Thirteen years ago, I was twelve. I was attending a Catholic elementary school in Scarsdale, New York, about twenty-five minutes north of New York City. I remember enjoying the smell of my newly-bought school supplies, still nervous about being the new girl. At twelve-years-old, I had no concept of terrorism. I barely ever heard the word used.
As I piled into history class with people I didn’t know, the radio was on loud. Everyone sat down and looked around the room—we assumed this was a tape from a previous war. Our teacher looked stone-faced, out the window at first, then back to us. After a few minutes, everyone knew. This was not an old tape, this was live news.
Most of us were lucky. We did not smell the smoke, we did not see people jump from the Twin Towers. We were sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned classroom miles away from disaster. My mind immediately turned to my father—at the time, he had been working on a construction project in the city. I had no idea if he would be able to come home across the bridge. I remember the school closed at 11:30 am—my father and mother were waiting for me in the parking lot. I still don’t know how he managed to drive home so quickly. While I heard what happened, I still did not understand.
How could people from so far away hate us so much? In the next few weeks, families in black clothes swarmed the church parking lot. A few parents of current students had died—everyone in my class would watch in silence. No one in my family or close friends had died. I never cried about all the people who were in the towers. I didn’t know how.
At twenty-five, I now live in Brooklyn. I have chosen to stay in New York City, not because it is cheaper, easier, or even safer, but because I love it. I love it freely, passionately, and even begrudgingly at times. It is not an easy place to live, but as with all things someone loves, you make it work, because you believe in it. I still haven’t cried about 9/11, but I know one day, I will.