Sunday, April 1, 2012

generation's tragedy

i remember where i was
when the planes hit.
it was 11am, 4th period,
United States History
and i was fifteen.
the closest thing i'd known
to death
had been the loss of a classmate
at the mercy of four squealing, bloody wheels
two years prior.
i didn't understand it then
and that new September
was no different,
as i was green and just cracking the surface
of coming-of-age and coming alive
in a school full of know-it-alls and small-town heroes
on the brinks of their dreams.

i wish i had been older,
who i am now
(a bit more confident and wise,
a little less jaded and intimidated)
in order to have truly comprehended
the magnitude
of the history i was witnessing.
because at fifteen
the only concerns for a girl
spinning in the world
are writing love notes never meant to be read
and trying to skirt the plasticity of stereotypes
that become so easy to fall into.

i don't believe at such a desperate age
thoughts of the world as we know it
being rocked and shaken down
like Jenga tiles
are present.

yet there i sat, my peers sat,
in sophomoric seats
as teacher put on a grave face
and said,
'our nation is currently under attack.'
we hung on the statement,
prepared to dive into another flashback lesson
heralding the country's pages and years.

teacher stood steadfast in place
but the towers did not.
and then we knew this day
wouldn't be like any other.
a kind of smooth pandemonium
evolving through locker-lined hallways
through linoleum footfalls and up into physical soles
and eventually,
into less-tangible souls.

it was soon apparent
that history books would require rewrites.

i didn't really begin to comprehend
it all
until the old algebra teacher --
the curmudgeony one
who took no prisoners if you were a smart aleck
and whom students avoided like the plague
when it came time to schedule classes --
ran from the recluse of her room
wings sprouting from her heels,
tears escaping her eyes for her son in the city.
it wasn't until then
that i truly understood
what this was going to do to me,
to us, to the country and maybe even
the world.

and the coursework ceased
while televisions blared, one after another,
messengers of terror unfolding.
to this day i'm not sure which was worse:
watching firefighters forging ahead into
flame and fury
hoping to find someone alive
or watching toy soldier bodies
momentarily animated, flailing,
plunging out of windows,
hoping to die on the way down
before the ground could have its say.
i couldn't really blame them;
i'd much prefer to be in control of my fate
than to perish at some unknown time
at the hand of all-consuming hatred.

still it is the most gruesome thing
to think of bones and blood splayed on cement,
the sound of the impact,
the crushing of life,
and the sheer pain of it all
even though there was nothing left for them to feel
by then.

the days wore on
and the more the media beat things to death
and the more the weight of it all
washed over me
the more i wanted to throw up
and bawl for days
at the horror.

i was fifteen then.
i'm twenty-three now.

it's still as chilling

other disasters since,
while devastating in their own right,
could never make me feel
this way,
this shattered
for i will never be fifteen again
and i will never be in that state of mind again.
i will never be in 10th grade
wondering if i know anyone who works in New York City
i will never again be stuck at school until 3:30
when all i want to do is run home
and cry.
i will never again feel so insignificant
among so many people who are
feeling the same thing.

i'll never forget where i was.
my father still says that
about the day John F. Kennedy was shot.

i suppose
this is my generation's
Kennedy assassination.
and the generation before?
probably something to do
with Pearl Harbor or D-Day
or something.

maybe each generation's tragedy
is meant to make us think
maybe we're supposed to tell our children
about it
in hopes that they'll be prepared
when another one goes down
and shocks the world.

or maybe they keep it to themselves
you can never actually ready yourself
for something
as horrific as this.


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