Fifteen years ago, I was four years old.
I don’t remember the towers falling.
I don’t remember the pain.
I don’t remember the whispers from the adults.
I don’t remember the horrific images in every living room in America.
I don’t remember any of it.
My entire life though, I’ve heard about the tragedy that changed America at its core.
I’ve lived in New York for three years, and I’ve come to embrace the intricacies of the city streets. I love to disappear among the millions of people and explore each brick and alley.
New York is intertwined with my entire life, I visited constantly as a child.
Both my parents grew up in Brooklyn, and I have plenty of relatives here.
I mean to say that New York and I are not strangers.
But the tragedy that shook the state is distant. It never felt like it happened in my lifetime, though I heard about it all the time. I stared at the empty place in the skyline. I watched the freedom tower be built up. I was well aware that it took place.
This year though, fifteen whole years later, it felt very real.
Perhaps because of the rising numbers of terrorist attacks all over the world. Perhaps because I’ve been on edge, living in a certain state of fear, that it suddenly opened my eyes to what really happened that day.
I read personal accounts, I cried as I heard parents, spouses and children tell their 9/11 story.
I don’t remember that day, but I grew up in the aftermath of it.
I grew up in a country that was afraid.
And as the years have gone by, we have just been growing more frightened.
Today, I spent the day in DUMBO. A charming, beautiful part of Brooklyn that presents you with a view of the whole of the Manhattan skyline. The gaping hole was blatant.
Today, I went on the subway. I waited on a stiflingly hot elevator. It was crowded, there were all kinds of people on it.
For a moment, I locked eyes with a woman dressed in a burqa. For a moment, I thought about how she felt today. Does she feel guilty? Does she feel threatened? Is it a dangerous day to be Muslim?
Then I realized that she had nothing to do with that day, just like nobody else in that elevator had a hand in bringing that day to its tragic start.
We are all people, living in the same city, feeling the same feelings.
We are all so afraid of each other.
We all avoid eye contact.
In the last few years, we have created a broken nation. We have built up walls and angry words, dividing ourselves with things that don’t matter in any way.
Let’s not wait for another enormous tragedy to begin loving each other.
To pull down the walls.
Just a few weeks ago, the Olympic Games ended with Team USA wildly in the lead.
That was a moment of great pride for me as an American, although I did nothing to achieve that.
Let’s get that feeling back.
I don’t remember 9/11, but I have seen what it has done to our country.
I don’t want to see another 9/11.
I feel quite lucky that I can’t remember the depth of the tragedy. I can’t imagine how it would have altered my perspective on everything as a child. I grew up blissfully unaware.
But I’ve grown up now, and I’ve woken up.
We live in a scary world.
Let’s at least not fear one another.
photo credit: Getty Images