam, selling them at school and on the main road in town and donating the profits.

By the end of that month, things had mostly returned to normal. I was once again concerned with making friends, getting used to a new schedule, and finding my way around my new school. Fear was lingering, but I forced it away.

A lot of people comment that 9/11 was a turning point for our generation, that it forced us to grow up fast. It did, even though the repercussions aren’t obvious when I look back and recall my seemingly regular freshman year experience. Then again, I don’t know if I would’ve been as open to the kind words of classmates or had the initiative to organize a impromptu two-person craft sale.

I do know that what we saw and experienced that day was sealed in the hearts of my generation during our tender teenage years. We saw planes hit buildings and people reacting in horror and shock; we heard, on video, the sickening sound of a second low-flying plane screeching into the city and colliding with what we imagined was an indestructible tower. There are heartbreaking pictures of people – victims – hanging out of windows, or covered in soot, or looking lost, confused, and afraid.

We tuck most of these memories away, all of us, in a spot in our minds that rarely sees the light of day. It’s not until the calendar changes to September and all of those images show up again, reminding us. For me, there’s the added emotion of reliving that day. Or wondering what would have happened if my two-weeks-prior visit had instead fallen on that day. Or putting myself in my father’s shoes.

That’s how I really had to grow up. I had to take my exposure to these terrible things and find a place in my memory to store them. I had to develop the strength to keep the scenarios from running through my mind at any given time. I had to face the harsh realities of the world, acknowledging their existence but continuing forward with life in spite of it.

The emotional and mental growth that should have happened slowly over my four years in high school – and even into my first years of college – happened in an instant. One day I was worried about how my uniform looked and if my homework was going to be hard; the following day I became familiar with the notion of terrorism and how there were people who wanted to hurt us.

It was a trial, but I got through it. And, as with anything in life, it only strengthened me.