A Beautiful and Painful Day

Below are my recollections and thoughts on 9/11. They''re personal, simple and lacking the opinionated language that most of my pieces contain. For ten years since that day we have heard countless arguments about how it happened and why it happened. Regardless, 9/11 has changed our lives, and I invite readers to share their stories about that day in the comments section below. I''m an average person who was strongly affected by 9/11 like most of us. The stories and the sacrifices of the victims and first responders carry the most weight, but after ten years we need to continue to heal and to share our stories, whether heroic or not. Here''s mine:
September 11, 2001 is etched in my memory as one of the most beautiful days I have ever seen. Even without the awful events that transpired that day I still may have remembered it for the sheer brilliance of its sunshine, pleasantness of its air, and the desire it gave us all to just sit outside and enjoy the perfection of that wonderful Tuesday.
One of the distinct visions I have of that fateful day is the ride home from school. It was early afternoon and the private high school I attended in Mamaroneck, NY, had closed early due to the day''s events. (A teenager''s dream in a real-life nightmare.) One of the school janitors drove several students that lived outside of Westchester County home in the school van. There are two things I remember clearly from that drive. The first is driving past the eerily empty Scarsdale Fire Department. They, along with fire fighters from around the Tri-State area, had embarked to Lower Manhattan to assist in the rescue effort. The vacant garage reminds me of our serene lives we had until that day that had left, never to return. The other memory of that car ride is when the van banked left around a bend in the Cross County Parkway and the sky opened up before me displaying an amazingly deep and perfect blue color, without a cloud to be seen. As Lower Manhattan started to resemble scenes from the apocalypse, the rest of New York still looked like paradise. What a strange, twisted day.
It is this contrast that symbolizes the changes in our lives since 9/11. We (collectively meaning the West and the United States in particular) were naïve, ignorant, and blissfully content. Since then, we''ve fought wars, been exposed to cultures, religions and countries we were hardly interested in before, and dealt with a completely new reality. The sun had set and the next day would not be as pretty.
It''s shocking to think back to that day and see how little we knew. Terrorism was far from the minds of most Americans after the first plane hit the North Tower. It took many some time to comprehend what was transpiring even after the second plane hit the South Tower. But now we''re no longer ignorant. We''re bloodied, jaded and trying to figure out when it will all end. Will it all end?
I can only hope our new reality will come to an end because beautiful days have since never been the same.
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