Friday, September 11, 2015

photos taken at the 9/11 Museum in NY, NY

New York wasn't my skyline then. Maybe one day it will be the most familiar skyline to me, but at the time it was just some far off place where ambition ran amuck and millions of people rode under the streets instead of on top of them. Because of that, I will never fully understand how much weight two empty spaces can carry.

My skyline was undeveloped land stretching out as far as I could comprehend, waiting to become the forever homes of families with their six kids and their dogs and the mountains standing strong behind them. My skyline consisted of a blue house on the corner with a rose garden and a rock path and a sandbox. My skyline had a newly minted elementary school for all the children in forever families and that's where I was supposed to be headed when I heard my mom crying downstairs.

The rest of the day passed for me in flashes. Just snippets of a broken routine because something was very, very wrong. I can still see my mom standing in front of the T.V., much closer than we were allowed, clutching the phone to her face and weeping. She was trying to get ahold of my grandmother who lived at "East Coast" and apparently that was close to where things were going very, very wrong.

I left for school. I left her crying. Second grade was a blur that day. It felt different. Heavy. I remember walking outside after school was over, watching the kids being herded toward the bus. The teachers were taking extra care that day, counting the children, making sure everyone had a way to get home. I remember my mom picking me up and walking home next to me, which was strange, usually I walked home with my other neighborhood friends. We didn't say much to each other. She was distracted. Worried.

We got home safely.

That day, I didn't understand how lucky we were to have accomplished something as simple as that. Now, looking back, I wish I had understood the severity of the situation more. I wish I had memories to hold onto each Sept. 11th, but instead I can feel the flashes and moments I have fading and I'm finding myself increasingly being told what happened. I'm a part of one of the last generations who will actually remember, instead of read, what happened that September day.

It's a strange thing, knowing you were old enough to remember history being altered but not being able to fully recall it. However, in the weeks that followed I can still remember some subtle changes that occurred. Things my six-year-old sister doesn't understand, things she'll read or think about later. She won't see the big 6th graders hanging up signs in the halls littered with the names of those who had passed. She won't know a world where you don't have to get to the airport early or take off your shoes before you step through security. She won't ever know New York without the One World Trade Center rising triumphantly out of its skyline. She won't know.

Her skyline currently encompasses 4 suburban blocks, our cousin's house and a trampoline. Although mine has grown to include places I've seen across the world since Sept. 11, 2001, I will never forget seeing the smoke rise out of a skyline I didn't know, but felt a part of, as my country came together and shuddered and cried and got up to try again on that day, 14 years ago.

As part of a confused group of individuals who are currently trying to decide what to do for the rest of our lives and which skylines we should call home, I feel it is my duty to never, ever, forget. And no matter what skyline I eventually settle in, I will always remember how proud and lucky I am that it is part of an unapologetically resilient, strong and beautiful one.



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