“Reflections on 9/11” by Michelle Robinson

Ten years ago the attacks of September 11, 2001 changed our lives forever and I am forever changed by that day. Similar to the rest of you I recall where I was that day. I was in the 8th grade and days shy of my fourteenth birthday. I was on my way to American History class when the halls started buzzing and suddenly we were no longer going to Mr. Pascura’s class – we were headed to the library to watch the events unfold on TV. In the following days, weeks, and years I would not have believed I would be where I am today. These tragic events taught me to value resilience, to know the power of a united effort, and to simply live each day to the fullest.

 

When the events of 9/11 occurred, I had no personal connection to the attacks and at the ripe age of 13, there was little I was able to take away from that fateful day. Growing up in my community our sheltered nature and oblivion to the reality of the outside world made the events seem significant but not for long. I comprehended what happened on the day of the attacks and in the coming weeks, I paid considerable attention to the news as the death toll rose. And at 13, my take-away from the tragedy was to pay more attention to the world around me. I was able to sympathize with the families but I could not comprehend the feeling of loss to truly empathize.

 

As I reflect on the days following 9/11, I can barely remember having conversations in class or in my household in the months following the event. And, in my hometown, that’s how we dealt with things. When tragedy happens – we mourn, we celebrate – we move on.

 

As the fifth anniversary of the attacks rolled around I was a senior in high school gearing up for the variety of college applications and making sure my personal statements and activities were in perfect order. I know my high school had a vigil for the anniversary but again I cannot recall the sights and sounds. Even when the war was declared my family remained personally unaffected. I can distinctly remember my mother thanking her many stars because my brother had eye problems, my sister had a learning disability, and I wanted to be a teacher so if a draft were to be reinstated her children would be safe from harm. I could only imagine her thought process surrounded around being raised in the time of the Vietnam War.

 

I tell you this not to apologize or hang my head in shame of my reactions and feelings. As many of us continue to talk and share about our 9/11 stories, reactions and feelings I have come to understand I was still a child, as many of our students were on the day of the attacks, and as Corinthians 13, King James Version, states: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” And now that I am on the verge of 24, I have crossed over to womanhood and as I set my alarm this past Sunday to wake up in time to witness the full coverage of the tenth anniversary of the attacks, I knew this year felt different.

 

I watched the names of the dead being called out by family members at the 9/11-memorial site. I sincerely listened to the speeches of Former President Bush, Vice President Biden, and President Obama, but none that moved me so much as the children who spoke and told their stories about how that day began their coming of age process. And for the first time, I was emotionally connected to them and cue the sorrowful reaction that many experienced on Sunday. Ten years later, I finally understand and empathize with these children, some of whom are no longer children. My emotional reaction changed because for the first time I understood that their lives were chosen for them and they had no control on the day of the attacks. And as I went to finish my original post for this week, I kept thinking about why I felt so connected to these stories. Why at this point in my life, after nearly 10 years of emotionless attachment to this event was I so close? It dawned on me.

 

About 4 years ago my father was taken from my life expectedly.  I found out about my father’s death two weeks after the funeral.

 

I was not given a choice to attend the funeral, I had no say about where we was buried to rest, and no opportunity to know the family that had been absent from my life since the day I turned 6. The idea that others can have control over our lives is what I was connected to on Sunday. But bigger than that is the lesson these children are teaching the rest of the world–the value of RESILENCY – the strength to overcome adversity and emerge to be a stronger individual. These children described their narratives on Sunday with words of strength and statements that showed the world that they are moving towards a better life in remembrance of the family member(s) they lost and with the utmost support of their community and this entire country.

 

I stated in the beginning of post that the events taught me to, “to value resilience, to know the power of a united effort, and to simply live each day to the fullest.”  I value resilience because if we can control no other aspect of our lives, I believe we can control how were respond to adversities that lurk behind every corner. I am not in middle school or high school anymore; I am in graduate school and reflecting on my past in order to face the challenges that may come in the future. As I move passed the events that happened on 9/11 and the situation with my father, I know things can only get better. I know I have the strength to continue to overcome anything and emerge stronger. And I continue to be resilient through the constant support of the support around me and to those networks, I say thank you.

 

To my WISA support network, thank you for allowing me to write this post and share a story through my own personal lens. To my professional support network thank you for always helping me to clear the muddied waters and teaching me the value of professional resiliency. Finally to my personal support network, thank you. Thank you for providing the support I need through my notions of perfection, my personal challenges, and for sticking by my side even though I moved this far away. I want to especially thank the women in my life who have helped shape the person I am today–my mom, biological sister and my fantastic sorority sisters who helped my through the news of my father and all of life’s tough circumstances.

 

So I encourage all of you to take a moment and to thank your support networks, whether personal or professional, and let them know the impact they have on your life. Remember that life holds many challenges for each of us but a strong sense of resiliency, a united support network and a positive outlook of a brighter day, we will all be able to live each day to its fullest extent.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to ““Reflections on 9/11” by Michelle Robinson

  1. Thank you for your honesty Michelle. You have words to so many of the things I felt (and didn’t feel) ten years ago. The events and memories I have surrounding 9/11/2001 are blurred because I also had nothing to anchor the tragedy to. When I sat with my husband on Sunday to watch the 9/11 coverage, I found my anchor too. I cried as the children sang, as volunteers rerouted their boats for the impromptu evacuation, and as families recalled their lives being changed forever…

    I’m glad I’m not the only it took 10 years to understand the magnitude of what happened on September 11, 2001.

  2. Robyn

    Michelle, you are a powerful woman! Thank you for being so open and honest about your reality. I am so pleased to be a part of your professional network. I continue to learn from you.

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