Remembering 9/11: 15 Years Later

Remembering 9/11: 15 Years Later

Some things you just never forget.
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I was five when the Twin Towers were blown to bits out of the New York City skyline.

I was in my favorite teacher's classroom, surrounded by the only other children I really knew, and my best friend.

We were watching Between the Lions, which may mean nothing to you if you grew up watching Disney or Nickelodeon children's programming. My elementary school watched PBS almost religiously, right after naptime. Between the Lions was a fan favorite of my particular kindergarten class. Fluffy lions came to life right before our very eyes via masterful puppeteers and read books to us; only fitting considering the Sesame Street wanna-be was set at a public library. It was peaceful and yet captivating to watch puppets – though we assumed them to be real-life lions - tell classic tales like that of Icarus and Cliff Hanger, an adventurer who was dangling off the side of a cliff every time we tuned in. Cliff Hanger was the most tension – the most fear – we every really felt at the ripe old age of five.

We'd been left with the other kindergarten teacher from across the hall. We hadn't thought much of it. We were still too busy watching elderly lions give spelling and language lessons to think anything had gone wrong.

I remember I had looked away from the television show for only a second – even though I don't quite remember why – and it was in that fraction of a second that the mood in the room drastically shifted.

My kindergarten teacher had come running in, panic and confusion written all over her face, and darted over to the TV. She made a concerted effort, it seemed, not to scream.

"Something's happened," she said. "It's all over the news."

Without thinking, she changed the channel. With that one press of a button, our childhood ignorance and innocence was about to fade.

To be fair, that thought had never occurred to us either.

I remember the little boys in my class had thought it was an action movie. They'd already been desensitized to violence at an early age, most likely from their older siblings or worry-free parents who let them watch violent movies, thinking: 'It's no big deal. Nothing like this will ever happen in real life. Not to them. Not to us.'

One little boy whose name I've forgotten with the passing of the years had shouted out: "That's so cool!"

It wasn't his fault, really. He didn't know what he was looking at. He hadn't been alive long enough to take a lesson in sensitivity, let alone a lesson in terrorism.

My best friend, who stayed clinging by my side, could not take her eyes off our teachers. She didn't know what was happening on the TV, but she knew for certain she didn't like it. As she watched our teachers' fear consume them and tears trickle down their cheeks, she hollered at our classmate to shut up. I'm not ashamed to say I joined her.

We knew - even at that young age – we knew something was wrong. That whatever was happening before our eyes was real, and for some reason, it was upsetting the teachers we admired so much.

None of us knew what Al-Qaeda was, or even that there was a world outside of the small Virginian town where we lived. We did not know that there were people out there who wished us dead or that they had targeted one of the biggest cities in the country with the most significant population.

One of the teachers let out a small wail as the second plane hit the building, fire and smoke gushing out the sides of the skyscraper. After that, I remember the television set going black. We were told to try to get back to work – probably coloring or addition and subtraction – and I thought it was over.

I remember coming home from school that September day only to find out it wasn't over. It wasn't even close to being over. But how was I to know? How were any of us supposed to know? That living, breathing human beings had not only died, but other living, breathing human beings had been the cause of it?

Every September 11th afterwards, I can remember people asking one another where they were when they got the news of what had happened. I remember responding that I had been about five years old when it happened, and being told I was "too young" to remember it, at least not in full, clear detail.

But I remember where I was. I remember who I was with, how I eventually learned what had taken place and why; I remember how I felt, how everyone around me reacted and felt. I remember realizing, for the first time, that the world was not as happy and loving as it seemed on my PBS programs.

While I may not have understood it then, it does not mean it was not imprinted on my brain and my peers' brains as well.

I remember 9/11, and I always will.

Cover Image Credit: https://seeker401.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/9-11-2011a.jpg

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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I Never Learned Any Practical Life Skills At School, So I'm Teaching Myself On The Fly

Frankly, I have no idea what I'm doing.
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Some days, I’m pretty sure I never learned a single practical skill as a child. Or at least, my brain never retained a single bit of that information. Because I have no idea what I’m doing.

In this life, you’re either a kid or an adult. Somewhere along the line, people suddenly stopped treating me like a child and immediately expected me to act like an adult. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this occurred, but this change was abrupt. I had no responsibilities and no worries. But I also was not allowed to have any opinion or say, else I was being rude. Now, I’ve been thrown out to the wolves. They said, “You have to do everything yourself now, good luck!” And I have approximately zero life skills to get me through.

Why do they teach us the things they do in school? I have learned about the American Revolution no less than three times in my schooling, but not once did they teach us how to deal with a customer yelling at you about company policy that isn’t your fault, or how to deal with anxiety that’s crippling your ability to function.

They’ll punch you in the gut with useless algebra until you collapse, but god forbid you learn the proper way to tip at a restaurant. Do they teach you which important paperwork to keep around, how to deal with a landlord, the proper way to meet someone and take them out on a date, or how to fix a car? No, but I bet that everyone knows that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

Yeah, some of these things might be useful if you’re going to grow up to be a historian or an engineer or a biologist or a mathematician. But in a lot of cases, you’re probably not going to be one of those things, and at some point in your life you’re going to have a minimum-wage job which makes you hate your life. You’re going to be living on your own, and you need all these practical life skills to get by. And have you learned any of them? Probably not.

My parents have taught me a good amount of things, or at least have given me a quick crash course, but school was absolutely useless. The amount of information I retained from middle and high school is surprisingly little, and it’s really enlightening to not only how arbitrary everything they teach you is, but also how the system doesn’t work. That information could potentially be useful or at least interesting, but the grading system based on results rather than learning turns off any useful outlet.

After leaving the comfort of my home for the first time and shipping myself off to college, I realized exactly how little I knew about anything. I was an AP student and always considered myself to be smart, but now I realize how absolutely useless that is in the real world. You know how you BS a paper, and how you did that all through high school and college? I’m currently doing that with every aspect of my life. If no one knows I’m faking, perhaps they’ll think I’m a real adult. And maybe one day, I’ll learn all these life skills on the fly.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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