by PAJAH WILLIAMS
It’s a normal day like any other.
I wake up. I throw on whatever clothes that my mom has laid out for me. I have breakfast and cheerful chats with my family before we go our separate ways to school or work. And with wide eyes and a toothy grin I frolic off to the first grade where I bask in the bliss of youth, completely oblivious of the cruel world around me.
It was recess, I remember. The teachers were worried and so our usual 30 minutes of organized chaos came to an abrupt halt. I remember hearing chatter about an airplane going down in New York. I hadn’t a clue what it meant. Some kids were leaving early, many of them were. Those of us who were left sat in the classroom silently for an unprecedented amount of time.
The discerning child that I was watched my teacher curiously as she tried to maintain her composure. It was about the planes. I could tell that she was on the verge of tears.
Across the hall, a class of third graders were watching the news. I heard bits and pieces of it. I knew something had gone terribly wrong. I just wasn’t able to fully understand.
It was not until I got home that day, until my mother picked me up and held onto me so tight as if it would be the last time she would ever hold me. It was not until I sat alongside my mom, my dad, my great-grandmother, and my siblings as we watched the footage of the planes crashing into the twin towers on the news.
That sight is so vividly etched in my brain. There were people in those buildings and they were consumed by flames. Some of them were leaping to their inevitable graves from the windows of the towers. The footage showed the city’s response – citizens crying, mourning for their loved ones, fire-fighters risking their lives in order to make at times failed attempts to save lives.
My parents didn’t think that I understood to the extent that I did. They didn’t think that it would affect me as much as it had, but I grew inconsolable with every bit of footage that I saw of the scene. I buried my face and wept silently, like I had never wept before. My mom noticed that I was crying. She seemed so surprised but touched by my conscientiousness.
“Aw, are you crying, Lou?” She comforted me.
“Those are people.” I couldn’t put my thoughts into more sophisticated language, but she understood. I expressed that I was scared for my life, for the country, but mostly, I was scared for the people who were in those buildings. For the people and their families that would forever be torn apart as a result of these heinous acts of terrorism.
9/11 changed the social and political climate of America. In a way it unified us, even if but for a brief moment. It was and continues to be a blow to this nation. We cannot forget the innocent lives that were stolen from us. We cannot forget how pointed and strategic the perpetrators were to attack structures that represent the economic strength and power and pride of America. I will never forget. I cannot, and even as it becomes a remote event, the impact that it has left on this nation warrants commemoration.
So on this day we mourn the lives that were lost. We mourn the symbolic destruction of our power, strength, and economy. And then we perk up. We stand united. We refuse to allow our pride to be stripped from us, our heart to be shattered by invaders. We refuse to be conquered. 9/11 is important because it serves to remind us of the importance of unity and patriotism.