As I look back on the infamous Monday morning of September 11th, 2001, I remember seeing the events taking place that morning from the perspective of a 5th grader, who was just doing worksheets in his once a week Gifted class. That morning, all seemed to be going as normal, until the TV was turned on and we saw smoking buildings on the screen. They were some faraway buildings in some faraway place, and nobody really thought much of it. We’d all seen fires before. We were 5th-graders, the kings of the hill. We knew everything.
As time continued to pass, we kept working on our assignments. We noticed the lady in the office between the two connected classrooms was watching her own TV, only she was crying. I was puzzled by this. Why would a flaming building make a lady cry?
More time passed. The TV stayed on, more different men were giving their reports about what was happening. Then the unexpected happened: A plane flew into a different building, right next to the first. Now they were both on fire, and we had a hunch why. It still did not mean anything to me, just another far away building in that same far away place. The lady next door was crying louder.
An announcement came over the intercom from the main office. All teachers who had their TV’s on should now turn them off. We kept ours on. Yet again, the assignment for that morning was returned to. I remember glancing up at the TV after some time passed, looking at it for a few moments. Then I yelled “It’s collapsing!” The lady in the classroom next door was now hysterical. Mrs. Welch turned the TV off.
Looking back, as a 5th grader I probably didn’t understand what in the world was happening in that far away place to those far away buildings. They were just that; far away and not seemingly related to me. But also, looking back I can see the sense of confusion that occupied everybody’s minds that day. Nobody really knew what was happening, or why it was happening, let alone how big it would end up becoming. I now know how devastating the attacks that day were, and how the related to me, as an American citizen that fateful Tuesday morning, and I can much better understand just why that teacher next door kept crying, and understand why, as naive 5th graders, we did not know everything. I do not remember much from elementary school, but that morning is one string of images that shall remain burned into my mind forever.
Let us not debate the how or the why, but let us never forget those who perished that morning, or those who gave their own lives to help save them.
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