In 7th grade, I was very..awkward.
I wasn’t all that mature for my age, though that carries no argument now. I still refuse to grow up.
I had a large group of “friends”, and a smaller group of close knit friends that spent our winters attempting to build igloos and making fudge.
I didn’t have a boyfriend, though I wanted one.
I was fat. Let’s not sugarcoat that one.
I more than likely had a zit on the tip of my nose and freaked out about it.
My locker was stuffed to the brim, literally, and it was a risk to open it.
I had some great teachers that I loved, and some others that I didn’t care for so much.
I didn’t really do any extracurriculars.
I wore about 10,000 necklaces.
I was pretty typical, all the while thinking I was unique.
I was…12? 13? Somewhere in there.
I was smart. I had an excellent GPA and worked hard to maintain it. I didn’t have much of an outside life and spent most nights at home, though I jumped at the chance of going to any dance I could. History was never a subject I was fond of.
But then it was thrown in my face.
A day that my kids would end up asking me about eventually, because surely it will be discussed when they reach a higher grade in school.
Today, 11 years ago, I was walking from my 1st hour class to my 2nd hour class. I can’t remember what I had 1st hour, or who my teacher was, but I remember my 2nd hour class. I remember my teacher.
Her name was Mrs. Gregory. She had short brunette hair. She had a way of engaging me in science, which is no easy task. I remember walking into her class once and she was holding a tarantula. She was fun and almost always had a smile on her face. It was in her class that I dissected my first animals.
As I walked through the doorway, something in the air was different. Her energy that she usually had wasn’t there. She stood at the front of the room, eyes glued to something on the tv. She was completely oblivious to her students walking into the classroom. But I was a typical teenager. I didn’t push anything. The more time I could talk with my friends, the better. Socializing was something I didn’t get outside of school. I took advantage of every bit that I could.
The tardy bell rang over the intercom and everyone slowly made it to their seats. It was quiet, eerily quiet. No one moved, no one spoke. Everyone just waited for Mrs. Gregory to start teaching. Tearing herself away from the tv, she turned to face the class.
“Alright, guys. I’m not sure if you’re aware of what’s happening, why it’s happening, or who’s doing it.”
There were tears in her eyes. She fought them back.
“There was a plane that flew into one of the twin towers in New York City.”
If the room could’ve gotten quieter, it would have. Every student sat in their chair, eyes wide, full attention.
“It was a terrorist attack. This is going to change our history forever. This will probably be the start of our next war.”
The gasps around the room came in unison.
“Today, consider it a study hall. Get caught up on things you may need, speak quietly amongst yourselves, or you can watch the news reports.”
The tears in her eyes began winning the battle and slowly crept down her cheek.
A while into that class, the second plane hit.
Now, being as young and naive as I was, it really didn’t hit me. It didn’t hit me the rest of the day at school when the teachers were doing the same thing. The announcements didn’t phase me. I just relaxed and took in the easy day.
And then I got home and saw my South Korean mother bawling on the couch watching the news.
And it was a punch in the gut.
My mom doesn’t fully “get” a lot of American things, and she’s been in the US since my brother and sister were toddlers. She still speaks with an extremely heavy accent, she doesn’t REALLY follow the politics, and this was the first (and only) time I’ve seen her break down over something that had to do with this country. My dad was at work, so I slowly made my way upstairs to my bedroom and closed the door.
I couldn’t wrap my head around anything that was going on. I wished I had paid more attention in history, honestly. There were so many things I didn’t understand. We talked about it here and there in my house, but we mostly talked about it at school. As I’ve gotten older, it’s hit me more and more. It feels like it just happened – I just received an email in my inbox with a huge news report, thinking it’s SPAM, I deleted it, but then HAD to search it up to find out if it was true or not.
11 years later, and I don’t know that I can really ever explain to anyone that would ask about my feelings.
5-10 years from now, I’m still unsure that I’ll be able to talk to my kids about it without tears in my eyes.
So many lives were lost. So many lives are still being taken.
But our country is still standing.
My heart breaks for those families who lost their loved ones. I can’t imagine the pain they felt and still feel, because it’s not the type of pain that just goes away.
I will remember this day, not because I get notifications about it, not because people all over the world are Tweeting and Facebooking about it. I will remember this day because, 11 years ago, it changed me along with the rest of the world.
I matured a fair bit more.
I paid more attention to history.
I strongly considered enlisting in the military once I had the chance.
But more importantly, our country united as a whole. And we continue to come together each year, on this day, to remember the heroes we lost, the civilians we lost, and the impact it made on us.