Around 10 am on September 11, 2001, I was coming back from a 7th grade gym class. I remember We had just gotten done playing flag football out on the old Wellington fields. On our way inside to change, one of my classmates came running up to us telling us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I didn’t think anything of it, mainly because this particular classmate always came up with jokes that no one understood, but for whatever reason proliferated.
In the next hour or so all of our middle school was pulled out of class and ushered into a common area where we had a meeting detailing the events of the day. We were told about the hijacking, and the attacks on both the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. We were allowed to ask questions concerning the events, but as the meeting was dismissed we were told to not turn on the TV nor listen to the radio. As the day continued most of my classmates, myself included, disobeyed our teacher’s orders to keep the television and radio turned off. I even remember some descent among teachers who allowed us to watch what was occurring. The event seemed both surreal and so real at the same time. My English teacher, Mrs. Potter, who to this day is one of the nicest people I know, allowed us to watch the television as she feel we were mature enough to handle, visually, what was going on. So we watched. We saw both planes hit over and over again on replay. Then I remember, so vividly, seeing that first tower fall. Our class let out a tremendous gasp as Mrs. Potter turned the television off, knowing that her 7th graders had seen enough.
That night I went home and watched more of the news coverage. There was no way to avoid it. Obviously, every major news outlet was covering the story, and it felt callous to turn the television to a different channel, or to not watch at all. I went with my Mom to an impromptu candlelight church service in memory of all those who had lost their lives that day. When we drove down Riverside Drive, we drove by the Speedway in Upper Arlington, next to the Arby’s, there were what seemed to be 40 cars lined up to get gas. That was the first time I realized that people were afraid.
In the coming weeks I saw what so many others saw: American’s coming together in a sort of cathartic, collective effervescence. John Stewart offered one of the most sincere speeches I’ve ever seen. Saturday Night Live, a New York beacon since the 1970’s, gave a most powerful statement with the Rudy Giuliani introducing a handful of New York’s police officers, port authority officers, and fire fighters. What I observed was a resiliency that I think is sometimes understated in present times. It didn’t matter if you were black, white, red, blue, gay or straight, what mattered was that we were decent to all of those around us, and that we didn’t corner ourselves in our homes, stop traveling, and give up the cornerstones and foundations of what makes this country great.
Today I’m reminded of the horror that befell our country 12 years ago, be it through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some other social media platform. I have only seen a few posts though to remind people how citizens came together, and treated each other so genuinely. I don’t think this has been forgotten, but rather ingrained, especially in the youth that grew up in this time period. I do however, think that it’s worth mentioning as a reminder of the amazing strength and resiliency that people can encounter when they work together to better the lives for the people beside them. I’m not going to link for anyone wanting to list with us, I feel like that would be crude, and disrespectful. Instead I’d like to leave with a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that I think aptly sums up the post 9/11 movement that happened right after the attacks, and that I think is a good measure for all to live by: “True patriotism springs from a belief in the dignity of the individual, freedom and equality not only for Americans but for all people on earth, universal brotherhood and good will, and a constant and earnest striving toward the principles and ideals on which this country was founded.”