Last July I visited New York City with my German host sister and my real sister. We decided to visit the nearly completed 9/11 Memorial, built where the World Trade Center once stood. The memorial wasn’t quite open to the public yet– to get in, we had to line up at the 9/11 Visitor’s Center and get tickets.
The memorial featured two gigantic waterfalls and reflecting pools in the two exact spots where the Twin Towers were. Around each pool, the nearly 3,000 names of the deceased were carved in bronze. The pools were surrounded by trees, stone walkways, and newly planted grass. All around the plaza, we were dwarfed by the construction of the new World Trade Center.
Visitors were cheerfully walking around, chatting, and smiling for photos. It was a warm July day, after all, and sunny, and we were lucky enough to have gotten into the memorial before its official coronation. The place was packed with people.
The September 11th attacks happened over a decade ago, in 2001. I had only just turned eight. That September, I was just starting the third grade. My teacher that year (Mrs. Casey) had a little morning activity called “Casey’s News.” Each day, she would assign one kid to look up the weather and another to look up current events. The next morning, these two kids would come into class, stand inside this big cardboard box painted to look like a TV, and present what they had found. It was a fun little tradition she had been doing for years in the hopes of getting kids to pay attention to the news.
On the morning of September 11th, I was assigned to get the current event.
My school, unlike most schools in my area, didn’t close that day. My sister tells me that many kids were picked up by their parents, though. I simply remember taking the bus, walking home, and checking the internet to see what was up and happening in the world.
Naturally, you can imagine what I found.
In all of the horrifying images and videos, however, I just didn’t understand what had happened. I don’t know why. I was only eight. My vocabulary was limited. I had watched war movies before. I just didn’t quite get the news articles I was finding. I recall asking my mom, that day,
I don’t remember her face when she answered.
Although I didn’t fully understand the scope of 9/11, I knew that it was big. I therefore proudly presented my newsflash the next day.
The horrors of 9/11, then not fully understood by my eight-year-old self, quickly vanished under bigger concerns like “How do I write cursive?” and “I don’t want to eat this gross school pizza!” It’s been 11 years since then. I admit that I don’t think of 9/11 often, or at great length. I’ve seen the photos, read first-hand accounts and cartoon recollections, and I know how terrible that day was. But I never truly understood, or perhaps, been able to begin to imagine the horrors of that day until I visited the memorial. Seeing those massive, black holes where the Twin Towers stood put into perspective the scale of the disaster, and the terror and suffering that went on that morning.
So I’m writing this post as my own remembrance. For those who went to work that day, only to find their office in flames. For the people who ran into the building, searching for loved ones. For the rescuers who risked– and lost– their lives for those they had never met. For the survivors who still feel the effects of the attacks today.
I know I wasn’t there. I know I’ll never fully understand what happened that day. I’ll never quite comprehend the fear, the bravery, the tragedy, the despondency. But I can remember.
And I hope that you, dear reader, can take a moment to remember it too.
So I ask: where were you on September 11, 2001? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.
September 8th is my birthday, so I was celebrating that with my friends as my parents(and everyone else’s) were watching the news astonished…
I couldn’t understand why were all so interested in something that happened in USA when we live in the southernmost part of South America,but I will never forget that day, not for the party, but for the news flashes everywhere…
I’m surprised that 9/11 was broadcasted so heavily there! Then again, countries outside of the U.S. are generally more attuned to world news than we are. Thank you for commenting! It’s always interesting to hear a perspective from abroad. 🙂
If you don’t mind me asking, what country are you from? (I’m assuming Argentina or Chile here.)
Amazing post, Vy. All of us were affected by 9/11 in one way or another, and we all have stories to tell, to lay to rest, like yours of having to ask your mom what ‘hijacking’ meant…I was only four, but I remember it–my mother was teaching a class as an assistant professor during her graduate work and she would always take Meg and I to school with her and put us in the child development lab. Every morning, to wake us up, she’d turn on the TV in my sister and I’s room so we could watch the Today Show. They were doing one of those skyline shots, where you could see the entire NYC skyline, and then the first plane just slammed into the first tower. From then on out, it was absolutely chaos. My mother had her entire class watch the TV screen in the classroom instead of doing a lecture, and it was just kind of a hush-hush day.
Incredible that you got to see the WTC memorial. I have only gotten to see the Pentagon memorial–which was special for me, as my father’s friend worked in the wing of the Petagon and was injured in 9/11–and it was such a haunting experience to look at all the names of the dead.
Strange how life goes on.
Wow. I just went on Youtube and watched the clip from the Today Show. It’s nothing short of horrifying. The calmness of the hosts, the hysteria of the girl who phoned in… it’s hard to watch, even now.
I’ve never seen the Pentagon memorial, but it looks amazing from photos. You’re right, everybody is connected to 9/11 in some way. It’s as though we all know a friend of a relative of a friend who was in NYC that day– or, in your case, even closer than that. I’m amazed that you remember it, even though you were only four!
My sister once told me that every American remembers where they were when 9/11 happens. I think she’s right.
I was running around and playing outside (I think I was the same age as you), and for some reason I had decided to go inside for a moment. I then saw my mom standing in front of the tv, watching a news broadcast depicting a plane crashing into a building. I don’t really remember much else, except for it being on the news constantly the next couple of days, maybe even weeks.
During my exchange, I experienced how 9/11 affected America, and I remember how moved I was by everything that day. Even though Denmark is far away, everyone here also remembers where they were that day. I think it’s something that affected not only America, but all of the western civilization.
Wow… I’m always amazed at how American news reaches outside countries so quickly. Then again, 9/11 was a huge, devastating event with far-reaching consequences. Still, seeing the amount of U.S. news in Germany and Japan never fails to amaze me.
9/11 was definitely an earth-shaking day for everyone across the U.S. The tales from that day are horrifying and emotional. I admit that I teared up just from writing this post, 11 years later.
I read this post to my mom. She’s really into 9/11, she’s been watching all the specials and stuff recently… She liked your post.
As far as my story… not much to tell. Your story is pretty much more interesting, as far as hearing about it as kids in school.
In the morning, I saw it on the news. My reaction was simply, “Huh, that’s weird.” I didn’t really believe it at the time. Maybe I thought it was all a big joke. I went to school that day, so I didn’t get too involved in what the news was saying.
My mum’s American, so kids were asking about my family. I said they were fine, pretty sure that no one in America lived in New York that was related to me. No family tragedies there.
Mum’s told me her story for years: She went to work that day, having missed the news that day. People kept asking her, “Are you alright?” When she asked what they were talking about, they said, “Don’t you know what’s happened?”
“No…” mum said. So they refused to tell her, even when she kept pushing them to. “You can’t just tell me something’s happened and refuse to tell me what!”
I think she finally got someone to tell her that afternoon.
I’m glad your family was okay! There’s nothing more terrifying than having family far away in a time of danger, especially when you can’t reach them. In my senior year of high school, my friends were hosting an exchange student from Japan for the year. When the earthquake and tsunami happened, he was completely distraught– it had hit near his home. Thankfully, his family was okay– but I’ll never forget the fear we were all experiencing him and his family.
As for back then, though, I didn’t react that strongly either. Like you said, I guess I didn’t really believe it. It seemed like something so crazy could never actually happen.
Wow, crazy story about the host family.
And yeah, in that respect I think I can understand why Americans really shock over that event.
I wonder though, if it was also the fact that we were kids, too. When I told my story to my parents, they just kinda thought it was funny, and didn’t really relate to that kind of reaction