September 11, 2011.
I was walking with my fourth-grade class to the school library (Tuesday was “Library Day” for us). As we waited for our teacher to join us in front of the library, one of my classmates started to spread a rumor which I found to be extremely distasteful.
“Did you guys hear?” he exclaimed. “A plane hit a skyscraper in New York!”
As the daughter of a commercial airline pilot, I did not find the joke the least bit funny. “You’re making that up!” I exclaimed to the boy.
He shook his head furiously. “No, I’m serious!”
And that was all I heard of the matter for the entirety of the day, thanks to the frustrating avoidance tactics of faculty and staff at our school. Aside from hushed whispers and rushed hallway meetings, the teachers did not disclose any information of the attacks. I was very frustrated; my father was scheduled to fly to New York that day, and I had no clue if he had been involved in any way.
When I finally got home, I glued myself to our television. I was determined to find out what had happened, and I did not have to wait long before the scope of the day dawned on me. Details were hammered into my brain by newscasters trying to illustrate the true extent and implications of that morning.
I was the first of our family back home that day (my sister and mother were still in school). I watched the news coverage I had been denied that day, horrified at what I was seeing. A brilliant sunlight streamed through the windows of my family room as I stood in front of the TV screen, an otherwise beautiful day punctuated by terrifying darkness and evil.
I continued standing aghast in front of the TV for a good hour, frozen as I watched the images flicker across the unforgiving screen. My trance was broken by the sounds of the garage door opening, my mother sweeping into the room and embracing me in a fierce hug.
“Did your principal tell you, Dad is okay? He’s been grounded in Philadelphia; he’s driving home with some other crew members,” she said. “I called your school and asked them to tell you he was alright.”
“No, nobody told me anything!” I exclaimed furiously. I was completely fed up with being ignored by my school administrators, and I proceeded to storm about the room in a very frustrated manner (for a fourth-grader).
When my sister came home thirty minutes later, my anger was beginning to subside and gave way to more shock and grief for the victims and survivors of that tragic day. The three of us continued to watch the images of smoke, dust, fear, and death scroll across the television screen for the remainder of the evening.
Then, my father called. Hearing his voice on the other end of the line was such a relief for two scared little girls, still unsure if their Daddo was okay. I went to bed comforted that he was alright, but still scared for the future of our world and my place in it.
Ten years later, I stand at a candlelit memorial service in the center of my college campus, joining in a collective remembrance and a call for peace, goodwill, and harmony. I watch the flames flicker across the faces of strangers united by faith and hope in the power of prayer. We reflect on multi-denominational readings under a full moon, gently beaming its tranquil light on an American flag flying at half-mast. As we extinguish the candles, our souls remain illuminated from this shared experience, and we walk away united in understanding. We will always remember September 11.