Dear Six Year Old Self,
September 11, 2001 is going to be a beautiful day. In the morning you’ll wake up and get ready for your fourth day of first grade. Your Mom will drop you off at your classroom door, look into your innocent, twinkling eyes and smile. You won’t notice that there isn’t any joy in her expression. Her eyes are glazed over with tears and her face is a little more red than normal. The words “she doesn’t know anything” will be spoken. But you won’t hear them. You won’t be given a chance to be curious. You will already be across the room, sitting in a corner with a few of your classmates. You won’t notice your teacher Mrs. Paine nod solemnly, nor will you acknowledge the growing fear in her eyes. You are so very innocent dear child.
Do you know the girl, Kailey, in your class? She will talk about it. You don’t know what the words “twin”, “explosion” or “collapse” mean yet, but she mentions the word “firefighters” and immediately, you are excited to go home and wear your plastic red hard hat around the house. Mrs. Paine quickly hurries you away before you can start asking questions.
You are me and I am you.
Our parents didn’t tell us anything. We had no knowledge that there was such evil in the world—people that rivaled Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. I remember feeling like there was something wrong. Since a young age, I have been described as an empath—a person who directly feels what another feels. As a child sheltered from the news and the horrors of the real world, I could never imagine such a tragedy. Even ten years after that fateful day, I still cannot grasp such a concept.
But there will be a day when you will finally understand—September 11, 2008. You will walk into Mr. Mercer’s eighth grade honors history class at Tahoma Junior High. You will sit down and he will tell you that if you need to take a step outside to collect your thoughts, you will be allowed. In the next two hours, you will finally understand.
Be shocked when you see the plane fly into the North Tower. Gasp when the second hits the south. Be brave when you see people jump out their office windows and cry when you hear the sounds of their bodies thudding on the ground. Be relieved when the lucky ones make it out unscathed and be horrified when the towers fall down. Grieve with the nation and grieve with the world. On that seventh anniversary day, you will finally understand.
Your relatives went to Iraq and Afghanistan because of this. America will forever be scarred.
Hug your Mom, hug your Dad. Pray for the world and be thankful for your life and the lives around you. And then with all the emotional strength you can muster, forgive those who trespassed against your country. You will ask yourself, why did God allow this to happen? Your faith will be shaken and bruised. You will remember September 11, 2001 as the day hell rained down on the earth.
You, New York City, America, and the world will never forget.
An American never forgets.
Dear Six Year Old Self,