Twelve Years Later

My name is J.D., I’m from a small town in Union County, New Jersey, and I am 24 years old.

The house I live in is the same house I’ve lived in for my entire life.  When I think of the term “home”, this house is what I visualize.  It’s the place I grew up, the place where my two cousins, my sister, and I were home-schooled by my mom 5-7 days a week for years.

Every morning, mom would pack my sister and me into the back seat of her 1994 Chevy Station Wagon and drive down U.S. Route 22 to Elizabeth, N.J. to pick up our younger cousins.  On the trip down 22, conditions permitting, mom would point out a particular landmark for us.  As we approached the CompUSA, but before we went under the overpass, there was a good 10 second period where you could see the Twin Towers off in the distance.  One with a flat top and one with an antenna… that was our favorite part of the drive to our cousins’ house.

We anticipated it every time, both of us trying to be the one who saw them first, calling it out.

Being kids.

Twelve years ago, today, that ended.

I was in bed still, probably still tired from either reading or playing Pokemon (without permission) long into the night, but I remember being awake.  In my parent’s room, across the hall, I heard my mom and dad talking.  They were upset; a plane had just hit one of our beloved Twin Towers.  People were dead.  Not fake, “movie dead” as I was used to, but REAL dead.  The building was on fire, and people on the TV were talking about trying to rescue the people inside.

And then the second plane hit.  I saw that in real time, having invaded my parents room moments before.  I don’t remember if I was terrified, but what I do remember is the smoke.  The smoke that would soon gush out as the buildings collapsed, swallowing everything.  Ashleigh Banfield was there, and then she wasn’t.  I honestly don’t know how I processed it.

I hadn’t heard the term “terrorist” before.  That was soon fixed, as ANOTHER plane crashed into the Pentagon, a building I was less familiar with, but still one I was aware of.

Once it got hit, my parents woke my sister up and got us into the car.

As we drove, we passed a vista (our second favorite landmark) one we called “The United States of America” because of how far you could see.

Not that day.

That day, the sky was black over the New York City Skyline.  It’s a sight that will forever be burned into my memory.  One that pains me, but one I wouldn’t ever get rid of, if given the chance.

Eventually, we stopped driving.  I don’t know how far we went, but we were away from the city, in case more devastation was on its way.  We waited out for a while, listening to the news on the radio, unsure of what to do next.  Apparently a fourth plane had crashed in Pennsylvania, but that was hours ago.

So we went back home.

In the months after 9/11/01, I learned how to hate.  Not in the way that I hated Lord Zedd, or Magneto, or even the Joker; no, Osama Bin Laden hand-carved a place in my brain, one where my every desire was to see him hurt the same way we were hurt.  I dreamt of methods, of ways justice could be done.  My 12 year-old mind was not a happy place to be.

And it’s still not.  Not today.  Never today.

Because every September Eleventh, I’m back to being twelve.

I remember the hurt, the anguish, the fear in my parent’s voices.

I remember the 2,978 dead.

And part of me with them.