It was thirteen years ago to this day that our world was forever changed. What it meant to be a New Yorker, American, human-being took on a different meaning, and we were left with the type of memory that never leaves us.
We were reminded that the freedoms we have in the USA shouldn't be taken for granted. We were reminded that we aren't invincible. We were reminded what many people, in my places have to experience daily. We were reminded that there still is so much evil in the world. We were reminded that we are stronger united than broken into factions, fractions or pieces.
I'll never forget the day it happened. I'll never forget where I sat. I'll never forget the teacher’s name that made the announcement as to what had happened.
I was in the eight grade, and had just started as a new student. My family had moved into a new house, in a new school district, and I didn’t know anyone. It was maybe not more than four days into the first week of school, and I sat shyly in my sixth period, theatre arts class, alone. The room was eerily normal. Students were chatting, the bell rang, and then Mrs. Kelso said she had an announcement to make.
My heart dropped, my eyes began to water, I internally panicked. Frustration, anger and sadness grew larger and larger inside me as the “bad kids” in my grade, who were also in my class, started laughing. It may have been a defense mechanism. It may have been their idea of rebellion. I don't know what it was, but it was inappropriate to me.
I didn't know what to do. Cry? It was the last thing I wanted to do in front of these people I barely knew, and I was already an easy target. I held myself together, by not doing anything.
My class was then informed we had the option to go talk to the guidance counselors, but I sat frozen in my chair and in my thoughts. An inner lump building and building.
My father had worked in the city, and I never knew where exactly he was, so my mind prepared for the worst. My heart beat faster and faster. I glazed over.
“Barrett,” Mrs. Kelso said. I looked up, and she let me know I was called down to go home. A wave of release washed over me. Only my father drove, and parents were picking up their kids early once everyone knew what had happened.
I grabbed my backpack, and took off for the exit like no ones business. I passed the guidance counselors office, and just saw kids crying everywhere. I held it in. I held it together. I held myself.
I got into my father’s car, where my mother, brother and sister sat, and just let it all out.
I cried for hours that day. I remember seeing smoke from where we lived on Long Island. I remember just thinking how lucky I was that I had both my parents, while so many people lost not one, but both of their parents in that catastrophic event.
It is incredible how vivid this day is. I remember so much detail. I remember so many thoughts I had. I remember it like it was yesterday.
It is crazy how so many days just simply pass by in our lives, and we can barely recall things from a few days ago, yet days this like will forever stick themselves so presently in our beings.
As a born New Yorker, I hold this day quite closer to me than many. I personally know families that lost loved ones. I grew up, and lived a few blocks away from where it all happened. I have been back to Ground Zero every year since those buildings fell. It doesn’t matter what city I live in, what is going on in the world, or how I have gotten back. I have always made sure to be in New York on this day. Some might think that is crazy, to me it is the only place to be on today.
As the universe would have it, I got caught off guard today, and forgot what tomorrow was. I, like so many people, had a busy day, in which my thoughts were taken over by work, errands and life.
However, my roommate came home early, and I had decided that a fitness day outside was better spent than inside a gym pumping weights. I looked at her, and asked if she would like to join me, she accepted, and we went off to a place I commonly go to be in the elements and get my sweat on.
We ran to our destination, a pier along the Hudson, and caught our breath. Took a picture, and then realized what our backdrop possessed.
Two magnificent lights shot up into the sky, and I was humbled. The universe brought me to exactly where I was meant to be, at exactly the time I was supposed to be there.
An hour of working out went by. It was an hour of bonding with some friends, an of being outside, an hour of feeling the presence of what happened thirteen years ago.
At the end of that hour, I looked up into the sky, into those lights and was taken back to being a shy, scared and heartbroken thirteen year old. I was reminded why I am so proud to be a New Yorker, an American, a person blessed to live the life I do.
I will never forget this day. I will of course mourn for those who were lost, but more importantly, I will continue to feel grateful for the life I have the freedom to live because of the men and women, who fight for this everyday.
I think today, more so than many other days, should serve as a reminder for how blessed we are: lucky to be alive, lucky to get to do the things we do, lucky to love the people we love, lucky for everything thing.
In memory of all that were lost, taken and disappeared that day. My heart, my love, my respects go out to everyone, who were in the Twin Towers, or were in some way affected by this inhumane act.
Blessed. Grateful. Appreciative.