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Forever Changed

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September 11, 2001 – It was early still. I was sitting in my first class for the day, science class. Feeling uncomfortable in the high stools, my feet never reached the ground. I sat slouched with my head resting on my hands as I gazed out the window. I noticed the sun wasn’t yet hot enough to dry the dew that lay on the leaves and grass. And as I saw that rain clouds were rolling in, I knew the sun would never have the chance to do its job. It was going to be a dreary day. We had a tropical storm heading our way, and we were all prepared for some sort of weather emergency for the next couple of days. What we weren’t prepared for was an event that would stun the world, and change everyone’s lives forever.

That day, in my science class, we had a guest speaker. My teacher left the room that morning and checked in on us ever few minutes. I remember the room getting darker and darker as the clouds piled in, covering the sun. It was getting eerie out, and I recall feeling anxious. I remember not really paying any attention to the guest speaker. I was more interested in how the weather looked outside the widow. Towards the end of class our teacher opened the door in a sort of panic. I immediately fixed my posture as I sat up thinking it was time to evacuate the room due to severe weather. She stepped quickly towards our guest speaker and whispered something into her ear. I remember our guest was calm. She just looked into our teachers eyes for a few seconds, and then back at us continuing with her lecture. Because of her temperate reaction, I settled and fixed my eyes back out the window again, unaware. Minutes later, around a quarter past 9 am, the bell rang, and it was time to switch class.

The hallways were chaotic. Students were running and screaming in sort of a panic. Teachers were all huddled together talking, with no sense of the disorder that was unfolding around them. No one was calm. It was apparent that our science class had missed something. And as I entered my second class, there it was. The television was on and images I couldn’t comprehend were being shown. I remember trying my best to understand what I was viewing. The newscasters just repeated themselves over and over, and they kept showing visuals of planes exploding into the sides of buildings while people were screaming. My teacher was silent, eyes glued to the television. It was all a bit confusing until my teacher finally said under his breath, “we are under attack.” It was in that class we heard the reports about the Pentagon. It was all starting to hit me – this was bad. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was bad. The weather outside had gotten worse, but it was no longer an issue for me. Something bigger was unfolding, and I was aware now. The rest of the day our teachers were advised to turn off all televisions and continue with regular scheduled classes.

At home is where I was able to watch the news with my dad and saw all the coverage from that horrific day. Nothing looked real. It was a horror movie that played over and over. My dad was still and didn’t say much. I think he probably didn’t know what to say, especially to a 13-year-old girl. We just sat there together in our living room and watched the news, both stunned. It wasn’t until my mom came home from work with tears in her eyes, that it all became real for me. She explained what happened as best as she could. It was then that words like terrorists would become a part of my then innocent vocabulary.

That night I stayed up with my mother watching the coverage that played on all channels. The unimaginable images were all the same – the planes hitting the towers, people screaming and running in rubble, bodies falling out of buildings – but never once did it become familiar. And while I sat in my mother’s arms, both of our eyes dried out from the constant flow of tears that fell earlier in the night, I felt unsafe for the first time in my life. I was sick that night just from fear alone.

It rained all night and into the next couple of days. It took a while to heal, but nothing was ever the same. My world was corrupted. I was 13 that year, but after September 11 I felt much older. I was no longer a kid, blind to the world that surrounded me. I was aware now – not oblivious to how cruel this world can be. I was changed and grown. From that day on, I was connected.

I am 23 now, married to a United States Marine. A Marine who has dedicated his life to becoming a part the service; encouraged by the acts of September 11. Together we will never forget what happened. For us, and all those who were children during that time, it is not just a memory. It is an event that shaped our futures. We will all be forever changed.

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