(Editor's note: This article was first published on Sept. 8, 2011. It has since been slightly modified.)
It was my senior year at High School. The school year had just started. My existence as a child on this planet was rapidly coming to an end, but I was okay with that. I welcomed it. The future was bright, full of possibilities.
The day began as any other Tuesday would have. Your alarm goes off. You’re 17 years old, it’s 6 a.m., you’re groggy, you hit the snooze button. You get those extra 10 minutes of sleep, make your way into the shower, rinse the drear out of your eyes, brush the night out of your teeth.
Breakfast was probably a bagel. After inhaling that, I drove to school still half-asleep.
I don’t remember much of my first class, which began at some ungodly hour. And I’m pretty sure I had second period free, which was usually spent with my head on a table in the cafeteria. After a quick nap, I settled into third period, starting sometime around 9 that morning.
It was Mr. Rood's AP Psychology class. Shortly after class started, someone—faculty I think—ran down the hall telling classes full of students that an airplane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Mr. Rood threw on the television, and collectively we watched, confused and silent.
Nobody knew what was going on. Was it an accident? Could that have been a deliberate act? Would human beings really do that to each other?
And then Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, the fireball from its explosion slicing through the building like a fist through thin air.
Watching the carnage live on television, I recall wondering how two pilots could have made such grievous errors, both in Manhattan. Because that’s what had to have happened. What other explanation was there?
We watched, hypnotized. Teacher as clueless as student.
Reports then surfaced of Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon, and we began piecing everything together. This wasn’t pilot error. This was calculated.
Third period ended, and I shuffled down the hall to Mrs. Santoro’s statistics class. Along the way, eyes locking with other familiar eyes, some of which looked frighteningly unfamiliar. Looks of despair—your parents work in New York?—looks of bewilderment, looks of uncertainty in a world our parents so desperately tried to make certain for us.
Once fourth period started, Mrs. Santoro told us we would proceed according to schedule. We did not turn on the television. We took a quiz. I don’t remember or care at all how well or how poorly I did on it.
Though I was taking a quiz when thousands of innocent Americans were dying, and when the lives of countless more were being drastically changed for eternity, I do not fault Mrs. Santoro in the slightest for her decision to conduct business as usual. Nobody knew what was going on. Nobody knew anything like that was possible.
Though we were instructed to stay in school, after fourth period, a bunch of us decided to get out of there. Some of my friends had parents working in the city. Some of my friends had siblings working in the city. As for me, my brother was at college in Hoboken. No one could grasp the severity of what was happening—how drastically the world was changing. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I didn’t need to be at school.
Along with a couple of my friends, we drove over to my parents’ house to turn on the news and try to figure out what was going on. But no answers came right then.
Later in the day, after touching base with my brother and eating dinner with my parents, answers started to come.
But answers only for me. That family is important. That the gift of life is precious. That being kind is so easy, yet sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that’s not the case. That going out of your way for someone can mean so much.
Still, I will never understand the depth of suffering for so many families and friends of those who lost their lives on that tragic day. Suffering they’ve been through, suffering they're still going through and suffering they will forever be going through.
I will never understand what was going through the minds of those brave first responders who lost their lives trying to save the lives of others, or what was going through the minds of those brave first responders who lived to see Sept. 12.
I will never understand what causes a human being to willfully decide to commit such senseless destruction.
On September 11—today—let’s vow to honor the victims of that tragedy which took place more than a decade ago. Let's remember their lives and their memories. Let's say a prayer for their loved ones.
Things, as Americans and as human beings, we should do every day.