My mom woke me up that morning, at about 9:00. My sister and I were usually up much earlier than that, but we had guests that weekend and had gone to bed late. Being homeschooled, we were taking advantage of the chance to sleep in.
I remember rolling over in my bed as mom pushed open the door, and wondering what time it is. Her face was very pale and her tone was harsher than usual as she said "Don't turn on the news at breakfast. And Mia? No radio." I started to ask why and she simply said "No TV."
In retrospect I know this is because she hadn't talked to my dad yet. I was 11 at the time, but my sister was only 9 and my brother just a few years old. She didn't want to make any decisions until they had spoken.
I didn't think much of her stern instructions. I was far more concerned with my mother's tension all day. I remember thinking she was more up tight then I'd ever seen her, excepting the days her and my dad would fight.
The next thing that happened I am not proud of. I have only willfully been disobedient three times in my entire life: this occasion, one day when I left my dance studio to cross the street for food after 16 hrs. without eating, and my senior year of high school on a performance trip when I climbed out a window and up a fire escape to sit in a thunderstorm. On this occasion, I snuck into the living room while mom was in the bathroom and pressed the button on our TV. I will never forget that moment, though the specific images now escape me. I honestly think they were lost in the crushing weight of all the film, images, sound, etc. that bombarded us all in those next few days and weeks. What remains imprinted firmly in my mind is the sickening lurch that hit my stomach, as though I'd missed a stair and fallen into a blackhole. I remember choking back some sort of gasp in fear that my mother would hear me, and I would be in very big trouble. I wasn't sure where this was, or what was happening, or why, but by the time I raised my finger to the power button, thousands of terrified screams were echoing in my ears, and a lump the size of Chicago had formed in my throat.
I was a very well behaved girl that day. Silent and attentive to my schoolwork, I moved through the day in a vague blur, doing whatever my mother asked. Later my parents called us into the living room, and my dad explained gravely that "Some very bad people had flown airplanes into two buildings this morning." The morning's news broadcast flew in front of my mind's eye: Someone had done this on purpose. This wasn't an accident. On purpose . . .
My mom added: "More of the same people crashed them into - into a big building in Washington, and they were trying to crash another plane too." I don't remember anyone else's reaction, just how weak and shaky my legs were. I remember putting one hand over my mouth - still trying to catch that illicit gasp - and putting the other hand up to my throat, were my cross from Nana was draper around my neck. I sank onto the floor, a thousand questions fighting to be heard in my head.
Why? Who were these people? What buildings? Were they done? Were they going to attack anywhere else? Were there more planes tearing through buildings right now? Did they steal the planes? Did they fly their own? What does it mean - why are we being attacked?
And above all else, a question I'm sure echoed through America that day and in the days that followed:
What happens now?
Ten years later, we have seen some of the answer. War has ravage a continent and claimed thousands of lives. Biological Warfare was introduced to the vocabularies of children. The mail became suspicious. Traveling is a hastle, nerve wracking, frightening. Soldiers have spent more than half of these ten years away from their families, resulting in a second round of fatherless children deprived that day. The Patriot Act was passed, tearing away many civil liberties and doing little to ensure our safety. People have become embittered, suspicious, withdrawn: others have become more compassionate and brave. An entire generation has grown up in a nation at war. Like Japanese Americans in WWII, an entire group has become suspect in our society. So much has happened since that day: my hope - my prayer - is that change continues to happen over the next ten years. That in ten years from now, the world will be a better place than it is today.
And that those who lost their lives are never forgotten.