I'm not saying it didn't affect me--it certainly did.
People always ask you where you were when it happened, or when you found out. I don't like my explanation, not because it was someplace boring or "unimpressive" (how awful) but because it's actually sort of dumb. I was in the bathroom. On the toilet. My mom was out in the living room, and she was getting ready to drive me to school, while watching the news. She told me to come out to see what was happening. So, I guess I was actually in the living room when I found out. But the horror in my mom's voice shocked me before I ever saw what happened next.
I walked into the living room, and had been standing there for just seconds, surveying the live feed of New York, when the first tower fell. I didn't even know what I was looking at yet; the situation had not quite registered in my mind.
The days that followed felt tense and chaotic. I had just started at a new school, in a new district, and we'd just moved to the area 6 months before. My oldest brother joined the Navy, and began preparing for his inevitable departure to bootcamp that December.
It was the first time in my life I experienced depression. I was thirteen years old.
So when I think of September 11th, the first images that come to mind are the falling towers, and the newspaper from September 12th which I kept under my bed for many years. But the following images are of new friends huddled in prayer groups in my school's chapel, and of my brother getting his long (fabulous) hair cut off. I see the struggle of accepting large and fathomless changes at every turn. And I feel, all over again, what seemed to be the weight of the world crushing me.
For the first time in my life, despite all those changes, I also finally felt like I belonged somewhere. I could sense my voice would be heard, my creativity guided and supported instead of squashed by the density of public school populations. The inexplicable pain I experienced was fuel for powerful words, and the writer in me burst into life. I remember seeing the beauty in something, and the discovery that I could express what I saw in words--there was a specific poem, and it wasn't very good, but I (mostly) knew what I was doing.
It was a poem about a crystal my uncle had given me during the summer of 2001. The crystal itself wasn't meaningful. He had a handful of them and let me pick one. There's a complication behind the story, that I won't explain. But the poem is still memorable, and I wish I knew where it was. It expressed the brokenness of relationships between people, the brokenness that is present even when people love each other. It expressed the beauty of something broken or fragmented, like a crystal. Things that crack on the inside, not just the surface. But they're still something to hold on to.
Half of my life has passed since September 11, 2001--which, if you haven't figured out by now, represents a time in my life, and not simply one day. Half of my life. Thirteen years spent in shadows and light, passed through endless seasons of doubt and sadness and back to peace and contentment. It's fragmented and complicated, chaotic and sometimes overly dramatic. It's cracked on the inside, and the outside. But I'm still holding on.