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Friday, September 9, 2011

An 11 Year Old Perspective of September 11, 2001

WTC, courtesy of Flickr user Beija on Wikimedia Commons
This post might not be incredibly informative, super substantive, or even that different from anyone else.  However, what many don't realize is how significant an impact 9/11 had on young children who didn't fully understand the implications of the attack.

I was in 6th grade.  It was a Tuesday, which was a good day in elementary school (for me at least).  Tuesday was the day that the kids in the gifted program got to go to a different school and take special classes designed to "stimulate our intellect" ... or something like that.  Either way the classes were fun, and it was a good break from the typical 6th grader monotonous day.

I remember the first time I heard about the attacks.  I was sitting in my first class of the day when one of the kids came back from the bathroom and said that a couple of planes had crashed in NYC.  I didn't think much of it, except that plane crashes were bad and I was glad I wasn't on one.  My teacher said it wasn't an ordinary crash, and they had crashed into the World Trade Center.  She saw the befuddled look on our elementary school faces, and proceeded to explain that those were the twin towers.   Now it made sense.
"Those buildings?! the big ones right?" one kid exclaimed.  When the teacher gave an affirmative nod, thousands of thoughts went racing through my 11 year old mind.  Why would planes crash into the buildings?  My teacher neglected to disclose any further information, that it could have been a terrorist attack, in order to not instill fear.

Lunch time rolled around and thats when I found out it was an attack.  My friend and I discussed the incident while trading Pokemon cards.  Because I was in the gifted program, and still too young to understand that the feeling of entitlement was silly and meritless, I began to speculate my own reasons why it would have happened.  One of my friends, misinformed, claimed that if they attacked the Pentagon we'd be done for because thats where all the nukes were.

The ramifications of the attacks didn't resonate until that afternoon during the bus ride back home.  Our bus driver was talking about it and mentioned something that I will never forget: "This will go down in the history book, as a dark day for our country."  Thats where it hit me.  This was bad.  West Virginia had not been affected directly by the physical attacks, they were centralized in PA, VA, and NY.  However, the threat became real.

My mother further enforced this notion when she mentioned that it was the "first attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor I think."  I sat glued to the television after I got home, it was the first time I took news seriously in my life.  I was 11 years old, in 6th grade, and worried.

I wasn't old enough to understand fully what was going on, or that 10 years from now we would still be fighting a war associated with this horrible attack.  What I did know was that I would remember that day forever.  My mother told me I would and I believed her.  She said she remembered a day like this.  She said the day she was referring to was November 22, 1963.  I asked her what happened that day.

"Thats when John F. Kennedy was assassinated."

My chest felt heavy, and my heart hurt.  This was the beginning of something bad.

I hope this story at least provides a new perspective.  The 10 year anniversary of September 11, 2001 will occur during a time of great uncertainty in our country.  I have always been taught to find light in a bad situation, and not to dwell on the negatives.  Maybe our light can be us, as citizens, uniting in honor of those whose lives were lost on September 11.  


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