America Grieves This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     "Pardon the interruption. There has been an accident at the World Trade Center." I was in English class when these words came over the loudspeaker. I didn't think much about it at the time, but then I skipped lunch and witnessed the second tower fall.

I called my mother, who told me my grandpa had called my grandmother after the first tower was hit to say he was okay but had to help evacuate people. That was the last my family heard from him.

The next few nights my family stayed at Grandma's house. By October, my family had lost hope and we had a memorial mass for him.

But it wasn't over. Rescue work continued and bodies were still being found. On March third my family visited Ground Zero to celebrate my grandfather's 68th birthday. It was an emotional day for everyone, especially me, because it was the first time I'd visited the horrific site. Most of the rubble had been cleared, but spirits still roamed the air.

Eight days later marked the six-month anniversary of September 11. During homeroom, a moment of silence was held for victims. As tears began to roll down my cheeks, I found myself in the arms of a friend.

Thirteen days later, my grandmother got a phone call - her husband had been located. His body, or what remained, was found where Tower 2 had stood. We had a funeral mass and were able to lay his body to rest.

The one-year anniversary was perhaps the hardest day for me. My family went to Ground Zero, where all the victims' names were read. It took nearly two hours. Hearing the names was a reality check; it put into perspective the number who died, and the impact of what they had left behind. Then we went to Ground Zero. While I was writing on the memorial wall, I turned to see a man fall to his knees; he had lost his brother. To see a grown man break down and cry changed my perspective on life, and made me thankful for the relationships I'd taken for granted.

After Ground Zero, we went to Engine Company 217, where my grandfather had worked. There we gave a plaque entitled "Once A Fireman" to a firefighter, Marco, who read it to everyone. It retold the heroic stories about my grandfather my family had heard from others at the Trade Center. As Marco read it, he began to cry. A fireman. I couldn't believe it; a man with the hardest job in the world was crying over the story of a colleague. I too began to cry.

Soon it was time to go home. As I said good-bye to Marco, my eyes glazed over with tears. I gave him a hug and I heard him say, "Take care of yourself." I couldn't even answer; I was speechless. I prayed to God to watch out for him. To be so overwhelmed, to be in the presence of a fireman, is an experience all its own. I love them all, and am forever grateful.

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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