Sep 112011
Authors: Colleen McSweeney

On the morning of Sept.11, 2001, I woke up and stumbled sleepily into my living room. I stood at the doorway and looked over to my mom sitting on the couch. She didn’t say “good morning” as usual — she didn’t even look at me. Her gaze was frozen to the TV screen.

I looked over, and I saw a chaotic picture blurred with clouds of smoke. I didn’t know what was going on, but I remember the word “attacked” reverberating from the news anchor’s voice. The voice didn’t sound rehearsed, and it didn’t sound contrived. It sounded scared.

I walked to school thinking, “I hope no one I know is hurt.”

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I wasn’t thinking about what it’d be like to be a 10-year-old girl who woke up in Brooklyn. She would have gotten ready and stumbled sleepily outside her family’s apartment, expecting a routine subway ride to her school downtown.

She would have walked off the subway and up the stairs to the city streets. All around her, she would have been encompassed by chaos — people running in every direction and sirens blaring. Looking up to the direction of the World Trade Center, she would have seen a sky blurred with clouds of smoke, and she wouldn’t have known what was going on.

But she would have heard the word “attacked” being screamed around her, and she would have been scared.

She would’ve stood there thinking, “I hope no one I know is hurt.”

After I got to school that morning, my teacher told us all to be calm. “Why?” I wondered. “Are they attacking our school, too?”

I wasn’t thinking about what it would be like to be a 10-year-old girl in Arlington, Va., waking up to my mom crying, telling me a plane had just hit the Pentagon, the building where my dad worked.

I wasn’t thinking about what it’d be like to be told he wasn’t coming home that night.

I wasn’t thinking about what it would be like to be a 10-year-old girl in Long Island, knowing my dad worked that day at a firehouse downtown, and knowing he was one of the first-responders.

I wasn’t thinking about what it would be like to be one of the only Muslim girls at school, a school that was previously accepting. I wasn’t thinking about the hateful looks and the torment that would follow, after the kids started casting judgment on “those people” who committed the attacks.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the closest I got to the word “attacked” was the sound of the word in the news anchor’s shaking voice.

At that time, I had no idea how tangible the word was to so many — to the people who woke up to the terror within direct eyesight, and not muddled by distance and TV screens. And most significantly, to the nearly three thousand people who lost their lives on that day.

But I have come to know now — along with everyone else too young to understand the attack’s magnitude as it happened — how much our world changed at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001.

After getting home from school that day, my family sat in front of the TV, watching the tragedies replay on every news station. I knew something terrible had happened to our country, but I couldn’t really grasp it. I didn’t feel the full weight of what being “attacked” meant.

But as I watched the 10-year-old footage play on TV yesterday, I felt it. It didn’t feel like we’d been attacked a decade ago — I felt the full force of it.

Because over these 10 years, I’ve been able to see how significantly our country, and the world, was truly affected that day.

I’ve heard incredibly painful stories about children who lost their parents in the attacks, and I’ve felt lucky I didn’t lose mine.

And I’ve heard the tales of unbelievably heroic firefighters who risked everything entering the collapsing buildings, and I’ve felt lucky knowing people like that exist.

Today, 9/11 is much more than just TV footage to me — it’s a tragedy now defined by the face of human emotion, loss and courage.

Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major. She can be reached at

 Posted by at 5:39 pm

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