It was a normal Tuesday at Golbow Elementary School in Katy, Tx. I was 9 and in the 4th grade. Our classroom was in a portable building on the side of the school, near the playground.
The morning started with the normal, bagged cereal and milk, around the wooden kitchen table with my siblings and cousins. Cartoons on the TV and the younger kids running around, I don’t remember exactly how it went, which means it was normal. I must have gotten on the bus and headed to school like every other morning.
School started around 8:20am and I clearly remember a normal full classroom. Shortly afterwards 3 or 4 of my classmates were picked up by their parents. I remember the morning announcements were skipped and thinking it was weird that someone came to take our TV out of the classroom. By lunch time there were only 4 of us left in class and I remember thinking that it was fun, because our teacher was letting those of us left play all day.
During lunch I noticed something was different when we were told that lunch was silent today, this only happened when we were in trouble or there was a state-wide test that day. I ate my sack lunch of a PB&J, an apple, chips, Capri Sun, and a cookie in silence. When lunch ended we would always empty our trays and then sit in a line on a marked area of the floor to wait for our teacher to come and take us back to the classroom. We would get a colored card for our behavior for the day, green for good, yellow for bad, and red for really bad. That day there were no cards.
We were lined up next to a class of 5th graders and I overheard one whispering to the other that a plane had crashed in New York. My 9 year old brain thought that was a really weird thing to say and then a teacher came over and told them to be quiet. We went back to class after lunch and the day ended like normal.
When I got off the bus and entered my house I remember feeling weird, my mom looked like she had been crying. Which really wasn’t that weird because my mom always cries about happy things, sad things, scary things… really anything. They say it’s part of the family genes.What was weird was that my mom was on the phone with my Uncle Mike and he was crying. Then I saw the TV and there were pictures of a building falling over, they just kept repeating it and repeating it. It looked like one of those movies we watched in the movie theater. My 9 year old brain tried to understand what was going on, that it was real.
The months that followed were filled with flags, candles, “We Remember” posters, and talk of war. I hurt for the children, my age and younger, who died in the building day care. I hurt for the 9 year olds in NY who lost their parents. I will never forget the image as a child of people, like birds, falling. Of firefighters and police officers who looked like grey statues with all of the dust and rubble. The terrified voices of people’s last phone call with their families, the ones they played continuously on the news. The screams, the “I love you’s” and the screams, the deafening screams. The ones that made me hug my parents a little tighter.
The war started and my 9 year old brain could not process it. I hurt for the kids in Afghanistan who were killed by bombs intended to kill terrorists. I remember thinking it was not right, why would we kill innocent people in a different country after so many innocent people had been killed in our country already.
Christmas came and I remember feeling sad, sad for all of the kids in Afghanistan who didn’t have homes anymore. Who wouldn’t get anything from Santa. I felt so sad. I sat on Santa’s lap that year and told him I didn’t need any presents. I told him that if he could give my present to a little girl in Afghanistan, that was enough. My 9 year old self had so much faith in the magic of Santa! I don’t know how, but he came through. I woke up on Christmas morning to a thank you letter with a picture of a little girl in Afghanistan holding a barbie doll, and a cassette tape of Afghani music. It was a piece of light in all of the darkness.
Now 15 years later I am a 24 year old Peace Corps Volunteer, watching “We Remember” videos in Peru, still trying to process the day experienced by my 9 year old self. Trying to understand hate. Trying to understand war. Trying to do my part to bring some sort of light to this world. That is the best I can do. Remember all of the lives across the world that have been lost due to hate and do my part to share light with those that are still here. There is no processing, there is only remembering and doing better.