I wasn’t in New York City on 9/11. My father wasn’t on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or into the green plains of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I wasn’t one of the people who said goodbye to his friends and never saw them again. I didn’t know anyone who worked in the Twin Towers—nor had I ever even set foot in New York.
Like much of the rest of the world, I woke up that Tuesday to an incomprehensible sight, one that today is so biting and caustic that I still have a hard time fully understanding it.
It’s probably because there isn’t a way a human should ever be able to fully understand something so horrible.
While we are so conditioned to the sights of that day, played on cable news on an endless loop, that we sometimes forget the stories of supernatural heroism that occurred.
Stories of first responders who saved the lives of complete strangers, office workers who mustered strength to pry open jammed elevators, lift fallen objects and carry the battered and injured to safety. They are in the truest sense superheroes.
Eleven years later, my generation has come of age in a time when all of our shared experiences have occurred in a post-9/11 world. We were welcomed into adulthood too early, by a thoughtless evil that spared no one in its senseless barbarism.
“It couldn’t happen to us,” quickly became “It happened.”
I view life before then as a dream of happiness and childhood innocence.
We grew, with the example of the growth of our country, elders, and contemporaries. We witnessed the rebuilding of the buildings and our country as we ascended into adulthood, tripping along as we reached higher.
Realizing you’re not invincible is part of growing up, and like our country, we’ve acquiesced innocence in the name of progress.
Progress is complex, with realities that aren’t always pretty, idealistic or easy. But they’re real.
I may not have been there in person, and there’s a chance you weren’t either, but it is futile and foolish to say we weren’t affected and redefined by the events of that tragic September day.
As we mark another anniversary with memorial events around the globe, I recognize that I could never be able to accurately express or quantify the impact of the experiences of those who were present that day.
I can only stand in awe of the men and women who acted out of selflessness, heroism, and compassion, to prove the worthiness of the human race.
We should all be so lucky to see glimpses of them in us.