They don't teach you how to cope with tragedy in school.
On September 11, 2001 I was sitting in my Spanish class, learning how to conjugate some verb that has been long since forgotten. I had just begun high school, I was a sophomore, and quite frankly, I could not have cared less at the moment about the rest of the world - my world was high school, that classroom, and my individual life.
Then the phone call came.
It was a little after 8AM Central Time, and though she said nothing to us, she silently turned on the TV in the room to one of the local news stations. And we sat, quietly, and watched in confusion as a grainy picture of a burning tower in New York City came up on the screen.
We didn't understand what was happening. The room sort of went silent and we stared blankly at the TV, unable to understand how, or why, this affected us personally. A tower was burning in a city in a state half a country away. What did that mean? But as we watched, events unfolded, and the whole thing began to make a bit more sense. Another plane hit. The other tower seemed to explode. We watched the whole thing from the point we started, to the point, half an hour later, when the principal finally put an announcement over the PA system that all of the TVs in the building were to be shut off.
And that was the rest of our day. Nobody knew what was going on, our communication to the outside world was limited, and we honestly knew little from that short half-hour snippet of news. We understood that something awful had happened, but we had no more information. During the day, occasionally a student would disappear - pulled out of classes by a terrified parent, taken home to likely understand more about the event than the rest of us. We sat and waited and went about our day otherwise quite normally, because we didn't know any differently. It wasn't until most of us went home that afternoon that we saw the rest of the reports, heard the rumors and the facts, and got to see the full footage of what had unfolded that day.
It was sobering, but to be honest, I didn't understand.
In my defense, I was 15 - too young, I think, to get my head out of my own rear long enough to sit back and really look at what happened. It took years for me to become at all interested or concerned about what had occurred; I was 20 or so by the time I looked everything back up and looked at the footage again. And again. And again.
It wasn't until I grew up and had kids that I watched it and CRIED, really sat back and realized that this is the kind of place I was raising my children in, a world where people could take over airplanes and fly them into huge buildings and into government buildings and be overcome by passengers and driven into the ground, where thousands could die in an instant, all in the name of God. It disgusted me, it terrified me, and most of all it made me question my beliefs. What kind of loving god would allow this to happen? What sort of deity could kill off thousands without a second glance?
Now, ten years later, I have two beautiful children. And once a year I go back and I look at the footage and pictures and watch the videos and remind myself of what happened. I mourn and I understand a little better every single year.
Where were you on September 11, 2001? What were you doing? Who were you with? How old were you? How have you changed the world in the 3,652 days that have passed since then?