Initially, none of us knew what happened. A teacher from a neighboring classroom had leaned in the door and nervously motioned to Mrs. Hickey, who left in a hurry. The whole class was in groups for some sort of project. My friend, Andrea, and I were sitting in the floor, cross-legged and coloring our posterboard. That's what 4th graders are supposed to do, they color and learn the names of the presidents and play outside after lunch.
4th graders aren't supposed to stand and watch two national monuments burn to the ground on a shoddy, 19 inch television in the hallway of their elementary school. 4th graders aren't supposed to be on lockdown for three and a half hours, not truly knowing if they are safe or not. 4th graders, young children, aren't supposed to contemplate the thought of death. They aren't supposed to fear for their lives or the lives of their friends and families.
But on September 11th, 2001, they did. We did. I did.
Standing alongside my classmates, I watched, wide-eyed, as the word "terrorism" defined itself, another thing that 4th graders aren't supposed to go through. No amount of words or illustrations could fully describe the fear and confusion that gripped our nation that day. The sense of security, innate to Americans, lay waste in a pile of steel and glass. Rubble and ash, littered with the bodies of the sons and daughters of mothers and fathers, served as a brutal manifestation of just how vulnerable our country really was, how vulnerable it still is.
Some cried out to the government, others cried out to God. Some did nothing, while some gave everything. But the damage was already done, the seemingly unstoppable Red, White, and Blue was brought to its knees by two planes and a handful of evil men.
I haven't forgotten...and neither should you.