If you saw my Instagram post about Harry Styles being my grammar spirit animal the other day, it will surprise exactly none of you that I was the editor of my Senior yearbook. [Those of you who know me well will also not be surprised that when I got my yearbook out to pull the text of what I wrote, I looked at the staff picture & I was wearing a cardigan & flip flops that day.]
I graduated in 2002. We were a week in to the school year on September 11. I will never forget [I’m sure I’ve said this before] I was in French class learning reflexive verbs [We’d just repeated, “Je me lève.”] when our Principal came over the loudspeaker & told us what had happened. I always say to people who ask me about that day that we kind of knew something was up. The high school I attended is less that two miles away from the largest naval base in the world, & my French class was in the front of the building. From our windows, we could see cars pulling up, parents rushing into the building, then rushing back out with students a few minutes later. What that something was became tremendously real.
I remember sitting in AP English, all of us in a stunned silence. I remember wanting to throttle a girl in my homeroom who said she couldn’t wait to get home because, “it’s just like a movie!” She sounded so excited to see destruction & I was so angry at her for that. I remember hearing about a plane crashing in Pittsburgh & falling apart on my best friend’s shoulder. I remember getting in the car & feeling lucky that I could finally, finally get some information. [The school says our satellite feed went down & that’s why none of the TVs were working; I don’t know if I’ve ever truly believed that.] I remember Peter Jennings becoming even more of a hero to me that day because he said something about trying to figure out what the hell had happened. I’d never heard a report curse on the news before that day.
Because I was the editor of the yearbook, I was tasked with writing the preface to the Senior section. I was also tasked with writing about September 11. The following is the text of what I wrote [with the grammatical errors I argued with our sponsor over fixed because they drive me nuts to this day].
Our lives will never be the same. September 11, 2001 made sure of that. Granby High School was shocked to silence as Mr. Caprio delivered the news: Our nation had been hit by the most horrific terrorist attack ever. It was something that no one expected – the devastation of the United States. The nation was at a standstill.
A lot of firsts happened on September 11. Airlines were grounded all over the country. Our generation witnessed its first true taste of the real world; a world that we were so sheltered from that some of us had a hard time believe what our Principal said. Our generation knew for the first time what it means to be a citizen of a nation at war. Sure, the Gulf War and Kosovo have happened in our time, but I venture to guess most students my age don’t really know why the Gulf War was fought or why the U.S. was ever in Kosovo in the first place.
For the first time, we witnessed a nation that was so saddened by something that it could not move. We witnessed mass murder for the first time. We witnessed a truly heinous hate crime. We witnessed terrorism at its worst. Some of us learned what it’s like to fear the draft.
We saw our neighbors crying because their family members or friends were in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or on one of the doomed flights. We lost friends. We saw newscasters that we had always looked up to completely flabbergasted by what they were seeing firsthand. We cried the tears of those who have soft hearts and want nothing more than to make it all better for everyone.
We witnessed so much that our young minds were not prepared for, and we matured because of it. We realized just how changed we have become. And we will never forget September 11, 2001.
I know where I was . . . Do you?
So it should be noted that that’s what happens when your club sponsor tells you three days before the deadline that you have to write enough text to fill a full page.