Milestones Every Minute

November 16, 2008
By Amanda Brittain, Germantown, WI

Nine Eleven. These two simple words can bring mixed emotions to many different kinds of people: ask an American soldier, and they may tell about the fear and anger they felt toward the terrorists and how they decided to fight that day; ask an American civilian (adult at the time), and they will probably tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they found out; ask an Iraqi terrorist, and they just may say it was the best day of their life. If you ask a child, however, you may get a very different answer than what would be expected.

I remember I was in school that day; in Miss Pfifner’s third grade class. Because it was a catholic school and highly conservative, the staff had collectively chosen not to tell any of its students about the tragedy at hand. Instead, it decided it was simply better to confuse the students by allowing the teachers to gather in small hushed circles in the middle of the hallway, ignore the classes they were supposed to be monitoring, and leaving all of the children guessing as to why all of this was taking place. I don’t know if it was just the mood of the atmosphere that day, but my classmates took it upon themselves to be particularly rowdy. Rumors flew around like dynamite: anything from “the principal died” around us little kids, and “there was a drug bust” around the big kids, to “A plane crashed into a building in New York.” Ludicrous, I know, yet I bet you can guess which one we actually believed.
You could see the stress of it all wearing down on our fresh-out-of-college young teacher until finally she swore at us. She really just said “shut up,” but in a third grade catholic grade schooler’s mind, this was as forbidden as the “F” word. I, personally, took this very badly and almost started crying while sitting with my hands folded neatly on my desk. Miss Pfifner, or Mrs. P as we called her, sank into her cheap squeaky desk chair and entangled her hands in her long brown hair, resting her elbows on her always-messy desk. The room grew eerily silent as the stress and sadness radiated off of our teacher. She glanced up at the clock, seemingly unaware of the unnatural stillness and the thirty-odd eyes following her every move. Seeing us for the first time, it seemed, she plastered on a fake smile and said with an abnormally giddy voice, “time for lunch!” Her bogus happiness instantly gave us a false sense of security, but I noticed as soon as she thought everyone was looking away, the smile ran away from her face.

In those days, lunch time meant getting up, walking to the back of the classroom, opening your side of the closet to grab your lunch, and sitting back down. After doing so, I opened my pretty-in-pink lunch box (complete with purple butterflies) and set out my paper towel parallel to the edges of my desk, being extra careful as to not cover up my pencil-shaped name tag. Quickly and quietly, I took out my salami and cheese sandwich cut into squares and put each of them on each of the four corners of the paper towel. Then I took out the bag of bright orange Doritos and set them in the middle of the paper towel. Then I took the small bag of baby carrots and carefully set them in a circle around the Doritos. I put the carrots’ dip in all of its glory on top of the Doritos. I then got up to take my milk carton from the purple crate retrieved just seconds earlier by the milk carriers of that week. By the time I finished setting up my lunch, I only had about ten minutes left to actually eat it, which was not by any means enough time. I had to chew and swallow the tinniest bites thoroughly before working toward the next one. Ten minutes came and went, and all I had finished was my sandwich and my milk. This was a norm for me. I shoved the Doritos and carrots in my desk and begrudgingly threw away my paper towel. I then ambled slowly back toward my desk, not looking forward to what would inevitably happen as soon as I reached it. Eventually I did have to sit down, and I did so with great caution. I closed my eyes, and there it was. The daily snickering that followed me everywhere after lunch. Three pairs of eyes followed my every move with such scrutiny that I couldn’t bear to eat. They were eyes that seemed to glow, and they belonged to three girls that everyone hated and yet everyone wanted to be: Chelsea Burrow, Sammy Gray, and Gemma Ceruti. They were the teacher’s pets, the queen bees, the in group of the third grade, and they were just as malicious as high school “plastics.”

I carried on that day just like any other day from then until the end of school. I came home and raided the kitchen for anything that was slightly edible for lack of lunch. In middle of my snacking, however, my mom came into the kitchen and sat down, staring at me with those eyes that say: “I have something to tell you.” I stopped eating, and allowed her to explain the happenings of the day to me.

You may be thinking that I remember this day so vividly because of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. Don’t get me wrong, this was a terrible tragedy and it saddens me to think about it even now. But even through my evident maturing, I still remember that day as a part of my own journey. This journey is one we all go through on a daily basis. There are parts of this journey that everyone will all go through, but at different times. Every one of you will eventually go through destruction, rebuilding, low, high, and in-between phases on this journey of life. Some of us, unfortunately, must go through the destruction and the lows of life earlier than others, and it may seem as if the world is out to destroy you. I went through my destruction starting in third grade with simple snickering. It grew and grew until it became a beast too large to fight face to face. My parents decided that this was the right time to move away, and I think that if they hadn’t, that beast would have gotten the best of me.
There was, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. I rebuilt myself with barely any help at all, and through this became strong enough to thrive through the thickest of thorns. I went through the lows of my life at an early age, and I have therefore become stronger and more mature at an earlier age. I see Nine Eleven as simply a meter in the mile that is my life. It impacted me just as all the other days leading up to my destruction did: they led me toward my rebuild. Thinking about this day in particular helped me realized that in every month there are memories, every week brings happiness just as every day can bring tragedy; every hour teaches lessons, and every minute is a milestone.

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