On September 11, 2001, I was eleven years old, in sixth grade. We were released from school early that day, and I remember it being one of the first times I’ve seen my father afraid. We were not in New York; I didn’t see the towers fall except on television; I lost no family, no friends; the direct effect on my life was minimal, but it did teach me something about fear.
Virginia, where I grew up, has a huge military population and is home to two active nuclear power plants, Surry Nuclear and North Anna Nuclear. A few days after 9-11, I went to the bus stop in the morning and the air was filled with a gray smoke. If you’ve ever been to a middle school bus stop, you are aware that they are noisy things. People fighting and yelling playfully, discussions exchanged in voices way louder than necessary. Kids being kids. But, there wasn’t a lot of noise that morning. We were there, kids, between eleven and thirteen (the ages of my little cousins now), and we were scared. Nobody knew what was going on, not just with the smoke, but in general. Over the next few weeks, I would see teachers break down crying, friends leave to bury their families, the image of buildings burning down and people jumping out over and over and over again, and I was scared.
The fog turned out to be nothing. A forest fire in North Carolina that blew its wind in our direction, but the feeling stayed. For weeks, months, we were scared, until we forgot to be.
I also remember seeing images of fallen firefighters, cops who had helped countless citizens. I remember the same teachers who’d lost their family or friends, coming back to school tear-stained, but determined. I remember people being brave. And these images helped. They helped relieve the terror we all felt at the fact that anyone could do something so heinous and at the loss of life.
So on another anniversary of these attacks, when fear is still wielded as a weapon by whoever can garner the resources to use it, I like to think about the people who risked their lives, who helped, or who survived, as well as reflecting on those who were lost. Fear is a disabler. Let’s reflect on bravery. And today, that’s really all I have to say.