I thought for awhile about what I wanted to post today. And then I remembered a paper that I wrote my freshman year of college, in English 101...
[I deleted out the boring parts, about what we did that day when we got home from school...]
We thought we looked so cool, sitting in that cherry red convertible with the top down and the sun shining on our hair. We were only fourteen, with the exception of my twelve year old sister, Kelsey. We had gotten off school early and we all walked home together from the high school that was just around the block from our houses. Things were unusually quiet in our middle-class neighborhood, and we were looking for something to do. We decided to pose in my next door neighbor, and friend, Laura’s beautiful convertible for a few pictures. Amber sat in the driver’s seat, while Kelsey and I squeezed together in the passenger seat. Mariah climbed in behind Amber, and Laura sat behind Kelsey and I. We smiled in numerous poses, giddy to be in a convertible and having ourselves photographed. After the photo shoot, we started a game of touch football in my backyard. We played for hours, not thinking about anything except for passes, interceptions, and touch downs on our makeshift end-line. When the sun began to go down, we went our separate ways for dinner.
Famous photographer Ansel Adams once said, “A photograph is usually looked at, but seldom looked into.” Looking into this photograph, I realize now that there is a certain sadness in my eyes. Although the five of us are all smiling happily in the picture, it is obvious that something is not right. Or is that just my guilt talking? Is it that I want us to have been upset and unable to smile?
When I pick up that photograph from my picture box, I hold with one thumb over the bottom right corner. I cannot bear to look at the date, for it breaks my heart and fills it with guilt and sadness. However, when I do remove my thumb from overtop of the tiny orange numbers, a universally recognized date appears: 9/11/01.
I woke up that morning and walked with my friends to our high school. It was only my third day, and I was still trying to adjust to being in such a big school with so many students. I can clearly remember walking from my history class and hearing talk in the hallways about some sort of attack on New York City. When I reached keyboarding class, my teacher had already turned on the televisions. I walked into the computer lab and immediately noticed everyone gathered in front of the television. The first image that I remember of the September 11th attacks was of an African American woman on her cell phone screaming at the top of her lungs, blood running from her head. The camera then panned the horizon and the World Trade Center buildings came into view. Thick clouds of grey smoke poured from the steel buildings, and I read the bottom of the screen: “PLANES HIT WORLD TRADE CENTER”. Moments after I walked into the classroom, we watched on live television the first building crumble to the ground.
In the days after September 11th, I found myself immersed in the articles published in magazines and newspapers. I listened to more of the news broadcasts of what had happened. I was informed about the attacks on the Pentagon, and the plane that had crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I also learned the death toll and who was behind the terrorism. When I look back now, I can easily remember the pain and suffering that I felt in my heart for the months after the September 11th attacks. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at this photograph.
Four years later, I can barely look at the picture without my heart wrenching. I still cannot believe that at fourteen years old, I dismissed the fact that thousands of people had lost their lives in an awful display of terrorism. I played touch football with my friends that afternoon and smiled into the camera for silly pictures while people in the thousands were praying and sobbing at the sights on the TV. While my friends and I were having fun and glad that we had been awarded a half of day off school, the rest of the world was weeping.