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The Home of the Cyber Shark(s)

BBBAAAAAWWWWW is the sound they make…. that's descriptive enough, right?

Alright, it hasn’t been exactly 10 years, but it’s been close enough. Finally, finally, Osama bin Laden has been caught, and killed.

Now, I understand not everyone is going to react the same way to hearing this news. I expect some people just don’t care. I’m sure he has someone, somewhere, who cared enough for him to mourn his loss, and countless others who have lost a leader will probably react with outrage and anger.

But I am an American. And more importantly, I am a New Yorker. And all I can say is “Fuck. Yeah.”

It feels odd to celebrate the death of someone. And I don’t mean celebrate the way I want people to celebrate when I die: with music and laughter and a party celebrating my life – but properly celebrating the fact that this person is no longer alive.

But I can only explain this by explaining 9/11 to you – assuming you are not a New Yorker, or an American.

Before 9/11 now seems like an idyllic time. Most notably, in my mind, you could walk around NYC without countless “If you see something, say something” ads. They are everywhere now, and they symbolize everything we gave up in order to feel safe.

The grass was greener, the sky was bluer, people were nicer… and these are all filters we’ve put on our lives: they naturally occur when we look back to when we were younger, but more than that, 9/11 was such a nightmare that everything after that day is naturally darker.

On September 11th, 2001, I was a senior in high school, prepping for SATs already (they were in October), looking forward to the Harry Potter movie, and waiting anxiously for the next book. My friends and I met every Friday to get together and play Vampire: the Masquerade. I was looking into colleges. It was such a time of beginnings, of really a lot of promise and dreams. Stress of course, there’s always stress, but it was a time in my life that I felt very happy about.

On September 11th, the teacher’s union had said “enough is enough”, and walked out. Tired of low wages and intangible benefits, they decided that that would be the day to officially go on strike. And we students, especially the seniors who had put up with the administrative bullshit the teachers had to deal with, cheered. We were glad for them, and hoped they’d win.

On September 11th, we went to classes, though the teachers stood outside the school with signs and chants, and we were all brought into the cafeteria, to figure out what to do with the students, and explain the situation.

I do remember this so clearly, being in the cafeteria, as one by one, the teachers walked in through the side door, and into the teacher’s lounge, and we cheered for them, figuring the school had already caved.

We didn’t know much about strikes back then.

And then we all went back to our homerooms. Whispers around the classroom that something, we don’t know what, but something had happened to the WTC.

Silence. The longest silence ever. The teacher/proctor (she wasn’t my homeroom’s regular teacher) seemed anxious.

The speaker crackled, and the principle announced that the World Trade Center, not 10 minutes ago, had been attacked. A plane flew into it. As a result, we were all dismissed.

People I had never talked to, people who had never talked to me, people who seemed like the most heartless, cold, people (they were mean to me) cried.

And I went to CVS with my friend Kelly, as I tried to get in touch with my parents, not knowing if they were home – they often went out during the day, and I had no key to get in the house if they were.

We looked through magazines with pictures of the Harry Potter movie, because what else can you do? At 16, and faced with something as monumental as the World Trade Center being attacked, what else can you do but block it out, and read about the actors they got to play Harry, Ron, and Hermione?

Until someone mentioned that both towers had fallen. And my friend started freaking out. So much so that security asked us to leave. And we did. And we went to our other friend’s house, because she had been with us, and she lived close to the school, and her mom was home.

And we sat there, in her living room, with her mom and her brothers, as they replayed the footage over and over again.

That was my September 11, 2001: watching the footage of the WTC falling, until, around 5pm, I was finally able to get in touch with my parents, who told me that they still hadn’t heard anything from my aunt.

Shit. My aunt. How could I have forgotten my aunt, who worked right across the street from the towers, and was a nurse, and whose first instinct would have been to help anyone that needed it? How does a person filter that information out so they don’t spend the day in a puddle on the floor?

At home, the rest of the day was spent watching more and more footage, looking to see if we saw her in the background, waiting for a phone call, calling her house every hour to see if she had checked in yet, holding on to every word, every news report, knowing that my aunt would have been out there, on the street, performing triage as the second tower fell.

And how do you not cry during this whole this? How can you cry though? You’re so tied up with angre and confusion and worry and hope that there’s no actual way to express anything you actually feel.

So you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Until around 11pm, the phone rings. And that is the greatest sound you can hear, because it’s been a few hours since the calls stopped. Been a few hours since you stopped calling. Been a few hours since you began to lose hope.

How do you describe the utter relief when you find out she’s ok? And the guilt you feel for having your aunt survive what many others did not?

And how do you describe the small alleyway, one you didn’t even know existed, that the fireman pulled your aunt into to save her life?

And the utter devastation that you still see every day, when you take the bus in to school?

And the man that planned it. The man who was responsible for it. He got away. Hid, and lived, and terrorized us, and changed our entire way of living, and existing in the world.

This event, 9/11, unless you were personally touched by it, I don’t think you can understand why, when I tell my 9/11 story, even though I didn’t lose anyone, I still cry.

And that man who caused my entire life to be altered, who changed history for the worse… He’s gone now. He’s not out there anymore, not out there planning, or laughing, or feeling superior. We got him.

And now he can’t hurt anyone anymore.

It’s times like this I remember this quote from East of Eden:

“It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure on the world.”


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