It struck me a couple months back, talking to the girls I mentor, that despite growing up in its shadow, many kids today don’t really have a sense of what 9/11 was, what it meant, what it means.
I remember the day well. I was coming out of first period English class when I got news that the first plane had struck. Students and teachers huddled around TVs, excited, hushed, then horrified. My little sister came to me crying and I held her as we tried to get our young minds around it all.
School got out early the afternoon and when I got home I joined my neighbor Bekah on her porch swing. We sat there in silence mostly. We lived in Anacostia, between Bowling and Andrews Air Force Bases and there was a constant traffic of planes and helicopters overhead, presaging the shock and awe to come.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I ached quietly for those we’d lost, and for the people who’d feel their loss most agonizingly. I ached, too, for what we would lose. Young as I was, I remember having a clear sense of what the events of that day meant.
I was heartbroken in anticipation.
I new that the terror was just beginning; that these next years could be dark ones for high ideals at home, and hellish ones for anonymously-brown people in places invisible to our moral esteem.
At school on September 12th, we were invited to share reflections on the moment we were living through. I shared a poem I’d scrawled on notepaper the uneasy night before. It appeared in the Washington Post’s 9/11 memorial centerfold the next week.
I only really recall the opening verse:
That majestic pair,
The twin towers,
Symbols of power’s mighty swell,
Cowered in jet plane’s rough embrace,
Then crumbled and fell.