remembering a third grade day

The 9/11 documentaries I have been watching recently have brought up sharp and painful memories from a day that I was too young to understand. As a third-grader in New York City, I had no clue what was happening when kids in my class were being picked up from school early. I just know that I was in a private school that day, that my mom was in Brooklyn, and that she couldn’t pick me up until later in the afternoon. 

I felt abandonment, but my mom, as a single mom, was probably feeling panic. All my friends were gone, even my teacher who had left to get her own child, and I waited, left behind. Something about the energy of that day felt off, and watching this documentary, 9/11: One Day In America, I can see and sort of understand why.

The horror. My God. The images of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children, running for their lives or clinging to the side of a building. Somee waved their white shirts hoping for respite, to no avail. The nightmare of having to choose between jumping to your death or burning to your death on a morning where you were probably just getting into work. It’s frightening, harrowing to imagine.

So I wanted to send kisses and hugs to my mom, my sister, the family I still have – that narrowly escaped the disastrous effects of a horrendous event in national history. Documentaries like this provide stories and perspective. I never understood what led to the 20 years of war activity that we just ended in Afghanistan. People say that it’s a lot like Vietnam, but it doesn’t seem like it at all. I wasn’t alive for Vietnam. I reference another documentary to make this point: Ken Burns’ Vietnam War. But we had national interest in Vietnam, our deployments to Afghanistan were fueled by revenge and anger, by grief and hopelessness, by vengeance.

We wanted to get back. Some of us still do, and feeling like we’ve lost doesn’t really sit right. We’ll soon commemorate a 20th anniversary to this event. I hope it never goes forgotten, but I also hope that we have learned lessons from the past to avoid plunging into another war-time scenario in a quest for vengeance. 

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