10 years ago, I was in Mrs. Hernandez's 6th grade class. My parents are divorced, and it was my week to stay with my dad. I had walked down to my mom's in the morning and she was going to take me into school late with a parent's note because I hadn't finished my math project. It had to do with art AND math, so that's why my dad had trouble helping me with it. It had something to do with drawing the rest of an owl in a grid. So we were listening to the radio on the way to school. I wasn't really paying attention. But suddenly, mom turned off the radio. Since I wasn't paying attention, I didn't realize that she was upset. We went through the Burger King drive-thru to get breakfast. It took a long time for our food to get to us, and the lady who handed it to us was trying not to cry. I figured she was just having a bad day. So we got to school, and we were waiting in the office to talk to the office staff so mom could check me into school. Y'all remember how that was. As long as a parent checked you in, nobody really cared where you'd been. All I remember was everyone in the office was crying. My teacher ran in and out of the classroom all day. When I got home, I was playing over at my friend Chelsea's house. It was on the news. And that was the first time I actually saw it. I was confused. I didn't understand what it had to with me. The number one thing I remember from that day and the weeks following was the adults crying, all the time. I cried a lot, too. Not because I really understood. But because something bad enough had happened that made everyone I loved upset. My dad had taken my brothers and I on a trip to New York City in August 2001, right before school had started. We had been on top of the towers a month before it happened. I didn't understand what that meant, or how it would affect me. We'd visited the towers on an early morning in August 2001, but I'd heard that the observation deck wasn't even open for visitors at the early morning time that the planes hit. So I thought that it couldn't have happened to me anyway if it'd happened a month before, because the observation decks weren't even open at that time. (I don't know if that's actually true. I was 11. I really had no, and still have no, idea when the observation deck opened in the morning.) My dad was really freaked out by this. I think maybe I understood a little bit, but not to the extent that I understand today at 21 years old. I didn't know what the Pentagon was when I was 11. I just knew that I was proud to be an American, and that it totally sucked that some people in some other countries wanted everyone here to die. I listened to the radio a lot when I was 11. And there was a story about a girl who lost her mom. And I think that's when I realized what a big deal this was. I thought about what I would do if I lost my mom to something like this, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. And I thought about everyone who lost their moms, wives, sisters, dads, brothers, etc. And when the numbers were released, I was confused. It was more people than went to my entire school. How could that be? That THAT many people had died in one day? From airplanes? Stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. That's what I remember thinking. How completely and utterly stupid and senseless.
And I STILL think it's completely stupid. How someone could just hate someone SO MUCH that they want to ruin everyone's lives because of it. That you could hate someone solely based on where they live. It couldn't have been from beliefs, because not everyone in America believes the same thing. Not about color, because not everyone here is the same color. Simply because we're from where we're from. I remember my 7th grade teacher explaining to us how many people want us dead. It was disheartening. But you know what? It was true. And that was a hard realization to come to. And to also come to the realization that just because other people want us dead doesn't mean that I have to want them dead. I think we've all arrived at our opinions about war and terrorism a lot sooner than we should have. I formed a valid, educated opinion about war when I was in the 7th grade, a year after 9/11 happened. That's too early. It's fine to be that young and be like, "Oh yea, war is wrong/good." But to actually sit down and think about it and have educated thoughts about it? Too young. Too sad.
It's not all black and white. I'm against war. But I also support our troops and am proud of them and glad for their protection. It's confusing. And I wish I could tell 6th grade me to calm down and not think about it, that there'll be plenty of time to reflect on 9/11 when you're older and have a better understanding of the world. It's a bad situation, and it's not going away. You'll cry about it for years. And you'll have nightmares where people you love are trapped inside buildings and you can't do anything about it. You'll think about what if it HAD happened a month earlier and you were there, what would you have said in your last phone call to your mom? You'll pray and hope that the people who died can hear you, and you'll tell them that the whole country loves them and misses them even if they didn't know them. You'll have kids in a couple of decades and you'll worry about the day (even long before you have kids) that your kids will come home from school after learning about 9/11, and they'll ask you if you remember it. And even though it's been a few decades, I doubt you'll be able to keep yourself together. You'll worry about how to protect your loved ones in such a dangerous world, and you'll cry when you realize there really isn't any way to do so. These things just happen when there's so much evil in the world.
And you'll realize how upset you are even though you weren't even there and didn't know anyone who died, and you'll wonder how the people who actually WERE there and actually DID know people who died are keeping themselves sane. And you'll be proud to be where you're from.