A Stranger's Grasp This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Both grasps were equally powerful - the old friend on my right was holding my hand just as tightly as the stranger on my left. We were all doing the same thing: remembering. A whole year before it had happened, but those weeks are still just as vivid and terrifying as they were in 2001. The stranger's grasp tightened as our moment of silence continued, and the rush of memories came flooding back, utter disbelief drowning us once again.

***

It was another normal school day, and Dustin's voice rang over the speakers with the daily announcements and weather forecast. "Today is going to be a beautiful sunny September 11, followed by a ... well, a very dark night," he said. A chuckle passed around the classroom as we realized Dustin forgot to check the forecast.

After second period, a crowd formed around the television. I pushed my way through to see what had happened, but all I could see was a plane crash. I stopped trying to hear the details and went to class. There, I learned that two planes had hit the World Trade Center towers.

***

I try to keep my hands from shaking as I picture the scene again. I feel the stranger's hand struggling to steady my tremor. He has an understanding of how I feel, and reassures me with his hand that he is seeing the same images flash before him - two seemingly indestructible towers with black smoke billowing out of their sides. Then, the towers crumbling to the ground, turning to dust.

***

My mother came to pick me up from school, and as I sat in the car my hands began to shake. I was shivering as if I were cold, but my temperature was normal. My body tensed as we listened to the news. My mother turned and gazed at me with a look of grief and compassion. She informed me that my best friend's father, who worked in Tower Two, hadn't been heard from. The tension and shaking increased as I tried to understand the meaning of these words.

We rushed to my friend Liz's house. We held back tears, trying to find a glimmer of hope. At about one o'clock in the morning, I began to give up hope, but tried to hide this from the others.

From that night the image that comes to mind is the phone pressed against my mother's ear as she repeatedly called hotlines. I remember watching television and reporting what was happening, so Liz was able to distance herself. I remember not being able to hide my intense fear, and longing to know what was happening to the world while also wanting a moment alone.

I walked outside to detach myself from the lighthearted distractions inside, and was struck by the magnificent sky. The usual dark sky was cluttered with vibrant yellows and whites. Thousands of stars crowded one another. Right then, I knew

Danny wasn't coming home.

***

The shaking has not ceased; these memories linger so vividly, and the stranger continues to hold my hand. The stars that night had seemed to represent the brightness of every victim's life. I haven't noticed the stars since that day, but one shining star seems to linger over Liz's house. A week after the attacks, Danny's family came to the same conclusion I had that night. His memorial service and wake were attended by hundreds. I can still see Danny's relatives and friends gathered in my backyard for the reception, memorializing the tragic loss of such a larger-than-life figure.

***

Voices come over the loud speaker once again, concluding our moments of silence, our moments of memories. Hands loosen and I am released by the friend on my right and the not-so-strange stranger on my left. In those few moments, the grasp between the stranger and myself was filled with a feeling of togetherness. It felt like I had always known him. On that day, a whole year later, Danny was there. Danny was in the grasp of that stranger's hand, helping me never to forget that day, and to keep him in memory forever.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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