Do you remember where you were?
Endless sapphire skies.
Fourteen years have passed since my country’s course was forever altered, and September 11, 2001 is still my most vivid childhood memory. I was sitting in my fourth grade classroom, ready to take the spelling quiz we were due to take. The phone on Ms. Tielking’s desk kept ringing, and every time she hung up another kid left the classroom. By lunch time all the grades were together; there were hardly any of us left. We didn’t have a clue what had happened but teachers’ eyes were red & puffy and the doors had all been locked. Blinds were drawn on every window. We never took our quiz.
Sometime after lunch Ms. Tielking hung up the phone again. She looked at me and, without a word, I packed my bag and walked downstairs like so many other children had. My brother and I were met by our parents near the office; they ushered us into dad’s SUV and we drove home. Sometime in the 5 miles between the school and our house, we asked what had happened.
“Terrorists attacked New York and Washington,” my dad answered. No sooner had we pulled into the driveway than my parents hurried us to the living room. They told us about the planes, the buildings collapsing, the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who kept a fourth plane from reaching the hijackers’ planned destination. We sat together, my mom never letting go of me and Ross, running her hands through our hair, and though I didn’t grasp the enormity of what had happened I knew things would never go back to the way they were Before.
The next morning my dad walked me down to the bus stop. The sky was still a clear, cloudless blue, a sign that the world pushed onward even as our country was paralyzed from coast to coast. I looked up, where the flight paths between airports could almost always be seen, and I told my dad I was scared. He stopped, gently took my hand in his, and said I couldn’t be scared. If I was scared-if we were scared-then the attackers won.
How could I not be? I asked. And he reminded me that we have always persevered. Our country was strong and, even through the loss and destruction and confusion and pain and tsunami tides of grief, we would come through this because we always did. America was built on the will to survive, and through our willpower we would move ahead. Never forget, he told me, but don’t be stuck on yesterday. Never forget, he said, but don’t let fear rule you.