12 years ago I was in 7th grade at Jenks Middle School.
The summer before my 7th grade year, I traveled to New York with my grandparents. I remember the twin towers, we saw them on a ferry ride. I can remember thinking that they were the tallest buildings I'd ever seen. That trip changed me. It's where I discovered my love of Broadway. I saw Reba in "Annie Get Your Gun," I was moved by the talent, the music, the costumes. For the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
We only spent a few days there and in that time I'd fallen in love. I loved everything about New York. I could have spent the rest of the summer exploring the city. It was so fascinating, so different from Oklahoma.
On September 11, I road the bus to school. I was an awkward teenage girl, day dreaming about a boy named Scott, hoping I would see him in the cafeteria before class. It was a beautiful sunny day (I know it was a beautiful day because I can remember sitting outside feeling overcome with grief. I remember thinking how strange it was to be sitting under a warm sun, surrounded by beauty, when across the country the world was in crisis).
I was in Ms. Perry's 7th grade language arts class when a girl named Abby burst through the door. She was out of breath, I could tell she had been running. Abby was one of those girls at school that everyone wanted to be friends with. She was always laughing or making others laugh. When she said that a plane hit a building in New York, I wasn't sure if it was just another one of her jokes or if she was serious. Ms. Perry turned on the news.
I remember being so confused. Before the second plane hit, I thought it might be some kind of accident. It never crossed my mind that someone would crash a plane on purpose. A few minutes after we turned on the T.V., the second plane hit. We watched it happen live. It was so quiet. No one said anything but we all knew that we were under attack.
I can remember feeling so scared. When we found out about Flight 93 and the Pentagon, I was beside myself with anxiety. At the time, my mom worked in the tallest building in downtown Tulsa. I worried about planes hitting it. I prayed she would come home. I thought we were at war.
Several students were picked up from school early. I remember wishing my parents would come get me, not because I didn't want to be at school but because I wanted to be with them, "what if something bad happens here and we aren't together?"
After school, I called my dad. Our phone calls were a daily ritual. I asked him if we were safe in Oklahoma. He reassured me that we would be okay. I wanted answers. I wanted to know who was responsible for this. Being in 7th grade, I didn't keep up with international politics. My dad tried to answer my questions honestly but it was such a hard thing to understand.
I remember crying and feeling so confused about my tears, "I didn't know anyone in New York, why am I crying?" For the first time in my life, I grieved for human kind. Grieving for children I didn't know, kids whose parents never came home from work. "My mom and dad go to work everyday, my mom works in a tall building."
I was grieving for the city I fell in love with months earlier.
In the days following 9/11, I remember wearing red white and blue. I remember observing a moment of silence with my family in our childhood home. I remember the sense of pride I felt when I saw an American flag. It was a time I'll never forget.
I know its easy to take our freedoms for granted. We are all different and we don't see eye to eye. But September 11, 2001 taught me that we are always one nation. We are neighbors. We are strong people, free people.
Time and time again we come together to help each other out. Remember this day? Or how about this day?
I don't know about you, but I'm proud to be an American!