8 years ago two towers fell and it seemed the entire world came crashing down. 2,751 innocent people lost their lives, and millions more of us lost our innocence.
I was a junior in high school, sitting in chemistry class, when someone ran into the room and told our teacher, Dr. Cravy, to turn on the tv, because our country was being attacked. The bell rang and we went to our next class, for me AP US History with Mr. Quattlebaum. He already had the tv on. I saw the second tower hit on live tv. We all sat, stunned. Dazed, shocked, and saddened, we watched the coverage all day long. We saw ash raining down on a city, we saw smoke rising into the sky, we saw our nation’s illusions going up in smoke, because we weren’t so safe as we thought we were, things that happened to other people in faraway places, like Israel, were happening to us. Here.
During my journalism class, just before lunch, there came an announcement over the intercom. Our school had received a bomb threat and were to report to the football stadium and await further instructions. A fearful day got even more terrifying as what was happening in New York and Pennsylvania and D.C. became connected to our small town. We sat in the bleachers, oddly quiet for a group of high school students, because so many of us just didn’t know what to say. Ironically, construction was underway on a nearby highway, and they were blasting that morning. When we heard the blast, we were sure our school was being blown up. We screamed and ducked and covered. We heard a second blast. Soon the principal received a call on her cell phone and announced via a bullhorn that the explosions were on the highway, not our campus. A little later we received the all clear from the bomb squad and returned to our hallways. Despite the all-clear, it looked like a bomb had gone off. They had opened and searched all of our lockers, and the doors hung agape, our things scattered onto the floor. School was dismissed early and I honestly can’t even remember how I got home.
That night, I watched with my family in stunned horror. The images of people jumping from windows to escape the fires inside reappeared in nightmares for many weeks. We kept watching every day after, looking for an explanation. A why. I’m not sure we’ll ever understand that. Somehow I managed not to cry until the news came that Daniel Pearl, the American journalist whose story I followed so closely because at the time he held my dream job, foreign correspondent, had been beheaded by his terrorist captors. As those images flashed upon the screen, I, a 16-year-old, collapsed into my mother’s lap and sobbed into her shoulder as she stroked my hair. I wept for my country. I wept for the people who lost their lives in planes and sky scrapers and the Pentagon. I wept for Daniel Pearl. And I wept for myself, because I could see that my innocence was over.
I don’t pretend that I have even the slightest understanding of that day 8 years ago. It was not my city. It was not my building. It was not my mother or sister or friend. But it was my country, and I and it will remain forever changed.
On this day, I pray for those who lost their lives, and for those who loved them. On this day, I pray for those who, as a result, fought and died on foreign soil, and for all those who loved them. On this day, I pray for my nation, that we may lead the way for peace in the world. On this day, I pray for those who are still innocent, who did not see that horrible day, that their lives may never know that kind of tragedy.