Remembering 9/11 Twenty Years Later

About a year before I started Ryan’s Kitchen Journal, I had another blog that was neglected within three short months of it being started. Eventually, I hid the blog and didn’t log into my WordPress account for some time. However, during that short-lived blog, I wrote a post commemorating 9/11. I have reproduced it below, as written a few years ago.

I was in my third grade classroom; the teacher was going about the day, just as she always had. The windows were letting in enough light and blue sky and sunshine filled in the window panes. Myself and 23 classmates were getting ready for math the first time the secretary phoned our room and asked for someone to be brought to the office for dismissal. Many of us found it odd that the student would be dismissed so early in the day, especially since he had no idea why he was getting picked up early.

By the end of the day, my class of 24 was down the 9 students. We weren’t allowed outside for recess that day, despite it being beautiful. No one explained why.

It would take me years to realize the impact of September 11, 2001. Being only 8 at the time I had no real concept of what happened or why it happened. I watched the news that afternoon and evening with my parents. They tried to explain it to me, but really how could they translate the detriment of the events to a child who hadn’t even learned fractions yet?

In the days following, I remember my teacher having us sit on the carpet in the back of the room. She had just finished reading us a picture book about New York City. She then asked if we had any questions. While I cannot recall what my classmates asked of her, I do remember my question: Does this mean World War III is starting?

She paused for a moment and looked at the other adult in the room. Her face was blank for a moment, as she formed her words: “I don’t think so. There were a lot of bad things that happened the other day, but I don’t think it will start another World War.” Being only eight, I had heard of the World Wars, but didn’t really understand them or even who was involved with them.

I don’t remember the year that it finally clicked for me. I’m assuming it was during my college years. Just one year on September 11, I felt something–something different than I had felt in the years past. It was almost as though I finally fully was able to comprehend what happened that day, the impact of the lives lost, and how the world was changed forever.

In the weeks after 9/11/01, my father’s employer organized a collection of clothing items that would be sent to Ground Zero. My parents donated items and their time running the donation collection. I remember hanging out at the place, being kept occupied with office supplies and the cash register. I do not know how many items we collected that week, but I know my parents felt like they needed to do more. At the time, my mother was an R.N. and she had said she wanted to go to help. Living in southern CT, getting into NYC wouldn’t have been challenging for her. In the end, she decided not to go.

I do not think about 9/11 very often. It would come every year and I’d be reminded of the events of the day, like everyone else around me. Friends of mine who are older than me share different experiences about that day. Coworkers who are even older than those friends, share their story. Everyone alive and able to develop memories can probably recall where they were, what they were doing that day.

In the age of social media, numerous posts are made by people in remembrance of that day. One of them really speaks to me. It says something along the lines of: I miss 9/12/01. I miss the fact that the country came together and fought what happened. I have to say that I agree with the post. We didn’t care what social class we were from, we didn’t care how much money each other had. It suddenly made us one: a nation united. I can’t say I’ve ever witnessed the United States as united as it was during those weeks in September, 2001.

Since I am a fan of theater, I make my way into the NYC a few times a year. While I do usually stay in and around the theater district, I sometimes get brave and venture outside my city comfort zone. Every time I am there, a thought always pops into my head: “New York City: Center of the universe…” it’s a line from the musical Rent. While it is the center of the universe, in my opinion, I always feel a bit sad that I will never get to experience the city pre-9/11. I will never be able to see the NYC Skyline with the Twin Towers. I’ve been to Ground Zero once on a bus trip with school and all we did was drive by it. I haven’t been back since. While part of me does want to visit the museum, I’m not sure I will be able to handle it. I lived through the events of the day, and I learned about them as I got older.

But one thing amazes me…NYC bounced back. The events of 9/11 shook the world and shook New York, but it didn’t break them and it didn’t break the US. NYC really is “the greatest city in the world” (Hamilton).

In 2017, a musical opened on Broadway entitled Come From Away. It continues to play to sold out audiences in New York and around the world. The show tells the story of the residents of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada and how the town responded to the events of 9/11. They opened their town to the thousands of stranded passengers who were affected by the terror attacks. And the “plane people” made friendships that will last a lifetime. If you haven’t seen it yet, or even heard of it, look into it. I don’t think you’ll be sorry. The music is catchy and the story is satisfying. I will be buying tickets in the coming months.

In closing, I would like to thank the first-responders from NYC and beyond who, in my opinion, were the first soldiers in the war on terrorism. Some of them lost their lives and for that we, as a nation, are forever grateful for your service.

To the people affected by loss from those events in New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania: We hear, we support you, and we love you.

Finally, to the residents of New York City: You have shown the world what can come from the ashes of fear and heartbreak. You have risen again and you are stronger for it.

We will never forget….

For those interested, here are some YouTube videos for some of the things I reference in this post.

One of the songs from the musical Come From Away. The Original Broadway Cast recording is available digitally and in print from a variety of retailers. Tickets to the production are available via Telecharge (it reopens on Broadway after the COVID-19 shutdown later this month. A filmed version of the stage musical is available to stream on Apple TV+.

Until next time, readers…


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