9/11/2001: My Story

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The day that shaped my generation started off like any other day.  Aside from the fact that the following day would be my eleventh birthday, the day did not seem to be particularly noteworthy.  I did my morning routine and went to my school in Queens where classes went uninterrupted throughout the day.

After another day of classes, it was time for dismissal.  However, my bus (and all of the Manhattan-bound school buses, for that matter) weren’t showing up.  After all of the students from the other four boroughs and Long Island had gotten on their buses for some time, we Manhattanites were stranded at school.  Numerous conversations were going on.  I overheard two other boys mention something about the Pentagon, but I wasn’t clear what they were talking about.

Not long after, the principal gave us a half-truth on why we couldn’t get back into Manhattan: “a plane hit the World Trade Center,” he said.  He made it sound like an accident rather than a terrorist attack against the United States and didn’t say that the once-mighty Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had been reduced to a flaming heap of rubble.  Not long after, the Manhattan students from the Lower School were escorted to the Upper School, where they gave us access to the gym, the computer lab, and any other “fun things” that the school offered for us to pass the time until it was clear where all of the students would spend the night.  Some of them would spend the night at teachers’ houses, others with friends.  Since the following day was my birthday, all I cared about was that I wanted to go home so that I could wake up in my bed on my eleventh birthday the next morning, still completely ignorant of the death and destruction that the so-called “plane crash” had caused less than ten hours earlier.

While at the Upper School, I started to hear all sorts of different things explaining what prompted the plane crash.  The one I most remember hearing (and the most comically absurd, for that matter) was that it was organized by Al Gore and the Democratic Party so that the previous Vice President could gain his rightful seat as President of the United States after losing a rigged election to President Bush.  Eventually, it was planned out that the parents of some of my friends, would take the subway out to Queens a bring us back home (my father was sick with pneumonia, and my mother had to take care of him, so neither of them could pick me up.)

Eventually, my friends’ parents came and we took the Subway back into Manhattan, by which time it was already incredibly late.  During the trip, the mother of one of my friends told me that the World Trade Center had been completely destroyed.

I finally got to the front of my building to find my mother downstairs waiting for me.   As we were getting on the elevator, I asked my mom if it was true that Al Gore had orchestrated it.  My mom told me that it wasn’t true.  As we were going up in the elevator, my mom explained told me the truth, and our conversation continued once we got back into the apartment with my dad helping my mom explain what had occurred.  Their tone was exactly as I would prefer it to be in such a situation: direct and honest, but gentle at the same time.  They explained that the people who committed the attacks were in fact radical Muslims with a deep hatred for America, Americans, Israel, and Jews.  I vividly remember my father mentioning the concept of suicide attacks to show how evil and demented the attackers were.

In the days following, I was extremely scared that there would be another attack.  US military planes flew over the skies of New York, and I was afraid that they were more hijacked planes who would do to my building what they did to the World Trade Center.  I feared that similar attacks would happen at my school and my brother’s.  My parents comforted me, telling me that they only attack huge sites.

However, despite the fear that I faced, I also found some comfort.  I recognized that my fellow citizens of New York, who are often perceived as cold towards one another whether, were much nicer to each other.  The most powerful of my memories in the wake of the attacks was being in a cab with my parents a few nights after. The driver, who was clearly a Sikh as evidenced by his beard and turban, had a very deep conversation with us.  He was clearly horrified that anyone could commit such murderous acts motivated by hate alone, and encouraged us to find comfort in G-d, something that I was and still am able to do, but my parents were and still are unable to do.

As I have gotten older and have developed a life perspective largely influenced by those attacks like most other Americans of my generation, I started to realize that hatred against Jews and America was not purely something to be taken lightly and avoidable simply by changing the channel or turning off the TV.  I saw that this hatred could fuel violent attacks on our very soil.  I also feel that religion as a personal, rather than organized set of beliefs, has helped me learn to cope with the bad things in life, in the same way that it helped that kind and pious taxi driver.

Michael Rock | News Cult

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