Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11 Story

It's 9/11.

There is so much that could be said today.  So many emotions flowing though not only me, but through a nation.

-I was a freshman in high school.  It was the beginning of a new year, just a month into school really.  I already didn't like high school.  I had friends and enjoyed my classes, but I was still trying to find my way.  The Tuesday earlier, the town of Lowell had a small terror incident.  A man had attempted an armed robbery at the bank across the street from the high school.  We went into lock-down.  No one could come in and no one could go out.  The high school had about two windows for the entire building, so we couldn't see what was going on.  The school had also placed ping-pong tables in front of the glass doors that faced the bank.  There were FBI sharp shooters on the room of the school.  All ended well.  The man who robbed the bank was out on his luck, and just wanted a free trip to jail and this was the only way he knew how.
     The following Tuesday, I had just gotten out of first hour gym class.  I didn't like gym and was glad to get to my next class, honors freshman English.  I walked over to my desk in front row next to my friend, Michelle.  The first words out of her mouth were, "We're being bombed."  I was confused and then directed to look at the television.  A building was on fire.  Being a freshman in high school, I didn't really know or at the time cared what the sky line of New York looked like.  I knew the Sears tower in Chicago, and the skyline of Indianapolis, but that was it.  I didn't understand what I was seeing.  My teacher was in shock.  I don't remember what we were studying at the time, but I remember my teacher having a difficult time trying to start the lesson.  We just sat around and talked about what we thought was going on.  After second period, I don't remember watching tv in school.  The tv's had been remotely shut down.  We wanted to see what was going on but no one would tell us.  My mother was a substitute teacher that day and had been trying to find information on the computer at her desk.  She found out that planes had hit the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon.  My friends and I were speculating on why we couldn't watch TV.  I remember that was the focus of the day.  Not really that the United States of America was experiencing the worst terror attack on her soil, but that we high school students were being denied our rights to watch TV.  It would upset people.  Students' parents work in Chicago.  It would take the focus away from ISTEP testing.  We don't want you to be hurt.
-I remember volleyball practice.  Just going through the motions.  Just being.
-I got home and watched the recap of the day.  Two planes hit the World Trade Center.  One hit the Pentagon.  One crashed in a small field in Pennsylvania.  Thousands died.  Thousands of lives were shattered. The country was different.  The country wasn't the same.  We were wounded.  We were hurt.  We were crying.  I couldn't take any more of the tv.  I wanted to get away from it.  My mom was in tears.  I wanted to get out of the house.  I wanted to yell.  I ran outside to my sacred spot.  The place I felt safest.  I ran to my driveway.  My driveway at my parent's house is beautiful.  It seems more like a forested path.  A gravel winding road surrounded by trees, plants, and old overgrown farming equipment.  I went there to pray.  I felt close to God in nature and was able to talk to God without fearing be overheard by my sister.  I ran to my spot, about in the middle of the driveway.  And I cried.  I cried and yelled, and screamed, and fell down.  I cried.  I asked the typical "Why God?" question.  I cried.  I mourned for those who died.  I thought about how I would be right now if a plane just crashed in my driveway.  I was terrified.  I cried.
     I cried.  I just let it all out.  I cried and cried.  Then I breathed.  I was hyperventilating and asked God to let me breathe.  I looked up.  The sky in my driveway was always my window to God.  Always through the trees I could see sky.  On this Tuesday I looked up.  It was blue.  And quiet.  No planes.  A clear direction to God.  I knew I had to do what people couldn't do.  I had a shot, a window.  I just had to do it.  It felt right.  I forgave.  I didn't have anyone I love or knew in New York.  I didn't know anyone who died.  The attacks happened in a city I never was in nor had any direct connection to.  I don't know if I had any right to forgive those who killed thousands of people, but I had to.  I had to.  I just had to.  I had this urge that went over me.  Yes, they did us harm, but I had to forgive.  If I didn't forgive I would be stuck in this state of sadness.  I needed to move on and I needed to forgive.  Scripture kept flowing through my head and my heart, "Love your enemies."  "Be peacemakers."  "There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friend."  I had to forgive.  I went back inside and finished watching tv.  That is where I was on September 11th, 2001.

-Why am I still crying.  The past 10 years have been... well.  10 years.  From a global perspective, the world has changed.  Security, terrorism, hijack, homeland security, Afghanistan, Bin Ladden, war on terror, bomber, casualty.  These words are now in daily conversation.  There has been a war waging for 10 years.  Flags are everywhere.  We have to take shoes off at airports.

Personally, I have been effected by that day.  For the next couple of days after the attack of 9/11, I kept imagining plans hitting the building I was in.  I kept having this vision of a plane crashing into the school's library.  It kept playing over in my head like a terror movie.  I also want to hear people's stories.  I wanted to help.  I kept listening to the stories of people who had loved ones who died or who where in New York.  It was the first time I heard on a massive scale hundreds of people tell their story about the same event.  We kept saying, where where you?  In one of my classes the next day, the teacher didn't even try to teach.  She just let us open up or sit in silence.  We shared reactions.  We still do that.  Each September, when the world is in silent remembrance, we think about where we were.  I always return to that English classroom and that desk, I can still feel the cool plastic and hear Michelle say that "We're being bombed."  My reactions returned today when I chose to watch online the actual reporting ABC did on that day in 2001.  That is what I was watching.  The yellow accents.  The rectangles with smoke coming out.  I was back in that classroom.  Only now I know how it ends.  I know that the second building will be hit.  I know that four plans will be hijacked that day.  I know that about 3,000 people will die.  I know that families will be broken.  I know that loved ones are calling wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, children telling them that the office is on fire and that they are trying to get out.  That they love them.

I know that 10 years after that film was captured, a war will still be going on.  I know that 10 years later I have finally been directly effected by that day.  My sister's boyfriend's brother, Augy Vicari was killed, along with his commanding officer, in Afghanistan when his vehicle struck an ied.  He was able to radio for help before he died.  He saved the lives of the other two men in his vehicle.  He was a member of the National Guard.  He left behind his wife, Holly, his parents, two brothers, two sisters, two nephews, and other family members.  He was 22 years old.

I was watching the Colbert Report the other day, and Stephen Colbert was interviewing Tom Brokaw, whom has become best known for his support for the "Greatest Generation," those who lived through the Great Depression and who went on to fight in World War II.  Stephen asked, if those who were fighting now in Afghanistan and Iraq should now be called the Greatest Generation.  Tom said that they should.  They have been fighting a war that seems to have no end.  Often, those serve more than one term.   I can see it too.  Augy joined the Guard because he thought it was the right thing to do.  Others joined because they feel a sense of duty.  All are proud.

The week of Augy's wake and funeral, I have never felt more proud to be an American.  There weren't just flags everywhere, there were people holding those flags.  People giving support.  I remember talking to Mrs. Vicari during the wake.  She was sitting next to the casket.  An elderly couple came over to Mrs. Vicari.  The husband asked her if she was the mother and she said yes.  They held hands and the man started crying and sobbing, "I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry."  Later that night, I witnessed the changing of the guard.  There were two people standing guard near Augy's body.  On one side was a young solider in his army dress clothes.  He looked strong and ready for action.  On the other side was a veteran.  An elderly man in a white shirt, black pants, and the hat on his head indicating where he fought.  This contrast caused a reaction in me to arise.  America and it's people will always stand strong.  We are now, in a war that is effecting not only Americans, but also people overseas.  We also need to learn from those in the past.  Our founders, ancestors, grandparents.  They have passed on to us, their decedents a strong character trait.  We are resilient.

I have to go now, to get ready for a youth group meeting. I am leading it.  I am going to be talking to the kiddos about 9/11 and about teamwork.  I was 14 ten years ago.  These kids were 2-7 years old.  What am I doing today?  I am remembering and passing on a message of forgiveness and peace.  What are you going to do today?

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