Remembering September 11: A Reflection

It was one of those days you remember exactly where you were.

Remembering September 11
Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

The day the quiet hit

I was in the computer lab at college, in Spanish class.

Regarding what happened and how I reacted, I don’t recall. What I do remember clearly was the walk from Gardner Hall to Kirby Learning Center. It was quiet on the quad that morning, and I strolled my usual, slow pace. It was a walk of ignorance.

As soon as I passed through those doors, everything changed.

The first thing I remember was the quiet. Not a single student or professor was talking, yet the room was packed. All eyes were glued to the TV, watching the news.

I wasn’t sad or upset. I wasn’t angry. I just felt numb. I didn’t know what to think — I was in shock.

What did this mean? Was this an accident? What went wrong?

And then — shock upon shock — another airplane hit the second tower. More panic. Now fear. We looked at each other, unsure of anything.

The rest of the day was a blur. And in a way, it has been ever since.

* * *

The silence continues

Years later, I found myself in New York City, at the very site I had witnessed destroyed on television. I stood in the 16-acre void and heard a stillness that surprised me.

As my fingers gripped the chain-link fence surrounding Ground Zero, I gazed in awe. Here, thousands of souls had breathed their last. Here, heroes fell.

Somehow — amidst such heaviness — I found something powerful, something unexpected.


It came in the form of St. Paul’s Chapel.

I had heard stories of this church that had miraculously survived 9/11, but seeing it in-person was another experience.

This tiny, 250 year-old building refused to conform to modern architecture. It was one of a few buildings left standing in a vacuum in the middle of downtown. Its spires and cemetery cowered under the grandeur of the city that doesn’t sleep.

Like a wise grandfather, it seemed to shrug dismissively at the fast, smooth ways of the world.

It was here before. And it will be here after.

Words don’t do it justice, but that little old building tells a story worth listening to — one of redemption and pain, of loss and resilience.

As I gazed at the site, the drone of the city slowly re-entered the scene. A Gray’s Papaya vendor shouted in the distance. A taxi cab honked its horn. There was the noise of life again.

I will never forget that moment. And I will always be grateful.

Where were you on September 11? What’s your reflection from that day? Share in the comments.