Today, September 11, 2014, marks 13 years since the attack on the World Trade Center buildings in New York City (both top pictures), the Pentagon in Washington DC (bottom left) and the crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania (bottom right).
Personally it doesn’t feel like 13 years has passed since that devastating day. I was pretty young on September 11, 2001, but I can remember the day like it was yesterday. I was 8 years old and in the third grade. Even though my classmates and myself were young we all knew something terrible had happened after that first plane hit. I remember sitting in class and actually listening to the radio reports of what was happening. The teachers were frantic which only caused us to be more nervous. Some parents came to pick up their kids from school early. I remember one specific moment the most. A classmate of mine had two aunts, one working in each tower that day. His mother called later to let him know they were both able to get out safely. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for almost 3,000 other people. People who were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, police officers, firemen, and so much more. Among the casualties there were 8 children and 11 unborn babies who died that day.
At the time I was young enough to know how devastating that day was, but too young to really have any emotional feelings towards what was going on. Now at 21, looking online at these facts as I type this, I feel sick to my stomach and like I will burst out crying any second. It’s hard not to feel that way when you think of it. How scared those people must have been, the moms and dads who knew they wouldn’t get to go home to their families that night. The law enforcement and firemen who risked and lost their lives saving others.
Back in 2009 I was part of an extracurricular activity at school that focused on history and current issues going on in the world. We often took trips to places like Philadelphia and Washington DC. In the fall of 2009, one of our trips was to Ground Zero and the memorial museum. In a way I was excited to see Ground Zero. Saying it sounds wrong and disrespectful, but I will explain. I had never seen the Twin Towers when they were still standing and I was now getting a chance to see where they once stood, where almost 3,000 people lost their lives, and I could physically pay my respects to all the lives lost. What I hadn’t been expecting was the effect it would have on me. I knew it was going to be a depressing day. While viewing Ground Zero, which would have looked like a typical construction area to anyone walking by, just left me speechless. I had no idea what to think or what to say. It really hit me how big of an area these buildings occupied and I could only imagine what the area looked like after the towers collapsed. When we went into the memorial museum, it was sad but also interesting (as goes for any museum). They had a lot of artifacts from the towers and the plane, as well as short educational videos. I learned more from that museum on what happened that day than any textbook could ever explain or cover. When we reached what I believe was one of the final rooms (it was 4.5 years ago so I’m not 100% positive if it was the final room/area), I completely lost it. The walls were covered in the names of everyone who had lost their life on 9/11. There were pictures of some people, little knick knacks their families donated, and another wall was pictures drawn by children all over the world. They all drew what they saw on the news that day and what they were thinking. I’m a pretty emotional person, but I usually never cry in front of anyone. On that day in 2009 I cried harder than I had in a very long time. Call me naïve, but staring at these walls covered in names, I couldn’t believe that someone or a group of people could hate our country so much that they would want to cause this much pain. My heart broke for all of the families who lost someone on September 9, 2001. I couldn’t imagine going through what any of them did and if I could personally hug every single person who lost a mother, father, son, daughter, or anyone on that day I would, along with all of the law enforcement, firemen and civilians who went into the towers and Pentagon to help save people. Because of brave people like them, surviving or not, the casualty number was smaller than what it may have been. Not nearly as small as it should be because in my opinion the only people who my heart doesn’t break for is the 19 terrorists who boarded those planes and committed murder. They made that decision that day and they wanted to hurt and kill so many innocent people.
Today, take a simple minute or two out of your day to remember all of the lives lost that day, or lives lost caused by that day. When remembering the fallen today, remember the ones from all the attacks, American Airlines Flight 11 and the attack on the North Tower, United Airlines Flight 175 and the attack on the South Tower, American Airlines and the attack on the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93 and the attempted attack which lead to the crashing on the plane in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Top left: Ground Zero memorial, Top right: Ground Zero memorial
Bottom left: Pentagon memorial, Bottom right: Shanksville, PA memorial
If you ever get a chance to visit the Ground Zero memorial, I highly recommend you do so and that you visit the memorial museum there as well. It’s an experience you will remember for the rest of your life and it will make your heart ache.