11th Two Years Later||
Audrey Uong was a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan on
Sept. 11, 2001. She reflects on the tragedy two years later.
Sept. 11 approaches, I feel it sneaking up on me more than it did last year. I
am a senior, and somehow, the second anniversary of 9/11 fades in the background
compared to my anxieties over college admissions.
I feel guilty that I
haven't thought of it more, reflected on the second year of its passing. In some
ways, I feel like it should be more than two years that have passed, because I
have seen those towers fall and fall over and over again on the TV screen for
the past two years and have grown so desensitized to it.
York City now|
And everything in New York is back to normal now. After 9/11 we were forced to
move to another school for a month. We were lucky -- other schools weren't able
to go back to their own buildings for much longer after the towers fell. |
we're back in our school now. We're allowed to go outside to lunch again, and
there no longer is that stench of faulty electrical wiring that lingered in the
area until December of 2001.
For awhile, the Parents' Association in our
school was extremely vocal about the air quality in our school. They were afraid
because of the barge next to us, where the fragments of the World Trade Center
were brought, bringing dust and mercury and asbestos and who knows what. But they
have quieted, as the barge closed and moved away.
The subway stops are
mostly fixed now, and the only reference to 9/11 is the small gray square at a
corner of the subway map that indicates where the World Trade Center used to be.
The bulletin boards, once filled with posters and pictures of missing people
have long since been taken down in Penn Station.
But whenever I walk
to school from my subway stop, I can never shake the feeling that something is
missing when I look up at the skyline.
There is just a space where the
towers used to be. I feel as if someone digitally erased the towers.
weight of history|
I feel strange that I've lived and experienced such an important piece of history.
It makes me feel old. I feel like only old people should live through important
pieces of history. But I can also imagine, when I'm old, white hair down to my
knees and wrinkled all over, my grandchildren climbing on my knee and asking me
what it was like to live through 9/11. |
And I will tell them that I was in a
9th floor classroom when it happened, that I didn't know what was going on, that
the people I was with were laughing when they saw the World Trade Center on fire
because they didn't realize what had happened. I'll tell them that I was naïve
enough to think that maybe it was an accident that two small planes crashed into
the Towers on the same day, that it was some mistake with the Air Traffic Control
system or something. I didn't think that maybe a pilot would realize he was going
the wrong way when he saw the Towers looming in front of him. I didn't think of
terrorism, of calculated plans until the principal came over the loudspeaker and
a physics teacher told me that a plane had crashed in the Pentagon as well.
I don't think I really understood anything on that day or the weeks that followed
it. I still don't. I didn't understand what terrorism was before 9/11, and I still
don't understand how people could be driven to cause so much suffering for so
many people. What upset me even more later on is when people take out their anger
on Muslims, because I can't bear to think of anyone attacking some of my friends
just because one wears a hijab or knows Arabic.
I used to think, weeks
after 9/11, that I wanted the Towers to be rebuilt and I wanted it done as soon
as possible. I wanted to show the world that New York would rise again and be
strong. But I don't anymore. Everyone already knows how strong we are. I just
want a memorial, where the people who died can be honored, and everyone else can
take a moment to reflect on how lucky we are to be alive.
Audrey Uong is the co-Features editor of the Spectator at Stuyvesant High School