I was eleven years old.
I can’t be sure of my 7th grade schedule, but I was probably sitting in Mr. Milld’s geography class, 4th seat back, second row from the door. No tvs were brought out or special announcements made. We simply went through the school day like it was nothing, blissfully unaware of the world outside of our big blue lockers and small orange desk chairs.
I do remember the announcement made at the end of the day, that all students must go home without exception. Even detention was canceled.
I remember walking on my usual route and surprised to see my mother waiting for me at our usual spot with the dog; she was supposed to have flown out this morning for a business trip.
“Gillian, two planes flew into the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City this morning. Did they tell you anything about it?” she asked.
“No. But I did wonder why they canceled everything after school. What happened? An accident?”
We got home and Mom turned on our small kitchen television. The images of the first, then second plane were playing on loop, with the breaking news headline running at the bottom of the screen. It was all very unreal. I wasn’t scared – I was just plain confused.
I remember everyone said this was my generation’s Kennedy assassination. I remember everyone said this was the event that people would ask, “Where were you?” I remember thinking that the word terrorism was one of the scariest words I’d ever heard.
I also remember the swell of American patriotism that followed. The unabashed pride that united a country filled with so many differences. The courage over the innumerable losses that we’re still dealing with today.
Today will never be a normal day for my generation. And it shouldn’t be, because evil should never, ever be normal.
10 years didn’t feel so long, certainly not so long as to merit the term decade. But in that decade, just look at how far this country has come. It’s not perfect. We have problems. But this is still a pretty great place to be. I hope that today, no matter who, what or where you are, you are able to take a moment and just remember. What you have, what you might have lost. Go for a walk, do some yoga, take a breath between errands. And smile. Just for today.