"A plane just flew into the World Trade Center," she said with her emotions drained, a whimper compared to what had been giving us very loud instructions moments before.
"Wow," I thought to myself. "Pilots really need better maps in New York."
Our principal came over the PA, "Attention: The World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon are under attack!" Not exactly the best way to, you know, not incite panic, but we were all too stunned to react, and even if we weren't, how do you react to that? We had just been there a few months ago on a theater trip to New York.
The bell rings and we go to our next class. We watch the second plane. We hear about Pennsylvania. We watch the towers collapse. No one says anything, no one whispers anything, hell, no one even takes a breath while it all unfolds.
When I got home, there were F-18's roaring around my house (I grew up about 30 minutes from D.C.). This must not be real.
Except it wasn't. This was reality. I look to the calendar when I get inside: September 11, 2001. I swear to myself that I will never forget.
This is when millions upon millions of us learned that we are not invincible, and that feeling is especially unsettling. As we grow up, our dads are superheroes and the mean teachers live in the school and spend their nights plotting how to make our lives miserable. Then one day, Dad doesn't know the answer to a question. The view of him shatters; he's not infallible. One day you see the teacher in the grocery store. The view of her shatters; she really is just a person like you and I.
We all have our connection to that day. I know those who lost someone in those towers, I have a friend whose gut feeling just told him to not go to work that day, another acquaintance whose gut wouldn't allow him to leave the bathroom that day, and we all have our individual stories to tell.
Dealing with a day like September 11, 2001, even more than a decade later, even with bin Laden deservedly wasting away somewhere on the bottom of the ocean, we can't get the images out of our minds. How could this happen? More importantly, how could this happen here? We're the United States of America, we're number one in everything, we are the leaders of the world, and all that it took were nineteen misguided excuses for people to literally bring it crashing down.
We all know that 2,977 died that day (just saying "3,000" kind of dishonors those who left us that day), but the impact that this day has on us as people echoes a dozen years later. We now know that while we may have the most and biggest guns, we're not invincible. Even if with all of our money, we can't bring back those we lost. These were realities long before we knew them, but we all learned those lessons on that Tuesday morning.
We were never invincible. We were never untouchable. We are as much flesh and blood post-September 11, 2001 as we were before it. Similarly, the down moments in our own lives, in our own relationships, in our own pasts, those are there whether you like it or not.
The most important part of my work with my clients is being honest about it. Sugar-coating things may be sweet at first, but all it does is get a dentist's kid through college and Type II diabetes, and nobody wants either of those (except for the dentist, but just about the college part). While I'm far from a jerk about it, I have no problem talking to you straight and letting you know when you're wrong. Conversely, I have no problem letting you know when you're right.
Because, even after our lives changed that day, our lives continued. We grew stronger and more vigilant. No, these aren't easy times, and nobody can say with a straight face that they are. We face challenges every single day, but we stay united as fellow human beings to make sure that this day is neither forgotten nor repeated. Today will bring lumps in your throat, tears, patriotism, and an overall sense that this is going to be a tough, tough day.
But remember: Nobody said that it would be easy, but nobody said that you had to do it alone.