Ten years ago today, I sat in my classroom, learning about Rosh Hashana. Chaya came in late that day, her brother's bris had been that morning.
If Chaya looked nervous or anxious when she came in, I didn't notice. She was always a "goody-goody," not the kind of girl who would disrupt the class. Not even to relate news of this magnitude. So Chaya took out her notebook and began to take notes.
And for that one blissful hour, myself, my classmates and my teacher where unaware of the way our lives had turned upside down.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. The principal stood there, asked the teacher to come outside for a minute. Miss Gold looked unalarmed as she headed to the door. Just as she stepped outside, Chaya saw fit to finally stand up and make her announcement. I'll never forget her face, the look of alarm, mixed with the look of I-don't-really-know-what-is-going-on.
"Two planes hit the twin towers and they fell down. Another plane hit the Pentagon in Washington and it's still on fire."
I scanned her face for a glimmer of a smile, a hint of a joke, but there was nothing. I was hoping desperately hoping for a way out, a way to not believe that something like this could have happened. "Maybe," I thought to myself, "maybe they were accidents."
Even in my mind it sounded ridiculous.
Miss Gold walked back into the room, shaking. Clearly a year in seminary and a week or so of teaching experience isn't adequate to prepare you for a moment like that. We all looked to her for some kind of affirmation. Finally, Miss Gold found her voice, and said, "ta-take out your Tehillims."
The rest of the day is a jumbled mess of disconnected memories. I wish I could say that I remember the moment I learned that a heinous act of terror had been perpetrated against my country, that innocent lives had been taken, simply for the crime of going to work in our capitalist country.
But I don't. I remember sitting huddled around the radio with my family that night, listening in horror to news reports. I remember thinking that we looked like those pictures from World War Two, where families did exactly the same. "But this is different," I thought to myself, "they were in the middle of a war."
I wish I remembered the moment I realized I was wrong, the moment I realized that we were in a war too. But I don't.
I remember desperately listening to news reports, rabbis, teachers, parents, anyone who might be able to give some answers. But none came.
I wasn't old enough to really split my memories into the pre-9|11 and post-9|11 events. I don't remember flying in an era where every passenger was not a potential monster who would use the plane to carry out the most devastating and horrific act. My flying memories involve serious security: removing my shoes, throwing out my drinks, and all kinds of other restrictions placed on us by people so desperately depraved that they've been able to turn innocent items into potential bombs.
But in the back of my mind, I do have the memories of a time when New York's skyline didn't have a glaringly gaping hole. I can remember a time when "war" was something that happened in the "olden days."
My children however, will not have those memories. They will be born into a world where airplanes are scary, potential bombs. They will be born into a world where extremists have managed to instill fear in the hearts of travelers. They will be born into a world that has seen horror and terror in ways we wouldn't have imagined 11 years ago.
And so it's not just a memory. 9|11 isn't just an event that occurred ten years ago. It's the mark of the time that our lives all changed. We can't ever go back to where we were ten years ago. Not us, nor future generations.