I was 16 years old, a junior in high school taking pre-calculus with trigonometry, when the world changed. Consumed with the start of school and my rigorous course load, I remember not truly understanding the gravity of the news there had been an explosion at the World Trade Center. It wasn’t until I drove home from school that afternoon, passing a park three blocks from my house with views of New York City, that I truly understood. Cars lined the side roads between my house and the park, and a mass of people stood, agape at the absence of the familiar skyline obscured by the expanding gray smoke.
Last year, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I responded to a prompt put forth by my alma mater. The college asked current students and alumni to submit an answer to the question “What have you learned since 9/11?” My response remains true for me a year later, and so I wanted to share as I remember this day. This is what I wrote:
On the first anniversary of 9/11, I was 17 years old and spent much of the day crying. Though I was fortunate to suffer no loss in the attacks, I was surprised by the deep grief and connection I felt for children who lost parents in the attacks. When I was a little girl, my own father died, and I have spent the past twenty years missing him, futilely wishing things were different, that he could have been present at my college graduation, my first day following in his footsteps as a teacher, and my recent wedding. That thousands of children were suddenly and needlessly thrust into this same position leaves me heartbroken every year on this day. What I’ve learned since 9/11 is that no amount of time can ever pass to erase the hurt that each of these children will feel when they think of their lost parent. I grieve because there are more children who must ceaselessly wonder, as I have, whether they are making this parent proud. And so, the little girl inside of me who will always miss her dad stands in solidarity with the thousands of 9/11 children who were robbed of the presence of their parent, of love, by hate and intolerance.
Please let us never forget.