Every year I think, “it’s been X number of years, it will just feel like any other day.”
This morning started with my newsfeed showing a few generic images of the old New York skyline with that phrase that is engrained into all of our brains, “Never Forget.” It’s usually done in a very generic font with a dated shadow effect. It feels like a stock image that less tech savvy facebook friends have shared over and over until every facebook user has the same image somewhere on their feed – in the same vein as those inspirational quotes posed next to the Minions.
On that morning, I was a freshmen in high school. I took a zero period PE class so I was awake by 5:30am every morning to get ready for a 7am class. Remember, this was high school in 2001, primping took three times as long than it does today.
Today, I scroll past the Never Forget posts with not much pause.
That day, I turned on the KTLA morning news show, like I did every morning. While I was putting on an unnecessary amount of black eye liner to go play basketball at 7am, I could see the TV in the mirror. I had half-listened to the breaking story about a plane crashing in New York City, but I was still mostly asleep and the anchors didn’t seem to know much yet. As I applied the pencil to my lower lid, I saw the 2nd plane hit.
Today, late morning comes and my feed now shows Sponsored Posts. There was a National Geographic post titled something like 25 Famous Images from 9/11. I tell myself that I get 5 minutes to scroll through and then I’ll be on with my oh-so-regular workday.
That day, I got picked up by a friends’ mom and she drove us to PE. I asked if she knew what was going on. She didn’t. She turned on a news radio station and she fell quiet.
Today, I skim through the NatGeo post and I see the Falling Man. The still image capturing the first tower mid fall. The Dust Lady. I spend twice as long as planned looking at these images and remembering how awful it was. Then it was 10:58am and I had to get to a meeting.
That day, I get to school and no one else knew what I was talking about. It was 7am and most 14 year olds weren’t watching the news that early (in the day, and in life). Most people brushed it off and wanted to talk about something more interesting.
Today continues and I forget that I even looked at the photo collection. I go to a potluck lunch, attend that meeting, and when my brain starts to feel a little full from work, I indulge in a facebook break around mid-afternoon, hoping to find a video of cute kids or puppies.
That day, people started to realize it was a big deal. The juniors and seniors got to watch the news in all of their classes. The freshmen and sophomores were only given information by faculty members who would appear in the doorway and give updates. Updates that they would read off of a small slip of paper.
Today, I found an article about the BLT that a New Yorker ate on September 12th and the 24 hours before eating that specific sandwich. I now find myself in a weird bubble. Everything around me sounds muffled and the emotions take over. This is not a typical facebook break.
That day, I had a weird moment of realizing that this is what growing up must be like. Crazy things just happen now. I thought this because it was only my 2nd week of high school, and during my 1st week, the school was put on lock down because a gunman robbed the Weinershnitzel down the road.
Today, I think about the BLT New Yorker. I think about a co-worker who grew up in Brooklyn. I think about my friend who was going to NYU and living in lower Manhattan on the day of the attacks. I think about nothing because 14 years later, I can’t wrap my head around what it must have been like to be on that island, on that day.
That day, I was in 5th period, Geometry, when a staff member walked in and read, “The 1st tower fell.”
This day is burned into my memory and I was hundreds of miles away, safe in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
I feel guilty that I am upset while I write this. Why should I feel all of these emotions about a day where I went to school, had lunch, came home, and watched a Disney Channel TV movie with my mom? These are not my emotions to feel. There are people more worthy of being upset about the events of that day. People who were recent college graduates, sitting at their first desk job in Manhattan, and seeing this sight out their window. People who ran towards this horrendous event instead of away. People who couldn’t leave the island and so they just walked because that’s all they could do. Those people are worthy of these emotions.
Today, it’s 14 years later and I’m 28 years old. Right now, my history is considered equal. Half before, half after. Tomorrow, it will be some before, most after. I don’t know why this feels so profoundly huge to me, except that I know anyone who was an adolescent that day feels the same.
I know that emotions don’t work this way, but part of me hopes that because I used up some of the world’s sadness today, the people that felt that day the most, that experienced a wealth of grief I could hardly imagine, maybe there won’t be enough sadness left for them. Maybe for them, today will just be like any other day.
Now, please send everyone a funny video of your child or puppy.