Last year, I wrote three stories for MLive and the Kalamazoo Gazette looking back on the ten-year anniversary.
I talked to Larry Beer, a Kalamazoo-area psychologist who went to Ground Zero to provide his services to first responders. I met with a group of firefighters in Paw Paw who went to New York to help with the recovery in the days following the attacks. There was also the story of Kathy Hoorn, whose son, Bradley, 22, who was working in New York City when one of the planes struck north tower of the World Trade Center.
As I interviewed these people the week before the anniversary, I realized I couldn’t relate, at all. Ten years earlier, I was 13 years old, in 8th grade. I had no perception.
Among friends and at work, everyone asked everyone else: where were you at that moment.
I was in middle school jazz band. A girl in our class was bound to a wheelchair (but played the drum kit) and her parapro’s daughter called us. She said something happened, an airplane crashed in the Twin Towers in New York City.
Our teacher let us stop playing, and we technology-apt students tried to find what we could on our schools out-dated computers with dial-up speed internet. We didn’t have televisions in the school.
During the next class, social studies, I told my teacher about what we heard. Litterily disconnected, with little way of getting information, she told me not to say anything.
For the rest of the day school went on as normal, besides in English class, when the teacher broke the rules (don’t all English teachers? They’re all “cool”) and told us what she knew. Still it was not much.
When school got out at 2:20 p.m., we had no idea. In our ignorance, we made jokes.
I don't know what I really remember from that night's broadcast, since so many of those images have been repeated over and over again, but what sticks out the most was all of Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol sining "God Bless America."
And now I see this year how the enormity of the attacks didn’t really hit me until ten years later when I talked to these people who were there or lost a loved one.
Ten years later, 23, I realized, for the first times in my young journalism career, that I had nothing really meaningful to add to the conversation: The first time I flew was "post-9/11." National security has always been "at risk" and for most of my life we've been at war in Afghanistan.
I needed to let these people share their stories. And today, we should remain quiet and let those who need to, speak.
So this year, reflecting, I hope to remember the people who died and those who were effected by writing this and letting the people who need to speak be heard.