I was still a girl 11 years ago today. I'd barely turned 12 years old. My brain was filled with silly things like the A-teens and painting my nails and convincing my mother to let me shave my legs and how to get "in" with the popular crowd. Because in my mind, I wasn't a child, I was a young woman (even if I still sometimes liked to play with Barbies...).
But I remember that Tuesday morning, in our blue house in La Mesa. I was packing my back pack in our living room, waiting for my ride to pick me up. I remember my mother's eyes, glued to the television, wide with horror. I remember looking up to see the tail of an airplane sticking out of a building, with the newscaster saying in a hopeful voice that perhaps it's just a horrible accident. I remember them recanting that statement after the second plane and the second tower. I didn't quite understand what was happening. It felt and looked like it had to be a movie.
I'll never forget my mother suddenly standing up, climbing onto her chair, gasping with horror as we watched the towers crumble to the ground. I think that's when I realized this wasn't just a movie. There were real people inside those buildings. People with families and lives still ahead of them. People that had just gone into work for the day. A day like any other, just like mine had been that morning, until that moment.
At school I was restless and couldn't concentrate. I went to the nurse's office, claiming I had a stomach ache. Really, I was just scared. The teachers weren't telling us anything and that was disconcerting to me. I was so relieved when my mom came and picked me up.
I think day in September may have ushered in my growing up process. It helped me learn that evil isn't just some concept taught in fairy tales. It helped me learn that it's possible to be a hero in real life. It helped me see the world is bigger than Algebra class, that every action has a consequence, that there is no greater quality than empathy.
I will never forget. And I hope you don't either.