September 14, 2011 Edition

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9/11 reflections 10 years later

James Girolamo

(Note: The following column is by James P. Girolamo of Brooklyn, N.Y. He is the son of Paul and Beth (Bland) Girolamo and grandson of Virginia (Mrs. Jim) Bland of Walnut Ridge and Paul and Cris Girolamo of Wyomissing, Penn.)

On the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many Americans undoubtedly reflected on their personal experiences of that fateful day. I was nine years old at the time and had just begun the fifth grade at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Looking back at my own memories of 9/11 recently, I was surprised at how much I have already forgotten or misremembered. For instance: I remember it being a very cold day in New York City but have been informed that it was actually 70 degrees and sunny. Although that day has had a large impact on my life, I can only remember a few things about it clearly.

One of the few things I can remember vividly is seeing the first plane hit. I had gone with my gym class to Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn Heights, from where I could clearly see the Towers across the river. I noticed a low-flying plane moving over Manhattan and watched it crash into the side of the north tower.

I remember grabbing the closest person and pointing to the skyscraper, and soon the entire class was abuzz with explanations: "it was probably just an accident;" "maybe it was a kamikaze attack from another country;" "my mom told me about an article she read that said that terrorists were plotting an attack like this;" etc.

Our teachers instructed us to continue playing as they got in touch with the school. After that, my memory gets hazy. I don't remember much about the second plane hitting; I heard the explosion from the impact but never actually saw the plane hit.

The only other vivid image I can recall is of sitting with my friends in the school basement. The entire student body had been ushered into the basement to await their parents. My friends and I sat in the corner of a classroom, discussing the situation. We talked for over an hour, pausing only to listen to instructions from the teachers. The only thing I can remember about this conversation is how quickly my friends and I became exhausted discussing the day's events, changing the conversation topic to video games.

The attacks affected everyone in New York. Many of my schoolmates lost parents. My next-door neighbor (who worked at Cantor-Fitzgerald) was killed, and I attended her funeral. As a child, this period of time was very confusing and upsetting. At the time, I remember wondering what effects 9/11 might have on the world, and 10 years later I'm still not quite sure. I also think a lot about the effects 9/11 has had on young Americans such as myself.

Sept. 11 exposed me to a very powerful sense of fear and vulnerability, but it also showed me a lot about the importance of camaraderie and friendship. I will never know how much the Sept. 11 attacks shaped who I am today, but I know that even if the details of that day fade away, I will never forget what happened.

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