September 11th: The one thing I know

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2010, looking south from the East 30s in Manhattan

I've written up two versions of this blog post, one long post recounting my version of what happened on September 11, 2001, the other a far shorter post saying that I think it's okay for us to move on now. But neither really say exactly how I feel, because in truth, after 10 years, I still have incredibly mixed feelings about what happened on that day.

I was a few days into my junior year of high school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that day. From school, we could see the cloud climbing Park Avenue towards us, and by evening the sour scent of smoke began its tour of the city, and would linger for weeks. Like just about everyone else old enough to remember, I can remember the day with a precision so exact that I find it difficult to fathom that it's been 10 years. All of it stays with me, but one of the things that stays with me the most is just how incredibly beautiful that morning was.

I was 16 years old in September 2001, and for a long time, I thought the reason I couldn't make heads or tails of my feelings was because I was young, and at a formative age. In the days following the attacks, I felt uncertain of what I was supposed to feel, of how I was supposed to act. When was I allowed to laugh again? What I did know and felt very deeply was that an innocence was lost -- and this was immediately reflected in the culture around me, which at 16 comes in the form of clothes, music, television. I have read and learned things in the past 10 years, and my feelings have only become more complicated. But now I know that it wasn't just because I was 16 that I feel that a sense of carefree-ness was taken away that day. It's a shared feeling.

So for everything I've learned in the past 10 years, everything I've experienced -- the kindness, compassion and courage of my fellow human beings as well as the greed, malice and intolerance, the one thing that I know for certain is how much optimism and hope I felt there was when I stepped into my school building that beautiful Tuesday morning, and how I wish more than almost anything America could have that back.

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