As my mother remembers exactly where she was when she saw Kennedy assassinated as she watched the parade, or where she was when she heard Martin Luther King had been assassinated, so too will my generation, and all those alive sixteen years ago, always remember exactly where we were.
In posts yesterday, all my friends from high school remembered being in class, because that’s where we were when it happened. I’m sure if you took us to Memorial, most of us could even show you the hall and classroom we were in.
I was in geometry, with my friend Ginny sitting behind me. The principal announced on the speaker that a plane had just run into the World Trade Center, and told the teachers they could switch on the televisions in their classrooms. Our teacher did this, after a speech telling us that there were some crazy people in the world.
My first thought, before she turned on the TV, was, “Don’t freak out everybody. It was probably an accident in a small plane.” That had just happened recently before 9/11: a man in his small plane had accidently flown into a building. I thought it would be the same deal.
Then she turned on the TV, and I realized how much worse it was. As smoke billowed up, and people ran from the carnage, we watched in disbelief from our classrooms as the second plane crashed into the other tower. It was real. It wasn’t an accident. People were dying as the world watched.
Ginny was frantic. Her mother was away on business, and now she didn’t know when she would get back, or if she could do so safely. Not only that, but Ginny’s mom had been given a choice: she could’ve gone to New York, where the building she worked in would’ve been a stone’s throw from the World Trade Center, or she could go to another office. She chose the latter, but all the “what ifs” left Ginny shaken.
We went from geometry to health class in the gym, our next class together. The health teacher already had the TV on in there, and we all got updated. No actual “school” happened that day, it was just watching, re-watching, waiting, and supporting each other. Once I’d heard about the Pentagon, I myself became frantic. My aunt, uncle, and cousins all lived near D.C., and worse, my two little cousins’ school was close to the Pentagon.
As we watched the continuing coverage, the shock turned into greater fear: was this war? What would happen next? The only war my generation had experienced was so far removed from us. The Gulf War was fought on the other side of the world, the closest it got for many of us was tying yellow ribbons on our trees, hoping no one we knew was called to fight. Those crashing planes opened up so many questions we had never faced before, and it was frightening.
For my mother, who had grown up in the era of air raid drills, practicing hiding under her desk, she just wanted her baby home. Her husband and son were at work together, they were safe. She didn’t know what would happen, she just saw Houston as a possible target, and wanted me home with her. I got a slip from the office that my mom was there to pick me up. I packed up my stuff, and looked sadly back at Ginny – we’d gone through the whole experience so far together, and I hated leaving her there, wondering about her mom.
I must have gone to my locker to get something, because I remember coming down the stairs outside, and being overcome by a wave of relief at seeing my mom walking towards them. As I ran up to her, I could barely get the question out of my mouth before she said,
More relief flooded over me as I hugged Mom and we made our way to the car. A lot of students were being picked up early, by the stay-at-home moms who just wanted them home. It was such a sad, scary day for all of our country.
But what I want everyone to remember is how easily we all banded together that day, in the midst of fear and uncertainty. We threw aside race, gender, religion, social class, even political indignation, and just became AMERICANS, together against the forces that sought to destroy us.
In our house, September 12 is my husband’s birthday, his parents’ anniversary, and his late Grandmom’s birthday. But my wish for all of America is that September 12 too becomes a National Day of Remembrance, if only unofficially. Remembrance of the day when we all woke up to the sun still shining, and our great nation still standing. When we woke up to a nation truly UNITED, with American flags proudly hanging from every home. People put flags, “United We Stand,” and “Never Forget” signs in their yards. There was pride in every American heart that day, and it was emotionally moving to see our country unite together, knocking down divisions and boundaries. The things that divided us no longer mattered when we woke up on September 12 – what mattered was what united us: our country.
In Houston, we just went through the worst rains our country had ever seen, and it was heartwarming to see not only our great state, but our whole country, come together for us. People put aside their differences, and knocked down their boundaries in order to help their fellow man. It was a reaffirmation of the goodness in mankind, when the media usually only shows you the bad in mankind.
So many of us have said, in the aftermath of that storm and the ensuing, ongoing humanitarianism, that we didn’t want it to take another disaster for us all to realize we are brothers and sisters, together in this world. I know none of us want another attack to be the catalyst that brings us together. We haven’t forgotten that day, but with the media that pounces at every opportunity to drive more division between us all, we can so easily forget what happened the next day.
That’s why I hope you’ll always remember September 12 as a day of American pride and the coming-together of Americans of every race, gender, class, and background. I hope you’ll remember that we’re all together in this country, and we should ALWAYS be united, not just when disasters happen. Please continue to pray for Florida, and all those affected by Harvey and Irma.
God Bless America.