9\11: Through the eyes of a child

10 09 2011

September 11, 2001

To me, it doesn’t feel like it has been 10 years. I can’t believe that I was only 6 years old when it happened because as I look back, the thoughts and reactions that I was having, and the people around me were having; it just seems like  there is no way we were first graders.

I was talking to my friend about it, and she told me that our generation was forced to grow up after 9\11. Especially those who were directly affected by it.  That day I remember waking up and getting ready for school, my Aunt and Uncle were visiting us from Belgium and they were supposed to leave on that day, but on September 10th I remember my parents talking with them and they decided that they would stay longer.  My mom and Aunt were awake and she was on the couch watching the news, it was probably around 7:30 because my 2 older sisters and I were getting ready to leave for the bus stop. 

Everything was the same that day, we went to the bus stop and a few of the older kids were talking about a plane crashing into a building, that they heard it on the news.  We lived about 40 minutes from the city (Chicago) and I thought they were talking about the Sears Tower. I remember coming to school and sitting in my desk and we all got quiet because the morning announcements were about to come on, but it was a strange cause different teachers kept coming in and out of our room, and they were whispering to each other.  We heard the announcements, got up and said the pledge, and sat back down.  ‘

That’s when our teacher went to the front of the room and told us that “Bad people had come and made a plane run into the world trade center.” People were asking why, and she didn’t really have an answer for us.  I don’t remember if I left school early, or if this was actually in class because the rest of the school day is just a blur to me. 

The next thing I remember is watching the TV as the second plane crashed into Tower 2, and later watching as the buildings came down.  I kept thinking to myself, “wait that can’t happen, don’t they know that people are in there?”  I remember being at home, and not really asking any questions I just sat around with my Parents and my Aunt and Uncle and we watched the news, I’m not sure they noticed that I was watching with them because they were in shock, but I did. I sat there quiet and confused as I heard words like “Terrorist”, and “Hijacking”, and “Radical Islam”.

I think as a 6-year-old I quickly came to the understanding that these people wanted to hurt us, and they did because I have never seen so many adults around me as confused as they were on that day.  I didn’t cry that first night because I felt numb.  Here I was, 6 years old watching people jump out of a burning building, because they had no other choice.  I realized that the adults around me, that I thought knew everything had no answers, so I didn’t ask questions.  It’s pretty safe to say that I was in shock. Even now as I look back on it, I can’t believe that this happened here, in America.  It just doesn’t seem real.

I don’t remember the next day, or pretty much anything from the 1st grade.  I just know for that after 9\11 I started having nightmares.  I guess as a child nightmares are normal.  But my nightmares didn’t consist of monsters or the boogeyman.  The things that scared me in my dreams were the faces of these middle eastern men, with the long shaggy beards, and the head scarfs.  That was my boogeyman. I would wake up so scared that I couldn’t move.  I heard about the war going on in the months to follow, and I was just scared.

Looking back I know this is wrong, and I am ashamed of myself for thinking this way, but we would go out and I’d see one of these men, and I would hide behind my Dad, or cling to him because I was so convinced that they were here to kill us.  I was scared and I didn’t understand why this had happened, and the people responsible, the faces that I saw on the news had me convinced that they were the enemy. Every single one of them. 

We lived about 45 minutes from O’Hare Airport so the air traffic was somewhat busy. Every time a plane would fly over at night I would brace myself and I would say over and over “God please”.  I would cry almost every single night because of the stories I heard, about families losing their fathers, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers. I couldn’t understand why or how this could happen.  In my family I am the one who is the most emotional. They used to tell me that I have too much empathy for my own good. (I used to watch the show “Charmed” and I was convinced that I was an empath like Pru and Phoebe). So seeing all the people crying, would make me cry.

After a while, I would get up regularly and watch the news. Years later I still do. I look back on 9\11 and I don’t see a 6-year-old girl who was too young to understand. I see a child who did understand, and who knew too much, and who saw too much, but I don’t regret it.  9\11 is apart of my history, and everyone elses no matter how young or how old because in the end it effected everyone.  I have never seen so many adults panic the way they did on that day.  We saw that, as children we saw the fear in our parents eyes, and that scared us.  And me being the curious person that I am, I wanted to know what was the source of that fear.  I wanted to know what was making mommy cry, and since no one would answer me, I turned on the TV and found out for myself. 

I think that being exposed to that helped me to understand the true meaning of a hero.  I think it was because of the events that took place, and the people who risked their lives to save others made me want to help to.  I remember telling my mom that I wanted to be a firefighter when I grew up, then it was a Cop, then it was a solider.  My mom couldn’t figure out, and to this day can’t figure out why I would want to do something like that.  She couldn’t understand why her daughter wanted to have such a dangerous job.  I guess I never really understood it either, but all I know is that 9\11 made me think.

It really made me ask myself, would I be able to run into that building to save someone’s life?  I think the men and women who risked their lives to do so are heroes.  I never had a hero that wasn’t a cop, or a solider, or a firefighter. My heroes are not made up, and they can’t fly. My hero’s are real people, who died because they considered others greater than themselves.

10 years later, and it still feels like it was just yesterday.  10 years later, and it still breaks my heart to think about it. 10 years later, and I every time I say the pledge I still think of that day, and all those people, and all the soldiers who have gone to war and have died for this country. 10 years later, and my hero is my oldest sister who is in the U.S. Army and representing our country. 10 years later, and I pray to God that I will never forget that day. 10 years later, and my heart still breaks for all of the families who have lost someone. 10 years later, and I still believe that on that day God cried as much as we did. 10 years later, and this country will come together, and we will all remember.

Love,

Naomi

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