10 years ago today, I was an International Relations student in my first year of university. Completely oblivious, I sat in a Reasoning Skills lecture blissfully unaware of the horror happening only hours away from me. I had my cell phone off & as I slowly made my way into the student centre, I saw a crowd gathered in front of a small television. People’s hands over their mouths, brows furrowed, some girls wiping tears.
September 11th, 2001- I’m Canadian, and it changed everything for me.
I pulled into my driveway (cell phone still off, dummy) and my mother burst out of the back door, running down the steps, screaming at me, “WHY don’t you have your cell phone on?? I was sooooooo worried!” Keep in mind, my campus was located directly beneath the Ambassador Bridge: a major trading border. Terrified doesn’t begin to explain the look on my mother’s face. I’ll never forget it.
That night we ate dinner in front of the television, something we never do. We could not peel ourselves away from that coverage save for the phone calls I intercepted. My Finnish host family looked at a map, saw what they thought was muchtooclose to me and called in absolute panic that something had happened to me. New York and Windsor are but a fingerprint away on a map, and to confused and scared practical-family? That’s as good as being across the street. When I answered the phone, my host mother cried so hard she couldn’t speak english. It was at that exact moment I realized the burden this day would carry forever.
As a student of politics, that morning changed the course of my education in a drastic way. And as a result? Changed the course of my life.
I cannot watch that coverage without feeling a pit that starts in my chest and slowly spreads hot down to my toes and makes my scalp tingle. My hand immediately goes to my mouth- STILL- every.time I see footage of the second plane hitting the tower. It’s like no time has passed at all and I’m still as horrified as the first time I saw it. And you know what? I hope it always does. I hope I’m always human enough to feel those emotions the way they are meant to be felt. I hope my heart can always empathize with those families that lost loved ones, and with a nation that lost it’s innocence.
Two years later, I stood in New York, at Ground Zero and felt…stunned. It was like a strange vortex inside a bustling city. What I remember most was the silence…it was too quiet, when a block away city life was bustling as usual, Ground Zero was a hollow of sadness. I stared for awhile, choked up at the thought of just how.damn.many were lost, and had to turn away and leave. My friend and I walked to St. Paul’s church around the corner where all the memorials were posted. We left a Canadian penny…it seems so thoughtless now. But I literally couldn’t think in that moment. All those people…I could not wrap my head around it.
And I still really can’t.
Some things are not meant to be understood.
On this day, the 10th anniversary of September 11th, I will try to explain to my young daughters what it felt like, what it means, and how it changed the world.
I wish my American friends peace and acceptance on this day. You are in our thoughts. We will never forget.