I was in 7th grade, sitting in history class, when news coverage of a plane hitting the Twin Towers began. My class sat and watched as another plane hit the second tower. And later that day as another plane hit the Pentagon and another crashed into a field.
Other than seeing them in movies and on television shows, the significance of the twin towers and the number of people that worked there was really lost on me. And I think I mostly thought the Pentagon was just for secret missions.
But, I knew what was happening was a big deal because for the rest of the day, our classes were cancelled and TV’s were on different news channels for us to “witness history.”
And of course it was a big deal that terrorists hijacked American airplanes and used them to attack our country.
But as a 12 year old, the true significance, the fear, the lives lost, the consequences…I was mostly oblivious.
I remember the weeks following. My family watched news channels as they ran specials on different aspects of the attack. My study hall had a TV and we watched as bombs exploded over Baghdad.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve built relationships with and begun following people over the internet who were directly affected. I know people who were there. I know people who had friends and family die a tragic death. I have a father and family and many friends who are in the military who make daily sacrifices because of the attacks 12 years ago.
Each year it’s a little more real as I’m a little more in touch with what really happened. What really changed.
But I don’t think I’ve ever been as broken hearted about the attacks and their consequences as I was this morning. Someone I don’t even know personally but follow on Instagram posted a series of pictures with the names of those she knew who died in the twin towers.
She wrote sweet, sincere, and humorous blurbs to each of them about things she’d never forget.
Things like the way they said goodbye before hanging up the phone. Or the way she replays conversations with them in her head so she won’t forget their voice. Or the way they called her up the night before asking what they should get their fiancee as a birthday gift.
I think because of my age I wasn’t able to focus on the personal. I got the facts. I got that three significant buildings fell down because bad people did bad things.
But the older I get, the more my heart aches for the horror the people in the towers must have felt knowing they couldn’t get out. My heart aches for the family and friends of the people who left for work that morning but didn’t come home. My heart aches for everyone who didn’t know whether or not their dad was okay or if their husband or wife or son or daughter was on one of those planes. My heart aches for the people who helplessly watched the towers fall or saw the plane hit the Pentagon. My heart aches for the people on each of the planes knowing they were going to die. My heart aches for military members and their families who have spent the last 12 years saying goodbye and for the thousands of men and women who have lost their lives serving their country.
I hope my heart always aches on this day.