Today was an interesting day. I talked more about 9/11 to more people than I have on any anniversary at this school. We even spent a good portion of my Model UN class discussing what we all remember from that day.
I don't remember a lot. Probably the amount that most 9-year-olds remember.
The "lockdown" message coming over the intercom (living 20 minutes from the largest Marine Corps base on the east coast means no risks). Knowing I couldn't leave school, and my mom couldn't leave hers to come get me. Not knowing when we would get to go home. Staring at the news all day, our young minds trying to process what was happening. Getting home and watching the news all over again, the same pictures being rotated.
Taylor wrote this on Twitter today, and I loved it. "Watching people jump from those 100+ story burning buildings still haunts me today. Our childhood abruptly ended right there." I wholeheartedly agree. Anyone who was old enough to remember had their childhood stolen that day, just like kids today who were in Sandy Hook Elementary, at the Boston Marathon, and watched what the world really could be like. It steals your innocence, that moment when you realize as a kid that some people out there are determined to cause harm to anyone they can reach. The Newtown and Boston attacks didn't make the news until they were already over, but people nationwide witnessed that plane crash into the second tower and simultaneously destroy every feeling of inherent safety that came with being an American.
We watched as the towers fell.
We watched as the Pentagon burned.
We watched as the breaking news came in of the crash in the field in Pennsylvania.
So even from hundreds or thousands of miles away, whether anyone we knew was a victim or not, we were all a part of the tragedy that day.
And because of that, we won't forget. We can't forget. Not only because that was perhaps the defining moment in American history for my generation, or because we can't let the lives lost that day and the sacrifices made in the 12 years since go in vain.
But also because, if you're anything like me, you have photographs of that day imprinted into your brain, and they won't go away for anything. I can't tell you anyone who was in my class that year, but I can tell you exactly what the TV looked like when that plane blew into the second attack, or the color of the soot that covered people as they ran screaming from the buildings as they fell. I can tell you what it felt like to hear the screams, or to watch people choose to jump to their deaths over being buried or burned alive. I couldn't forget the memories of that day, even if I wanted to.
And you know what? I'm glad that I can't forget that day. Because even in the midst of the sadness and darkness, that was the day the heart of our country changed. That was when national pride flew higher than any flag. And the memories that I hold are my constant reminder to never take for granted the country that I live in, to look past political differences and party lines to see people who love this country as much as I do. We are Americans, and we are one.