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I Remember This MAG
Twelve years marks only a short span of time – eight years from this day, after two decades have passed, I will look back and say that what I remember is nothing. But today, the memories of that day still overwhelm me.
I remember the scent of the grass, the heat of the sun on the pavement of the old parking lot, stray tufts of grass growing up through the cracks, crushed beneath our trampling feet. I remember, cold and smooth, the metal pole beneath the soft tips of my childish fingers, our favorite place to play, where we stretched our short legs to jump and feel as if we were tall. I remember the blue sky above our heads, soft white clouds like polka dots, untouched by smoke and flying debris. I remember the faded red brick of the old two-story schoolhouse that sat vacant for years, unused and forgotten in this little town. I remember the house, white and tall, with the garden in the back filled with flowers my mother taught us to grow. I remember the passing of a car on the road so seldom used. I remember the cemetery, seemingly untouched by time, with the uneven path leading to the campus grounds, where monks and students walked peacefully on their way to prayer. I remember paradise.
My mother's face, the stretched-out fabric of her blue-and-white-striped shirt that had so often been prey to my small hands – my tugging at her, desperate for her attention, and the way she folded her hands in prayer – I can remember. I only need to close my eyes and I can see her standing there, clear as day, and see the wind stirring her dark brown hair. My father I remember too. His dark hair and glasses, face grim as he stood beside my mother, folding his hands just as she folded hers. They are frozen in my memory, standing before us.
My sister and brother stood beside me. I was the last to stand still, swiping my long blonde hair out of my eyes. Their words have been wiped from my memory, unimportant details that my young mind was too foolish to remember. But I recall folding my hands in prayer, mimicking my parents and my older sister. She folded her hands so seriously, dark hair framing her pale face. My little brother, with his tousled red hair, copied us as best he could.
We prayed. Our small tongues stumbled over the words as the breeze blew gently, whispering in our ears. I don't remember what it whispered to me: another detail lost to time.
The small TV screen contained our whole world. Every pair of eyes was glued to the screen, unable to move, frozen on the image of the Towers falling.
They seemed to take an eternity. To my small self, they were just an image on a screen. “Hurry up and fall already,” I wanted to cry. And then they did. Over and over. They tumbled to the ground, great masses of crumbling concrete, twisted metal beams, melted glass, all ablaze, belching clouds of thick black smoke into the sky, covering the world in darkness. Over and over the station replayed it so that the whole world could see in detail the death of our country. The safety we had struggled to retain for hundreds of years, gone in an instant, brought down with the falling of the first tower, a mess of broken dreams, shattered and marred beyond recognition, darkening the skies.
I remember my mother's face as she watched, filled with grief and despair. Not the fear so many felt, just sorrow. In our small world, even we were touched by this.
But what I remember most is the people falling.
They appeared in the windows like shadows, looking down as if they were afraid, then leapt from the burning buildings, forced out by the flames licking at their backs and the smoke that would suffocate them if they remained.
Launching into the air, they were frozen in time for an instant, graceful, beautiful, immortalized in that moment before gravity claimed them. They plummeted toward the earth, accompanied by smoke and falling debris, crashing down onto the unforgiving pavement like baby birds who fail to learn to fly. They flapped their wings helplessly, in one last, desperate attempt. And then they fell.
I remember the day the Twin Towers fell. Twelve years ago, and time still ticking. It's so strange to look back on that day and the small child I was, only just beginning to understand that the destruction that was bringing grief into my happy home would reach the four corners of our country, and bring the same sorrow into every home. It's strange to watch the documentaries on television all these years later and to think I remember this.