When I was 14 years old, the world changed forever. Not only my personal world, as our family structure began to shift to two households, but the entire, wide world beyond my narrow and self-involved vantage point. It was 2001.
In September 2001, I was still very much an uncertain young gal, uncomfortable in my own skin, and completely unconvinced that I fit in a setting beyond the Colorado neighborhood I grew up in with my three siblings. I had been homeschooled for my entire life up until that point, and had only just begun to wade into the chaotic, loud and terrifying environment that is a public high school. The world seemed too big for my adolescent self to ever grow into. It was like gazing at an ancient world map that depicted the world as flat and largely unexplored, land and ocean borders dropping off into darkness beyond the scope of that generation’s knowledge. It was simply vacant past a particular point. There were maybe dragons.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, my older sister and I got up early to get ready for school. To begin our trek into public school life, we had joined the choir at one of our local high schools. Two or three times a week, we would begin our days in a large, high-ceilinged classroom designed for music education with dozens of other teenagers. That day, the school year was still new, and we were still in the process of figuring out our place among all those other students. We were in the habit of listening to a morning radio show every morning. The kind of show that featured a couple of hosts bantering about celebrity gossip, local news, and that day’s trivia question, interspersed with the musical hits of the day. (Think Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC.) As we listened, the radio hosts broke from their usual carefree topics and cautiously began referencing a plane crash in New York City. Though they remained calm, there was a note of urgency and fear in their voices. We turned on the news. The second plane hit the World Trade Center.
No one knew what was happening, but it was painfully clear that something earth-shaking and catastrophic had occurred. My mother got us into the car to drive to school.
When Emily and I walked into the choir room, the usual loud, unconfined chaos of teenagers starting their school days was absent. It was eerie, quiet, clouded. We were all still too young, children born in the 1980s, with very little personal experience with war and death and terror. Our choir teacher had turned on a boxy and outdated classroom television, and told us we would be quietly watching the news during the course of that period. Thirty minutes later, we watched as the south tower collapsed. In what felt like an entire lifetime and somehow at the same time, just a single moment, the north tower also fell. Just after 9 a.m. MT, we were dismissed from class and told to go quietly to our next period. I don’t think anyone made much noise.
It is now 2017. Sixteen years later. Everything has changed. And yet, inexplicably, some things continued on their course. Those kids who sat silently in the choir room, we still grew up, went to college and started our careers. We continued our lives’ journeys. Some of us got married. Others had children. We became adults. We are now in our 30s.
We vowed to remember, to never ever forget. We hope still to somehow honor those who were lost, whose lives were cut short without their consent. We hope always to dedicate ourselves to hope, fortitude. Love. Compassion. To devoted care of our fellow men and women.
Much was lost that Tuesday in September, 2001. But today I reaffirm my hope that our fundamental characters remain intact, and that we will continue to strive for a better, wide world every day, regardless of how narrow a viewpoint we sometimes allow ourselves to wallow within.
Our world — our huge, collective worldview — was forever altered on 9/11/01, but the world in and of itself was left standing. Let’s not let it down.
With all my love forever: