Towards the Perihelion

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Labor Day has passed, the flames of barbecues will be squelched, beach goers shall lament the loss of good sunlight, and our garb will change in anticipation of the cooler months ahead. 

Autumn is coming. 

This summer was extraordinarily enjoyable for me, a welcome reprieve from what I would call a rough start to the year. 

Summer draws nearer to its conclusion and, at least for me, the changing of the seasons gets me to reflect upon seasons past. How did this season measure up to the previous one? Did I accomplish all that I set out to this season? Were the pleasures of the season enjoyed in good company?

Since I am writing today, and the theme is reflection, I feel that my duty as a New Yorker is to reflect deeply on the events that took place fourteen years ago.

“We have taken a great wound, we Americans, and our first task is to rescue survivors if that is still possible, to grieve and to remain alert until we better understand what happened to us… [R]ight now, our minds are swimming in the same ghastly images. Dazed men and women, covered with dust, streaming north on foot from lower Manhattan. A TV videotape replaying the fiendish plot in which commercial airlines are turned into suicide bomb. The smoldering ruins at the Pentagon. The lost skyline of Manhattan. The bolt of fear… Terror leaves its sickening residue, the swooning sense of helpless vulnerability.”

That quote only partially encapsulates the feelings and injuries incurred on that fateful day on the 11th of September, 2001. 

My feelings were of confusion. I had just turned fourteen and the day began like any other for an eccentric high schooler. I don’t remember when I first received the news, but I recall mass confusion. My first class proceeded as usual, a social studies lesson I wished I could have skipped. However, all subsequent lessons were cancelled. We were shuffled from classroom to classroom as televisions were wheeled in. And we looked upon the ghastly images. 

The only sounds I can faithfully recall are sirens. I know that words had been uttered and there had been other things one could hear, but my memory of that day, only sirens come through. 

For weeks thereafter, I would come home from school and watch the news. It was surreal to say the least. It was a loop of crashing planes, explosions, black smoke, and mangled metal, images that stay with me to this day. My confusion was deepened mostly by my own ignorance of the topics. I had never heard of Al-Qaeda, nor of its contemptible (and that’s putting it lightly) leader, Osama bin Laden. I had no idea what was going on in the Middle East. Who were these individuals and why did they attack us in this way?

I have learned much in these fourteen years. The more people I encounter, the more I am acquainted with people who suffered directly from those acts of barbarism. To them, those who fell are more than a name read ceremoniously each year, are more than a face shown ceremoniously each year.

The most important thing I have learned: we were forever changed by that day fourteen years ago, which makes it all the more important to openly and wholehearted express one’s love for friends and family. Acts of barbarism and terrorism seldom arrive when one is prepared. Thus, it behooves us to enjoy our time and lives here, in the present, and to help those we love to enjoy themselves also.

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