9/11 is always a strange day for me, and not because I’m a New Yorker. Not because my dad worked across the street from the Twin Towers. Not because of the funerals for my classmates’ parents who had died. It’s strange for me because I was hardly old enough to understand what happened—and most importantly—why it happened. Why there were people in the world who would hate other people they never met.
Fourteen years ago, I was 12 years old. It was my first week in a new school, about 25 minutes north of New York City. I remember enjoying the smell of my newly-bought school supplies, still nervous about being the new girl. At 12 years old, I had no concept of terrorism. I barely ever heard the word used.
As I piled into history class with people I didn’t really know, the radio was on and it was loud. Everyone sat down and looked around the room—we assumed this was an old tape. Our teacher looked stone-faced out the window at first, then back to us. After a few minutes, everyone knew. This was not an old tape; this was live news.
Most of us were lucky. We did not smell the smoke; we did not see people jump from the Twin Towers. We were sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned classroom miles away from disaster. My mind immediately turned to my father—I had no idea if he would be able to come home. Somehow he did–he was even waiting for me as I got out of school early that day.
Yet, I still did not understand.
At 26, I now live in Brooklyn. And not much has changed since then. Yes, I am older, no longer naive enough to not understand the power of hate, the blindness of rage. But yet, we still live in a world full of it. There’s the violence in Syria, America’s anti-Muslim bigotry, the ever-complicated Iran deal, to name a few. I’m still watching countries embroiled by hate, being torn apart by it, harboring prejudices as if 9/11 never happened. The strength we, as a country, purport to have found from this tragedy seems like just a pretty mirage.
This is not an easy time to live–one of transition and pervasive violence–but as with all things, you make it work, because you believe in hope, in the ability for humans to change. I still haven’t seen much change, but I sincerely hope one day, I will.
Kveller readers, where were you on 9/11? Share your memories with us below.