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11 Years

   On this day eleven years ago, I was a second grader in PS139. It wasn’t a particularly unique occasion to my 6-year old self where I was safely nestled from downtown New York City. As a New Yorker, it feels strange that I don’t have a compelling story to share about where I was at 8:46 that morning. Nevertheless, the reverberations from a single moment eleven years ago continue to echo in all our lives.

   The one thing I remember about that day is that my mom didn’t come home that night. Actually, I don’t even recall that. I just remember the disbelief I had when she said she had to climb down 30 flights of stairs. My mom was working at a corporate building in Tribeca at the time, on the 30th floor, a mile away from the World Trade Center. By the time she had arrived for work, the entire building had to be evacuated. The elevators weren’t running, so herself and thousands of employees inched down 30 flights of stairs in what seemed to be the smallest staircase in the world.

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   A colleague of mine witnessed the attacks from her apartment windows. She couldn’t believe what could possibly be happening, and scoured for possible answers to what seemed to be the impossible. She was late to work and she didn’t think her excuse for missing work would seem plausible. Later on that day, she recalls the streets being covered in a soft blanket of dust that silenced the entire city. She looked up from the sidewalk towards the World Trade Center where she saw emptiness, what no longer was.

   In the years following the attacks, I remember people feeling sorrow for New Yorkers as a whole. I couldn’t quite understand why they felt sorry for us and it made me confused and angry. When I heard of people sending teddy bears and comforting items to public schools downtown, I couldn’t quite understand why. “New Yorkers are tough!” I’d think. “We don’t need these things, we can handle it.” But now I understand. That day, we lost everything. People’s lives drastically changed in the span of a second. After that one moment, nothing was the same.

   Two weeks ago, I was kayaking in the Hudson River by Chelsea Piers. From the river, the Freedom Tower was well within sight, a beautiful addition to the skyline. The Freedom Tower is a symbol of hope from despair. It teaches the world that when you fall, you must get back up and try again until you succeed. 1 WTC is a place to be thankful for every sacrifice, a place of courage and remembrance, and a landmark of everything that can be. On this day, remember. Remember, and never forget.

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