It was a normal Tuesday in the Birk household.
My 7-year-old self didn’t want to get out of bed (not much has changed). My mom coerced me to get up, brushing my knotty, curly hair as I got ready for school. I vividly remember my mom seeming upset, but trying to remain calm.
Right before I was set to leave for school, around 8:30 CT, my mom sat me down and tried to explain what had just happened. She told me something happened in New York City about an hour ago and two airplanes had crashed into some tall buildings. She turned on the news and another plane crashed into the Pentagon.
It was eerily quiet that day. Not all of my classmates were in school. The teachers’ faces were stark white and eyes were puffy. My second grade teacher sat us down and tried to explain what had just happened. At that point, it had been discovered that these crashes were no coincidence and that they were terrorist attacks.
How does a teacher explain to innocent 7 and 8 year olds that evil exists in the world?
I don’t remember the exact words my teacher spoke. But that day is forever seared into my memory.
Being from Chicago, I have heard that people frantically evacuated the Sears Tower, as well as the other buildings that stand in our beloved skyline. Some students were pulled out of school. High school educators, understanding that their students were witnessing a sad piece of our history, wheeled TV carts into their rooms for their students to watch the news coverage. Churches held prayer vigils. Communities grieved together.
Nothing like this had ever happened before.
Soon after the events of 9/11, my mom discovered her friend’s sister was a flight attendant on United 175. The plane that crashed into the south tower.
This year is the first freshman class of high school students that will learn about 9/11 and will not have been alive. How crazy is that?
They never knew the world of traveling without fear of radical terrorism. They never knew a world without xenophobia or discrimination towards Muslim Americans or Arab Americans.
In 15 years, the world has changed a lot. But the hope and spirit of the American people will never be broken.
Header image photo source: click here