The Lesson I Learned on 9/11.

The morning of September 11, 2001, started out like any other day.  I reluctantly got up to go to my high school in Maspeth, Queens.  I was just beginning my sophmore year.  As I got ready for school, I kept silently praying to God not to have me go to school that day.  It was the day in gym class, where the class would have to run a mile around our school.  I got ready and left the house around 7 a.m. to get to school.  While my dad drove me to school, I dreaded running the mile run in gym class that day.  I kept praying to God, “Please find some way for me not to have to go to school today.”

I remember going through my first two periods of the day as usual.  I was now praying to be sent home early.  Then, third period had arrived and we started class like we do almost every day.  It was AP English, so I remember reading a few plays such as Our Town.  Suddenly, over the school PA system, we heard the shocking announcement.  “We have just heard on the news that two planes have just crashed into the World Center.”  Then it came without warning.  A deafening silence which pierced a room that was filled with laughter and learning only a few minutes ago.  Jaws dropped.  The teacher had an unforgettable look of shock on her face.

At this time, I thought it was an accident.  Having been in school and not watching or listening to the radio, I did not fully understand the magnitude of the situation.  During lunch time, our school played the news on the radio so that everyone could hear what was going on.  I could not concentrate on the news as I was still shocked from third period.  In all my time at that school, I had never heard the lunch room so quiet.  Where there was once mischievious jokes and laughter carried out, there was now a silence which permeated thorugh the room.  I remember my best friend running up to me saying, “These f*#@ing Iraqis are going to come here and abduct us in UFOs!”  After I assured him that this could not be true, he agreed, but he still wore a worried expression on his face.

Sixth period had come upon us and I remember being in the library studying.  I could not hear the news anymore and the World Trade Center seemed to be the furthest thing from my mind.  I thought they were still standing and I hoped I could still go home early.  After all, I did not want to run the mile in gym class, which was next.  I did not know the gruesome truth that would be revealed to me that day.

At this time, my school was announcing over PA system, a list of children whose parents came out of New York City to pick up their kids from school early.  Since my dad did not work very close to the World Trade Center, I did not believe that he would come for me.  However, I was proven incorrect when a voice over the PA system announced for to come to the office and be picked up by my dad.

I picked up my things from the library and went downstairs to greet my dad.  Once I saw him, he took out of school early and we went home after he dropped a co-worker home.  I remember my dad and his co-worker talking about this situation in the car.  However, I did not seem to worry, because I had not yet seen the magnitude of the situation.  On the way home, I remember hearing over the radio that terrorists had struck the World Trade Center and that this might mean war.  I began to feel very uneasy.  What was really going on here?

When I got home, I saw the news footage along with my parents.  As I watched news footage of the two towers fall and all of the other tragedies that took place on that day, I ran into my room and asked God why He allowed this happen.  Then, like as if being struck by lightening, the truth was suddenly revealed to me.  I was asking for this all day long.  I wanted to get out of school early.  I was hoping to leave school early and my wish was granted.  However, it was granted at the expense of the lives of others.  I suddenly raised my head up toward Heaven and said, “I didn’t want you to take that request so literally!” I stayed in my room for a while to ponder deeply about the importance of praying from the heart. I learned on that day to never ask God for anything I don’t need.  True prayer comes out of a need, not a desire.  I prayed for God to forgive me and to help the families of those victims.

I tried to listen to music to calm myself down, but it was to no avail.  From KTU 103.5 to Z1oo, stations that were once jovial, were now somber.  The DJs who once entertained us with their celebrity guests and prank phone calls were now talking philosophically about the importance of love, life, family, and friends.  The shocking events of that day overcame them.  It was truly a day the music had died.

The next morning was almost like the morning the day before.  Clear with no clouds in the sky.  I got ready to go to school.  I knew I would eventually have to run the mile, but that lazy adolescent concern was far behind me now.  My life as not only an American citizen, but as a human being changed on that September 11th.  I knew now it was time to be a man and face the uncertain future our nation was heading towards.  One thing remained however, it was my innocence and faith in Lord.  If all else failed, He would be the One to save us all.

As I stepped outside with my father to leave for school, I opened the door and a repulsive odor hit my nostrils.  I asked my father what this smell could be.  His answer still haunts me to this very day.  He said, “That is the smell of burning flesh.”  As I looked down to the ground, I could not believe that I was smelling the odor of people who once lived normal lives as spouses, parents, grandparents, children, mentors, providers were now dead.  As I looked to the ground, I begged God for His forgiveness and I prayed for the families of the victims again.  I also made a vow to myself and to my God to never abuse my prayers to Him again.  Now, I try to pray for the things I need, rather than the things I don’t need.  I only hope other people will learn this lesson well and apply it in their lives.

Thank you for reading this blog and I will continue to pray for the families of the victims of that tragic day.  Someday, it may not be seen as an end, but a new beginning.

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