I Remember the Silence…

I was 9 years old.

We were silently reading in English class. I remember the silence.

There was a flurry of hushed tones and whispers. Teachers going from room to room. What was going on? Why did all of the adults look so scared?

The school didn’t tell us what was going on. They didn’t want us to be afraid.

We were children.

I walked out at the final bell into my mother’s arms. My brother joined us and we three walked straight to church. My mom sat us down and told us what had happened. We held hands and she told us to pray.

How do you begin a prayer in the face of senseless tragedy?

What is there to say when you feel so utterly powerless in the midst of devastating loss?

On the drive home, we asked questions. So many questions.

Questions children that age shouldn’t have had to ask. Questions my mother shouldn’t have had to answer.

We were children.

I remember sitting on the arm of the couch. Seeing the footage on the news.

That black smoke. The plane hitting the second tower. Ashen zombies emerging from those walls of dust. The collapsing towers. The Pentagon in flames.

We watched in silence. I remember the silence.

Days stretched into weeks.

Rewind. Replay. Rewind. Replay. The same footage. Over and over.

And the pictures. Pictures of faces.

Faces of firefighters and policemen and Good Samaritans. The faces of the heroes.

Faces of victims. The faces of the dead.

Faces of possible terrorists. The faces of the suspects.

As children, we suddenly learned the definitions of words we hadn’t heard before. Ground Zero. Hijacking. Osama bin Laden. Taliban. War on Terror.

The kickball lay untouched on the playground in those many days after. We sat and talked. The normal sounds of laughter and recess fell silent. I remember the silence.

We discussed the latest developments. Didn’t you see that footage? Did you watch the President’s address?

We discussed impending war. Was this war going to be like the ones in our History textbooks? Would there be a draft? Would we watch our older siblings and cousins and neighbors go off to fight?

We were children.

In the weeks that followed, loved ones held each other a little closer, people were friendlier, and enemies put aside their differences.

People stayed in for dinner. A flag flew from every house you drove past.

In the wake of tragedy, sprung forth a kind of reverent peace and togetherness and hope.

A solemn silence stretched over the world.

A moment of silence for the victims. A moment of silence for the survivors. A moment of silence as we watched events unfold, jaws dropped in horror, unable to speak or move.

I think we all stopped being children that day.