Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lest We Forget

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was in the eighth grade at William Paca Middle School. I recall some of my teacher's names, which subjects they taught, and which period I took said subject in. For example, first period was Social Studies, Mr Skipp taught English second period, Mr. Governali taught Spanish, and Mr. Murray taught Science. What I don't remember is if it was the third or fourth period, what the subject was, and who was teaching the class, the moment I first heard.

Towards the end of the period, the instructor informed the class about the plane that flew into one of the Twin Towers. About the "fires" as he put it at the Pentagon in Washington, and the second plane that crashed into the other Tower in New York City admist the chaos. Clearly, it brought the rest of the school day to a crawl as information started to mount, even calling off all after-school activities, including the study period. I don't remember exactly when I heard about the towers falling, or even if I didn't learn about it until I got home.

What is clear is just how much of an impact that day had, and yet life still went on. Broadway shows went dark and the NFL actually cancelled their games in light of the tragedy. Still, school was on the next day, and we all worked at pressing forward despite the distress that we as a nation felt.

Less than a month prior to the attacks, I actually paid a visit to the World Trade Center. I went into Manhattan with my parents, and we took the 1/3 and the A/C/E lines Downtown. None of us knew that we'd be among the last people to ever see New York City from the Observation Deck. The view was lovely and quite a marvel, and I feel like I took it for granted.

Suddenly, the simple nuances of the Sbarro restaurant in the concession stand, the long lines on the ground level giving way to the crowds on the top floor, and the souviners from that day seemed more valuable than they initally were. I still have the T-shirt my mother bought that day, and I value it as much as the genuine Floyd baseball jersey I bought at homecoming three years ago and my "Class of 2006" shirt. The mug my mother bought herself still lies at the top shelf of the pantry, right next to similarly one-of-a-kind mugs such as one commemorating the 1987 electrification of the Ronkonkoma LIRR line. Even that penny I distrorted with the crank-driven dispenser seemed all the more special.

What's even more interesting is that we initally made a mistake whilst visiting the Towers. Niether I nor my parents were aware of where the Observation Deck was, and we went to the top of the North Tower at first. It was there that we found the restaurant, Windows on the World, and had to turn back around. Under other circumstances, I would have no reason to recall such an error. Now, I can proudly say that I've been to both of the Twin Towers in my lifetime.

Today is ten years to the date of this tragedy. My sister is married to a firefighter, and my father works for a New York State Senator who served in Iraq. They are obliged to help commemorate the events of the day and comfort those who were directly impacted through loss. For myself and the rest of my family, today was a Sunday. I already went to mass last night, and my mother and older brother went to the 8:00 AM service. The second reading to last night's service was about forgiveness, truly a suitable and very Christian message to help with the reflection and rememberance. The Giants game started at 4:00 PM and my mother went shopping at Kohl's.

Life goes on, as it did back then and as we pause today to contemplate the day. Although I may spend the day with a Cougar Town DVD set and consider watching a comedy later, I will never forget the all the loss and the grief bestowed upon us. My appreciation for our armed forces and the people who risk their lives to save others never loses value and I know its never in vain.

On this day I am proud to call myself an American, as well as a New Yorker.

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