When 9/11 happened, I was six years old. I was in my third week as a second grader and that is about all I remember regarding my life at that time. I remember I got to leave school early. I remember my mom wouldn’t let me turn on the TV. I remember everyone whispering around me and my younger brother.
But I don’t remember IT. It being the thing everyone was trying to keep hidden from us. We weren’t allowed to know and the adults in our lives tried to preserve our innocence a little longer before they told us a few times, trying to keep us from fearing everything but still trying to get us to understand just how serious this was.
It wasn’t until a few years later that my teachers started to really get in depth about what had happened. That we learned what really went on and how much it changed America. How the entire country came together in a time of tragedy. And suddenly we weren’t so innocent anymore. We realized just how big a piece of history we lived through, yet we couldn’t even tell you what we were doing when the announcement came on telling us we were going home early.
Fifteen years later, it’s hard not to feel like we should have known better, while still remembering we had just learned how to write cursive and the basic multiplication tables a short few months prior. We weren’t old enough to understand and that is something we need to be okay with.
I just saw something online saying how high school freshmen will be learning about 9/11 this year as a historical event that had happened before they were born. It amazes me that it’s been so long since it happened, but I realize now that those of us who were children when it happened are now adults, and we are now able to fully pay our respects to those we lost.
On the 10 year anniversary of the tragedy, my senior year classmate and I were asked to write a tribute poem in memory of the tragedy. I’m proud to share it with you today on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. This poem has been posted at multiple firehouses in Vernon, Connecticut and is still hanging there today. I was very grateful for this opportunity and proud to have read at such an important event at town hall.
I’ve also included the written translation for your enjoyment. Thank you for reading.
Out of the Ashes
Before 911 the Twin Towers were just another skyscraper,
Another building, another symbol of American prosperity.
But with its collapse came new heroes.
I am the firefighter,
While everyone ran away, I ran up.
I pulled away more debris; I pulled away survivors.
I tried to save the lost.
I am the wife who heard “I love you” before the line disconnected,
And after the television reported no survivors on the plane,
I set a plate even though I knew he’d never come home.
I am the passenger whose life was saved because I missed my flight.
I am the secretary whose goodbye that morning was my last.
I am the businessman ho dragged a bleeding coworker down 45 flights of stairs.
I am the reporter who tried to make sense of the unimaginable.
And we learned to live without the lost.
343 firefighters and paramedics
1402 workers lost in Tower 1
614 lost in Tower 2
23 New York police officers
1717 families who received no remains
2819 lives whose stories ended on that day.
We all remember where we were the day the world held its breath. The day America united.
I am the architect that watched my creation fall to its knees,
United we stand, and united we stood.
We will remember the stories and build a foundation for the future that is indivisible and indestructible…
Our spirit will never be destroyed
We are the twin towers,
Of the past and present.
Towers of strength, towers of faith
That can never be erased.
A firefighter, a civilian, a soldier, an 80th floor worker…all lost that day,
I will remember my story
I will never forget your story
We will never forget their stories.
Though it took a disaster to unite us,
Though people lost their lives, there is beauty in the smoke.
Terrorism creates the fire, but greatness arises from the ashes.
And we are no longer lost.