Today marks the 13th anniversary of the most horrific event to happen in America in my lifetime. Thirteen years ago on this day two planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York City. The first plane hit the north tower at 8:45 am and the second hit the south tower 18 minutes later. In a span of 20 minutes our country changed forever. In 20 minutes lives were lost, families were ripped apart, and as Americans our sense of security was lost, perhaps forever.
I didn’t lose anyone that day, but every year this date is still very hard. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey right outside NYC, called Rutherford. We could see the New York skyline from almost anywhere we went, so the seeing those two tall and strong towers was a stable in my young life. It was a picturesque town to grow up in, safe and clean and known as the borough of trees. I went to amazing schools where I had teachers that I knew cared about me. I could play with my friends in the street without fear and knew all my neighbors. It was a quiet suburb, but on that day my sense of safety was shaken. I was in sixth grade, and like most people I remember exactly where I was when I found out. I was sitting in math class and my teacher announced to the class that two plans had just flown into the World Trade Center. I legitimately didn’t believe her when she first told me because who flies plans into buildings?? And not just one, but two! My young mind didn’t know or understand terrorism and real evil yet. It had not touched my life yet, and so I couldn’t believe it. When we were found out noone knew why it happened or who did it. But there was this overwhelming sense of dread and panic. I was only 11 years old, but here I am 13 years later and I can recall those memories and emotions like it happened yesterday.
The first thing I thought after we found out was, “Oh no! Dad!”, because he worked in NYC at the time and took the subway through the world trade center every day to get to work. We all knew so little at the time and I hadn’t heard from my dad. I sat in sixth grade math watching the news coverage, with fear growing in my heart. There was such silence in the room, like nothing I had ever experienced before. You could have cut the tension with a knife. And then my teacher told me that I was called to go downstairs because my dad was there to pick me up! I ran downstairs and there he was, in the flesh, safe and sound. We walked home together and he explained to me that he was normally in the towers, down by the subway, during that time but he drove to work that day because he had to go to the Bronx. He should have been there, but he wasn’t. My life could have been changed forever, but he was spared! I don’t know why so many lost their dads and husbands and sons, I don’t know why God didn’t spare them too, why He didn’t stop the attacks from happening. I don’t have any answers, but I do have a heart that breaks with you and for you. You who lost the ones you loved. Today my heart still breaks for you, today I still shed so many tears as I call to mind the pain and tragedy. My mom stood in line at the DMV and watched the south tower fall, I can’t even imagine how that must have felt to watch a symbol of American strength and commerce crumble before your eyes.
To describe the sadness and heaviness that engulfed our small town in the days and months following seems impossible. When I got home that day we tried to watch news coverage but we didn’t have cable and we got our local news from the trade center. We just sat in the silence, there was nothing to say, speaking felt inappropriate during a time of such uncertainty and loss. Eventually us kids watched a video to divert our attention, but even as we watched I knew that the world was changing. A country that once felt safe was suddenly exposed and under attack and safety did not feel certain.
And yet, in the coming days America banded together like nothing we had seen in a long time. We were no longer republicans and democrats, we were Americans and that was all that mattered. Together we stood united. Together we mourned for the loss of our countrymen and women. Together we healed and prayed. And now, 13 years later, our country looks different than it did then. We were forever scarred by September 11th, 2011, never fully recovering from the understanding that there is evil in the world and we cannot avoid it. I think we’ve started to forget that it’s together that we are able to stand, but it’s when we are divided that we fall. And we are definitely a divided country, on like every front possible. But something that I’ve noticed is that on this day, this somber day, we are able to put aside our differences once again and remember, even if it’s just for 24 hours, that we are the United States of America. We remember on this day that tragedy is real and evil is present but that there is good too. And while it is cliche it is true, good always triumphs over evil. Just like it did that day, and just like it will continue to do.