September 11th, 2001 is a really hard day to talk about, especially when you’re a New Yorker. I remember everything like it was yesterday. What I witnessed, what I felt, what my family and friends felt. I cannot believe it has been 12 years since the attacks.
I was in the fourth grade. And I was coming back from gym class when I look over to my right and see smoke coming out of the Twin Towers. My gym teacher told us not to look, and to keep walking up to our classroom. Maybe it was “just a fire” And that was that.
Then kids started getting sent home one by one, and then my mom was there. People were crying. It was confusing. My mom tried explaining what happened, but I don’t think I really understand until we got home and we watched the news. It was horrific. It was something that couldn’t be explained.
Phone services were down. And all I could think of was my dad. He was in the city. Was he ok? Why isn’t he calling? Where is he now? As a fourth grader, I was pretty alert to what was going on in the world. My dad ended up being fine, but had to stay in a hotel because the city was on lockdown. I remember crying when he finally called because I didn’t know if something happened to him. I remember being so thankful (even as a fourth grader) that I got to talk to my dad, yet so sad that so many kids weren’t going to be able to do the same.
The days after 9/11 were devastating. Everywhere you went were pictures of missing people, with contact numbers just in case they were found – most of them never were. Flags were put up in front of almost every house. Donations were given to local fire departments and police departments because we didn’t know what else to do besides thank them for all they’ve done.
…It was all just a mess.
As tragic and uncalled for as the events of 9/11 were – things changed for New York and the people who lived there. New Yorkers came together. New Yorkers stood by each other. New Yorkers gave each other their shoulders to cry on. It was okay to grieve – but we knew that we needed to stay strong as a whole. Normally rude, loud and obnoxious people were now caring, quiet, and generous. No matter who you were, you knew someone who was lost or knew of someone who lost someone on that beautiful Tuesday morning.
Every anniversary doesn’t get easier. The words “Never Forget” are very literal. Everywhere you go in New York you’ll see something that reminds you of that day. I am so proud to be a New Yorker – and what I witnessed that day not only is written down in the history books we read, but also has shaped the person, and the New Yorker, I am today.