Never Forget

I’m happy the sun is shining today.

But many of my friends Facebook posts have reminded me of where I was 17 years ago. When I heard the news, and the terror I felt.

I had missed a day of school – this was the beginning of my junior year – and had to make up a test in my computer class. I got special permission to be late for choir so I could make it up. I was by myself in my computer class when the first plane struck. I had no knowledge that while I was stressing over this test and the missed time in Choir that people were dying.

I hurried to choir and as the class was doing warm ups, I jumped into my spot and started doing the warm ups with them. I glanced at the class television and wondered what the hell our teacher had us watching. We never used the TV in choir and I was confused at what it was showing- the world trade center with smoke billowing out of it. I whispered to my neighbor, asking for her to explain. And as the news sunk in, so did the terror.

What did this mean? It certainly meant war. And war meant a possible draft. And Aaron had just turned 18. Did his autism qualify to keep him out? I choked back tears, thinking of my big brother being in that position. Selfish, maybe. But I couldn’t imagine him doing all that would be required of him in that situation. As our school went about the day, the class lessons were cancelled so we could watch the news unfolding. I asked several teachers who knew Aaron what their opinions were on my concerns. No one had an answer.

I couldn’t get home fast enough. Dad would know the answer.

And dad wasn’t home. Irrational fears settled in, because dad was ALWAYS home when I got off the bus. I tried to keep myself calm as I waited for him to get there, pacing our small trailer. This was prior to any of us having cell phones, so the wait was an anxious one.

Dad pulled in – with furniture on the back of his truck.

“Where were you?!” I demanded of him, as if I had a right.

“I saw this stuff at a garage sale and couldn’t pass it up?” He answered, confused by my demeanor. I started to cry. Understanding sunk in, and dad hugged me. “Did you think I ran off to New York?” he asked, laughing kindly at my irrationality. “Knothead. Everything’s fine. We’re fine.”

“What about Aaron?” I asked quietly.

Dad looked at me and got my meaning. “Aaron won’t have to go sweetie. Stop worrying.”

My family was safe. But many weren’t.

Many woke up the morning of September 11th, 2001 only to die. Many drank their last cup of coffee. Enjoyed their last morning shower. Listened for the last time to their favorite song on their way to work. Hugged their children, only to never hug them again. Many children hugged their parents goodbye, only to never see them again. They didn’t get the relief of seeing them pull into their driveway, safe. They didn’t get 17 more years of memories and love with their siblings. Parents didn’t see their children off to their first prom, see them graduate. They aren’t enjoying a quiet morning watching butterflies flying through their yard as I am while I write this. Many didn’t even have a chance to have children of their own, and aren’t enjoying a day of sunshine after days of rain.

Many didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Do not take for granted the small blessings you have. I’ll say it as many of my friends already are. Tomorrow isn’t promised. And those men, women and children we lost 17 years ago are a horrible reminder of that. Hug your loved ones. Relish in the sunshine. Turn the radio up louder and really taste your coffee. Don’t just assume you’ll get to do any of this again. You are lucky to be able to take another breath, blessed that your eyes are open and you can see, blessed that you can hear and feel and taste. Rejoice in it.

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