Growing Up After 9/11

world trade center 9/11When I was 13 years old, life was so much simpler. My biggest worries were about what I would wear to school in the morning, and if I'd see my 7th grade crush Marcel (no, not the Friends monkey) before gym class third period in the hallway.

When I was 13 years old, I had only heard of the World Trade Center on the news. I had never heard of the words terrorism or terrorist. I didn't know Osama Bin Laden from the Genie in Aladdin and sure as hell never heard of this faraway land called Afghanistan.

And then, when I was 13 years old, September 11 happened.

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I remember walking toward my 5th period science class with Mr. Pitzler and the hallways were buzzing, more so than usual.  "A plane hit the world trade center," I heard a voice say. The World what?! I tried to envision the buildings in my head, but nothing came up. I walked through the doors and sat down in my seat, noticing the TV was on and my grey-haired professor standing with his gaze on it, rather than preparing the day's lesson plan.

He turned to us, wearing a plaid shirt, with tears in his eyes. I was confused. He asked "How many of you know where the World Trade Center is?" A bunch of kids raised their hands, I was one of them. I remember, I was. I didn't want to seem like an idiot. Immediately following, two students from my class got called to the office, and the day continued like that. Mr. Pitzler told us that what was happening in New York was very, very bad, there would be an early dismissal, and that we'd be watching the news coverage from CNN for the rest of the class.

I remember my friend Amy came home with me that day. It was a beautiful day. We walked down the driveway across the sun-streaked pavement and into my two-story house in suburban Connecticut. There, I found my mom with the same bewildered look in her eyes as my science teacher, plopped in front of the TV also watching CNN. After watching some of the coverage while eating a snack, we went outside to play. And well, that was that.

Looking back on it, it makes me feel a tad bit embarrassed that I didn't understand what was going on. Although we lived close to New York City, about an hour and fifteen minutes, I didn't know anyone who lost loved ones in the attacks. What I do remember is being scared, but I didn't know of what. Bad guys had hurt a lot of people, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Now, time has passed and I've matured a lot. I find that as time goes on, the effects of September 11, 2001 are still prevalent. Now I know way too much about terrorism, we have full body scanners at our airports, and Osama Bin Laden is dead. I work just minutes from where more than 2,000 people were killed 10 years ago and I'm more aware of my surroundings because of it. On a personal level, my ex-boyfriend, a Infantry Staff Sergeant in the Army, has been to Afghanistan twice on Operation Enduring Freedom. I sat home on many lonely nights during his last deployment in 2010, cursing the very happenings of that September day that influenced his decision to enlist.

When I was 13 years old, I may have not understood exactly what the bad guys had done. But now that I'm 23, I'll never forget.

Where were you on September 11, 2001?


Image via cliff1066/ Flickr

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