• Sarah E. Seeley

Remembering 9/11/2001

I was 13 when terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers in New York. It's interesting to go back to my journal to revisit how I perceived and connected with others my age over this big event as it intertwined and colored my regular daily routine.

I woke up in the morning feeling pretty good after having an exceptionally pleasant dream. However, I found my mother in the kitchen upset about something she'd seen on the news--an attack. She'd been watching news anchors on a couple of different stations discuss a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers, when another plane had slammed into the second tower before her eyes. This pointed to deliberate, coordinated acts of destruction, rather than an accident. According to my journal, the third plane crashed into the Pentagon grounds as I finished breakfast around 7:30 Utah time, just ten minutes before I left for school. More hijacked planes went down later in the day, brought down by brave passengers who sacrificed their own lives to keep their terrorist captors from crashing into anything else.

My Jr. high school had televisions in each classroom for morning announcements. Many of my teachers tried to strike a balance between letting us talk and watch the news each class period, and continuing to move forward with activities and lessons. I was not as appreciative of some of the efforts to proceed with usual activities (apparently, I wasn't excited about learning how to graph data in my science class) and deeply appreciative of others (I was very glad to be playing music in orchestra that day--it made me feel uplifted).

I frankly expressed in my journal feeling not only terrified, but also deeply fascinated by the details that emerged throughout the day. I wrote about how I noticed shoes scattered on the ground in the news footage as women had discarded their high heels to run from the debris clouds rushing through the streets. People discussed terrible injuries, escaping being trapped on elevators, not being able to see their hands in front of their faces as they ran to safety. I wrote about people jumping out of windows who were trapped on the upper levels of the Twin Towers, and watching the towers fall. I was fascinated that I could watch this happening in real life with the opportunity to approach that witnessing with reverence. Not to mention this was one of the most complex suicide situations I had ever had to ponder in real life (and I’m grateful for teachers who were also willing to bring this up at appropriate moments and discuss this openly, with exceeding insight and sensitivity later).

It strikes me that I also frankly described in my journal feeling some sense of excitement that I got to be a witness to this historical moment in my own way, though I wasn't sure why I was having that particular kind of feeling or that it was appropriate in response to something so terrible. My daydreams centered on studying everything I could about the events, fictional scenarios about saving friends at school, and considering what I would grab immediately or have pre-packed in a bag if I had to run in an emergency situation. I found these thoughts poignant and stimulating.

This event was calling me to think deeply, to feel deeply, to appreciate some fundamental concepts about my young-person/human vulnerabilities to things that could harm me beyond my control. To feel deep gratitude that I could observe these sentiments and events from a physically safe place. To ponder the complexities of human behavior and psychology, and to appreciate my own emotional depth and complexities as I soaked up information from the news, adults, and other peers around me. This moment was a threat. On some level, someone out there in the world wanted to undermine that simple but important progression of my being able to go to school, be in a gifted program, be safe. To look forward to preparing and planning my own life. To have my family, and friends, and teachers all about me whose goals were to help me grow, succeed, and inherit society after them, rather than to exploit, suppress, or destroy me.

I received my Patriarchal Blessing in October of that year, which included for me a personal promise that the elements would not impede my progress upon the earth, and a promise that I would have the opportunity to marry a young man of my choice someday (among many other blessings). I knew I was inadequate at grasping all that I wanted to grasp at the time about those blessings (in many ways, I still feel my comprehension is inadequate at 33, and ever will be during mortality). Nevertheless, events like this one in the history of my country served to deepen my perspective about how precious and fragile are the freedoms and privileges I enjoy in a world where some are intent on impeding, demeaning, and destroying the fundamental development, not just the freedom, of others.

While that is a bit of a complex place to end, I thank you for taking the time to read my stream of thoughts. It’s a patriotic day for many of us here in the US as we memorialize the fallen from 9/11/2001, twenty years after the event. I've enjoyed reading the experiences of my friends on social media today, some of whom were much younger than me when this happened, and some of whom were adults. Many are celebrating people who rescued, served, and gave their lives for one another at that time. Some are participating in service projects today in memory of this event in our history.

Freedom is precious. Human life and our development are precious. And, waxing unabashedly religious, we really are so very loved by our Heavenly Father who does have a plan for our eternal progression that is deeper than the world's destructive influences. Keep hoping, keep growing, keep holding on, and keep seeking and doing all the good that you can!

Love, Sarah

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