As I Remember, I Realize Something New: What I Learned Form 9/11

Today is 9/11. That date invokes an indescribable emotion. We can’t really capture that feeling with words, because it was a tragedy experienced by millions of people. How can one word, or phrase, satisfy the hearts and minds of a nation? That is a pretty tall order.

What can we do to make it meaningful? What are the first steps we must take on our journey forward? I think the best we can do, to start, is share our stories. For one day, most Americans can stop and reflect on a shared experience. “Where were you?” We’ve got songs, poems, movies, and other media that have tried to capture snapshots of what went on that day. For the past decade or so, that has been our way of healing. We share our stories. We come together to mourn the losses, curse the injustices, and remember how finite our experience is here on Earth. Powerful stuff.

I don’t know if sharing my story offers much to the conversation. I was only in third grade, so most of the context and information about what happened, came to me years after the fact. My perspective on what happened isn’t as clear as what I wish it was. Last night, I challenged myself to answer, “What did I learn that day?”

September 11, 2001 was the first day I realized that there was a world beyond my own. Until that point, my world was exclusively central Pennsylvania. It was the first time I realized that my world was just a small piece in a much larger puzzle. I learned what “terrorism” was and what emotions such as “hate” and “despair” look like. I saw what fear looks like. I also learned what a community looks like. I learned some of the ways people cope. The most important thing I learned, looking back on it, was to be aware.

I became aware. It was the first time I realized my connection to other people in the world. Things haven’t been the same since. So when I look back and remember 9/11, I always remember my first moment of awarness.

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