Thirteen years ago, when the world changed because of a shocking act of terrorism, I was twelve years old. I can’t remember where I was when it actually happened. We didn’t have the kind of TVs in school where we could watch what was going on. But some of the other students started talking. The ones that had parents teaching in the school system, mostly.
This is what I remember.
I was sitting in my first class after lunch. Seventh grade geography. Which is slightly ironic, simply because I wouldn’t have been able to tell you where the terrorists came from, or where Americans were sent to fight afterward. I can now. But I wouldn’t have been able to tell you then. I remember hating my teacher for this class, because I was a gum-chewer, especially after lunch. And he kept threatening to give me detentions and all that, because I chewed gum in his class. I was a straight-A student – that was my only act of rebellion. Gum. It seems so trivial, considering everything else.
I was sitting there, next to one of the jocks. His mom was a teacher, and his dad was a cop. He had heard. I had not. He was saying that, if they come to bomb us, to attack us, he would escape on his go kart.
I remember sitting there, confused. Why would anyone attack us, I asked. Why?
“Because of the nuclear plant,” he responded, like I was the stupider of the two of us.
Nuclear war. Oh.
The guys in the class were egging him on. “Yeah, M, you could totally outrun them in your go kart!” I rolled my eyes. Boys, amirite?
Then our teacher walked in. His face was different than usual. He was a grump, but he didn’t look grumpy. He looked sad.
“I don’t agree with the school, that we should keep going on like nothing is happening,” he said. “Because something is happening.”
And he told us. Two planes had flown into the World Trade Center. A third had flown into the Pentagon. A fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, but had potentially been headed for the White House. The towers collapsed. Thousands of people had already died.
I can’t remember the rest of my school day. I couldn’t tell you if we stayed in school or if we went home early. But I do remember counting the number of channels that had cancelled the regular programming and were only showing videos of fire and brimstone, gore and pain and sadness. Deep and utter sadness.
I remember how everyone suddenly became patriotic. How we suddenly rallied around a president who, months earlier, had questionably taken office due to a recount in Florida. I remember feeling like I was part of something bigger for the first time in my life. To this day, I still cry when I hear Alan Jackson’s song “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.” I hate turning on the TV on this date, because of the things I see. I wasn’t personally affected by this. I didn’t lose anyone that I loved. But I’ve been told that I feel more than the average person. And this day makes me feel sad.
I have an ex-boyfriend whose birthday is today. He was (and probably still is) jaded, because of this day. He hated his birthday, because so many people associated this date with something terrible. So how was he supposed to be happy? I remember it being really hard for him.
This is what I have learned in the last thirteen years. Love truly is the most important thing. There’s always going to be a war. There are always going to be battles fought. But love will conquer. Love will overcome.
Love is everything.