My Reflections on September 11

Me taking a souvenir photo of the Twin Towers at the Top of the World Trade Center attraction in January of 2001 (Courtesy: Top of the World Trade Center)

September 11, 2001. It is a day when most of those alive remember where they were, and how they felt.

I myself was a child at 8 years old. I came home from school early that day, not thinking much of it. Teachers and faculty did not appear to be tense at the time, so I thought it was just any other day.

Little did I know, the Twin Towers came down earlier on that beautiful September day in New York City. My father pointed to the images of the World Trade Center crumbling down during a newscast.

He talked about these images in such a carefree manner that I did not believe the Twin Towers were actually attacked. I thought these were images from an upcoming action movie. Maybe the adults who were around me that day were just trying to keep the peace amidst such unspeakable violence.

It was only the next day in school that I realized the World Trade Center as I knew it was no more.

Eight Months Earlier…

Earlier that year, I paid a visit to what were once the tallest buildings in the world with my family. My parents and I decided to visit the Twin Towers for my birthday, which was in January.

I do not remember much about the visit, but I do remember taking an elevator to the observation deck to see a full view of New York City. It was the most magical view I had ever seen in my life at that point. This was a view I assumed I would see again one day, maybe with my own children.

That was the initial shock for me, realizing how different tomorrow could be from the day before. When I visited Manhattan the following year, I got a glimpse of Ground Zero.

I saw first responders and construction workers still cleaning up all the debris left behind months earlier. By this point, I knew that a terrorist attack destroyed the Twin Towers. It dawned on me that I knew what the word terrorism was.

This inspired me to write a poem about the loss of innocence I experienced as a result of this tragedy.

It is interesting that I even knew what the word “innocent” meant back then, considering that I still was at that age. Perhaps I learned it from that Britney Spears song.

Either way, I recognized when I put pen to paper at that tender age that life as I knew if would never be the same.

A Lifelong Battle With Anxiety

What followed was a crippling and ongoing battle with anxiety. I dealt with anxiety before that fateful day, for I was always a pretty anxious child. However, what I would go through for the rest of my life as I have known it would be all-consuming.

To this day, I worry about going out in public, as much as I like being around people. Crowded spaces especially freak me out. The pandemic has only made this fear worse.

It is the fear of the unknown that cripples me. For many living in New York City before September 11 of 2001, the Twin Towers were more than just a tourist site. They represented a workplace. The surrounding areas featured hotspots people would presumably hang out in after work.

Outside of the city, the small town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania became the site of the Flight 93 plane crash.

This makes me wonder if the workplace I go to, or the bars I hang out in afterwards, could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks, whether they be foreign or domestic.

The fear of domestic terrorism looms large on me as well, especially after the January 6 attacks on Capitol Hill.

In some ways, I am no different than that 8-year-old girl. I am still recovering from that loss of innocence due to the events of September 11, 2001.

Published by Mallika Rao

Freelance Writer, Blogger

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