Yahoo! is asking Americans how September 11 changed them. Below is an account from a reader.
It was my first week of middle school. A time in life when we were feeling outrageously adult, claiming to know more about life than we did months ago because now, now we are in middle school with the teenagers, where we were to be taught sex ed and meet our first boyfriends. Already, even though only into the first complete week of school, the nine periods of the day had gained a tedious feel to them. But that changed.
It was an A day, and as we walked into language arts, our teacher had the strangest expression on her face. With her horrid red hair and too-short skirts, she had earned a reputation on the first day as the “weird” teacher, one who tried to pretend she hadn’t hit the sour side of her 50s. But that day, she looked solemn, and this was enough to grab our–if not undivided–attention.
[Your story: How has September 11 changed you?]
Ten years later, I am finishing college–oddly enough, an English major–and I can still remember that hour of the day. Little else sticks in my mind, but I can still remember her fake-blue eyes roaming over each of us as we squirmed in our seats, trying to make us understand the severity of what had happened. Not even watching the news through Social Studies and Math could make our too-innocent minds understand. I was confused, unable to grasp what the growing death count meant. Thousands dead? But it was distanced, the same as hearing about the death of a famous actor–sad, and supposedly meaningful, but not relevant to me.
I visited Ground Zero once, even went into a church that had been used as a resting place for the emergency workers. There was a large glass case filled with stuffed animals, and a plaque describing that these were donated by local children for the firefighters. Across the street, I learned that there had been a daycare in one of the buildings. But you stand there, seeing the growing building where the centers once stood. Next to them, a bank is being torn down, story by story, its foundation damaged by the collapse.
Sometimes I think about that day I heard of the tragedy, or standing in that church, staring at the stuffed animals. Over my years being in school, it has been a part of the classroom, our individual memories, our empathy for the families of those murdered. But I don’t know if I can ever truly understand it, or if I should. But I know that I have heard my family, friends and peers talk about the hijackers with hatred…and it scares me, because the hatred is the only part of what happened that I can understand, even 10 years later.