My Story: Remembering 9/11

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Thirteen years ago today, on September 11, 2001 to be exact, my little brother turned three years old. I woke that morning of his birthday at around seven AM. Ok, fine, my mom awoke my 11-year-old self that morning of his birthday at around seven AM. I made my usual grumbles and turned over to pull the blankets up around my head. I really hated waking up in the mornings. Still do.

“Come on, Katie, today is Liam’s birthday. After you’re done with school, we are going to have a party!” –her last attempt at being nice before telling me if I didn’t get up on my own she would make me get up.

            I was in sixth grade at a small middle school in a small town in Connecticut. My first class of the day was uneventful. I honestly can’t even remember what subject it was. I usually stayed half-asleep for the first hour or so of school. My second class was something called “careers and self-esteem.” This was basically a huge guidance counseling session disguised as a curriculum class. We discussed what we wanted to do when we grew up, our education plans, and our ultimate goals. Mostly, I passed notes to my girlfriends for those 45 minutes each day.

            This particular day was different, though. About five or ten minutes into the class, the teacher’s phone hanging on the wall by the chalkboard started to ring. This was the phone all the teachers used to contact one another and to get in touch with the main offices of the building privately. I remember her eyes looking so solemn and serious as she listened to this particular call, so much so that I couldn’t look away from her. I think everyone in the class could feel that something was happening because there was none of the usual whispering and giggling while she took that call. It was completely silent.

            The teacher hung up the phone and quietly walked over to her desk at the front of the classroom. It was a few minutes before she actually said anything and what she did say I didn’t really understand. She said there had been a plane crash into some buildings in New York City. At that point in my life, I had only been to the city two or three times and regarded it as some far off, glamorous, exciting land, much too distant to feel any real connection to. She mentioned that the school would probably call an assembly and we might go home early. I didn’t understand any of it. I felt terrible that there had been a plane accident, but I couldn’t comprehend why it would call for all of us, hours away in Connecticut, to have to go home early. I didn’t even know what these buildings were, or why my teacher looked close to tears.

            Just as she foresaw, all of the students were called into an assembly in the auditorium. I saw some kids crying and heard someone mention that there were people who had family members who worked in these city buildings, and no one knew if they were OK or not. That was when I realized how scary this was. I remember my heart starting to race immediately and just wanting to go home and be with my mom. I wished I never went to school that day, had faked sick so I could still be in bed or playing with my little brother on his birthday. At that point in my life, I had no idea how to deal with tragedy or trauma and I wanted to pretend none of it existed. I felt tears well up in my eyes out of panic and confusion as I sat down on the wooden bleachers with my classmates.

            The principal stood before us, more serious than I remember ever seeing him. He explained as best as he could that the airplanes had hit the twin towers, the World Trade Center; huge buildings where thousands of people worked. He told us that it did not look like an accident. That was when my stomach dropped. Someone did this on purpose? I grabbed my best friend’s hand and couldn’t hold back my tears any longer. How could this be happening? Suddenly, my mind jumped to Liam, my little brother. He was turning three; he would never understand any of this. How were we supposed to act happy and excited for him? His birthday was ruined and he wouldn’t know why.

            All of the students were sent home early that day to be with their families. As soon as I got home I went right over to the television in my mom’s room, where the news footage was playing. Liam was in the living room, in his new birthday shirt and pull-up diaper, oblivious. I remember turning to my mom and asking if all of this meant we were going to war. Her response was resonating: “I think it does mean that.”

            I could barely stand to watch what the news was playing, but couldn’t seem to look away. All of these people were gone now. So many had lost mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and so on. My heart felt sick for them. I couldn’t believe that something like this had happened. I also just couldn’t understand it. Who would do such a thing?

            For the rest of the evening, my family and I spent the time going back and forth between the TV in my mom’s bedroom to stay updated and the living room to hang out with Liam, who still couldn’t have been happier that it was his birthday, his special day. Around eight, after dinner and showers, we had a birthday cake for him, with three sparkling candles right on top. The light reflected off his beaming face as he leaned over to blow them out. He was overjoyed as we all forced smiles and wished him a happy third birthday.

            Over a decade later, the events of that day are still clear in my mind. I still wish we had been able to give my little brother a better birthday, but I thank God on a daily basis that at least we were all safe and together to celebrate his birthday at all. Now it’s 2014, my little Liam is turning sixteen, and everyone still remembers that day. My heart goes out to all the people who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001 but not one person will ever be forgotten. That day will live on forever, and every year America will stand together and feel appreciative- for the country where we live, the friends and family we still have, and our lives.

Kaitlyn Seabury, News Cult