I, like most people, remember exactly where I was. I was in Mr. Welch’s class when an announcement came over the speaker that the World Trade Center had just been attacked. Like that announcement was supposed to mean something to a middle school kid. I had no idea what the World Trade Center even was. I didn’t know that it was two magnificent buildings, a beacon of human engineering, that was now twisted and smoldering. A result of an attack from a group of people that my young mind hadn’t ever had to give thought to.

It wasn’t until our teacher turned on the news report that it sunk in, slightly. They kept replaying clips of the plane entering the building and showing the current state of chaos as some people tried to escape while others went in to help. This was quite the spectacle for me. I wanted to head down to the high school so my big brother could better explain what was happening. Instead, I had to sort it out for myself. The teachers and school officials were awe struck. Adults, people that had been around a long time were hurt and surprised by this event. This really is serious!

Teachers did their best to try to explain to students the magnitude of the event while reassuring us that there was no plane that was going to land on our school. It was in the days, weeks, months, and years later that I began to really understand what that day meant for my life. It was the first time that I had to give thought to the fact that the world was sometimes a very scary and dangerous place. That people sometimes want to hurt each other. That disagreements about race, religion, land, resources, could sometimes boil over into attacks, war, and death. I was only 11 or 12 at the time and up until that point the world was a friendly place. A place to explore, to learn, to share. A perfect world had been scarred by a tragic event.

Hatred has always existed. I was just sheltered from it until 9/11.

9/11 is and was a lot of things.

It WAS an awakening for a nation, it WAS the death of thousands.

It IS a reminder for a nation, it IS the continued death of thousands.

For me, it was the clear intersection between a perfect world and one that is capable of carnage. Something I’m well aware of now. The carnage manifests itself on large scales through school shootings, human trafficking and so many more abominations of our doing.

Without meaning to sound dramatic, it also manifests itself on smaller scales. In the hateful rhetoric that we use, in our willingness to be manipulated by the media, in our willingness to slander others, in our ability to talk without listening, and in thinking that our personal experiences are enough to shape an accurate judgment of others, or in the claiming of a religion without ever practicing it.

We can’t physically stop bullets from hitting children with our bare hands, or grab a plane before it hits a building. We can watch what we say, learn to understand others, and better prepare a world of helpers should evil choose to show itself.