13 years ago, today, America changed. Maybe it didn't so much as change, as much as it lost the innocence that we felt separated us from the rest of the world. Whatever it was, the effects have been far reaching and long lasting. Today a shiny glass tower occupies a space in the skyline where two towers used to stand. New concrete, and sheet-rock fill the chasm in an office building outside of Washington DC. Flowers have grown back in a Pennsylvanian field. Time marches on, and a whole new generation feels the consequences of an event they weren't even present to witness, and that's why it's important we still share.
It was probably 9AM that Tuesday, and I was in the middle of my least favorite subject in school, math. It was a small private school in rural New Jersey, only a little more than an hour's drive from New York. I had a seat next to the window, one I looked out of often, probably more than I looked at the whiteboard at the front of the class. There we sat as a class, sitting, learning the usual host of things being 5th grade requires when a knock interrupted the class. I felt a knot in my stomach as I turned around to see the principal of the school, visibly shaken, motioning for our teacher to come talk to her. After a short while the teacher came back into the class, on the verge of tears, and informed us that planes were attacking the country, and that they'd already hit in New York, and Washington DC. I looked out the window beside me half-expecting to see fighter jets racing across the sky. It seems a bit silly now knowing what happened, but at the time we didn't know. For all we know China had just started World War III. The lack of information was startling, no one knew what had happened, or why it was happening for that matter. Being a Christian school the teacher gathered the class up, and began to pray. We prayed for safety and protection for everyone involved, although we didn't know who were asking to be safe from, or who was all involved. I quietly said a prayer for my own father who had gone to a business meeting outside of the city that morning, and I prayed that I would see him again that night. After that we could only sit and wait.
Not long after the initial news, parents started coming to the school to take their kids home. My mother had sent a close family friend to pick me up and get me back to the safety of home. There was no more use in learning about frivolous school subjects that day, and as I rode in the car towards home from school we still were unaware of the scope, or magnitude of what had happened. It was only in the next few hours of listening to the radio, and watching the never ending TV coverage that it all slowly began to emerge. My father arrived home safely later that day, and we watched together, as a family, as President George W. Bush addressed the nation.
Life changed that day, and I was supremely lucky that no one immediately close to our family had died on September 11th. For the families of 2,977 people they weren't so lucky. In the ensuing years there have been attacks in other cities, in other countries, and each time we're reminded of the fragility of life. The truth is we can't go back in time to change what's been done, would that we could, we can only go forward. Forward is nothing though if you don't remember where we've already been, and today is that day we remember.