Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Day My Fifth Grade Walls Came Tumbling Down

The years have passed quickly, it seems. It's been ten years to the day that my spelling test was interrupted by the intercom and my fifth grade world was shattered.

Hope in the face of disaster. 
I don't remember what words I was trying to spell correctly, but I can tell you exactly what seat I was in when the events of 9/11 came crashing into my life.

Third row in from the door, first desk in the row. I'd been having problems seeing the board (and would later get glasses), but I didn't have any trouble imagining the horror of the scene taking place hundreds of miles from me in New York City and later in Washington, D.C. and that field in Pennsylvania.

It's hard to describe what it feels like to have your childhood ripped away in an instant by an act of terrorism so violent that the aftermath leaves a feeling of shock. As the scenes of the plane hitting the tower played on the TV set in our school library (where I sneaked off to see what was happening) and later the image of another plane and another plane and the smoke, ash, debris, and terror, roiled in my mind and the minds of my classmates, we did the only thing we were capable of: we prayed.

My school, thank goodness, was one of those that encouraged prayer, which I suppose was due to the fact that it was a private school in Mississippi. So, we all got down on our knees, spelling tests forgotten, and we prayed that God would watch over those in the Twin Towers, those on the ground, those who have family in those places, and anyone else that would be affected. We prayed for the president, the armed forces, the first responders, the onlookers, and the cab drivers. We prayed because it was the only thing we could do--we were only in fifth grade.

Even ten years later, the memory of my knees on the tile floor still recalls in me that feeling of helplessness that I felt as I watched the towers burn.

I don't know if I'll ever forget that day, and I don't think I will want to. Sometimes, it's the horrible acts in life that make the biggest impact, yet for all the pain I witnessed, it was the smaller acts of kindness that actually brought me to tears and can still do so today. Needless to say, we never finished that spelling test. It just didn't seem important anymore.

God Bless the USA.

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