I was in my mid-teens ten years ago today. It was just another weekday morning. I was already dressed and ready to go to the kitchen table to start school (I was homeschooled) when I peeked into my brother’s room. He was trying to watch Regis and Kelly instead of starting his work, but instead, a building was on fire. Some building in New York I had never heard of before. Somehow, it seemed very important, so I went to tell Mom.
Sometime between that moment and when we turned on the tv in the living room, the second plane had hit. And everything changed. School was forgotten. We were riveted to the tv, trying to understand what had happened and what it meant, watching the events unfold. Mom was constantly on the phone with my dad, my grandmother, other family.
My dad’s company evacuated because they were amongst the hastily compiled list of potential targets. The airplanes that perpetually roared over our house were grounded, leaving only eerie silence. The reality that this truly was happening settled over me.
The Pentagon was hit. The towers fell. Another plane was missing. There were rumors that it was in Pennsylvania–where so much of my family lives. My whispered prayers turned from the people of New York and DC to the lost plane. It seemed like hours before it was found, ablaze and nose first in a field in rural Pennsylvania.
I wasn’t sure how to cope. I collected newspapers. I wrote poetry. I prayed.
Eight months later, the remnants of that day went from pictures on the tv and the newspapers I had saved to something I could touch.
We were in Pennsylvania visiting family. On our way home, we happened to see a road sign for Shanksville. We decided to pull off and pay our respects.
After getting directions from the locals at the gas station, we followed the winding roads through neighborhoods to the entrance of a mine. A gravel parking lot had been made, and a chain link fence stood against it. The people who live nearby volunteered to sit and watch over the sacred place as visitors came.
Not far away was a fenced in area with a giant American flag. And behind that fence was a mound, now covered in grass, where Flight 93 had fallen.
It was as silent and somber as a Civil War battlefield, as if the very ground itself mourns and remembers the blood shed on it. As if it knew that the marred land was a result of heroism during a dark hour.
I will never forget standing in the middle of that field, surrounded by the whispers of the locals, visitors, and the wind while tears rolled down my cheeks. And I will never forget the pride I felt in the brave passengers who thwarted the terrorist’s last plan.
Now, every September 11th, I wear a bracelet made by the people of Pennsylvania that sums up my feelings towards this hallowed day. “We remember 9/11/01, United we stand” is etched into the front. And on the side, it declares, “Let’s roll.”
May we always have the courage to look evil in the eye.