I didn't know what they were. What were the Twin Towers? And where were they? I thought they were some random buildings in the middle of nowhere.
But then Tzipporah in my class came to school announcing that the Twin Towers had fallen. She had seen it on Good Morning, America or some such show. At that time we still thought it was a mistake one of the pilots had made. We didn't know it was a terrorist attack. Later on, we were all called to an assembly in school where we were told of the news and we said Tehillim together.
Everyone was really worried. I don't remember for sure, but I think school was dismissed early. We thought that the Sears Tower might be hit next. Chicago's a big enough city to be on the list.
I remember my mother telling me that all the nurses just congregated around the televisions in the nurses' station and they watched, horrified. Tears streamed down their cheeks and they didn't even know they were crying.
I remember my father, grim. I remember all of us sitting donwnstairs in the basement watching television on a weekday (which never happened). We watched the planes hit the buildings again and again. We called all our relatives in New York. One of my aunts slept in her office building and the other one walked across one of the Bridges along with throngs of others.
We gave thanks that none of the people we loved had died, and we mourned with America about the loss of everyone who had. We hung a big American flag on our window and we watched the multitude of flags and bumper stickers. We saw our world come together, people sharing with each other like they never had before.
We saw love.
I remember the pain, the sadness and the horror. But I most of all remember how we came together, how the world united and people truly cared about one another. And I remember thinking it was sad that it took a tragedy to unite us. But that I was glad we were united, even so.
I remember we couldn't tour the White House on our 8th grade trip because they closed it due to fear of terrorists. And that lots of other places were also closed off. And that parents hadn't even been sure they wanted us to go on that trip, but acquiesced, in the end.
It was scary and huge and hard to comprehend. It was hard to grasp the enormity of it. But in 11th grade, when I was on Summer at YU, they took us to ground zero instead of to an amusement park. And we all grumbled because we would rather be having fun. But we got why it was important to be there. And I looked at that hole, that massive void in the earth, and I saw it gaping open and ugly and that was the first time it seemed real to me, where the earth had shook and moved and this ugliness was there for real. And I was shaken.
And then I thought: we must somehow fix this.